Machel death: Africa still needs answers
ONE of the seminal speeches ever made by a foreign Head of State in independent Zimbabwe was one delivered by Mozambican founding President Samora Moises’ Machel.
In his typical pan-African revolutionary style, the Mozambican leader told Zimbabweans still teetering and grappling with the task of building a solid nation-state in early 1980 that: “To ensure national unity, there must be no Shonas in Zimbabwe, there must be no Ndebeles in Zimbabwe, there must be Zimbabweans. Some people are proud of their tribalism. But we call tribalists reactionary agents of the enemy.”
Such was President Machel’s incisive grasp of what was at stake and his impassioned plea for continental unity that a dark cloud hung over the African skies when he together with 34 other passengers died in a mysterious plane crash in Mbuzini near Mpumalanga in South Africa just a few kilometres from Maputo, Mozambique, 30 years ago.
President Machel would have been 83 on September 29 this year had it not been for that “mysterious” plane crush which the apartheid Margo Commission attributed to pilot error.
Most African leaders and the whole progressive world trashed the commission’s findings as nothing but an attempt by the apartheid regime to absolve itself from a clear and apparent complicity in the murder of one of Africa’s most revered revolutionary icons.
Unsatisfied with the Margo Commission, the independent government of South Africa reopened the crash probe in 2008 and squarely accused the then white minority regime of using a decoy beacon to cause the crash. The then South African Minister of Safety and Security Charles Nqakula initiated the inquiry which was endorsed by the then President Thabo Mbeki. The inquiry was to be conducted by the South African police and intelligence agencies, working with authorities in Mozambique.
In 2012, the South African government initiated another probe whose report is said to be in the hands of the South African President Jacob Zuma.
South Africa’s Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi was quoted by South Africa’s Mail and Guardian saying the report was sitting with the president.
However, deputy director general and acting spokesperson in the office of the president, Dr Bongani Ngqulunga, denied the claims that the report was with the president.
“There is no report. If there was a report, the Hawks would have sent their report to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for prosecution if there was any wrong doing,” Dr Ngqulunga told News24.
But Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa’s spokesperson, Lisa Combrinck, maintained that an investigation into what had caused the tragic plane crash was ongoing.
She said that the investigation would put to rest ongoing suspicion that the apartheid government was involved in the tragic plane crash.
Despite all the haggling, 30 years on, the crash remains one of the greatest mysteries of the apartheid era with no conclusive data as to the actual cause of the crash on October 19, 1986. Only nine survived the crash while 34 others lost their lives together with the Mozambican founding president.
Researcher and historian, Phyllis Johnson still believes more needs to be unearthed to establish the cause of the plane, which said suddenly, overnight extinguished “the inspirational energy Machel generated.”
“Despite official inquiries in Mozambique, South African and the Soviet Union, the countries of ownership of the plane, venue the crash, and nationality of the pilots, the full details have not yet emerged,” says Johnson.
This is despite the fact that, then Mozambican President Armando Guebuza and then South African Thabo Mbeki had pledged to leave no stone unturned in finding out what happened on October 19, 1986.
A monument has since been erected at the site of the crash at Mbuzini where visitors testify to hear the echo, whispering through the 35 vertical steel pillars of the monument designed by Mozambique’s leading architect Jose’ Forjaz.
The memory of President Machel has not been forgotten in the region and beyond. South Africa has led the way in commemorating the death of President Machel at the actual site of the crash together with Mozambican nationals.
In Zimbabwe, a group calling itself the Committee of the People’s Charter (CPC) hosted a Samora Machel lecture recently. A committee member of the CPC, Mr David Chidende said the lecture was held under the theme: People-toPeople Solidarity in Building Democracy.
Mr Chidende said the lecture was titled: “The forgotten war-civil strife in Mozambique as we look back at the legacy of Samora Machel in the Making of Democracy in Africa.”
“The role that Machel played in the liberation of Africa and hence in the consolidation of democratic governance on the continent necessitates in itself the need to introspect and learn from this distinguished leader, noting that the struggle for sustainable peace and democracy on the continent is unfinished business and remains an on-going process. In the story of Samora Machel, we stand to draw so many lessons, among the outstanding ones being the significance of people-to-people solidarity in the making of democracy in Africa,” said Mr Chidende.
He said even the attainment of independence in Zimbabwe was only achieved through the selfless sacrifice of the people of the region, most notably Mozambique under President Machel, who provided practical solidarity and direct assistance in the struggle for independence.
Mr Chidende said the people of Zimbabwe remain indebted to the people of Mozambique.
“It becomes all the more important that we also offer a hand to the people of Mozambique in their hour of need. The 2016 Samora Machel Lecture therefore presents an opportunity to let the world know of the real story of Mozambique and that we also help to make their plight known. War and civil strife is already retarding development and growth on the continent and the civil war in Mozambique is a threat to the peace and stability that we have enjoyed in the Southern African region,” Mr Chidende said.
Reverend Lucas Amosse, president of Synod Council of the United Council of the United Church of Christ in Mozambique, said President Machel’s motto “Aluta Continua” made him known in Southern Africa in particular, the continent and the world in general for his outcry for freedom.
“A charismatic leader skilful he influenced many people to joint fights against colonialism, apartheid for liberation. Today in many cities of Mozambique you find people listening to pirated CDs containing Samora Machel’s speeches, and after a while they would say: ‘This one was indeed the real leader and President; I wish he was here all this we are witnessing wouldn’t be happening’. The question I would say is why? This is a question that we all ask ourselves in Mozambique today! Why?”
Reverend Amosse said President Machel was a leader of a broad mass liberation movement which represented the hope of many Mozambicans that liberation is possible and that “you can’t ask a slave with a gun in a hand if he/ she wants freedom”.
He said President Machel was politically advanced and hardly could be understood but was appreciated by many poor people and also disliked by few elites mostly because of his pro-poor social policies and the way he use to interact with the masses and articulate his ideas.
This year’s commemorations must never lose sight of the fact of the need for a closure in terms of what caused the plane crash of that fateful night. It is clear that even if the Russian crew had made a wrong turn, they still had no chance of surviving. There was a strong presence of highly trained special South African forces in the area who were prepared to finish off the task had the decoy beacon plan failed.
Four commissions have to date failed to conclusively point to the actual cause of the plane crash. One was Mozambican, the other an international tripartite and another South African chaired by Judge Cecil Margo and one by the Soviets. Like Che Guevara or Thomas Sankara, Amilcar Cabral, President Machel was an internationalist who selflessly supported and allowed revolutionaries fighting white minority regimes in Rhodesia and South Africa to operate within Mozambique and he surely earned their wrath.
Born on September 29, 1933 at Chilembene, north of Maputo, President Machel was a nurse by profession who refused to enter seminary for higher education. His first-hand experience of the sheer discrimination of the Portuguese colonial regime radicalised him to clandestinely join the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) after 10 years as a nurse.
The charismatic leader claimed that his political consciousness came originally not from reading Marxism but from the experience of his family especially his parents who were forced to grow cotton for the Portuguese and were displaced from their land in the 1950s in favour of Portuguese settlers.
Thirty years on, Africa still needs answers, the people of Mozambique are yearning for answers and the people of Africa surely deserve closure to one of their illustrious revolutionary icons. As Cde Machel said: “Personalities and fame pass: the revolution must remain.” — Zimpapers Syndication
The late President Samora Machel