Mozambique President Samora Machel (1933-1986) Speaks to the People
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By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire
PANW Editor's Note: The following document was originally authored in the immediate aftermath of the death of President Samora Machel of Mozambique. It is being reprinted here in honor of the twentieth anniversary of his death which took place on October 19, 1986.
Pan-African Students Union (PASU) Central Committee Report on the Assassination of Comrade President Samora M. Machel, Delivered on October 25, 1986: The Third Anniversary of the U.S. Invasion of Grenada
The death of Comrade President Samora Machel of the People's Republic of Mozambique comes as a tremendous blow to the African Revolution in particular and the international proletarian revolution in general. President Samora Machel died when the private government transport jet that he was traveling in crashed in the northern Transvaal region of South Africa near the southern Mozambican town of Komatiport on Sunday, October 19, 1986. Although no official explanation has been given for the plane crash at the time of this writing (10/20/86), the death of President Machel, his Minister of Transport and other top presidential advisors in this tragic incident, must be viewed in the overall context of the historical and contemporary political developments in southern Africa.
Since its independence from Portugal in 1975, Mozambique has known no peace. As the revolutionary government of FRELIMO (the Mozambique Liberation Front) attempted to consolidate its political power after an eleven-year guerrilla war against the Portuguese colonial forces, the white-settler regime of Rhodesia declared war on the new Republic because of its uncompromising stand in support of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), then waging a fierce military struggle against the settler-regime of Ian Smith in Rhodesia (renamed Zimbabwe). The Rhodesian Air Force laid waste to ZANU refugee camps and Mozambican villages in their desperate attempt to halt the triumph of the Zimbabwean Revolution.
During the period of war with Rhodesia, the Mozambican government suffered tremendous setbacks in its efforts to reconstruct an economy along the FRELIMO chartered non-capitalist path of development. The white-settler regime in Rhodesia created, trained and financed a counter-revolutionary force of former agents of the Portuguese Secret Police (PIDE) to carry out a massive destabilization campaign against the FRELIMO government. When the revolutionary liberation movement of ZANU gained state power in April of 1980, the racist-apartheid regime in South Africa took over the operations of the counter-revolutionary bandit force in Mozambique, known as the Mozambique National Resistance (MNR or RENAMO).
Since 1980, the banditry of the MNR has been characterized by a campaign of destruction. The MNR bandits have destroyed schools, villages, communal villages, hospitals, dispensaries and FRELIMO offices--it has assassinated FRELIMO party officials, innocent Mozambican patriots and civilians in the capital of Maputo in ambushes in public places and transport facilities.
This campaign of destruction by the apartheid-regime supported MNR was accentuated by the direct intervention into Mozambique by the South African Defence Forces (SADF). In January of 1981, apartheid-regime commandos of the SADF attacked the ANC refugee camp at Matola, a suburb outside the Mozambican capital of Maputo, killing many ANC cadres. Later in May of 1983 and November of the same year, the SADF launched further attacks on Mozambique supposedly in retaliation for military operations carried out by Um Khonto We Sizwe (MK), the armed wing of the African National Congress (SA).
By the fall of 1983 the security situation in Mozambique was quite acute. Several factors in addition to the apartheid-regime sponsored campaign of destabilization contributed to the deteriorating situation. The persistent drought which affected regions throughout the entire area of sub-saharan Africa was particularly acute in the sub-contient. Thousands of Mozambicans, many of them young people, died of starvation in late 1983 and early 1984. Another significant factor in the Mozambican crisis was the overall economic deterioration of the economies of the developing countries of Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America. Compounding the above-mentioned problems, the U.S. government under the leadership of the Reagan administration, sought to destabilize all progressive and revolutionary regimes and national liberation movements internationally. In 1981, several U.S. diplomats were expelled from Mozambique after the Matola raid, being accused of covert Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operations against the country. In 1984, Reagan boasted that no communist regime had come to power anywhere in the world during his administration.
It is within the context of these developments that the non-aggression pact, the so-called Nkomati Accord, with racist South Africa must be assessed. The FRELIMO government, in the midst of these nearly insurmountable difficulties, sought to ease the security situation by attempting a ceasefire with the apartheid-regime in South Africa. The terms of the Accord called for the refusal of each of the two governments, FRELIMO in Mozambique and the racist-apartheid regime in South Africa, to prevent the use of either government's territory by the adversaries of the other's government. That is to say, the ANC would not be allowed to use Mozambican territory for the military training of its cadres or the basing of guerrillas for attacks against the apartheid-regime in South Africa. At the same time, the apartheid-regime was bound by the Accord to cease all support for the MNR and to prevent its territory from being used as a base to attack Mozambique.
The FRELIMO government moved to scale down the ANC presence inside Mozambique, removing the cadres of Um Khonto We Size (MK) and reducing the number of ANC personnel to 10 people in the capital of Maputo. However, the activity of the MNR multiplied with an increased supply of weaponry being allocated and the boldness of MNR actions intensifying.
The Present Offensive
During September of 1986, the apartheid-regime announced that a landmine had exploded injuring six SADF soldiers in the northeastern Transvaal on the border with Mozambique. The regime began to launch a series of verbal attacks on the FRELIMO government, accusing it of allowing MK cadres to operate from its territory in violation of the Nkomati Accord.
Initially the apartheid-regime stated that it would expel all Mozambican nationals working in South Africa under contract. Later the apartheid-regime began an intensive anti-FRELIMO propaganda and psychological-warfare campaign. Heavy criticism was launched against President Machel's government by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) network, encouraging Mozambicans to support the MNR and rise up against FRELIMO in order to set up a government which would have normal relations with the racist-regime in Pretoria.
Coupled with this increased strain in relations with Pretoria, the Mozambican government had warned the Malawian government of Hastings Banda against supplying base areas for the MNR to attack Mozambique from Malawi. The government of Hastings Banda in Malawi has full diplomatic relations with the apartheid-regime. In addition, the Malawian government has close economic and security links with the racist-regime in Pretoria. Although Malawi has denied any complicity with the apartheid-regime supported MNR bandits, a recent British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) report stated that as a result of a summit meeting held between Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi in the Malawian capital, the Malawians expelled several contingents of MNR troops from its territory. As a result of the action by Malawi, according to the BBC report, the MNR launched an offensive in central Mozambique near the Biera corridor, threatening to cut transport links between the north and south of the country.
The Zimbabweans have supplied up to 10,000 troops in Mozambique to help secure the Biera corridor to the port on the Indian Ocean. The security of this transport link from Zimbabwe to the Indian Ocean is significant because the country is landlocked and the only alternative trade routes run through apartheid South Africa. Therefore, the ability of Mozambique and Zimbabwe to keep open this transport facility is important in the overall strategy of the Front-Line States (FLS) to work toward economic independence and self-sufficiency.
The security situation in Mozambique has been the topic of the last two meetings of the Front-Line States in Maputo and the most recent in northern Zambia, where President Machel was returning from October 19. According to the preliminary reports, the plane was carrying approximately 40 passengers, 34 of whom were killed. The flight engineer, a Soviet citizen, was reported to have survived and is being treated in a South African hospital in the town of Nelspruit. Others on the plane were: the transport minister Alcantara Santos, the deputy foreign minister Jose Carlos Lopo, the Zambian and Zairean ambassadors to Mozambique and several other presidential aides.
Culpability Placed on South Africa
Reports have stated that the plane landed only 200 meters inside South African territory. South African aviation officials along with the foreign ministry attempted to build a case for an accidental cause of the crash. However, the Soviet flight engineer who was injured in the crash stated in an interview on Tuesday October 21, that his believe is that the plane was shot down. The flight engineer, Vladimir Kovoselov, underwent treatment in a South African hospital after the crash.
As a result of these reports of South African governmental culpability in the plane crash, strong reactions from the international community have been forthcoming. Alfred Nzo, Secretary-General of the African National Congress, indicated that the movement would hold the apartheid-regime responsible for the crash. Similar views were voiced by the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Shirdarth Ramphal. President Kenneth Kuanda of Zambia said that he believed the apartheid-regime was responsible until proven otherwise.
Although there has been no comprehensive and exhaustive official reaction from the Zimbabwean government in regard to the death of President Machel, an article in the government-controlled Sunday Mail on October 19, stated that there was an assassination plot by the South African Ministry of Defence directed against President Machel. The article cited a revealing quote from the South African Defence Minister Magnus Malan which stated that: "If Mozambique is willing to support terrorism against South Africa, then we will have to deal with them accordingly."
On Tuesday October 21, several thousand youth and students from the ZANU Youth League demonstrated against South African, Malawian and United States interests in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare. The offices of South African Airways was set ablaze and the Malawian and United States embassies were stoned. In addition, cars carrying whites in Harare were stopped and the motorists were forced to state their allegiance to Africa or the apartheid-regime. The demonstrations continued on Wednesday in the capital of Harare. In addition, demonstrations were held in the Botswana capital of Gaborone on Tuesday.
According to Radio Moscow reports on Wednesday, October 22, the South African Defence Force has violated the air space of Botswana three times since Sunday October 19. Botswana has been the focus of several previous invasions by the apartheid-regime commandos into their territory. Some of these attacks resulted in the deaths of both South African refugees and Botswana nationals.
Implications for Future Developments
The death of Comrade President Samora Machel represents the rate and depth of the developing political conjuncture in southern Africa. In the face of mounting international political and economic isolation, the racist-regime in Pretoria is desperately seeking a way out of its current political crisis.
However, there is no consistent pattern of actions that the regime can take in order to reverse the present situation. ANC president, Comrade Oliver R. Tambo, stated on January 8, 1986 in an address to the National Executive Committee of the ANC that: "The Botha regime has lost the strategic initiative. The initiative is now in our hands. The racist-regime has no policy and can have no policy, either to save the apartheid system from sinking deeper into crisis or to extricate this system from that crisis. Its political programme has been reduced to a shambles. Its ideological platform has collapsed. All it can do now is to react to events from day to day without any consistent plan and without any overall objectives except to keep itself in power for as long as possible."
Comrade Tambo went on further to state that: "The principal conclusion we should draw from this situaiton is that through our sacrifices, we have prepared the conditions for us further to transform the situaiton to that position when it will be possible for us to seize power from the enemy. Thus the central task facing the entire democratic movement is that we retain the initiative until we have emancipated our country."
The recent tide of corporate withdrawal from apartheid South Africa, coupled with the disinvestment of shareholdings from state university endowments and pension funds within many states in the U.S., has effectively smahsed the Reagan administration's policy of constructive engagement with Pretoria. The Anti-Apartheid Movement in the United States has gained tremendous power and influence in light of the burgeoning mass and armed struggle in South Africa and Namibia. The death of President Machel comes as a tremendous loss to the African Revolution, however, it will not stop the forward pace of the national liberation movements in South Africa and Namibia.
This report is designed to provide a brief discussion of the situation surrounding the death of President Machel and his fellow crew members on Sunday. This discussion is necessary in an effort to clarify the nature of Mozambican-South African relations and the role of the United States in its sheltering policy toward the Pretoria racists. The inconclusive way in which the U.S. news media reported on the death of President Machel was designed to further the sensational and simplistic outlook that many people in the country harbor in regard to the political situation in southern Africa.
This style of reporting news about African affairs is designed to perpetuate U.S. influence over African political developments by obscuring, distorting and camouflaging the historical and geo-political context in which these events are occuring. The solidarity movements, revolutionary and mass organizations must become ever more vigilant on the ideological front in order to prevent this continued distortion and cover-up of the crimes being committed against humanity in southern Africa.
This report was initially published in the Pambana Journal Monograph Series Number 7 in July of 1987. The Series was funded at the time by the Pan-African Students Union at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Abayomi Azikiwe was the founder and editor of the Pambana Journal Monograph Series between 1984 and 2000. Publication of the Series was taken over during the 1990s by the Pan-African Research & Documentation Center that was under the direction of Abayomi Azikiwe.