Samora Machel

Politician and Freedom Fighter. Revolutionary leader of the Mozambican liberation movement FRELIMO and Mozambique's first President, killed in a controversial plane crash in 1986.

Samora Machel
Samora Machel (1933 - 1986)



Samora Machel was born in 1933 and was raised in the village of Chilembene. He was a member of Shangana ethnic group and his parents were poor. Machel parents were all forced to grow cotton by the Portuguese, rather than food such as corn which they could eat and in the 1950's his parents' farmland too was taken and given to


Portuguese settlers. In order to avoid starvation, his relatives went to work in the South African mines under repressive and dangerous conditions. Soon after, his brother was killed in a mining accident. Samora Machel attended Catholic school and when he was not in class he worked in the fields. He studied to become a nurse,



one of the few professions open to Mozambican Blacks at that time. Machel was attracted to Marxist ideals and then began his political activities in a hospital where he protested that the black nurses were paid less than the whites, who were doing the same job. He later then told a reporter how bad the medical treatment was for the



Mozambique's poor by saying, the rich man's dog gets more in the way of vaccination, medicine and medical care than do the workers upon whom the rich man's wealth is built. Rebellion against Portugal was not new to Samora Machel at all. His grandparents and the great-grandparents had fought against the Portuguese





in the 19th century. In 1962 Machel joined the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique or FRELIMO, as it was called by most. FRELIMO was dedicated to creating an independent Mozambique. In 1963 Samora Machel left the Mozambique and travelled to several other African nations where he received military training. In 1964 he



returned to Mozambique and then led FRELIMO's first guerrilla attack against the Portuguese in the northern Mozambique. Machel spent most of his time in the field with his men, leading them in combat and sharing their dangers and hardships. By the 1970 Samora Machel became commander and chief of the Frelimo army. He



believed in a guerilla war and Frelimo's army established itself among the poor in the Mozambique's. He was a revolutionary who was not only dedicated to throwing the Portuguese out of Mozambique but also radically changing the society. He said, of all the things we have done, the most important - the one that history will





record as the principal contribution of our generation - is that we understand how to turn the armed struggle into a Revolution; that we realized that it was essential to create a new mentality to also build a new society. Sam Machel's goals were to be realized. Revolutionary army weakened Portugal, and after the country's coup



in 1974, Portuguese were forced to leave Mozambique. The new revolutionary government, led by Machel, took over on June 25, 1975. Machel became independent Mozambique's first president and was affectionately then referred to as President Samora. Machel put his revolutionary principles into practice. As a Marxist, he





called for the "nationalization" (government ownership) of the Portuguese plantations and property. He moved quickly to have the Frelimo government establish public schools and health clinics for the poor. He called for Frelimo to organize itself into a Leninist Party. Samora Machel supported and allowed revolutionaries fighting



white minority regimes in Rhodesia and South Africa to operate within Mozambique. Soon after Mozambique's independence both of these countries then attacked Mozambique with an anti-Frelimo organization called RENAMO. RENAMO's activities included; the killing of peasants, the destruction of schools and hospitals built





by Frelimo, and the blowing up of railway lines and the hydroelectric facilities. The Mozambique economy was strangled by these depredations and began to depend on overseas aid - in particular from the Soviet Union. Nonetheless, Machel remained popular throughout his presidency. Samora Machel was awarded Lenin Peace





Prize in 1975-1976. On the October 19, 1986, Samora Machel was on his way back from an international meeting in Zambia in the presidential Tupolev Tu-134 aircraft when the plane then crashed in the Lebombo Mountains, near Mbuzini. There were nine survivors but President Machel and twenty-four others died, including



ministers and officials of the Mozambique government. Although several years before the aeroplane went down Machel had signed a non-agression pact with South Africa, there was widespread suspicion that apartheid regime was implicated in the crash. On October 6, 1986, just two weeks before the crash, South African soldiers



Women soldiers at Samora Machel’s funeral



(SADF) were injured by landmines near the spot where the borders of the Mozambique, the South Africa, and the Swaziland converge. This site too was very close to where the Tupolev Tu-134 went down. Time magazine noted that this really seemed too much a coincidence. Throughout southern Africa, angry people mourned the





loss of Samora Machel. In the South Africa, protestors blamed their government for Samora Machel's death. In the Zimbabwe, thousands of youths stormed through downtown Harare. The crash remains a mystery; with some blaming it simply on bad weather and others still believing in South Africa's guilt. No conclusive evidence to either effect has yet emerged.