Before he became Mozambique’s first president, Samora Machel was an anti-colonial freedom fighter who led the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) in the fight for Mozambique’s independence against Portugal.
Born on 29 September in 1933, Machel ventured into political activism when he was practising as a nurse at the Miguel Bombarda hospital in Lourenço Marques. When he discovered that black nurses earned less than white nurses, he protested. After ten years, he quit working at the hospital after he was told that the Portuguese political police were watching him.
He then slipped away from Mozambique and joined Frelimo in Dar es Salaam. He had to travel through Swaziland, South Africa and Botswana, where he got on a plane carrying South Africa’s African National Congress recruits.
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He rapidly rose the ranks of Frelimo’s military faction in Dar to become the leader after the death of Filipe Samuel Magaia, in October 1966. Four years later, he was voted as the leader of Frelimo, and became the lead negotiator of independence between Mozambique and Portugal.
Once independence was scheduled for June 25, 1975, Machel was able to return home to Maputo, where he received a hero’s welcome. He became Mozambique’s first president and declared that the country will be “a state of People’s Democracy, in which, under the leadership of the worker-peasant alliance, all patriotic strata commit themselves to the destruction of the sequels of colonialism, and to annihilate the system of exploitation of man by man”.
His presidency would, however, be cut short when he was killed in a plane crash on this day in 1986 on his way to Maputo from a summit in Zambia. Many theories about his death have been raised with the most popular being that a conspiracy between apartheid South Africa and the Soviet Union caused his death. Others have stated that the reckless behaviour of the pilots on the plane led to his death.
Here are some quotes from Mozambique’s first president.