On 19 October 1986 a small village near where the borders of South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique converge called Mbuzini entered Southern Africa’s history books in the most tragic way possible when a Russian made Tupolev Tu-134 plane carrying Comrade Samora Machel crashed in the nearby Lebombo Mountains.
Only eight people survived the crash while 35 including Comrade Machel died. Today the site is marked by a monument of 35 steel tubes which wail when the wind rises.
It is difficult to find a non-Zimbabwean who was as important to our struggle against colonialism as Comrade Samora Machel. He contributed to our cause selflessly and at great cost to himself, his country and the people of Mozambique.
The support we received from Mozambique made Machel an unpopular figure to the racist regimes of Rhodesia and South Africa who resorted to bombing Mozambique and made Mozambicans casualties in a war that was not supposed to be their own. But Comrade Samora Machel remained firm and steadfast in his support.
It is therefore not a surprise that one of our country’s biggest streets is named after this illustrious freedom fighter. Comrade Machel was as Zimbabwean as any of us.
In Tanzania there is a street named in memory of this great man, a constituency in Namibia and a school at the University of Zambia. Even in Russia Comrade Samora has a street named after him.
Machel was a world statesman who was instrumental in shaping a democratic Mozambique and was also pivotal in the struggle against colonialism on the African continent. Yet in all this Samora Machel remained humble, occasionally reprimanding those who sought to portray him as a god thus:
“Personalities and fame pass; the revolution must remain.”
It is almost three decades since this colossus of Africa joined the ancestors yet his messages of unity remain as timely and relevant as ever. Samora Machel taught the people of Zimbabwe the importance and power of unity, both within our country and in the African context.
Samora Machel, like all great Africans such as Cabral, Sankara, Nkrumah, Mandela, Nkomo, was aware of Aesop’s famous statement :” United we stand, Divided we fall” or perhaps he borrowed from the Christian Bible where on Mark 3:25, Jesus warns that “A house divided against itself cannot stand”.
Whatever his sources or inspiration, Comrade Samora Machel’s was cognisant of the need for unity, a point he reiterated often. On a visit to Harare in 1980 Samora Machel gave us perhaps his most important message, a message of unity. Aware of the ethnic divisions that posed great threat to our young nation he said:
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.
History has shown how prescient this warning was. Comrade Machel was vindicated a few years later when the Gukurahundi disturbances occurred.
These words remain true even today, there is an urgent need for us as Zimbabweans to treat each other fairly and equally. There have been disturbing news that the San people who live near Hwange National Park are being victimised by game rangers and security forces in the aftermath of the tragic poisoning of scores of elephants. The security forces who do this must be stopped, the San people must be accorded the respect and dignity they deserve. Those who think and behave otherwise are, in Machel’s words, “reactionary agents of the enemy.”
Equally important the government of Zimbabwe must make sure that all regions develop equally so that no area feels marginalised and make efforts to preserve the cultures and languages of various ethnicities within our country such as the San, the Tonga, the Kalanga. In so doing we will emulate and honour Comrade Samora Machel a true man of the people.
Comrade Samora Machel was a man of the people- the people of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and all Africa.
He was committed to helping the poor of Mozambique, and Africa, hence his now famous quote:
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. – Samora Machel
On the anniversary of his death we should ask whether any of his ideals have been achieved whether our struggles have benefited all our people or if democracy has bypassed the poor. We must ask whether the “rich man’s dogs” are better off than the poor, upon whom his wealth is built.
The life of Comrade Machel should be a constant reminder to our leaders that the benefits of independence are not supposed to be for them alone. The people must see and live the change.
And we the people of Zimabwe and Southern Africa must always remember the sacrifices of Comrade Machel and the gallant people of Mozambique. The memory of Samora Machel must not be allowed to die.
So as we celebrate the life of Samora Machel and name our streets, hospitals and schools after him, it is equally important to fulfill his dreams and live his ideals; to make those streets safe, the hospitals accessible to all and to fill the schools.Today as we remember Comrade Samora Machel let us also strive to make the “bullets of our struggle flower” for all our people.
We should cherish his memory and always remember his lessons of unity as we continue with our struggle for a better, equal, prosperous and just society.
In memory of Samora Moisés Machel (September 29, 1933 – October 19, 1986), a Mozambican soldier and a great friend of the people of Zimbabwe and to whom we owe much.