Mozambique: The President (Samora Machel)
For some years now, the #BlackLivesMatter movement has been gaining increasing importance in the USA. Connected with this is an ever-growing awareness of the issues arising around the movement of equal opportunities for all people and their equality before the law, regardless of their skin colour or origin.
In 2020, events in the USA also led to increased expressions of solidarity outside America. I would like to take this opportunity to remember the Mozambican President Samora Machel, who died in 1986 as a result of colonial reflexes and related racist tendencies.
The excerpt from my book also shows the complexity of the legal enshrinement of punishments such as the “Chicotada”, a kind of corporal punishment in Mozambique in the 1980s, which was decreed by the “black” government for its own people. My text sheds light on the ambivalence of the liberty-oriented efforts to emancipate a young country from colonial oppression and the difficulties that led to a long civil war.
But even in such a situation, everyday life in a city like Maputo brings moments of togetherness and joy. These episodes also belong to Mozambique in the 80s and this is also what the following text is about.
We only saw each other occasionally, and when we did, the mutual knowledge was rather one-sided. After all, he was our neighbour. Not that we lived door to door, but he did his government business in the house next door. Maybe I should describe the living situation for a better understanding.
Where the Indian Ocean washes its water into the bay of the port around a small headland in the south of the capital Maputo, the Portuguese once created a beautiful park from which a magnificent picture of the sea and the incoming ships delights the eye. Towards the end of their rule, the colonists built two high-rise residential buildings near the park, which were called “Torres Vermelhas” (“Red Towers”) in anticipation of their final appearance. The hasty flight of the builders left the towers as unfinished buildings. In fact, they consisted only of the two concrete skeletons. Right next to them was a three-sided complex, with its open side facing the street. Since the GDR trade organisation LIMEX had initially taken it upon itself to set up apartments there for East German development workers – here called Cooperantes – they gratefully named their domiciles LIDO. The name was made up of the first letters of the originally more jokingly meant name LIMEX-Dorf [LIMEX-Village].
We moved into LIDO in 1981 with our three-quarter year old son. First floor. Cross block. The big yard was cemented in grey, in the middle two papaya trees tried to survive. Behind the left longitudinal block, seen from our apartment in the middle, a white wall separated the small gardens belonging to the apartments from a park, in the middle of which was the official residence of Samora Moisés Machel, the President of the People’s Republic of Mozambique.
So much for our neighbourhood.
Our block of houses was located on the street leading to the entrance gate of the Presidential Park, which had to be passed by him and his visitors. Due to this location, we enjoyed the constant surveillance. At least we felt relatively safe, but this did not stop several burglars from entering several apartments in our block due to the destabilization that occurred during the ongoing civil war. The guards were a bit away anyway and stood on the opposite side of the street, where the park continued and hid the guards. In the evening they were hardly noticeable, unless a lantern or the moonlight made the white-testing eyes flash out of the dark, or the puff on a cigarette spread a red glow on a black face. Actually, passage through the street was forbidden, but the soldiers tolerated our presence, as they soon knew us as residents of LIDO. It was only when new guards came up that, often in lengthy discussions with suspicious soldiers, the customary right to use the street had to be declared. But the people were always tolerant, after all we could have taken another road to bypass the presidential grounds.
Especially when we were travelling with our pram and took the shortcut home through the presidential district, our “moramos aqui” (“we live here”) was enough to legitimise the heavily armed guards.
Occasionally it happened that, when we were just passing the path opposite the park gate, the President came out with his motorcycle guard and, sitting in a dark limousine, took a fleeting glance over to us, but never reprimanded the guards who had let strangers get so close to him.
Sometimes this led to funny situations.
Once, at the beginning of 1981, we came back from a walk in the already mentioned park at the headland (because of the artistically arranged stairs it was always called the “Treppchenpark” [small stairs park] in the German colony) and passed the actually forbidden territory unhindered. As we passed by, the gate opened, the guards saluted, and after a group of escort vehicles, a big car slid out, in which the Portuguese President Eanes, who had just visited Samora Machel, was sitting. He waved at us in a friendly manner, apparently thinking that we were somehow part of the court.
Since only a medium-high wall separated us from the presidential estate, the mostly white peacocks kept in his garden took advantage of this to fly early in the morning to the roof of our house and then to the courtyard, waking the still sleeping inhabitants with loud cries: a dubious pleasure, especially on Sundays, but which everyone willingly bowed to in view of the beauty of the animals. I had not known until then that there were also white peacocks.
I was connected with the president not only as a neighbour but also through his wife. Indirectly. Work-wise. Graça Machel, the president’s second wife, was my boss. She headed the Ministério de Educação e Cultura (MEC), the Ministry of Education and Culture, where I worked in the National Directorate of Teacher Training between 1981 and 1986.
Of course, the President knew nothing about this, he had only learned of my existence through fleeting encounters. He did not know that he had brought us a series of cheerful episodes in a difficult time (the civil war in the country had been raging since 1975 and was getting worse and worse). No one suspected that with the events surrounding the person of the President in 1986 the most dangerous and life-threatening situation would arise for us, which to this day no one has forgotten who was a witness to the events.
But back to the cheerful episodes.
Shortly before Christmas 1981, after visiting the Piscina, the swimming pool in the Maxaquene sports complex, where the sultry heat had driven us, we went for a walk in the Treppchenpark. We were astonished at the lack of other walkers. The solution to the mystery was revealed when we turned from the cover of dense bushes onto one of the main paths. Soldiers with machine guns ready to fire secured a group of people, which we ran directly towards. It was the President, his wife and some high military officers who were engaged in conversation, passing us by. Again the incredible happened: We were allowed to walk unhindered behind the most powerful man in the country and his companion, our son in his stroller. None of the guards spoke to us. So we walked with the group for a while, now accompanied by armed guards behind us. The reason why this episode has remained in my memory is that Ute had the idea to ask the president, who had looked at us friendly for a short time, for a souvenir photo with our almost one year old son. I had to use all my powers of persuasion to stop my wife from doing what she was determined to do. After all, it was I who had left the group of strollers with my companions and had to listen for a while to the complaints about an escaped “historical” photo. Later we often laughed about the situation at that time.
A few months later, in April 1982, we met Samora Machel at the Maputo cinema “Gil Vicente”. There we watched a performance of the “State Dance and Song Ensemble of the GDR”. Many Mozambican spectators took part in the three-hour program. Of course our son accompanied us, who spent part of the performances asleep. The program of the group, which had emerged from the former “State Village Ensemble”, consisted of German folk songs and dances. Since the Mozambicans are deeply rooted in the songs and dances of their tribes, there was great interest in German folk art, even among the state superiors. As the event approached its climax, Samora Machel, his wife Graça, the member of the Frelimo Politburo, Marcelino dos Santos and several other dignitaries came in and took to the stage. Since the train had briefly stalled due to the narrow stage entrance, Samora, as we called him in confidence among ourselves, had to stand next to me for a short while. I sat on the outermost chair in the aisle. When the Mozambican delegation entered the hall, everyone rose from their seats. So for a moment I stood side by side with the most important Mozambican since the death of the legendary Frelimo leader Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane. We looked at each other at the same time, his gaze wandered further through the room without stopping, while I examined him more closely, taking care not to appear obtrusive. At least he was physically closer to me that day than he ever was later.
After exchanging friendly words and a short speech by Machel, all those standing on stage sang together first a frelimo song and then “Brothers to the sun, to freedom”. Then the program continued in the presence of the guests.
A surprising thing happened.
The program section with the German folk dances began. After the first two dances the audience and officials applauded the exotic sounds and movements. When the third dance was performed, the whole cinema suddenly seemed to hold its breath, and a moment of absolute silence occurred. Then the excitement of the Mozambican audience was released in a deafening laughter, which soon developed into a hysterical romp in waves. The spectators held their bellies, curled up in their seats, roared one roar after another into the hall and stared rapturously at the stage with eyes wide open.
What had happened?
The audience had watched the “normal” dances as interested experts, so to speak. But then something happened that is not to be found in any of the dances of the country: The German dancers grabbed their partners by the hips and swung them into the air. People had never seen lifting figures in a dance before. Their roar drowned out the music. The actors on stage looked confused into the hall, could not see where the people’s amusement originated and continued with their swinging lift figures, as German folklore dictated. Since the remaining dances were also performed with lifting figures, the colourful skirts of the dancers blocked the view of their partners and the turns puffed up the female clothes, cheerfulness was the order of the day for the rest of the performances.
Since laughter is known to be contagious, we recorded it and laughed because the Mozambicans laughed. They in turn believed that we were as amused as they were about lifting figures while dancing. The President had also given in to the general joy.
To get so close to the head of state so easily would probably not have been possible for a foreigner in any other country in southern Africa. I remember another day, 7 September 1982, so clearly because it was introduced as a national holiday at that time. It was to remind the Mozambicans of the signing of the Lusaka (Zambia) Agreement in 1974, where the FRELIMO delegation and the Portuguese Government confirmed the Mozambican people’s right to independence and established the solemn proclamation of the new state for 25 September 1975.
On the occasion of the introduction of the new holiday, leading heads of state from other states were invited and honoured for their support of the Mozambican struggle for freedom. This honour took place publicly on the “Independence Square” in Maputo. Samora Machel presented the “Order Eduardo Mondlane, 1st Class” to the Presidents Julius Kambarage Nyerere of Tanzania and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia. Of course, the place where the Order was presented was well shielded under the trees, and between the audience and the three presidents a music corps intoned various marches. Nevertheless, no one prevented me from crossing the barrier to take some photos of these personalities up close. It seems that a white photographer was trusted very much. The fact that the pictures did not turn out particularly well was due to my inadequately adjusted camera, a product called EXA IV, which was popular in the GDR at the time and simply did not take note of the favourable conditions of the wonderful weather.
A good year later – the civil war had escalated – the country’s army wanted to demonstrate its readiness to fight. In the “Campo desportivo”, a football stadium in the “Baixa”, Maputo’s lower town, “exercícios militares” (“military exercises”) were to be demonstrated in the presence and in honour of the president. The stadium was packed with several thousand people. We stood on the side opposite the main stand and could look diagonally over to the president. The soldiers showed marching exercises, a military band played and special units showed in karate show fights how to incapacitate two, three or four opponents in direct physical contact. Some smashed piled up bricks and superimposed boards with the edges of their hands.
Of course, the president gave a patriotic speech on the subject. In Mozambique, the attention of the audience was always challenged at the beginning and end of the President’s speech by the speaker’s short speeches in which he exulted his country and his people and condemned the enemies to decline. After the respective sentence had escaped the president’s mouth, the crowd repeated the first – because decisive – word in the choir. Between the sayings there was absolute silence, because everyone had to understand the first word exactly.
This time too. My wife and I were wedged into a tight black crowd. Our son, now almost three years old, crouched on my shoulder to see everything. He was especially impressed by the enormous chants. So fate took its course.
“Viva a Frelimo!” (“Long live the Frelimo!”), shouted the President into the microphone.
“Viva!”, echo the crowd.
“Viva o povo de Mozambique! Independência ou morte, venceremos!” (“Long live the Mozambican people! Independence or death, we will prevail!”)
“Viva!”, it was heard from the stands.
Andreas listened in amazement.
“Abaixo o imperialismo!” (“Down with imperialism!”).
The crowd: “Abaixo!”
“Abaixo o neocolonialismo!” (“Down with neocolonialism!”).
The change from “viva” to “abaixo” irritated Andreas. The enthusiasm of the masses had infected him. He tried to join the choir, but the change of words threw him off his game. Samora took off for the last, repeated exclamation:
“Viva a Frelimo!”
The violence of the folk choir ebbed away over the stadium. Everyone listened to whether another presidential word would resound and be repeated.
But Andreas had only now registered the last call and into the total silence above the wide round suddenly a pointed child’s voice crowed its resounding “Viva!”
The people raised their heads and from thousands of mouths an irrepressible laughter roared towards the sun. Even the serious face of the president suddenly showed cheerfulness. He clasped both hands above his head and then waved his right hand in the direction from which he had heard the call.
Andrew sat proudly on my shoulders, had both hands on my head, and graciously received the presidential homage and that of the crowd.
Two years earlier we had already received the homage of the Maputo people, at that time however unintentionally and undeservedly.
On a hot June Sunday we returned from a bathing trip from Macaneta. The town is located about 40 kilometres from Maputo on the Indian Ocean and has a fine, wide white-golden sandy beach, which gently merges into overgrown dunes from the shore. To reach it, we had to drive by car to a landing stage at Rio Incomati. There we parked the car for the day. Usually we drove there – for transport and safety reasons – with several families and cars in convoy. Together we boarded the only means of transport that could bring us to the beach, a ship called Barco Mestre Pires. This barge, marked by the ravages of time, was registered for 48 people. But the crew did not seem to remember that. Once, I counted 73 passengers during the return trip, during which we had to go ashore at another place, as the ship’s captain could not find the landing place due to the beer that was abundantly consumed during the day. With the Barco, we always drove half an hour downstream the Incomati, observed the numerous floating plant islands and, with the anticipation of the strong waves of the Indian Ocean and the observation of the sharks, displaced the knowledge of the age of the vehicle.
Since usually one car was available for two families, we were on the road with family Burre in the “Toyota” on this day.
The cheerful mishap happened on the journey home.
At about 15.30 we returned by boat to the pier and friend Burre drove us at the head of the group of cars returning to Maputo. As we approached the capital, we spotted a plane that had just landed. We thought it was the expected Interflug plane, which always supplied us well with mail from home. On a whim we decided to take the way back via the airport. What we did not know: Samora Machel returned with his plane from a conference of African states and brought the President of the People’s Republic of Congo with him on a state visit.
State visits in Black Africa are always colourful and atmospheric.
To receive both presidents, tens of thousands lined the cordoned-off streets. And we had driven right onto the road leading out of the airport. On our way towards the city, the roadsides were literally black with people. As our cars approached, people thought that this was the head of the government convoy. Many started cheering, waving flags. Folk dance groups began their demonstrations. Right behind us, the leader of the German group, A. Wernicke, drove with his headlights on. This strengthened the impression among the masses that the president had been announced. After initial uncertainty, we gradually began to enjoy the enthusiastic reception. Günter Burre and I waved quite statesmanlike with bent arms from the open windows. There was no way to leave the street at any point. Only in the middle of the city did the police wave us out and direct us into another street. I assume that the president did not learn of this escapade.
Of course the encounters with Samora Machel were not always of a pleasant nature. We remember a “Comício popular”, a mass political event of May 1983 with the President on the “Praça da Independência” (“Independence Square”). The Maputo population was invited to participate. Early in the morning at half past seven we had to arrive at the parking lot, then we marched to the rally, which started at 10.15 am. It was a hot and humid day, and not, as in the days before, a light breeze from the sea made breathing bearable, but from the hot interior of the country dry air drifted in, its glowing breeze descending on streets and squares. To give the rally significance, the military surrounded the square and did not let any of the black participants leave. For reasons of discipline we stayed too. Many of the undernourished people simply fell over, having nothing to drink.
Samora spoke at length. In his speeches and appeals he always had a militant, warlike undertone in his voice, supported by the gesture of his raised arms, which silhouetted threats and incantations into the eternally blue sky. The thick air smelled of dust and caused scratches in his throat. The walls of the houses and the pavement glowed in the heat and built a leaden roof of air over the heads of the people whose bearers suffered in agony.
The event only ended at 17.30 hrs.
The intensity with which Samora Machel delivered his speeches to the people had its reasons. The Civil War had grown in intensity. Even nature conspired against the people and the government’s important projects. A terrible drought ravaged the country. The harvest in the fields withered, rivers could only be recognized by the torn up soil. Maputo was also thirsty. The worst drought in fifty years swept away old people and children. Hunger reached the capital, where food rationing allowed each inhabitant two and a half kilos of rice, two kilos of sugar and half a litre of oil per month. Black marketeers and racketeers tore down the already ailing economy even more. Rice, wheat flour, eggs, chicken, potatoes and wine disappeared from state-run domestic trade enterprises. In the port of Maputo, 200 tons of corn were found in a warehouse, which had been stored there since November 1982. Nobody knew who they belonged to. Meanwhile they were no longer usable for human consumption.
Already in February a cholera epidemic spread from South Africa to Mozambique. Corruption was rampant in the face of increasingly poor living conditions. The former prison warden of Maputo was sentenced to six years imprisonment for bribery and embezzlement. In the southern part of the country, people experienced what had long been the order of the day in the north and central part: raids and attacks by RENAMO gangs and sabotage by foreigners. In the port city of Beira, a military court sentenced 40 bandits, including an Englishman and several Portuguese. The sentences were drastic: five were sentenced to death by firing squad, 13 were acquitted and the others were sent to prison with sentences ranging from four to twenty years.
Nevertheless, crime still increased. Already in April the next death sentences followed: smugglers had diverted shrimps and televisions, an engine driver stole 15 bags of sugar and also corn from his train, two men murdered the owner of a bakery and stole 65000 meticais from him. The leaders of a RENAMO group had kidnapped people in the provinces of Gaza and Inhambane, destroyed schools, burned down hospitals, shops and community villages, attacked two buses and killed all passengers, and finally destroyed a bridge.
The president spoke to the people, wanted to encourage and call for increased efforts in the fight against the evils that were forcing the country to the ground.
On 31 March 1983 he signed the “Law on Maximum Penalties against the Enemies of the Revolution”. Law 5/83 invoked Article 44 of the Mozambican Constitution and introduced a punishment that was both dissuasive and educational: the “Chicotada”. This is the Portuguese word for “flogging”. In the preamble, the reasons for the abstruse law and the penalties provided for were stated. “The armed bandits massacre, murder, mutilate, rape and kidnap citizens and foreigners, destroy material goods, raze villages to the ground, burn crops and warehouses, destroy seeds, rob cattle, attack trains and buses and kill their passengers, destroy schools and their materials, raid health centres, destroy factories and shops, sabotage the centres for water supply, sabotage the central and transmission lines of electric power, fuel lines and storage facilities.“
The law ruled out that even those sentenced to death would be punished with the “Chicotada”. Article 4 determined the number of blows to be administered and their portioning:
“The penalty of flogging in series of 3 times 30 beats may be applied up to 3 series, spread in periods not less than 8 days”.
What was the “educational” aspect?
Article 6 answered this question:
“The punishment of the Chicotada will be carried out in public with prior reading of the verdict.”
The immediate practical application of the law showed how serious the situation was in the country. As early as the beginning of April, six bandits were sentenced to death, eleven received prison sentences and between 10 and 45 lashes.
For “spreading rumors” there were two years imprisonment and ten lashes. For “subversive agitation” at Maputo University, a group of students received eight years imprisonment and an additional 45 “chicotadas”. The same punishment was given to a 21-year-old teacher who had an exercise written in politics class and used it to formulate a paper against the state and party, allegedly based on the students’ answers.
At this time of worsening political situation, I had completed my task of training teacher trainers in history for the training centres in the country and was now working in the National Directorate of the Ministry of Education responsible for teacher training. I had previously fulfilled the task of drawing up a curriculum for the training of primary school teachers at the “Centros de Formação para os Professores Primários” (CFPP) to the satisfaction of the National Director Raposo Berão and the Minister. The Ministry approved it and forwarded it as a valid curriculum for the training of history teachers at this level. I now worked in the “Pedagogia” department and, together with André Titosse Sidónio Winge, formed the “Grupo de disciplina da história” (“History Section”). We were asked to write auxiliary texts (“Textos de apoio”) for the students, who were to be formed into primary school teachers in a three-year direct course of study after completing the sixth grade. The intention was to subsequently combine these texts into a textbook.
My Mozambican colleague was a nationally known personality. He was considered one of the best track and field athletes in the country and, to our mutual delight, was appointed to the national team in April. He was preparing to participate in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
With our activities we participated in the conception and implementation of the “Sistema Nacional de Educação (SNE)”, the national educational system, which set itself the goal of forming the “Homem Novo”, the “New Man”: capable of helping to shape the construction of a liberated Mozambique. From the very beginning of the struggle for freedom, FRELIMO had been committed to the access of all Mozambicans to education. Samora Machel stated in 1981: “The national education system is revolutionary and popular in its principles, its aims and in the process of its materialization.
Indeed, the Mozambicans’ hunger for education was enormous. The government and FRELIMO immediately set about creating a national education and training system and using the experience gained abroad to carry out this project effectively. On the basis of the decisions of the III FRELIMO Congress in 1977, the “Linhas Gerais do Sistema Nacional de Educacão” (“General Guidelines of the National Education System”) were presented for discussion to the 9th session of the Assembleia Popular (Popular Assembly/Parliament) in December 1981. With the adoption of the “Linhas Gerais” as law number 4/1983 they came into force.
Education for the entire people, 90 percent of whom were illiterate at the time of the revolution and the attainment of independence, was a gigantic task, as there was a lack of teachers and schools.
It was clear to the president that this would require huge material and financial resources, which the poor country did not have. The socialist states supporting him were not able to give Mozambique all the help it needed. So the president was forced to make contact with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as early as 1982, which in turn tied loans to political demands. Consultants from many countries were present in the ministry and in other education and training institutions. I worked with Russians, Brazilians, English, Cubans, Portuguese, Indians and Pakistanis. It was also no coincidence that the President’s wife was at the head of the Ministry of Education.
In the following period, the civil war hindered the planned development. Schools were destroyed, teachers killed, books and exercise books were lost in transit. The civil war now raged in all provinces. A huge wave of refugees increased the chaos. The food was not enough in front and behind, despite all efforts.
This was the situation when the task was set to create the “New Man”.
Our neighbour, the President, was constantly on the move, speaking to the people in the provinces in their Bantu languages and dialects, trying to instill courage in them. However, help came from South Africa for the RENAMO, Malawi gave her refuge.
Samora Machel had already taken over the leadership of the FRELIMO during the liberation struggle against the Portuguese after a package sent in Frankfurt/Main exploded in the hands of the founder of the Liberation Front and killed him.
The fateful year 1986 came.
South African provocateurs had been smuggled into the country. Machel narrowly escaped assassination. Fighting raged at night in the Maputo suburbs. ANC offices in Maputo (Mozambique granted Nelson Mandela’s organization a stay) were blown up. Mines were buried on the beach. Our ambassador then banned us from visiting the beach and staying on the streets at night.
My life had also changed drastically. Since the civil war was life-threatening, my wife and our son were no longer allowed to enter Mozambique. I sat alone in a huge apartment in a nine-storey house in Avenida Tomas Nduda number 1284 and lonely remembered the former conviviality in the LIDO complex. My move also meant the end of the neighbourhood with the President.
We, the German residents, resisted the increasing number of burglaries by having one person each day, with a cudgel, make his rounds as guards through the floors. At night, while Dieter W. slept, the burglars stole his radio and emptied his fridge. The battery disappeared from a VW Beetle and an American tenant repeatedly removed the television antenna. Two Mozambican guards were involved in shootings during the nights, some of which I slept through. The embassy had iron lattice doors attached to the apartments. This was urgently needed since Mozambicans had set up an illegal distillery on the ninth floor and all sorts of shady characters were roaming around the house.
The move didn’t seem to agree with me, the bad luck soon followed me. Everything happened according to a script that its creator had started as a crime thriller and ended as a farce.
I had enjoyed the July holiday at home and flew back to Maputo in early August. Actually the trouble started in Paris. The Mozambican plane ran out of air on its way from Berlin to Paris. Only after six hours of involuntary stay a French DC 10 was ready to take us to Maputo.
There was a rude awakening.
My colleague Hartmut P. came to pick me up. I stowed my suitcase and the hand luggage, in which I believed my wrist bag with the papers, in the Toyota.
Just as we were about to leave the parking lot of Maputo airport, a young Mozambican approached us with a folded newspaper and asked to be taken into the city. Hartmut P., group leader in the ministry, cracked his head. Taking strangers in the car was strictly forbidden: Instruction of the embassy, because civil war and the situation was confusing and dangerous.
But the young man made a nice impression and Hartmut had a soft heart. He allowed him a ride in the back seat. Now it must be said that there was no partition between the back seat and the trunk. You could easily reach into the trunk from there.
We drove off and had a lot to tell each other in the joy of the reunion. As we noticed when we glanced in the mirror, the Mozambican had spread out his newspaper and was therefore not to be seen. If he had reached backwards while apparently reading it, we would not have noticed it.
Before we turned off the Avenida Mao Tse-tung onto the street where I lived, our passenger asked for a stop and got off.
After we had dragged my luggage to the apartment on the first floor, I realized with enormous fright: My wrist bag, in which also the passport was, was no longer there! Simply gone. All the searching did not help. It remained disappeared.
Now it must be added here that in the GDR, a passport, especially one that said “valid for all countries of the world” was a document of immense value. It could have been used for escape! To prevent this from happening, every time we came from abroad, our passports were taken from us in Berlin. Only shortly before leaving the country did we get them back. But if I had got off at stopovers in Paris, Copenhagen, Lisbon, etc., nobody could have prevented this. But on my home leave, the state mistrust prevailed.
Hartmut and I panicked slightly. A lost passport was considered a political offence. “The class enemy can use it to harm the GDR”, we were given as a reminder.
Hartmut, breathing heavily, as if he had just completed a hundred-meter run: “What’s in the bag?”
So I didn’t have to think long: “Passport, the expired plane ticket, the German and Mozambican counting card, the German driving licence and the Mozambican driving licence, two cheques, a temporary ID for the xenon, 25 DM, a four-colour pencil, a notebook and my two glasses. Some other things didn’t immediately come to mind.
At that time I only needed glasses for reading and writing. They were just a working tool. Writing and reading without glasses was not possible.
“What do we do?” Hartmut asked.
“We’re going back to the airport. I had to show my ticket at the counter, so I still had the bag there. “Maybe I lost it after that, or maybe our passenger… “
“We’ll go back and see if the bag was found at the airport.”
So back at a faster pace.
Nothing. No one had found anything, no one had turned in a lost and found. My crime was clear: Lost my passport.
On the return trip we drove on the busy Avenida Mao Tse-tung nice and far left. In Mozambique there is left-hand traffic.
In front of us, but on the right side of the road, a truck with South African license plates was moving at varying speeds. Beside the black driver sat two young women who were joking with him. They were carrying a jar of food that they wanted to take to a prisoner in prison.
During the very animated conversation in the truck cabin, the actors paid only negligent attention to the traffic and the location.
When the vehicle was almost at the mouth of a road that turns left, one of the women suddenly screamed, “There, you have to turn, that’s the way to the prison.
On this call the driver turned the steering wheel around and tried to get from the right side of the road into the side street.
But we drove on the left and Hartmut steered.
Suddenly the long side of the truck appeared in front of our window and our Toyota crashed into it and got stuck with a loud bang under its battery container.
My warning call mixed with the sound of bending metal and Hartmut’s cry of pain.
Multitudes of dark-skinned helpers and curious people surrounded the scene of the accident.
All the windows of the Toyota had broken off from their actual function into sharp-edged fragments.
A black-brown hand drove in front of my face and pointed to the right (!) wiper on which my watch was hanging. We crawled out into the open and saw what was happening: right front axle bent, both fenders pressed together, bumper and right door deformed, lamps split in two. Brakes blocked. The car was wrecked.
The driver of the truck immediately confessed his guilt, told how the women had distracted him and then informed him too late about the turn.
I made sketches of the accident site and the vehicles. Hartmut had broken three metacarpals of his left hand.
I had bruises and abrasions on my back that hurt my ribs, and my knee. My left wrist swelled up and a strong pulling began in my neck.
Of course we had to stay at the scene of the accident until someone from the embassy arrived.
They sent the consul, a grumpy, seemingly arrogant journeyman, who was said to be annoyed about having been sent from the bursting life in Brazil to Mozambique, which for him was deserted.
He gave us the expected lecture and passed on the report about the missing passport to the security department.
I had to comment orally and in writing on my misdeeds. They concentrated on three offences: I had not prevented Hartmut P. from taking the Mozambican in his car.
I had insufficient supervision of my papers.
At the time of the accident I was not wearing my seat belt.
Our state leader tried hard not to inflate the matter, but could not prevent an award for Hartmut, which he was to receive on 7 October, from being postponed to a later date. We were threatened with a warning.
Actually, that would have been the end of the matter. But sometimes life has some strange rules.
Two weeks after the incident, my colleague Werner Sch., who lived in my house, surprised me in the evening with the news that he had received a telephone call at the Ministry. A woman’s voice had told him that she had found my lost documents. If I wanted them back, I should call the number 64 32 40 and ask for “Susi”.
Now the name Susi is already in our latitudes no longer very native. But in Mozambique? As a Mozambican name Susi would be extremely unusual.
Since I had no telephone connection in my apartment, I decided to get to the bottom of it and Susi the next morning.
The morning attempt from Werner Sch.’s phone failed. After each call the busy signal was heard. Since the matter with the disappeared passport was now boiling up again, I was recommended to inform the security officer of the embassy about the new situation. He sensed a conspiracy against the fatherland and gave me the order to continue trying to get in telephone contact with the finder and to arrange the time and place of the handover. He also decided to send one of the armed security men from the embassy to accompany me.
But all my efforts on the phone were unsuccessful.
During a guard duty at the embassy I picked up the Maputo phone book and tried to find the number that was passed to me. Actually a life’s work, considering the volume of said work. But while leafing through it, I noticed that most Maputo telephone numbers had five digits. All six digits, without exception, began with the number seven. However, on the slip of paper I was given there was a six-digit number that started with a six. Was it a translation or a hearing error on the part of the person who took the call at the Ministry?
I decided to exchange the six for a seven and started a new call.
Normal call sign.
A woman’s voice speaking something incomprehensible, but which was clearly Portuguese.
“May I speak to Senhora Susie, please?”
“Yes, please, I’m on the phone myself.”
“I am the one whose papers you found. Could I pick them up tomorrow morning?”
“I’d love to.
“Will you tell me where you live?”
“My apartment is on Avenida Vega Monís, number 106. First floor.”
Avenida Vega Monís, that was not far from my apartment and close to the place where our passenger got off the airport.
The man from the security group suspected it and said, “The consul will go with you, and the OSK will cover you.” Behind the abbreviation were the guards carrying weapons.
The consul was very busy in the morning. I was supposed to pick him up at the consulate at 11:00 by car.
Of course I had become curious about Susi and the house. So I went there the same day, to get local knowledge. I strolled past the Parque dos Continuadores and played the lonely strollers. Next to the restaurant Matchedje a small street turned off.
I checked the house numbers, because they always indicate the length of the streets. The numbers were assigned by measuring the length from the beginning to the end of the street. The house number corresponds to the number of meters from the starting point of the survey. Number 106 was the last house on that street.
Inconspicuously I looked at the facade. All windows closed, no movement.
It looked like middle-class residents.
The next noon the three of us set off. I as the local expert, the consul as commander of the action, the OSK as armed security.
On the first floor we took position in front of an unnamed door. The OSK climbed up one staircase with his gun drawn and remained invisible for the first floor.
The consul knocked vigorously.
Silence. Nothing moved.
Another, even stronger knock. Nothing.
After the fourth or fifth futile attempt, we decided to withdraw without success.
That’s when I decided to exceed my authority and knocked myself out. Normal. Like neighbors do.
The door opened quietly.
Susi was a middle-aged Indian woman, not unattractive. Dressed Indian.
She invited us in.
Carved, dark furniture. Modern stereo radio, electrical appliances. Clean, large rooms.
We sat down after her request, and Susi went to get the papers. Already when she entered the room again, I recognized my property in her hands.
She handed me the small stack.
“How did you get those papers?”
“The day before yesterday, I was at the airport saying goodbye to friends. As I stood on the terrace, I saw the documents lying on the ground. On the embassy ID card inside, I found the phone number of your embassy. I called it from home. When I asked, I was told you could be reached at the Ministry of Education. It was there that I left the message you were sent.
The day before yesterday. That was 16 days after the papers were lost.
I couldn’t have lost them on the terrace, because I hadn’t been there.
I thanked them warmly and dedicated myself to the bundle that was handed over.
It contained my international vaccination card, both counting cards, the customs declaration, the GDR driving licence together with the entitlement certificate and emergency aid passport, the provisional xenon identity card.
The bag, the glasses, the notebook, the pencil, the money and a newspaper article about photo rights, the passport were no longer there.
At least the driver’s licenses were saved.
While I was leafing through the papers, the consul watched me suspiciously and put his forehead in severe folds.
During the conversation with the finder, the consul made sure that it did not become too personal.
But since I was the one actually affected, I took the initiative.
Interested I wanted to know from the Indian woman: “Surely her name is not really Susi. Is that really what they call you?”
“I like the name Lady. All my friends and acquaintances call me that.”
The consul replied: “In any case, your name is not Susi! What is your real name?”
“My real name is Teia B. “
Then, without being asked, she said that although she was Indian, she had Mozambican citizenship. Her husband was a businessman. His constant absence makes her life quite lonely, because the whole family lives “fora” (“outside”). The family had two children.
I asked what she wanted for a finder’s fee. She said, “I don’t want anything. Even I can lose something once in a while, and then I expect the finder to bring it back.”
Suddenly she thought of a way to reward me, and she inquired which scientific discipline I work in.
“Too bad! I would like to learn English. Don’t you know an English teacher who could teach me?”
I saw my neighbor’s hair stand on end and displeasure lines on his face turned into a volcanic landscape.
Since I could not be responsible for his sudden cardiac death, I referred the lady kindly to the Maputo “Instituto de Línguas”.
Private contacts were not allowed.
When we were sitting in the car again, the consul’s anger exploded in a voice so hoarse with rage: “I suppose you’ve been driving without a license until now?
I confirmed this with a mild smile. He used the struck key, which was confirmed to me by other colleagues who had to do with him.
The next day Hartmut and I received the announced warning.
That was actually the end of the affair. We had probably wrongly suspected our Mozambican passenger, even if some facts spoke against it.
When I looked through the returned papers at home in peace and quiet, I discovered something that did not belong to me. Between the sheets of paper was a slip of paper printed in Russian, obviously an invoice receipt from the restaurant of a Soviet airport. Well.
In the ministry, which was now called Ministério da Educação (MINED) because the cultural section had been separated out, I changed to the Direcção Nacional de Educação Geral (National Directorate of General Education) under the direction of the National Director Adelino Cruz and now worked in the Departamento da Orientação Pedagógico (Department of Pedagogical Orientation) together with the Mozambican Abel Assiz and the official of the Cuban Youth Association Rogelio.
As early as February, the rapidly escalating security situation led the ambassador to ban us from visiting cinemas, restaurants and participating in mass gatherings.
Explosives went off in the Maputo central market and on the beach, injuring innocent people.
This in turn prompted the embassy to “perfect” the security system. From now on, a sheet had to be filled out in duplicate, which had to contain all intended changes of location for the period from Saturday to Friday in advance (example: Tuesday 5.15 p.m. to 6.15 p.m. walk …).
In this time of constant restlessness and nervousness, however, there were also some pleasant things. Titosse visited me and showed me his certificate of participation and the bronze plaque that every participant of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles had received – including the seven-member team from Mozambique.
He had bought a recorder with record player, cassette part and radio in the USA for over 200 dollars. In return, Mozambican customs demanded a customs fee of 6000 meticais on his re-entry.
A short time later Titosse retired from life under dramatic circumstances.
But I have to get back to the president. But that can only be done by referring to the circumstances as they were in October 1986.
The news of the intrusion of a South African special command in Maputo spread over the radio. Attacks are expected. The security and armed forces were in a state of alert, and the population was called to vigilance.
That something would happen was almost physically palpable.
From the embassy came the warning: “Since the GDR sympathises with the ANC, attacks against GDR collaborators are to be expected.
It did not affect my work. On the occasion of the celebration of “Teacher’s Day” I gave a speech to the participants in the “Curso de capacitação”, a training course for inspectors from the provinces. In my speech I included an episode from the life of Samora Machel, which impressed the audience. The same was true of my presentation to the German Advisory Group on the history of non-aligned states.
It seemed as if our work was showing increasing success. In mid-October, I conducted a seminar at the Maputo Pedagogical Institute with 24 inspectors from all the provinces, using examples from the history classroom to show them possibilities for the emotional and patriotic education of the students. Senhor Banze, the head of the inspection in the ministry, was full of praise, well aware that Samora Machel included the history of the country in almost every one of his speeches in order to develop the national consciousness of the Mozambicans.
Then came the most fateful day in the history of the young state.
Sunday, October 19, 1986.
The Lebombo Mountains border the border triangle between South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique.
Around the small village of Mbuzini in Bantustan Kangwane, the inhabitants noticed a strong military presence. Most of the strangers were members of the South African Special Forces.
Here, in the region of red earth interspersed with hills and rocks, this was an unusual event.
Mbuzini is only a few kilometres away from the Mozambican border town of Namaacha and the South African town of Komatiport. 80 kilometres further east lies Maputo.
Near Mbuzini soldiers set up tents. A white man stepped out of one and asked a group of civilian-dressed men standing there, “Is the action completed?”
The spokesman for the group replied: “We are finished. The mortars are not visible from the outside, so they are not above. This time it’ll work, Mr Louw.”
Hans Louw nodded, rubbing his hands.
“Malan will be happy with us.”
He thought of the strictly confidential conversation of some people who had recently been to see the South African Defence Minister Magnus Malan. Louw was one of the participants who belonged to the apartheid organisation Civil Cooperation Bureau, whose speciality was the execution of killing missions for the apartheid regime.
As vicarious agents of the racist government they had done the dirty work for years. Their hands were stained with the blood of many ANC members and other fighters for the freedom of the black people of South Africa.
“Malan wants Machel dead. We can’t have the ANC driven out of our country. In Mozambique, black people are regrouping and reorganising.”
A man from the group, whose face was smeared with soot, raised his fist threateningly, as if he wanted to strike at an opponent and shouted:
“Fortunately, Malan is taking revenge. He wants to phase out the contracts of 60,000 Mozambican miners in our mines and send them home.”
Hans Louw gave some more orders, looked around and checked and went into one of the tents.
“This time it will work,” he said to a soldier who entered the tent and performed hand movements on a shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile. With these weapons, two troops were to take the twin-engine TU 134 A-3 of the Mozambican president from the sky, who was due to return from a conference of the so-called front states from Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, on the evening of 19 October. In Maputo, the plane was expected at Mavalane airport at around 9.30 pm.
“We tried everything again,” confirmed another uniformed man whom Louw had asked for information.
Hans Louw once again impressed upon the men: “You pay close attention to my command. We only go into action if the plan with the manipulated radio beacon should fail. Our men are in the Maputo tower and over in Matsaba, in Swaziland, everything is precisely prepared.”
“Do you have direct contact with Malan?”
The questioner, also one of the soldiers who were to fire the anti-aircraft missiles, turned to Louw.
“For God’s sake! There’s big politics at play here. It’s gotta be all secured and cushioned. I’ll be communicating with him through Ben, the officer in charge of military intelligence, and Major Craig Williamson of the security organization.
Dusk was falling over the Lebomboberge.
In Lusaka the TU 134 of the Mozambican president took off for his flight home. For the Soviet crew it was a routine flight. They had been working in Maputo for 18 months and had gained the experience of 65 landings at Maputo airport, 70 percent of which were night flights. Commander Yuri Novodran was considered an experienced pilot. The 38-year-old first-class pilot of Soviet civil aviation had accumulated 13056 flying hours, half of which he had spent at the TU 134. He knew the aircraft inside out.
Igor Kartamychev, 29 years old, flew as a co-pilot, and as a 3rd class pilot had already clocked up 3790 flying hours. The crew also included Oleg Kandrianow, the navigator, also a 1st class pilot with almost 13000 flying hours and Anatoli Choulipov, the radio operator, who looked back on 30 years of professional experience and over 14000 flying hours in all aircraft types of the Soviet Union. The flight engineer was 37-year-old Vladimir Novossolov, who had flown more than 6200 hours.
The experiences of these men predestined them to fly a presidential aircraft.
That evening, 39 passengers besides the crew were sitting in the Tupolev, besides Samora Machel his two Cuban doctors, Ambassadors Cox Sikumba from Zambia and Tokwalu Batale Okulakamo from Zaire. All others were part of Machel’s escort crew.
Monday, October 20, 1986.
Maputo, Ministry of Education, room 205.
I had spread out my documents on the desk and sorted out those that were no longer needed for the task ahead. Rogelio entered, whistling happily, and bent over some letter he had brought with him. Abel Assiz sat over a piece of printed matter with a satisfied smile and studied it carefully. Everything was as usual. Abel’s particular satisfaction came from the small radio that stood in front of him on his desk, which played the music that the station had actually recorded with tinny, rattling tones. Abel loved the radio more than anything. A few days ago, this love had again taken off, because Rogelio and I had revived the previously dead, silent piece with batteries, and with it Abel’s well-being. The tall, slim man with the open expression enjoyed the Radio Mozambique program at an almost painful volume.
As I always found such music to be a disturbing factor during work, I only listened with half an ear to the squawking sounds that left the miniature device. But after some time I became suspicious. It must have been so shortly after 8 o’clock.
Something seemed different than usual.
“Abel, did you review our draft in flawless Portuguese before going to the minister?”
I had to repeat the question out loud and bring Abel back to the reality of our office space.
He shook his head, “I’ll do that tomorrow.”
Suddenly I knew what was different about this morning than usual.
“Hey, Abel and Rogelio, have you noticed that the radio plays nothing but funeral music all the time?”
Both put their writing things out of their hands and looked at me in amazement.
With a few casual remarks I tried to overcome the sudden anxiety.
But also the following pieces of music were clearly funeral music.
“Has anyone of national importance died?”
Abel shook his head in the negative and Rogelio pulled his shoulders up and indicated cluelessness with pursed lips.
Then the music stopped abruptly.
After a break, the voice of Marcelino dos Santos, member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of Frelimo, resounded.
His voice sounded gloomy and solemn.
“Mozambicans, Mozambican women.
With deep emotion and pain, the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Frelimo Party, the Standing Commission of the People’s Assembly and the Council of Ministers of the People’s Republic of Mozambique announce to the Mozambican people between the Rovuma and Maputo rivers the tragic death of the President of the Frelimo Party, the President of the People’s Republic of Mozambique, Marshal Samora Moisés Machel.
These words struck the room like lightning, all thoughts were in a whirl.
“His death occurred when the presidential plane, coming from Mbala, Zambia, approached Maputo airport and for reasons as yet unknown crashed on South African territory, at Mbuzini, about five kilometres northwest of Namaacha.”
The further words were drowned in a deafening noise that rose in the corridors, where horrified male voices mixed with the screaming and shrieking of overturning female voices.
Abel showed horror in a face that had turned grey. He rushed out into the hall. Rogelio left the office on the double: “I must gather my Cuban comrades at once.”
Lightning flashed in my head, illuminating the image of Lumumba, the Congolese martyr and first president of his country, who was murdered in 1961, and shining its light on Samora Machel. How the images resembled each other! At first I was aware that a similar crime had been committed here against one of the most important statesmen of awakened Black Africa.
Growing noise from the street came in through the windows.
Samora Machel was dead.
The country in shock.
What would happen?
Did South African troops appear in the streets at once?
Who would take over the leadership of the state in these hours?
The news of Machel’s death spread quickly around the world.
An unprecedented thing had happened.
Why did he die? And how? Who were his killers?
Nobody believed in an accident.
The radio reported that yesterday evening a reception committee had expected the president at the airport at the scheduled time around 9.30 pm.
The machine never came.
No message. No one knew anything. Can a plane with more than 40 people just disappear without anyone noticing?
It was not until around 7.40 a.m. on 20 October that the Mozambican government received the news that TU 134 had crashed on South African territory with the President of Mozambique.
This information came more than nine hours after the crash.
I will not describe here the further events in the hours and days after the death of Samora Machel became known. I have described this in detail in my book “Berichte aus dem Morgengrauen. As a development aid worker of the GDR in Mozambique”.
Rather, I will try to describe the circumstances and background of his death, as they appear to me and how they were covered up for two decades. Only recently has it become clear that Machel was the victim of a planned crime and that the perpetrators came from South Africa.
What Machel meant to the Mozambicans – in the memory of his compatriots he still lives on today and the new South African government has helped to shed light on the circumstances of his death – are a few facts.
Samora Moisés Machel died a few days after his 53rd birthday.
He was descended from the Chona people, who belong to the Bantu.
His paternal grandfather was one of the commanders of the army commander Maguiguane, who commanded the troops of the legendary king of the Gaza Empire, Ngungunhana, against the Portuguese invaders at the end of the 19th century. His maternal grandparents were first deported from Mozambique to Angola, then to São Tomé and Principe, where they died. His oldest brother died in a South African mine. In the 1950s, the colonists confiscated his father’s fields because the land in the Limpopo Valley was to be given to Portuguese farmers. Their house was torn down.
Samora Machel was born on 29 September 1933 in Xilembene, a village in the Limpopo Valley in the province of Gaza, in what is now the Chokwe district.
He joined the FRELIMO (Mozambican Liberation Front), founded on 25 June 1962, and received military training in Algeria with about 50 selected fighters.
In September 1964 the FRELIMO’s armed struggle against the Portuguese colonial system began, and Machel led military operations in Niassa and Nachingwea.
On February 3, the founder and leader of the Liberation Front, Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane, died while opening a package bomb.
In May of the following year, Samora Machel succeeded him as Frelimo President. The Portuguese government hoped for a Saul among the guerrillas and put a price on his head, had writings and posters bearing his portrait burned.
Machel’s great hour struck on 7 September 1974, when he forced the Portuguese to sign the Lusaka Agreement unconditionally, which ended the war and opened the way to independence from midnight the following day.
Consequently, he assumed the office of president on 25 June 1975, the day of the birth of the new state.
Two years later, the FRELIMO liberation front transformed itself into the socialist-oriented Frelimo party.
Machel also took over their presidency.
For his services, the country honoured him in 1980 with the rank of Marshal of the Republic and on the occasion of his 50th birthday (29 September 1983) with the National Medal of Heroes.
His policy was determined by the circumstances of the development of his country. The RENAMO moved from the north to the south, murdering and burning. Hardly grown economic and political structures were destroyed. Hunger and natural disasters plagued the people.
The apartheid state South Africa financed and equipped the RENAMO. President Banda of Malawi gave shelter to the marauding gangs.
The financial misery made Machel vacillate between the offered but insufficient help of the socialist states (Soviet Union and GDR) and the temptations of the offers of the Western International Monetary Fund (IMF). The latter combined his payments and loans with political and economic demands.
South Africa’s white government resented his support for the ANC, Nelson Mandela’s liberation movement, and sabotaged the country, sending bomber planes and blowing up ANC offices in Maputo at night.
We witnessed it first hand.
As late as October 20, the German ambassador issued a ban on us going out after dark.
One day later, Defence Minister Chipande addressed the army with an appeal.
My lecture on the history of Mozambique, which I had planned for the evening before the GDR cooperants, has been postponed indefinitely. That was a good thing, because quite a few of them felt anxiety and restlessness, they swallowed tranquillisers. It turned out that in the GDR embassy a meeting of all responsible persons had already taken place at about 1 o’clock in the night from 19 to 20 October, the reason for which was the unfounded absence of the presidential machine. From discussions in the ministry I learned that collaborators from Holland and Portugal were sitting on packed suitcases. The directorate of the Pedagogical Institute Maputo recommended this also to the GDR advisers. They believed that the RENAMO and South Africa could use the situation that had arisen to topple the Frelimo or that events like those in Yemen could develop. In discussions in the ministry, increasing anti-Sovietism developed, triggered by mistrust against the crew of the presidential aircraft. Rumors circulated on the floors: the crew had been drunk. Nerves were strained to the breaking point. The Malawian embassy and the South African trade mission became more and more the focus of public interest, they were eyed suspiciously and their staff were threatened.
I did not fear for my life. My goal was to see my wife and son again.
Everything else seemed unimportant.
Of course, in view of the situation, rumours started flying.
The most important Mozambican daily newspaper “Notíçias” and the weekly magazine “Tempo” reported on the crash in great style and followed up traces that allowed conclusions to be drawn about the true causes of the crash.
Although they printed the statements of witnesses and participants, these were ignored by the South African side, and the Margo Commission set up for the investigation in 1986 assumed that the Soviet occupation had made a mistake. Soviet experts, on the other hand, claimed that the machine was misguided by a manipulated radio beacon and deviated from its route by 37 degrees near the border.
It was not until 1998, when the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) also dealt with the crash of the president’s plane in its investigation of apartheid crimes, that doubts arose about the results of the commission’s 1986 investigation. For its part, the TRC suspected that the plane had been misdirected by a radio beacon, but found that there was no evidence of this.
Taking into account the facts that have come to light, the manipulation of the crash by South African actors seems certain to me.
The plane hit the hill like a bullet and immediately broke into three pieces. 34 of its occupants died, including Samora Machel, 10 survived.
The aircraft debris was distributed within a radius of 400 meters around the impact point.
One of the survivors went to a nearby house. When he returned to the plane, he saw South African security guards sifting through the rubble, looking for Samora Machel and documents.
Among the searchers was Hans Louw.
The South Africans also took the flight recorders. In doing so, they invoked the Chicago Convention, which grants the state on whose territory an aircraft lands the right to conduct investigations involving other parties.
However, joint investigations were delayed by several weeks because General Lothar Neethling refused to hand over the Cockpit Voice Recorder (“Black Box”).
A journalist who was on site later testified that a device the “size of a piece of butter” was found in the rubble, in which experts suspected a frequency scrambler, a decoding device that scrambles frequencies.
What are the facts that remain when one leaves aside assumptions and suspicions?
In the “Notíçias” of 21 October 1986, the passenger list was printed as well as the number of victims. Afterwards, 25 Mozambicans accompanying the president, two ambassadors, two Cuban doctors (one of whom was on his last official trip and was training his successor) and four members of the Soviet crew lost their lives.
Nine Mozambicans and the Soviet flight engineer survived.
Strangely enough, in many later publications, the crash is usually written about 25 dead and nine survivors. These figures, however, refer exclusively to the Mozambicans who were killed, but even then it would have to say, “In addition to Samora Machel, another 25 of his countrymen died.”
On October 26, a press conference was held in Maputo with the three survivors Fernando Manuel João, Almedo Pedro and Daniel Cuna, excerpts of which were reproduced in the “Tempo” of November 2. They reported on what happened after the stewardess Orlanda “announced to them that we are ready to land in Maputo.”
João explained that “when the plane tilted forward” and the tail broke off, he was ejected, along with the chair in which he had been sitting. He managed to loosen the belt that held him to the seat and straighten up after he had been unconscious for several minutes.
As a result of the cold and the rain, he came to and saw a house with lights on. As he turned there, the light went out. He went to the village headman, who subjected him to a long interrogation. Shortly afterwards, the wounded Captain Rendição joined him. Together they went to the medical post 15 kilometres away, where they received their first treatment. The post contacted the police chief of Komatiport. The injured remained at the medical post while the police chief went to the crash site. An ambulance arrived around 6 a.m. to take them to the hospital. However, João demanded to be taken back to the crash site because he was worried about the fate of the president. In view of the South Africans’ disinterest in helping the injured, he himself tried to rescue those trapped. At his request, the chief of police ordered a helicopter to come and take the injured to hospital. At this point, his strength ran out and an ambulance took him to the hospital.
Almedo Pedro described how he fainted when the plane crashed. When he regained consciousness, he turned to the South African policemen with a request for help, but they did not care about those who were still alive. They fetched lanterns and started to collect papers, files and money, which were scattered around. One of the policemen approached him and asked if he recognized the face of Samora Machel. When he said he was unable to do so, he turned to another survivor. Carlos Jambo had shown the policeman where the body of the Mozambican head of state was. The searchers continued to pick up papers, sat in their vehicles and rummaged around.
“When the South Africans arrived, they gave no help whatsoever. I heard screams and saw people dying for failure to help.”
Flight engineer Vladimir Novossolov, the only survivor of the Soviet aircraft crew, had been transferred to a hospital in Pretoria.
Interesting for the time of the crash was also the statement of the survivor Vasco Langa on November 10.
“The crash occurred approximately 9:35 p.m. Near the Mozambique border.” After regaining consciousness, he looked at his watch and saw that it read 9.45.
He was taken to a hospital in Nelspruit and subjected to interrogation on the person of Samora Machel. A South African Air Force major told him that the Soviet crew had been drunk.
Langa rejected this claim.
To which the Major replied: “The plane crashed because the Russians were drunk, this was confirmed by the Soviet we brought to Pretoria.”
If that was the cause of the crash, the military presence of the South Africans at the scene of the terrible event would be inexplicable.
This was confirmed by a resident of the Bantustan Kangwane, who made his statements to the Mozambican news agency AIM, but did not want to give his name for fear of reprisals. “Notíçias” printed his statement in the December 1, 1986 issue.
He then wondered about a “strong military movement in the Mbuzini area” and about “military trucks with covers instead of the otherwise open patrol cars”. At midnight an ambulance had arrived from Mbuzini but had not been allowed to pass through to the scene of the accident. It claimed to have seen that no help was given to the injured and that the military and police used the night to search the aircraft debris. Mbuzini residents approached the plane but were chased away by police. One of them would have opened an umbrella over Machel’s body because it had started to rain.
However, Foreign Minister Pik Botha and Niel Barnard, head of the National Intelligence Service, later claimed that there were no more documents.
The day after the crash, Mozambique and South Africa agreed to a joint investigation of the incidents involving the International Civil Aviation Organisation. As already mentioned, under the Chicago Convention, the main responsibility for this lay in the hands of the South Africans.
The causes of the accident remained uncertain for a long time, but there was growing suspicion that the radio beacon in the tower of the airport in Maputo was switched off and manipulated by the Matsaba tower in Swaziland.
On 20 October 1986, the President of the Republic of South Africa, Pieter Willem Botha, wrote in his condolences that he had “great respect for Samora Machel as a political leader and as a person.
In Maputo and in the ministry the unrest remained and tore at the nerves of the people.
The coffin of Samora Machel was placed in the Câmara Ardente (Hall of the Dead) in the house at the “Praça da Independência” on October 24th. Since the transport facilities for the population were insufficient, all car owners, including foreigners, were called upon to make themselves available with their vehicles. A GDR delegation to funeral ceremonies was announced, which included 20 journalists. We should be available as drivers or interpreters.
The Ambassador issued instructions that none of us were allowed to express a private opinion about the incidents to any member of the delegation. He also forbade anyone to go out alone (even during the day) on the streets. Movement was only allowed in the car, and after nightfall it was no longer allowed at all.
The Mozambican colleagues in our National Directorate wanted to design a “Jornal do Povo” (“People’s Newspaper”), the oversized wall newspapers common in Mozambique, for the staircase on the second floor on the occasion of the death of Samora Machel. Senhor Mazula confidently entrusted me with the artistic direction. We received grateful recognition for the work.
From the embassy came the permission to go to the beach for the weekend.
With Professor Dr. Karl H. I cycled off. As a shortcut we chose a path through a military camp that had just been built. The first sentries let us pass. A patrol mistook us for spying South Africans and pointed machine guns at us. A discussion with an officer who had rushed to us relaxed, which ended with the release of the path when we could reasonably credibly prove that we were “Cooperantes da RDA”. The GDR was very popular with the Mozambicans at that time.
But even on the beach it became obvious how tense the situation in Maputo still was. Some GDR people crouched in the sand, no trace of the otherwise present Soviets and Cubans.
Machel’s funeral was set for 28 October. The day before, the population and the delegations that had arrived were allowed to bid him farewell.
Ministries and companies competed in closed formations. For us, the motto was: The Ministry of Education meets at 2 p.m. at the “Africa” cinema and then marches to the city executive, where the coffin stands.
From the GDR embassy came the order: “The situation is explosive, taking pictures can be dangerous. Therefore, photography is strictly prohibited!”
What does a historian do on days when history is being written and irretrievable images are on display? He keeps his eyes open and takes his camera with him. With Dieter W. I set off. Both with their cameras. And took pictures. And they all agreed that what happened deserved to be recorded photographically.
We left our marching block far behind and positioned ourselves near the entrance to the mortuary, watching the entrance of the delegations and population groups. Gradually the masses pushed forward from the parking lot, and confusion arose at the entrance.
Firmly wedged in the crowd, we approached the entrance door only centimetres at a time. Women staggered out of the house crying and had to be supported.
18.30 we managed to get in.
The following pictures dug themselves deeply into my memory and are still present today.
The coffin was on the first floor. A sea of flowers spread out in the red room. Two high-ranking officers held the wake. Medical staff, security forces and photographers all around. Only a short stop was possible in front of the coffin.
There he was, the President. My former neighbor. Hidden under boards.
I had a picture of the presidential neighborhood. It was painted with cheerfulness and detachment. Now he had broken that pattern and filled the relationship with misfortune. For many years now, unhappiness had been the norm in Mozambique.
“Adeus, vizinho!” “Goodbye, neighbor!
Crowds at the arrival of the GDR delegation led by Werner Krolikowski and Ambassador Matthes. Of course, she wanted to be the biggest, drove up in nine cars.
When Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda arrived, the crowd became life threatening.
Clouds were gathering outside.
Because of the large influx of the population, access to the mortuary was extended until midnight.
The decorated coffin was closed, the killed president not to be seen.
One of the German doctors explained to me why: Machel’s corpse was torn apart by the impact, his liver and stomach torn apart, his head smashed in and half crushed. The brain was squeezed out and one leg torn off. The doctor also knew that nine of the ten survivors had been sitting in the rear of the plane. Of the people sitting in the front, only the Soviet flight engineer had survived the disaster. Almost all the passengers, even those who had no external injuries, suffered a fracture of the second cervical vertebra.
The next day, when we asked Abel whether he had now checked the linguistic correctness of the “Exams” (“Prüfungsaufgaben”) for the subject History in the eleventh grade, which Rogelio and I had worked out, he shook his head. At noon he appeared and proudly and shamelessly showed me a “Poem for Samora Machel”, which he had composed and written down on almost two A4 pages.
The next day Samora Machel was buried at the “Praça dos Heróis” (“Heroes’ Square”) in Maputo. The funeral procession started from the “Independence Square”. A cannon shot announced the beginning of the ceremony. Thousands of people lined the “Praça dos Heróis”. Soldiers of various arms gave the dead president his last escort. Troops of the armed forces ensured the smooth running of the ceremony. There were no incidents, anyway, since the plane crashed on October 19, it had remained relatively quiet in the capital.
Machel’s coffin rode on a carriage covered with yellow bunting. At 12.38 pm, 21 cannon shots – fired behind a colossal painting – announced the end of the Machel era in Mozambique.
The large-format photographs in newspapers, on banners and posters showed the portrait of the medium-sized man with the short beard around his cheeks and chin and his almost shy looking eyes, which seemed to contradict his lively appearance on the political stage and as a tribune of the people in the midst of the reverent crowd.
But the unrest among the population remained, as the true causes of the plane crash could not be clarified. The accusations against the South African government were compounded by those arising from the traditional thinking of the Mozambicans. In all seriousness, a Mozambican colleague told me: “President Banda of Malawi is a great magician. He has cast a curse on Samora Machel, which has been fatal to the president.”
How deeply such ideas were rooted in the people’s minds became apparent in November, one day after the election of Joaquim Alberto Chissano as Frelimo President (according to Article 53 of the Mozambican Constitution, the Frelimo President in personal unit also became President of the Republic. Article 57 stipulated that the Central Committee of Frelimo had to ensure that this requirement was met).
The youth organisation OJM called for a manifestation on the occasion of the election of the new Frelimo president. Hundreds of young people and adults followed the call, which began at the Congress Palace and ended with a speech at the “Parque dos Continuadores”. Of course, I was right in the middle of it with my camera and enjoyed the many girls and young women who had bought elaborate hairstyles with colourful jewellery and gave away attractive photo models.
Already during the march the situation escalated.
The rumour about the Malawian sorcerer Banda had got stuck in their brains and
transformed into destructive rage with the knowledge of the support for the RENAMO murder gangs. Unfortunately, the protest march passed the Malawi embassy building, a villa-like house with a front garden. When I got there, everything had already happened: The demonstrators had stormed the house and thrown all the furniture, equipment and files out of the windows. The embassy staff managed to escape.
After lunch, which I took in the “Xenon” house belonging to the GDR embassy (so named after the neighbouring cinema), security guards prevented me from entering the street.
On the opposite side of the street was the South African trade mission, separated from the street by a wall about two meters high. Young demonstrators had entered the South African compound and tried to storm the house. From the balcony on the third floor of the “Xenon” I watched the sprawling scenery down there for the next two hours.
Policemen and soldiers seemed to be overwhelmed by the unfamiliar situation and remained inactive for a long time, when stones clapped against the windows and house walls and some youths tried to rip the mini gas station out of the ground. When the soldiers began to throw smoke bombs into the crowd, they simply threw them back.
Up on the balcony the smoke bit us painfully in the eyes. Before everything got out of hand, the Mozambican security minister Viera appeared and, to our amazement, ended the haunting with a short speech. What remained were walls smeared with slogans, threats and appeals. The young people condemned the South African government as the murderer of the president and demanded revenge.
Since the causes of the accident remained in the dark, I tried to get a picture for myself.
The “Agência de Informaçâo de Moçambique” (AIM), the country’s news agency, published interesting facts in “Notíçias” which confirmed the assumption that South Africa was behind the assassination attempt.
The most apt image came from a special account published by AIM in the “Notíçias” of 26 January 1987 under the title “The last ten minutes”. I refer to this in the following extracts. The mentioned article assumes that the aircraft crew believed they were flying towards Maputo and that there was no reason for them to doubt it.
The previous examinations and evaluations of the flight recorders had shown that the commander of the aircraft commented on the deviation from the flight path at 9 pm, 11 minutes and 28 seconds. According to an official translation from Russian into Portuguese, he said: “What about the diversion beam? Isn’t it going straight ahead?” To which the navigator replied: “The VOR [radio beacon] is pointing that way.”
At that time the aircraft was located 100 kilometres from Maputo between Magude and the border with South Africa.
The recorded conversation in the cabin showed that the crew was not suspicious at all and talked calmly about banal things. For them, the VOR was the decisive signal for the direction to take.
“Tolik, have you put in your pencil?”
The navigator called “Tolik” said, “Plugged in?”
The commander to the flight engineer, who was called “Vova”: “Vova, do you have a long pencil?”
This was the way the further conversation took place. The critical time was approaching.
9:12 pm. the flight engineer shouted, “Three beers and a Coca, here.”
Commander: “Yes, three beers, Vova?”
Flight engineer: “Yes, and a Coca for everyone.”
Commander: “All right.”
The report pointed out at this point that the crew had not consumed any alcohol in the last twelve hours and that the beverage order could also mean that they should be taken home after the flight.
Copilot: “Why are two lights on and the other one off?”
The navigator interjected that it was still 80 kilometres to Maputo.
Coming back to the lights, the copilot asked, “They should be on, shouldn’t they?”
Commander. “Is it always like this?”
“Sixty kilometers to Maputo,” cried the navigator.
The commander seemed to have a slight doubt: “What, we’ll land in 20 minutes for sure?” He asked again how many miles were missing before we got there.
Navigator: “60 kilometers.”
During this time, the aircraft flew towards the South African border with a course change of 37 degrees, which the VOR had specified, but not towards Maputo.
9:16 pm the commander spoke. “Volodya, it’s necessary to report what the altimeter reads.”
Radio operator: “Tell them, tell them, it’s not the first time.”
A minute later the commander wondered, “This isn’t Maputo, is it?”
“What?” asked the copilot back.
Commander: “I can’t see Maputo” and added: “The electric power’s out.”
Obviously, he was assuming one of the frequent power outages in Maputo.
Copilot: “Look to your right, it’s lit.”
Navigator: “There’s something I don’t understand.”
“No, it’s some kind of thing …” cried the commander and the navigator added: “The ILS turns off and the DME.”
“Everything turns off, look, guys,” the commander confirmed.
Then the navigator says, “And the NDB’s don’t work.”
The ILS (Instrument Landing System) is the instrument used to indicate the landing, the DME (Distance Measuring Equipment) indicates the distance still to be covered. The airport also includes the auxiliary radio systems, in a sense the signals from the lighthouses called NDB (Non Direccional Beacon).
It was noticeable for the situation that the failure of the three systems was named by the crew, but not the VOR.
But as the team was used to total power cuts during the 18 months of their stay in Mozambique, they remained relatively calm. The Maputo-Komatiport high-voltage line suffered repeatedly from acts of sabotage.
“There’s a light on the left,” said the copilot.
“Right! Something conspicuous?”, the commander asked inquiringly and ordered to contact the tower in Maputo.
In the recording of the cabin talk (CVR) the voice of the co-pilot could be heard, who indicated the flight altitude at 3000 feet. That was 9.18pm.
With a loud shout, the commander repeated the altitude reading twice, then cast a curse and shouted angrily, “Shut up, boys!”
Later, an inspection of the flight recorders (DFDR) showed that the aircraft continued to descend.
The radio operator made contact with the control tower and indicated the flight altitude at 3000 feet.
The inspector in the tower said, “Confirm that you have eyes on the airport.”
“Not yet,” replied the radio operator.
At 9 pm, 18 minutes and 46 seconds, the controller allowed the approach to runway 23.
From this it could be concluded that the ILS of Maputo worked or the controller accepted it.
In the cabin, the commander indicated the non-functioning of the ILS in three repetitions.
9 pm, 18 minutes and 59 seconds: The radio operator asked the tower if the ILS was “out of order”. His question was answered in the affirmative.
An ambiguity arose at this point. The discussions were conducted in English. In the translation of the AIM text, the inspector answered with “afirmativo”, which means “affirmative”, but this is a strange formulation. A clear answer should have been “sim” (yes) or “não” (no). Did he want to say that it was working after all and was switched on, or did he want to confirm that it was out of order?
At the same time, he allowed the “visual approach to runway 5” and added the necessary information about the prevailing wind.
Obviously there was a communication problem in the cabin. The crew thought they had one on approach to Maputo.
The radio operator asked in the tower about the cloud formation and the commander saw “lights on the right side.”
“Is the runway not lit?” asked the co-pilot, and the navigator repeated the question.
Commander: “There is a problem.”
The radio operator then asked the tower to check the lighting of the runway.
The inspector confirmed the “visual approach” to runway 05 from the Matola area (a suburb of Maputo).
This created the next inconsistency. In principle, a controller cannot confirm a visual approach without the crew telling him that they can see the runway (during the day) or (at night) its lights.
There was another exchange of words between the radio operator and the controller after the latter confirmed the approach from the right side of runway 05, from the zone between Catembe (a suburb on the other side of the bay of Maputo) and the Torres Vermelhas.
9:20 pm and 12 seconds. Commander’s question: “What, right? Wait, direction… 24.”
It was thus clear that the coordination between the radio operator and the commander was not correct, who still believed in the landing on runway 23 as indicated earlier.
The following conversation relaxed in the cabin.
9:20:22 pm Commander: “I don’t understand anything.”
Radio operator: “You don’t see the runway yet?”
9:20:30 pm Commander: “Which runway? What are you talking about?”
9:20:32 pm Navigator: “Will we land directly?”
9:20:35 pm Commander. “We land directly.”
9:20:38 pm radio operator: “No, but do you see the runway?”
Copilot: “No, there’s nothing here, not a town or a runway.”
Radio operator: “Well, he says that…”
Commander: “He says…”
Copilot: “What, what’s he saying?”
Radio operator: “I asked him to check the runway.”
Commander: “I can’t understand what he’s saying.”
Commander: “Can’t see a thing, boys.”
Copilot: “Tell him again to check the lights.”
Commander: “Well, no, actually clouds… are falling…”
9:20:54 pm. Navigator: “Approximately 18 to 20 kilometers.”
Three seconds later, the radio operator turned to the tower again with the request to check the runway lights.
At 9:21:05 pm, the inspector again confirmed the visual approach.
In the aircraft, the GPWS (Ground Proximity Warning System) alarm was triggered two seconds earlier. This made it clear that the aircraft was in dangerous proximity to the ground.
Commander: “The hell!”
9:21:17 pm. The radio operator urged the inspector: “Are the runway lights not working?”
He repeated the question: “The runway lights aren’t working?”
Radio operator: “I confirm, no lights on.”
The commander yelled out loud, “No, just clouds, clouds, clouds.”
9:21:32 pm. The GPWS continued to send alarm signals. After another four seconds the loud voice of the navigator sounded: “No, no, no, where is this going? There’s no NDB’s, we got nothing.”
Commander: “Neither NDB’s, nor ILS.”
At 9 pm, 21 minutes and 39 seconds, the plane crashed into the small plateau of Mbuzini at a speed of 411 kilometres per hour.
In those seconds, the life of the president and most of the other passengers was extinguished.
Was the whole thing a technical problem?
The pilot hardly had time to think. Normally in case of a problem he needs 30 seconds to bring the plane to a safe altitude, then he has to reflect what happened and make a new decision. This is a “golden rule” of aviation.
The question remains why the pilot did not pull the plane up when the alarm was triggered.
The research was based on two hypotheses.
The crew believed they were flying in the right direction towards Maputo and considered the height above the ground to be sufficient.
She believed in errors in the measuring instruments.
Another assumption was that after 17 hours of work (at the maximum limit of what was allowed) the crew’s attention was reduced and that subjective factors such as the desire to be home soon were strongly pronounced. However, the enormous professional experience of the crew spoke against this.
The question of the VOR remains.
The fact is: Up to Magude the plane was four to six kilometres off the route. That was a normal procedure. If the VOR had not been switched on, it would have flown in a south-easterly direction towards Maputo, and the crew would have been able to see the city in good weather, because the sky was clear at that time. Was the Maputo VOR switched off? Later South African investigations assumed that one of the South African security men, Cornelio Vasco Cumbe (alias Roberto Santos Macuacua) had been infiltrated into the Maputo Tower. The recording tapes from Maputo airport were lost.
So if the VOR wasn’t Maputo’s, then where did it come from?
The suspicion that it was installed by South Africans in Matsaba (Swaziland) became stronger in the following years, especially as the political situation changed with the abolition of apartheid and the assumption of office by President Nelson Mandela.
Almost 13 years later.
On 19 January 1999 a monument was unveiled at the crash site near Mbuzini.
Nelson Mandela gave a memorable speech at the inauguration of the Samora Machel Memorial.
In it, he addressed the elimination of racism and the introduction of democracy in the Republic of South Africa and praised Machel’s role as a fighter for a new South Africa. He also thanked Mozambique’s President Chissano for his support, congratulated the Mozambican architect Dr. José Fortaz for the successful creation of the memorial and praised Nkosi Mahlalela for providing the land. At the end of his speech, Mandela identified himself with Machel by quoting him and pointing out the commonality of their goals. Both aspired “to create a new society”: “strong, healthy and prosperous, where people live free from exploitation and live together for progress. Furthermore, “this monument is a tribute to the men and women who lost their lives that night.”
South Africa also took over the cost of 1.5 million rand (about 300,000 dollars) for the erection of the monument, whose more than 30 steel pipes represent the number of dead at that time. Two concrete walls bore into the slope like the nose of an airplane. Behind them rises a platform with steel masts. The names of the dead are immortalized on two brick steles. Remains of the TU 134, which was smashed to pieces at the time, were incorporated into the complex as testimonies of truth, so to speak. In its issue of October 26, 1986, the Mozambican photographer Kok Nam documented in the weekly magazine “Tempo” how the aircraft debris was distributed. One photograph showed the landing gear with a torn wheel, another a broken engine against the background of the destroyed machine. There was also a two-sided close-up of the debris with the undamaged state symbol on it. The photo showed the force of the impact, with parts completely pushed into each other and squashed together.
Graça Machel and her family also attended the inauguration of the monument.
But back to the fatal event.
Nelson Mandela promised a thorough investigation of the incident during his presidency in South Africa. In 2006, his successor, Mbeki, reaffirmed his intention to press ahead with the investigation. Security Minister Charles Nqakula announced new evidence.
22 years after the crash, South African television broadcast the documentary “Death of a President”. In this 2008 film, the eyewitness Hans Louw appeared. The former murderer of the abolished apartheid regime had been sentenced to 28 years in prison for his crimes.
He was released after 11 years. Probably out of gratitude for this – I don’t dare to write from afar with a clear conscience – he admitted his participation in the attack on Machel. At the beginning of October 1986, he had been initiated “together with other agents” into the plans for it, and he also confirmed the use of a manipulated radio beacon. At the time, he had been part of one of the two squads that were to use shoulder-supported anti-aircraft missiles to pull the plane out of the sky if the variant with the radio beacon did not work. In order to give his confession a touch of truth, he led the TV team to his place of action in the Lebombobergen. According to him, he was one of the security men who discovered Machel’s death after the crash, searched the rubble and people for documents and collected them.
Theatrically, Hans Louw announced that he wanted to “ease his conscience” so that he could die one day as a “man of honour”.
Whether his dying will one day be done with “honour”, I dare to doubt.
But the quarrels over Machel’s death continue to this day.
An article in a Mozambican newspaper on 16 October 2008 accused South African television of joining a “campaign of disinformation”. It was about the channel SABC 3, which “falsified” or “concealed” the facts presented by the Mozambican-Soviet commission of inquiry. The article dealt with statements by Hans Louw. These were a “new edition of the 2003 statements in the South African weekly Sowetan Sunday World in the style of a confession with the intention of an amnesty by the Truth Commission (TRC)”. Essentially, they were about contradictions in Louw’s statements in comparison with what South African, Soviet and Mozambican experts had determined: Was the landing gear extended or retracted at the time of impact? Had a wingtip first touched a tree? (…). There were also comparisons with the discussions in the pilot’s cockpit.
In fact, further uncertainties remain to this day, also with regard to the manipulated radio beacon (VOR). According to this, the VOR of Matsaba International Airport in Swaziland transmitted on the frequency 112.3 MHz, but that of Maputo on 112.7 MHz.
It remains to be asked what the surviving board engineer Novossolov actually said in Moscow. It is possible that the present Russian leadership is in possession of his statements. An African study found out that Novossolov “was assassinated some six years ago” The then competent authorities in the Soviet Union had not allowed statements by the flight engineer before the investigating commission, but had arranged for his transfer from the hospital to Moscow.
An accusation that has not yet been publicly discussed was raised by the Mozambican newspaper mentioned above, with a reference to the former Mozambican Security Minister Coronel (Colonel) Sérgio Vieira, who was quoted in the 15 August 2008 edition of the newspaper “O País” as saying that England and the USA “knew what had happened” in Mbuzini. Both ambassadors of the designated states in Maputo declared that they knew nothing of Vieira’s accusation. This reminded me of a listener in one of my lectures on Mozambique’s history who asked what I could say about possible CIA involvement. I had to owe him the answer. A journalist, who was also present, then sarcastically asked whether it was possible that the American secret service had not been involved in a single political crime in Africa.
Does this close the chapter – still not completely cleared up – on the death of Mozambique’s President Samora Moisés Machel, my neighbour?
No matter how concretely the crime and the perpetrators are to be described, there are also existing causes that set the scene for the crime. Samora’s death was conjured up by the confusing interplay of the effects of the colonial past with the blood sacrifices of Portuguese decolonization, the destructive civil war, the existential struggles between the major camps of the Cold War and their violent regional representatives. He himself paid with his death, the country with poverty and the people with their stolen dignity, which means that they are still not able to live and survive without outside help.
But there is good news: in 1998, his wife Graça Machel, my chief executive in the Maputo Ministry of Education, married Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela, an eighty-year-old fighter for the cause of the black population in South Africa who is respected worldwide, and thus became – probably uniquely in the world – First Lady in two different countries.
Translation | Grajek, Rainer: Kreuz und quer durch Afrika. Band 1. Unterwegs auf dem schwarzen Kontinent. Novum pro. 2014. p. 401 – 454.
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