Samora Machel; Freedom fighter or terrorist?


I wonder what people think when the hear the name Samora Machel. For many, the Machel part is easy to link with the late President Mandela’s wife, Gracia Machel. For the greater number, I assume, the name doesn’t evoke any thoughts. There are some however, who might link the name with Mozambique and specifically a turbulent time in Mozambique’s history. Samora Machel was Gracia Machel’s first husband and Mozambique’s first president. This is an attempt at discovering and celebrating who Samora Machel was and answer the question, was he a freedom fighter or nothing more than a terrorist?

Samora Moises Machel, was born in 1933 in a Southern African country called Mozambique, at a time when it was under Portuguese colonial rule. The natives of Mozambique, suffered under colonial rule, pretty much as they did in other parts of Africa and some parts of the world, in some regards worse than even the natives of its neighbour, Zambia. They were treated like commodities, and not like humans, subjected to humiliation, violence and exploitation, some forced to work for peanuts, their land taken from them, some experiencing life in concentration camps and some dying purely because they were black. Mr Machel himself, was not immune to the inhumanity and injustice of colonialism; his own people, forced off their lands by the Portuguese. His great-grandfather, a part of the army that, as part of the Gaza empire, fiercely resisted Portuguese occupation, President Machel was very probably influenced by the stories that were told to him.

Not only were people denied the rights of a citizen, things like religion were also imposed on the people, to an extent that Mr Machel converted to Catholicism in order to write his grade four exams. The Portuguese, provided very few education facilities for the African population and at the end of it all, only three career paths were available to them; you could chose to be a nurse, to become a priest or be a labourer. Mr Machel, chose to be a nurse.

He became involved in politics when he attended a meeting and heard Eduado Mondlane address the group in 1961. A meeting that sparked interest, in him, from the Portuguese Secret Police (PIDE). They interrogated him that year, and in 1963, he was forced to flee via Swaziland to Botswana, after being tipped off to PIDE’s intention to  arrest him. He travelled to Tanzania with ANC militants and joined Frente de Libertação de Moçambique, aka The Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO). In 1970, he was elected the President of FRELIMO, the year after Mondlane was assassinated by a letter bomb, possibly due to internal divisions, or as an attempt by the government at destabilising the movement, the former, stated as being more likely. President Machel believed the latter to be true.

In 1964, FRELIMO launched major military action against the ruling Portuguese and gained popularity among the people as they attempted to instil a sense of worth and a different identity than the one that they held due to colonialism. After the Portuguese Coup of 1974 , Portugal had no choice but to grant independence to Mozambique in 1975, as FRELIMO had no interest in any solutions that meant anything but independence, and was relentless in their pursuit of that cause. FRELIMO, being the major political movement at the time of independence, formed government and Samora Machel became president, a position he would hold for close to eleven years.

The government embarked on ambitious health and social reforms; bringing in a socialist style government (a style they would eventually start to abandon). They had  nationalist policy, that might have been milder than Zambia’s, in that they did not nationalise businesses. However, the remaining settlers, understandably so, left the country, and with no qualified personnel to run the different businesses and industries, and with Mozambique experiencing natural disasters, the country plunged into economic crisis.

Civil unrest soon followed with The Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) being formed, most likely from waring factions within FRELIMO and possibly with the help of the Portuguese and Rhodesia. FRELIMO’s hostility towards local traditions and religion, as well as its agricultural policy did not help matters, as it caused the build up of resistance in rural areas and momentarily, measures similar to those used in colonial Mozambique were employed, only inflaming the situation further. Despite his view of African traditions, you see themes central to most African societies flowing through his speeches; those of oneness, and putting the community before oneself, and sharing.

During FRELIMO’s fight against Colonialism,  Mr Machel made it clear that colonialism was race-less, and talked of the need to differentiate between friend and foe, regardless of their cover, and saw racism, tribalism and false loyalty, among others as part of the enemy that needed to be fought. The government he led managed to incorporate the different races and tribes that made up Mozambique’s population in their government as well as civil service. He is said to have believed in the use of persuasion and not making administrative decisions, as this was the recipe for dictatorship,  and tried to instil a sense of initiate, believing Colonialism, traditions, and superstitions to be crippling to peoples sense of initiate and hence leading to a lack of responsibility.

FRELIMO, not only advocated the right to self govern, but was also very loud in advocating for women’s rights and stated that the fight against colonialism was a fight against exploitation and that the fight would be incomplete if it did not include fighting for women. It is important to note that the government did imprison some of its political opponents, despite Samora Machels’s views on democratic rule, though, it is hard to determine if this was justified by RENAMO’s insurgency or not. Most of those imprisoned were released by 1980

Samora Machel and FRELIMO believed international cooperation was essential to Mozambique’s growth and in line with that, supported the rest of Southern Africa’s struggle for independence and allowed the ANC and ZANU to carry out their operations in Mozambique. They also imposed UN sanctions against the Rhodesian government, to Mozambique’s peril. Destabilisation from RENAMO continued and even got worse after Zimbabwe was granted independence, with increased help from the South African government. In 1984, Mozambique agreed to reduce the number of ANC members who were allowed to operate in the country in exchange for South Africa withdrawing support for RENAMO. It is believed that South Africa’s Aid for RENAMO did not completely stop and the destabilising effects of RENAMO were still present, and would have probably been present without South Africa’s help.

On October 19th, 1986, the plane carrying President Samora Machel from Zambia, back to Mozambique, crushed in South Africa, killing the majority of its passengers, the President, crushed beyond recognition required the use of dental records for identification. The government of South Africa and forces within Mozambique at the time, have been blamed for the accident, with investigations apparently revealing that radar manipulation by South Africa caused the crush. No one has been found responsible for the crush and the then government of South Africa denied any involvement in the incident.

More than being a military commander or head of state, President Samora Machel was  husband, a man who loved his wife dearly, a father who is said to have always had time for his children, regardless of what was going on. As for the question of him being a terrorist or a freedom fighter, it depends on which glass you stand behind when you look at the happenings in Mozambique. Throughout history we see war and fighting, for the cause of freedom. The colonial government in Mozambique made life impossible for the people, concentration camps were present, people’s quality of life was poor. It is important to remember the importance of diplomacy, but that just as the Americans fought for their independence, the situation in Mozambique may have warranted the picking up of arms.

Like any other leader, President Machel made mistakes, some tremendous, but the majority of his views, his relationship with his family, and his role in the fight for Southern Africa’s freedom, leave a celebratory trail. I leave you with this quote as we seek solutions for our continent’s and world’s problems

“Leadership is collective and although each member of the leadership has a specific task, there are no hard and fast compartments. The duty of every member is to be concerned with all the work, see that it is carried out and put forward ideas and criticisms. Leadership is collective and responsibility is collective.”  ~Samora Moises Machel 1933-1986~

 


References

Cheers, D. (1989). Jackson confers with new Mozambique Leader After Funeral of Samora Machel. Jet, (Vol. 71 No. 10), 24-27. Retrieved from http://books.google.com.au

Machel, S. (1981). Mozambique (1st ed.). Harare, Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe Pub. House.

Martin, G. (2012). African Political Thought (1st ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Mugubane, V. (1997). Gracia Machel. Ebony, (Vol. 52, No. 7), 118-120, 122, 124, 162. Retrieved from http://books.google.com.au

Poddar, P., Patke, R., & Jensen, L. (2008). A historical companion to postcolonial literatures (1st ed.). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

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Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula and the One Party Participatory Dictatorship


We have discussed how Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula influenced the struggle for independence and how it was rooted in a belief in human equality. Mr Nkumbula’s, and indeed the ANC’s fight did not end at independence. They were committed to the achievement of freedom from all forms of slavery, and in the case of Zambia, power was transferred from the white elite to the black elite. Reading the writings of Hitchcock, you get the impression that the first president, assumed as the colonial rulers had, that Zambian’s did not know what they needed or wanted. After Independence, UNIP started on a trajectory towards a one party state, a dictatorial form of government that was hidden behind the words “participatory democracy”.

As early as the day that President Kaunda returned to Zambia after signing what declared Zambia independent, declared that the government would rule strongly and put down trouble makers. Mr Nkumbula, warned Zambians of the dangers of a one party state, calling into question the claims by UNIP, that a one party state was a continuation of the traditional forms of government, and when they tried to strangle and control the media, warned Zambia about where the country was headed; and when UNIP repealed a 1962 bill, that made it illegal to request party cards in public, Mr Nkumbula saw it as a means of forcing people to join UNIP. Later when government introduced the Mulungushi reforms that gave it controlling shares in major companies and restricted the types of business that individuals could enter into, Mr Nkumbula rightly predicted it would result in disaster; Zambia today is still suffering the effects of that disastrous undertaking.

Mr Nkumbula’s belief that people had a right to choose their thoughts and associations, expressed itself in his defence of the Lumpa, a great number of whom found themselves exiled from Zambia, as well as the Jehovah’s witnesses, who, due to their choice to not sing the national anthem, found themselves as UNIP’s target. The ANC, as a whole, saw government and the laws of the land as a way of defending individual freedoms and not as a means for control, and when the UNIP youth went around terrorising people, called for the need for them to be disbanded. They also advocated a foreign policy that put Zambia’s economic interests above Pan Africanist solidarity.

Mr Nkumbula’s ANC, despite facing great financial difficulties and destabilising forces from within its ranks was still able to provide the people of Zambia with a better sounding form of governance that, while at the time was scoffed at by many, finds greater popularity among Zambians today. It is important to note that the political future he offered Zambia, grew out of political views that were influenced by his Methodist background and norms of his initial constituents, the Bantu Botatwe, and further developed as a reaction to UNIPs dictatorship.

When UNIP raised the cost of being in opposition to its governance, the ANC still stood its ground and maintained its stronghold in Southern province. Its members had trading licences revoked, property taken from them, were refused travel and suffered beatings, among other ills. In 1966, UNIP was so brutal in employing intimidation as a campaign tactic, that only a third of Mazabuka’s population turned out to vote the following year. That same year, an ANC-MP for the North Western province of Zambia, from Mwinilunga was arrested for high treason, and when he was released, returned with a compromised mental capacity. The same year, when four ANC MPs from the South of Zambia joined UNIP, and were forced to resign their seats by law, the ANC’s new candidates still managed to hold on to those seats, proving that it wasn’t mere tribal alliances that caused them to follow the ANC. That year, Mr Nkumbula and his deputy were jailed for insulting the president during their campaign; the latter pleaded guilty and was given eighteen years with hard labour. Mr Nkumbula was released and it was proven a fraudulent police report was used as evidence against him.

Discontent was building within the ranks of UNIP, with people resigning in large numbers, and by 1967, United Party (UP) was formed by Lombe and Mumbuna, taking a lot of members with them. Despite UP’s more radical stance, Mr Nkumbula managed to negotiate a merger. This did result in the radicalisation, to an extent of the ANC, but also lead to the doubling of the seats in parliament in 1968. The following year when UNIP went on a rampage, taking homes from ANC members and subjecting them to beatings, violent clashes became common place and the ANC found itself banned, on the 17th of June, the same day that the referendum—that saw the government taking power from the Zambian people, in regards to making constitutional changes and putting them in the grips of the government—was held, which gave UNIP the power to pursue a One Party state.

Two years later, the United Progressive Party (UPP) was formed and it was Mr Nkumbula, who despite the history between them, allowed Mr Kapwepwe to use the ANC headquarters for UPP purposes. They tried to negotiate a merger, but decided in the end, that it was better to work alongside each other. Legal action was launched by Mr Nkumbula and Kapwepwe to try to stop the inception of the one party state, but the UPP, found itself banned in 1972, and their leader, Mr Kapwepwe, who is said to have been the president’s biggest threat, spent the rest of the year in jail. That year, Mr Nkumbula is said to have helped the cause of those detained. Mr Kapwepwe issued a directive for UPP members to join the ANC, however, by then, it was too late. On December 8th that year, UNIP won the two-thirds it needed, in the National Assembly, to put in place a one party state, and six days later, the ANC’s lawsuit was dismissed. THE ANC, WAS LEGISLATED INTO NON-EXISTANCE!

 

The opposition leaders were given a short period to either join UNIP or leave political life altogether, and Mr Nkumbula, is said to have stated, he would not be joining UNIP, however, he and Mr Mungoni Liso, his deputy, signed the Choma declaration between 1972 and 73 and joined UNIP. There have been reports that he was bribed or promised a high position in UNIP, however, it is hard o imagine that a man who fought so hard against UNIP, even when the slogan “it pays to be in UNIP” rang true, would in the end take a bribe then, and if a high position was promised, it never materialised. The other line of thought that could explain his change of mind, could be that he thought that he could bring reform from the inside of UNIP. Yet the difference in ideals that had become ANC, were different to those espoused by UNIP, and as such, Mr Nkumbula is said to have never fit into the party. In the mid-1970s, Mr Nkumbula started thinking of challenging Ba Kaunda for the highest job and joining hands with Mr Kapwepwe announced, at different times in August, their intentions. This was despite Mr Nkumbula having a stroke and his health starting to deteriorate in 1977.

UNIP acted to stop their intentions by amending the party constitution and using intimidation, and was successful; Ba Kaunda was left the sole candidate of the elections, which he won. The two individuals came together in mounting another fight in High court, stating the election was unlawful but it was thrown out, and so was an appeal to the Supreme Court. This is said to be what convinced the former ANC president that reform could not be achieved by being a member of UNIP. While Mr Nkumbula never incited it, former ANC members began to campaign for a ‘NO’ vote and were highly successful, as Southern province recorded a majority ‘NO’ vote.

Evidence exists that there were efforts to revive the ANC, with Mr Nkumbula stating it was still alive and Mr Japau, an ANC member still loyal to Mr Nkumbula, was detained in 1980 when he tried to get a permit to hold a rally. He was tortured for three days and tortured, in order to get him to admit that he had been printing ANC cards and trying to hold meetings. Another man was arrested in Monze for selling old ANC cards. Mr Nkumbula, was readmitted into hospital in 1981, after which he maintained he would still try to get his seat of Bweengwa the following year. Mr Kaunda, honoured him with a first division order of the grand companion and allocated him a house in woodlands near state house. He lost his battle with cancer the following year. He is said to have had Zambia on his mind even as he breathed his last, a family member stating that he was in anguish over the state of his country.

It is important to point out that the Movement for Multiparty Democracy, the party that won the 1991 elections that saw the end of the dictatorship, may have its roots in UPP and the ANC. Mr Nkumbula’s son is said to have funded a substantial amount of MMD’s activities and Mr Kapwepwe’s daughter was also a part of the movement. There are many others who had been members of these two parties who were part of the team that toppled UNIP. That being the case, Mr Nkumbula was not a failure as a lot of literature has stated, but that he lived up to his vow to challenge President Kaunda even if he lay in a coffin. Though the Lion had fallen, his legacy still goes on. He challenges us to fight till our last to bring freedom to the masses, to free Zambia from the chains that hold it back. He inspires flawed men to keep walking, at all costs, to achieve freedom for


References

Hitchcock, B. (1974). Bwana – go home (1st ed.). London: Hale.

Macola, G. (2010). Liberal nationalism in Central Africa (1st ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Mwangilwa, G. (n.d.). Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula (1st ed.).