Remembering Samora Machel: 30 years on

Remembering Samora Machel: 30 years on

On this day 30 years ago, Mozambican President Samora Machel perished in a plane crash in Mbuzini, Mpumalanga. As one of Africa's most revered and celebrated liberation heroes, it's his links to South Africa's own liberation which remains well-documented today.

Samora and Graca Machel

Who was Samora Machel?

Samora Moisés Machel became the first president of Mozambique (1975 to 1986) - after the country gained independence from 470 years of Portuguese colonial rule. 

Machel initially studied nursing. But in 1962, joined the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), a party which he would eventually lead until his death at the age of 53.

He received military training in Tanzania and Algeria, before returning to Mozambique in 1963 to lead FRELIMO's first guerilla attack against the Portuguese in northern Mozambique. 

Machel's government played a major role in the independence of South Africa - by unconditionally welcoming liberation fighters from the country who were battling to overthrow the apartheid government. He's fondly remembered today for the assistance he provided and his opposition to the apartheid regime.

Machel died in a plane crash on October 19, 1986, while on his way back from an international meeting in Zambia. He had been travelling in the presidential aircraft when the plane crashed in the Lebombo Mountains, near Mbuzini. 

Machel plane crash newspaper

35 of the 44  passengers on-board died - including ministers and officials of the Mozambique government.

For decades, mystery has surrounded the fatal plane crash. At the time of his death, speculation was rife that the apartheid government had played a role in his death. This has never been proven.


If the 'Machel'  surname sounds familiar, it's because Samora Machel was once married to South Africa's former first lady Graca Machel, prior to her marriage to late former president Nelson Mandela.

Graça Simbine, a fellow freedom fighter, and Samora Machel were married in 1975 - a few months after Mozambique attained its independence.

Samora and Graca Machel

Graca boasts the title of being the only woman in the world to be First Lady of two countries (Mozambique and South Africa, respectively.)

Samora's first wife, Josina Muthemba, died of leukaemia in 1971 - two years into their marriage.


A memorial at the Mbuzini crash site on the border between Mozambique and South Africa, was inaugurated on January 19, 1999 by then-President Nelson Mandela and his wife Graca Machel, together with President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique.

It consists of 35 steel tubes symbolising the number of passengers who died on-board. The pillars cast long shadows over the base, and the wind causes permanent whisperings through incisions in the pillars - making musical notes. 

Samora Mchel monument

WATCH: President Samora Machel lamented that the struggle must continue against tribalism, ignorance, illiteracy, exploitation on hunger.

Famous quotes

"The rich man's dog gets more in the way of vaccination, medicine and medical care - than do the workers upon whom the rich man's wealth is built."

"Personalities and fame pass. The revolution must remain." 

"There is no place for white racism, as there is no place for black racism, because racism, racism in its essence, it its essence racism is an organised attitude, a reactionary attitude."

"The State must be the first to be organized and totally committed to serving the interests of the people."

Tributes have been pouring in on social media today, to commemorate the fallen hero:

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