Samora Moisés Machel (September 29, 1933 – October 19, 1986) was a Mozambican military commander, revolutionary socialist leader and eventual President of Mozambique. Machel led the country to independence in 1975 until his death in 1986, when his presidential aircraft crashed in mountainous terrain where the borders of Mozambique, Swaziland and South Africa converge.
Machel was attracted to Marxist ideals and began his political activities in a hospital where he protested against the fact that black nurses were paid less than whites doing the same job. He later told a reporter how bad medical treatment was for Mozambique's poor: "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." His grandparents and great grandparents had fought against Portuguese colonial rule in the 19th century so it was not surprising that in 1962 Machel joined the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) which was dedicated to creating an independent Mozambique. He received military training in 1963 elsewhere in Africa, and returned in 1964 to lead FRELIMO's first guerrilla attack against the Portuguese in northern Mozambique. Machel married his first wife, Josina, in 1969, having his first child later that same year. By 1969, Machel had become commander-in-chief of the FRELIMO army which had already established itself among Mozambique's peasantry. His most important goal, he said, was to get the people "to understand how to turn the armed struggle into a revolution" and to realize how essential it was "to create a new mentality to build a new society." Two months after the assassination of FRELIMO's president, Eduardo Mondlane, in February 1969, a ruling triumvirate comprising Samora Machel, Marcelino dos Santos and Frelimo's vice-president Uria Simango assumed the leadership. Simango was expelled from the party in 1970, and Machel assumed the presidency of the movement.
That goal would soon be realized. The FRELIMO army had weakened the colonial power and, after Portugal's coup in 1974, the Portuguese left Mozambique. Machel's revolutionary government then took over and he became independent Mozambique's first president on June 25, 1975. Marcelino dos Santos became vice-president. Uria Simango,his wife Celina and other FRELIMO dissidents such as Adelino Gwambe and Paulo Gumane (former leaders of UDENAMO, one of the National liberation groups in Mozambique) were arrested and later extra-judicially executed .
At home, Machel quickly put his Marxist principles into practice by calling for the nationalization of Portuguese plantations and property, and to have the FRELIMO government establish schools and health clinics for the peasants. As an internationalist, Machel allowed revolutionaries fighting white minority regimes in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and South Africa to train and operate with Mozambique. The regimes retaliated by forming a rebel group called RENAMO to destroy the schools and hospitals built by FRELIMO, and to sabotage railway lines and hydroelectric facilities. The Mozambique economy suffered from these depredations, and began to depend on overseas aid - in particular from the Soviet Union. Nonetheless, Machel remained popular throughout his presidency.
Samora Machel was awarded Lenin Peace Prize (1975-76).
The Margo Commission, set up by the South African government, but which included high-level international representation, investigated the incident and concluded that the accident was caused by pilot error. Despite the acceptance of its findings by the International Civil Aviation Organization, the report was rejected by the Mozambiquean and Soviet governments. The latter submitted a minority report suggesting that the aircraft was intentionally lured off course by a decoy radio navigation beacon set up specifically for this purpose by the South Africans. Speculation about the accident has therefore continued to the present day, particularly in Mozambique,.
Hans Louw, a Civil Cooperation Bureau operative, claims to have assisted in the death of former Mozambican President Samora Machel . Pik Botha, South African foreign affairs minister of the time, who later joined the ANC, said that the investigation into the plane crash should be re-opened .