“Landlords? What do we want landlords in our country for?”
President Samora Machel was born into a family of relatively wealthy farmers in Gaza Province, Mozambique. He came from a strong revolutionary tradition, with his grandfather fighting alongside the Lion of Gaza, Gungunhana, who waged rebellion against the Portuguese imperialists.
In the 1950s, his family’s land, on which they were forced by the Portuguese to grow labor intensive cotton in lieu of food, was taken and given to Portuguese settlers; this drove his male relatives to go work in brutal South African mines. He attended Catholic mission school and eventually began the study of nursing in Maputo (then Lourenco Marques) in 1954.
He left school after his brother was killed in an accident in a South African mine. During this time, he became involved in the fight for equal rights by engaging in protests against the fact that black nurses were paid less than white ones at the hospital where he worked as an aide. He also joined the revolutionary fight for Independence for the nation of Mozambique, which was led by the FRELIMO (Mozambique Liberation Front) organization.
Machel was selected for guerilla training in Algeria, where he performed excellently and eventually took charge of the FRELIMO training camp back in Mozambique. He became a well-known and vital commander, and became President of FRELIMO in 1970 after the previous president, Eduardo Mondlane, was assassinated by a bomb in 1969.
Ultimately, the Portuguese government was overthrown by the military in 1974 after insurgent officers. Tired of being forced to fight unwinnable wars against FRELIMO and other guerrilla movements in Africa, the government took action and arrested Marcelo Caetano, the Portuguese Prime Minister. This didn’t stop the war, however, as there still wasn’t any commitment to sovereignty and independence for Mozambique. However, Portuguese soldiers refused to fight after the overthrow of the government, staying in their barracks instead.
On June 25, 1975, Mozambique officially declared its independence, and immediate nationalization of housing, healthcare, education, and other key sectors for the benefit of the people. In 1977, FRELIMO declared its status as a Marxist Leninist party, dedicated to building workers’ and peasants’ socialism. It offered material support and aid to the African National Congress, which was engaged in its own war of national liberation.
Machel worked in the capacity of a tireless advocate for national liberation as a socialist, and anti-imperialist until his tragic death. Along with 33 others, he died in a plane crash at the border of Swaziland, Mozambique, and South Africa.