May
12

Samora Machel

Ohio University Press has a series of "Short Histories of Africa". I recently decided to pick up most of the collection for potential use as reading materials for classes. This post covers "Mozambique's Samora Machel: A Life Cut Short" (2020), by Allen Isaacman and Barbara Isaacman. Like the books on Nkrumah and Cabral, this one is relatively longer than the average in the series. This book is enjoyable and well written, for a class on Mozambique or revolutionary leaders, I would recommend this book (particularly for more introductory courses). A few notes:

[from the Foreward] "Discussing relations with countries like Zambia and Tanzania, he would observe that there were people in neighbouring countries who thought they were superior because they had been colonized by the British and not the Portuguese. Or he might ask, why was it that in colonial times our waiters would serve the Portuguese soldiers with courtesy and respect, but now would be rude to their own people? The answer was that the enemy was camping in our heads - we still had the mentality of underdevelopment." (p. 12-13)

"Lisbon also made the colony profitable by renting African workers to labour-starved South African gold mines and, to a much lesser extent, to white farmers and industrialists in neighbouring Southern Rhodesia. Beginning in 1897, the Rand National Labour Association, subsequently renamed the Witwatersrand National Labour Association, paid the government a fee for each Mozambican worker. It also set up a deferred payment system under which workers received half of their wages when they returned home and Lisbon was paid an equivalent amount in gold. By 1910, approximately eighty thousand Mozambicans - representing from 30 to 50 percent of the able bodied male population in some districts of southern Mozambique - were working in the gold mines." (p. 40)

"The principle that citizenship was not contingent on origin or skin colour was enshrined in Mozambique's new constitution, which outlawed all acts creating divisions or privileged positions based on race, gender, ethnic origin, or class position. Immediately after independence Frelimo initiated campaigns against ethnic regionalism, racism, and sexism. Broadcasts, newspaper articles, comic strips, bulletin boards, murals, and graffiti stressed the message that "from the Rovuma to the Maputo, we are all Mozambicans." (p. 121)

"Samora's government also rejected widescale use of incarceration to punish those who violated societal norms. Instead, reeducation centres or established shortly after independence. Samora's faith in revolutionary pedagogy and restorative justice shaped his thinking about the reeducation process, which dated back to the armed struggle. Moral and political education and the development of a work ethic would serve as the basis for rehabilitation. Samora articulated this vision in the following terms: "the reeducation centre should be a school where professional knowledge should be passed on and made use of. It is the fundamental task of officials in charge of reeducation centres to know the history of each one of the people being re-educated - his life history and his origin - in order to understand why he committed his crimes." (p. 128-129)

"As a young man, Samora was heavily influenced by Frantz Fanon's contention that "colonizing the mind" was the most insidious legacy of colonialism. In his 1977 acceptance speech upon receiving an honorary doctor of law degree from Nigeria's Ahmadu Bello University, Samora emphasized that "the ultimate effort [of colonialism was] to make out of each Mozambican and assimilado, a little Portuguese with black skin" and defined colonialism as a cultural act of rape. He believed that democratization of knowledge would free Mozambicans from the shackles of illiteracy, the tyranny of superstition, and the cultural arrogance of missionary education." (p. 132-137)

"In the last years of his life Samora and the entire Frelimo leadership had been forced to compromise their radical agenda. Mozambique's next president Joaquim Chissano, who served from 1986 two 2005, went even further totally abandoning the socialist project in favor of neoliberalism and market capitalism... The 1987 IMF agreement was the death knell of Mozambican socialism. The preamble of the new constitution enacted in 1990, while celebrating the struggle that led to independence, omitted any reference to free health care and education as rights of citizenship." (p. 198-199)

Enablers of Colonization and those in Solidarity:

"The West's support of Portuguese colonialism had driven Mondlane and many of those around him to adopt a more radical anti-imperialist stance, to the consternation of some of his more nationalist followers. This first group was backed by their host president Nyerere of Tanzania, who facilitated Mondlane's meeting with the Organization of African unity and the socialist countries." (p. 76)

"Samora's belief that the Nkomati Accord would provide opportunity for Mozambique to rebuild turned out to be illusory, since Pretoria never ended its military assistance to RENAMO. The South African Defence Force continued to air-drop arms and ammunition, use submarines operating off Mozambique's coast to resupply guerrilla units, and allow large numbers of RENAMO insurgents to cross into Mozambique from their camps in the Transvaal. Documents captured in 1985 at RENAMO headquarters in Gorongosa revealed the extent of the charade. South African security forces also kept resupplying RENAMO forces based in Malawi, adjacent to the Mozambican border." (p. 184)

"More than thirty years later, only incomplete evidence has been released about the cause of the crash. Those who planned and carried out the plot to kill Samora remain unidentified despite investigations by the Margo Commission, established by white-ruled South Africa in 1987; postapartheid South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which heard testimony on the crash in 1998; and a joint Mozambican-South African Commission established in 2010." (p. 192-193) 

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