Birthday: September 29, 1933
Died At Age: 53
Sun Sign: Libra
Also Known As: Samora Moises Machel
Born in: Gaza Province
Famous as: Political leader
Spouse/Ex-: Graça Machel, Irene Buque, Josina Mutemba, Sorita Tchaicomo
children: Idelson Machel, Joscelina Machel, Josina Z. Machel, Malengani Machel, N’tewane Machel, Olívia Machel, Samito Machel
Died on: October 19, 1986
place of death: Mbuzini
Cause of Death: Plane Crash
Samora Machel was a Mozambican revolutionary leader and military commander who led the Mozambican people in their struggle for independence from Portugal, eventually becoming the country’s first president. Born to poor parents, under the Portuguese rule, he grew up experiencing discrimination and ill-treatment in his own country. The Portuguese forced the poor farmers to grow cotton instead of food crops and curbed the natives’ right to access higher education. Living under the Portuguese’s repressive rule made him a revolutionary who realized that it was his life’s true calling to fight for the independence of his country. In order to prepare for his future activities, he left Mozambique and traveled to other African countries from where he received military training. He returned to his motherland and led the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO)’s first guerilla attack against the Portuguese. He became the commander and chief of the FRELIMO army and led his men by example in combats. After years of struggle, the Portuguese were forced to leave Mozambique, and Machel’s new revolutionary government took over. He became independent Mozambique’s first president and was greatly loved and respected by his fellow countrymen. He was later killed in a controversial plane crash on his way back from an international meeting in Zambia in 1986.
Childhood & Early Life
Samora Machel was born on 29 September 1933 into a family of poor farmers in Gaza Province, Mozambique. His father, being a black Mozambican, was classified as "indigena"—a demeaning term for natives. Mozambique was under Portuguese rule back then.
His parents along with other poor peasants were forced to grow cotton instead of food grains to feed the family. The black farmers were also paid less than the white ones. Young Samora grew up witnessing the ill-treatment and discrimination the poor blacks were subjected to.
He went to a mission school run by Catholic missionaries who educated the children in Portuguese language and culture. He also started working in the fields while he was still a student.
During those days only a few professional fields were open to blacks and nursing was one of them. So he started studying nursing in the capital city of Lourenço Marques (today Maputo) in 1954.
The 1950s was a very difficult period for him. His family’s farmlands were snatched away and were given to white settlers, forcing several of his relatives to go to South Africa in search of work. One of his brothers was killed in a mining accident, adding to his mounting miseries.
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Even though Machel was unable to complete his formal training, he got a job working as an aide at the Miguel Bombarda Hospital in Lourenço Marques. Here too he faced discrimination as the black nurses were paid less than the white ones. He protested against this discrimination and received a warning.
Machel was attracted to Marxist ideals and left the hospital to begin his political activities. In 1962, he joined the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), a revolutionary group dedicated to creating an independent Mozambique.
Samora Machel left Mozambique in 1963 and went to several other African nations from where he received military training. He returned to Mozambique in 1964 and when FRELIMO launched the independence war in September that year, he led FRELIMO's first guerilla attack against the Portuguese in northern Mozambique.
He rapidly rose up the ranks in FRELIMO and became the head of the army after the death of its first commander, Filipe Samuel Magaia, in October 1966. When FRELIMO’s founder and first president Eduardo Mondlane, was assassinated by a parcel bomb in 1969, Machel took over as the president in 1970.
Machel was a revolutionary who dedicated his life to overthrow the Portuguese rule and establish Mozambique as an independent nation. He believed in guerilla war and his army soon established itself among the country’s poor.
The activities of the revolutionary FRELIMO army weakened the Portuguese rule considerably. In April 1974, the Portuguese officers realized their weakening position and overthrew the government in Lisbon.
Within a few weeks, Machel proclaimed “the total and complete independence of Mozambique and its constitution into the People’s Republic of Mozambique” on 25 June, 1975, and became independent Mozambique's first president.
He started implementing reforms almost immediately and nationalized land and several health and educational institutions. He also took steps for establishing public schools and health clinics for the poor.
In 1977 Machel was re-elected as President of FRELIMO, and thus automatically as President of the Republic.
He gave his support to the revolutionaries fighting white minority regimes in Rhodesia and South Africa, and allowed them to operate within Mozambique. As a result both these countries supported an anti-FRELIMO organization called RENAMO, which led to the civil war in Mozambique.
Awards & Achievements
He was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1975-1976.
Personal Life & Legacy
He began a relationship with Sorita Tchaiakomo in the late 1950s when he was working as a nurse in Inhaca Island. Sorita gave birth to four of his children over the next few years. Meanwhile he also became involved with another woman, Irene Buque, with whom he had a daughter. He did not marry either Sorita or Irene.
He married Josina Abiatar Muthemba in 1969. The couple had one son. His wife died of cancer in 1971. Machel was devastated at the death of his young wife.
He married Graça Simbine, a teacher with active involvement in politics, in September 1975. The couple had two children.
He attended a summit in Mbala, Zambia on 19 October, 1986, and was returning to Mozambique when his plane crashed into a hillside at Mbuzini, just inside South Africa. Machel died in the crash along with 33 of the other passengers.
His untimely death shocked the whole world and rumors were rife that the South African government was somehow responsible for the crash, although it strongly denied a connection.
A memorial to Machel was erected in 1999 at the site of the crash.