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Remembering Samora Machel

20 October 2006

Thousands of South Africans and Mozambicans gathered in Mbuzini in South Africa's Mpumalanga province on Thursday to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the death of Mozambique's first democratic president, Samora Machel.

Speaking during the commemoration, South African President Mbeki declared the Samora Machel Monument - at the site of the plane crash that killed Machel and 24 other people on 19 October 1986 - a national heritage site.

South Africa is spending R11.2-million upgrading the memorial site, which was built in 1999. On 6 October, the Mbuzini Library was opened near the site, offering a collection of books in both English and Portuguese, including books about Mozambique and its history.

Improvements still to come include the construction of an amphitheatre, a helipad and improved access roads.

A statue of Machel, created and donated by Norwegian anti-apartheid artists, has also been erected at the site.

Machel was a leader of the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) which toppled the colonial Portuguese government through guerrilla warfare in 1974.

He became the first black president of Mozambique in 1975, and his government accommodated liberation fighters from South Africa and Zimbabwe who were still battling to overthrow the apartheid and Rhodesian governments respectively.

The cause of Machel's plane crash remains a mystery, but it is believed that South Africa's apartheid government might have had a hand in causing the accident.

In February, the SA government announced that it would reopen investigations into the crash.

"We owe it to the people of Mozambique, who assisted our liberation forces to topple apartheid and install the democratic dispensation that we have," Safety and Security Charles Nqakula said at the time.

In his 2006 State of the Nation address, President Mbeki twice referred to the incident as "a plane crash that still requires a satisfactory explanation".

Also speaking on Thursday, Mozambican President Armando Guebuza said the 20th anniversary commemoration was a sign of good relations between his country and South Africa.

"For President Samora Machel, Mozambique - which he called a free zone of humanity - would have a meaningful independence only after the liberation of all oppressed people of southern Africa and other parts of the world," Guebuza said.

SouthAfrica.info reporter and BuaNews

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A young girl walks past a mural of Samora Machel in Mozambique (Image: Franco-Mozambican Cultural Centre)

Samora Machel and ANC president Oliver Tambo in Maputo in 1986, the year of the Mozambican president's death (Image: Digital Imaging South Africa)

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