By Peter Chazya Sinkamba


This year marks 50 years since the founding Mozambican leader Eduardo Mondlane was killed. He was killed on 3 February, 1969 by a letter bomb in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The year also marks 33 years since Mozambican President Samora Machel, and 34 others, were killed in a plane crash. They crushed into the Lebombo Mountains on October 19, 1986, after allegedly following a false beacon near Mbuzini, South Africa. Machel was coming from attending a Frontline Heads of States States meeting held at Kasaba Bay, Zambia.

The puzzle of the assassination of the two leaders still remains unsolved. Mozambicans, and the rest of the world, are still in darkness about who is responsible for the death of their revolutionary leaders.

Born in 1920, Eduardo Mondlane was the leader of the famous nationalist movement FRELIMO (Frente de Liberticao Mozambique), the unified group that spearheaded the fight for independence for Mozambique from Portugal.

He received his primary education in Mozambique and later acquired higher education in South Africa, Portugal and the United States of America where he earned his PhD.

After his education, in 1957 he worked with the United Nations. He also took on a job as an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Syracuse University in New York (U.S.A) where he taught Sociology in 1961.

Shortly after, he resigned and moved to Tanzania with his family to contribute to the liberation struggle.

Three exiled Mozambican liberation groups were operating in Tanzania at the time– The African Union of Independent Mozambique (UNAMI), The National Democratic Union of Mozambique (UDENAMO) and Mozambique African National Union (MANU).

President Julius Nyerere convinced the groups to merge which birthed FRELIMO and subsequently elected Eduardo Mondlane as its first president on 25th June 1962.

In a few years, FRELIMO became a formidable group that had ties with powerful socialist economies like China and Russia. It became the most recognized group of liberation fighters in Africa. Consequently, it garnered massive support in Africa and other parts of the world.

Although FRELIMO started as a peaceful protest group, the organization had to engage in training soldiers for guerrilla warfare since the Portuguese government refused to grant independence to the people of Mozambique.

In order to fortify the organization to face the multiple attacks by the Portuguese government, Mondlane created a military wing for the organization and sent out volunteers for training in Algeria, United Arab Republic and to camps in Tanzania.

As Mozambique was gearing up to independence, more conflicts arose within FRELIMO. Dissatisfaction heightened among its members and the leadership of Mondlane was brought under serious attack.

Meanwhile, his ties with China experienced a strain and he is reported to have said that China’s motives towards third world countries were a divisive one. This angered a number of African countries as China became unyielding in its bilateral relations with these countries.

China turned their support towards a rival organization, the Zambia-based Mozambique Revolutionary Committee.

Did the Chinese have a plan to take Mondlane out of the picture to prop up the Zambia-based group?

With the unrests continuing unabated, Mondlane felt his safety was threatened. Foremost on the list of FRELIMO members who Mondlane felt threatened by was Lawi Kavandame, the movement’s provincial secretary in liberated Northern Mozambique. Mondlane is reported to have said at a meeting on February 1, 1969, that he felt threatened by Kavandame.

Two days after that statement, on February 3, 1969, Mondlane received a parcel which contained a book sent to him at the FRELIMO Headquarters in Dar es Salaam. Upon opening the package in the house of an American friend, Betty King, it exploded and killed him instantly.

Who could have planted the bomb? Was it the Portuguese government, rivals inside FRELIMO, the Chinese, Tanzanian politicians, the Portuguese secret service (PIDE) or Kavandame?

So many theories have been propounded on his death.

Coming to Samora Machel, he was born on 29 September in 1933. He ventured into political activism when he was practising as a nurse at the Miguel Bombarda hospital in Lourenço Marques, now Maputo.

In 1962, he later slipped away from Mozambique and joined FRELIMO in Dar es Salaam. He had to travel through Swaziland, South Africa and Botswana, where he got on a plane carrying South Africa’s African National Congress recruits. It is this same year that Mandela slipped out of South Africa to Tanzania and later other countries to train as a guerrilla.

Machel rapidly rose the ranks of FRELIMO’s military faction in Dar. He became the leader of the military faction after the death of Filipe Samuel Magaia, in October 1966. Four years later, he was voted as the leader of FRELIMO, after the death of Mondlane and became the lead negotiator of independence between Mozambique and Portugal.

Once independence was scheduled for June 25, 1975, Machel was able to return home to Maputo, where he received a hero’s welcome. He became Mozambique’s first president.

His presidency would, however, be cut short when he was killed in a plane crash in 1986 on his way to Maputo from a summit in Zambia.

Many theories about his death have been raised with the most popular being that a conspiracy between apartheid South Africa and the Soviet Union caused his death. Others have stated that the reckless behaviour of the pilots on the plane led to his death. The truth is yet to be known 33 years on.



  1. This is a Painfull Reminder the Death of these 2 Extraordinary African Heros, I remember growing up in as a young child Listening very late in the night, the Radio Freedom n Good Music broadcasting from Lorenzo Marques in early Sixties, We really PRAY that All involved/ though Dead by now most probably, (Many maybe Dead) in these Mysterious Killings, would come out, Really Very Painfull Memories


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