Renamo leader demands Maputo clarifies on Samora Machel’s death

Samora Machel memorial site
A Mozambican soldier pays his respects at the memorial site on in Mbuzini, South Africa where Mozambican President Samora Machel died in a plane crash in 1986. FILE PHOTO | AFP 

Thirty one years since the death of Mozambique’s first president Samora Machel, the cause of his demise is yet to be known.

Mr Machel, and 33 government officials, died in a plane crash in Mbuzini, South Africa, near the country’s border on October 19, 1986.

He was returning home from an African leaders’ summit in Zambia.

Afonso Dhlakama, the opposition Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo) party leader, Thursday demanded to know why the Soviet-made Tupolev Tu-134 plane crashed.

“Samora Machel has never been a direct enemy of Renamo,” Mr Dhlakama told VOA on Thursday.

“As a leader, I demand that the Frelimo regime explains under what circumstances Samora Machel died,” he added.

According to Mr Dhlakama, following the crash, the government accused the then South African apartheid regime of being responsible for the president’s death.

He added that Maputo, Pretoria and the Soviet Union set up a joint inquest whose outcome is yet to be clarified.

Reports indicated that the crash was caused by the crew which had been misled by signals from a decoy navigation beacon.

"To this day nobody knows… as a Mozambican I feel obliged to demand that the death of Samora Machel be clarified," the opposition leader said.

Shortly after independence in 1975, Mozambique descended into civil war when Renamo waged a 16-year battle against the ruling Frelimo.

In the 1980s, the South African apartheid regime would often use the rebel Renamo militia to further destabilise the country.

The war ended in 1992.

In 2013, Renamo took up arms again but agreed to a truce in August the following year ahead of the elections.

Frelimo and Renamo have, however, failed to resolve the post-October 2014 political stalemate.

During last year’s commemoration of president Samora Machel, his widow Graça Machel, ruled out human error as the cause of the plane crash.

“Even if there had been mistakes, those could not cause the plane crash. I conclude the investigations were inconclusive,” she said.

Ms Machel, who married South African President Nelson Mandela in 1998, added that the family was still awaiting the outcome of her husband’s cause of death three decades ago.

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