Address by President Nelson Mandela at unveiling of the Samora Machel Memorial, Mbuzini

19 January 1999

Your Excellency, President Chissano of Mozambique;
Premier Matthews Phosa;
Cabinet Ministers from Mozambique and South Africa;
Ms Graca Machel and members of the Machel family;
Nkosi Mahlalela;
Distinguished guests;

As we struggled, twelve years ago, to comprehend the tragedy that had befallen us all, our only certainty was that the peoples of Mozambique, South Africa, Africa and beyond, had been robbed of a giant.

We mourned with Mozambique for the loss of a statesman, soldier and intellectual who we claimed as our leader too. He was taken from us even as a new Southern Africa was struggling to be born amidst the death throes of the colonial and apartheid order.

And we grieved with all who were bereaved by the loss of loved ones.

As South Africans who loved freedom - whether we were underground; in exile; in prison; in our work-place or our communities - we wowed then that we would never forget, and that a fitting memorial would be created when South Africa became a democracy.

Today, we redeem that pledge.

We have gathered on the soil of a democratic South Africa, at the site that was drenched with Mozambican blood. We have come to unveil a monument that will forever declare our homage to the life and vision of Samora Machel and to all those who lost their lives on that fateful day.

It is painful that our quest to understand the causes of the crash remains unfinished. The work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, imperfect as it may be, has laid a foundation on which South Africans can work to forge a common understanding of their past. In the same measure, it has taken us further towards our goal of bringing a legitimate and credible conclusion to the uncertainties about the event on this hillside some twelve years ago. It is up to all those who share our concern for the memories of those we lost, to take this matter forward.

It grieves us, even today, to recall the shocking suffering that our oppressors inflicted upon the people of Mozambique because they dared to liberate themselves and to cherish our freedom as if it were their own.

The emergence of an alternative non-racial and democratic society in the liberated zones and countries of the region induced fear and brutal anger in the apartheid regime. But it inspired the majority of South Africans with confidence. Today these values are taking deep root as we reconstruct and develop our countries, at peace with one another and as partners. Day by day the peoples of our region are giving concrete shape to the vision of development through co-operation which inspired Samora Machel and others to found SADC.

This monument is a tribute to the men and women who lost their lives on that night. Visitors and tourists to this site will not be able to forget the names of Samora Machel, his colleagues and comrades.

Because of the kind of people they were, and the principles that inspired them, it will do more than that.

The Samora Machel Memorial, as part of our national Legacy Project and along with similar efforts throughout our region, helps affirm a history that was distorted and neglected under the old order. By giving lasting life to these memories and recalling the noble principles that gave birth to our democratic societies, they help build our new nations and strengthen the unity of our region.

This monument in particular attests to the bonds between Mozambique and South Africa. Standing at this cross-roads between three countries, in the path of the Maputo Development Corridor, it bears witness to the fact that those who shared the trenches of struggle have become partners for peace and prosperity.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank President Chissano and his government for their contribution and support to this collaborative effort. I would like too to congratulate the architect, Dr Jose Fortaz. We should also thank Nkosi Mahlalela for the donation of the land upon which the monument could be built.

It is our intention as government to consult the community of Mbuzini on ways of ensuring that this part of our heritage should, in accordance with the principles of our reconstruction and development programme, bring benefit to the communities in the area.

Ladies and gentlemen;

If I may speak directly to those of you who lost loved ones at this place. South Africa cannot take away your grief nor can we amend what was taken from you.

Through our part in creating this memorial we are doing all we can to ensure that our children's children and future generations will remember those who opened the way for their freedom, as well as the principles which inspired them.

Accordingly I would like in conclusion to recall the words of Samora Machel as he reflected on our shared aspirations:

"When we took up arms to defeat the old order, we felt the obscure need to create a new society: strong, healthy and prosperous, in which people free from all exploitation would co-operate for the progress of all.

"In the course of our struggle we came to understand our objectives more clearly we felt especially that the struggle to create new structures would fail without the creation of a new mentality".

May this memorial serve as a beacon of the new morality that must emerge strong if we are to bring lasting improvements in the lives of our peoples.

May it impress upon us that the greatest homage we can pay to Samora Machel and those who perished with him, is to work together for peaceful and prosperous societies based on the principles of justice and equity to which they dedicated their lives.

It will now be my privilege to unveil the Samora Machel Memorial.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website