Samora Machel: A Luta Continua!

A Luta Continua are Portuguese words that were made popular by Samora Machel, a Mozambican revolutionary leader and the first president of Mozambique after its independence in 1975.

A Luta Continua means The Struggle Continues.

The words were first used by Dr Eduardo Mondlane, the leader of a Mozambican liberation group known as FRELIMO. However, after the death of Mondlane, his successor and the new leader of FRELIMO, Samora Machel, made the words so popular that they became a rallying cry against the Portuguese colonial masters and throughout his rule as Mozambique’s first president.

Who was Samora Machel?

Samora Moisés Machel was a former hospital aide who became the first president of Mozambique after the country gained its independence. Mozambique had been under Portuguese rule for about 470 years and its indigenes had suffered greatly under their colonial masters.

President Samora Machel
As president of Mozambique, Samora Machel held Marxist principles and beliefs.

Born on September 29, 1933, in Chilembene village in Mozambique, Machel saw and experienced racial discrimination from the colonial masters while growing up. As an aide in the hospital where he worked, he had observed that the white medical personnel were paid higher than the blacks despite doing the same amount of work or even lesser. He had initially hoped to be a nurse but lack of funds had hindered him from pursuing his academic dreams as with many other African children under colonial rule. But his determination led him to get a job in the hospital as an aide while attending part-time night classes.

The Africans were seen as a lower class of people by the Portuguese and treated as such. As one who grew up with a family of farmers, Machel saw his grandparents being cheated out of their hard-earned money by the Portuguese. Many were displaced out of their lands without any compensation by these Portuguese settlers. African families were torn between farming food crops for survival or cash crops for the Portuguese under oppressive rule.

Most of the time, the latter was the case, and they often starved. The white farmers were usually offered more money for their crops than the blacks. This segregation transcended other spheres of business and life in general. Many of the Mozambicans migrated to work in the South African mines for survival under inhumane conditions and Machel lost a brother to a landmine accident in South Africa.

Revolutionary Journey

Growing up in such a hostile environment spurred Machel to join an organisation named Nucleus of Mozambican Students (NESAM). This organisation consisted of students who had come together to protest the injustice being meted out by the Portuguese. Machel was an active member of NESAM and soon became a major target of the Portuguese government. Eventually, he fled to Tanzania where many others, exiled from his country, had run to.

In Tanzania, he came in contact with the group FRELIMO, a shortened name for Frente de Libertação de Moçambique, translated as the Mozambican Liberation Front.

Samora Machel FRELIMO
In 1964, Machel led FRELIMO’s first attack against the Portuguese in the northern part of Mozambique.

FRELIMO was a Mozambican anti-colonial group formed by Dr Eduardo Mondlane. The group comprised Mozambicans who had been exiled by their colonial masters from their country to neighbouring country Tanzania and had the support of Tanzanian president, Julius Nyerere.

Military training had been ongoing in Tanzania without the knowledge of the Portuguese. The group had also been receiving support from the Soviet Union, Cuba, and Algeria. Many of the FRELIMO soldiers would get military training in Algeria and Machel was among the first set of soldiers to be dispatched.

FRELIMO had attempted negotiating the country’s independence with the Portuguese but when that proved abortive, they declared war against the Portuguese in 1964. At the time, Machel was only 30 years old. This war would last for ten years during which Machel rose through the ranks to become FRELIMO’s number one leader.

Mozambique’s Road to Independence

Samora Machel’s journey in activism started when he worked at the Miguel Bombarda Hospital. He joined the protest against discrimination against black workers in the hospital in different areas such as wages, allowances, and work shifts. After returning from Algeria, Machel became an instructor at the FRELIMO training barracks. Afterwards, he became the group’s Secretary of Defence before attaining the highest position of Commander-in-Chief.

On discovering the formation and strategies of FRELIMO, the Portuguese formed a secret police force called PIDE. While the former had a member strength of about 8000 soldiers, the Portuguese countered with about 50,000 men.

In 1964, Machel led FRELIMO’s first attack against the Portuguese in the northern part of Mozambique. This would be the first of various revolutionary attacks preceding the country’s independence. Samora Machel served as a very strategic and brave leader earning the respect of his colleagues including their leader, Eduardo Mondlane. Mondlane was a US-based Mozambican who had returned to help fight for his country’s independence. He had also pioneered the NESAM student group Machel had earlier belonged to.

Eduardo Mondlane
Eduardo Mondlane (1920-1969), Chairman of the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO), UK, July 13, 1967. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The FRELIMO group gathered strength over the years until it faced a major attack from PIDE that threatened its growth. In February 1969, FRELIIMO’s pioneer leader, Eduardo Mondlane was assassinated through a letter bomb delivered to his home. Upon Mondlane’s assassination, Machel became the Commander-in-Chief of FRELIMO.

In 1974, a coup themed the Carnation Revolution was carried out against the colonial masters who were eventually compelled to grant Mozambique its independence. Soon after, a peace accord was signed in Lusaka, Zambia, between Mozambique and the Portuguese, and a date was set for independence.

On June 25, 1975, Mozambique became an independent country and Samora Machel became its first president.

A Luta Continua: The Struggle Continues

FRELIMO’s pioneer leader, Eduardo Mondlane had introduced the famous A Luta Continua phrase in one of his rallying speeches while addressing FRELIMO soldiers. It originally read, “A Luta continua; victoria ascerta,” spoken in the Portuguese language and translated as “The struggle continues; victory is certain.”

This phrase was later picked up by Machel which he used in his speeches, rallies, and protests. Its popularity spread across Africa symbolising the fight for freedom even after Machel’s death. For the people of Mozambique, attaining independence was in no way an end to their troubles.

The Portuguese had settled in the primary cities of Mozambique as early as 1506. But unlike other European colonial countries that sent their upper and middle-class citizens to help develop their colonies, the Portuguese sent its lowest-class citizens who were barely literate.

These citizens had to take up semi or unskilled jobs that were usually left for the indigenes in other colonial countries to do. This left the Mozambicans with little or no means of livelihood. No efforts were made towards developing the country they colonised and this left President Samora Machel with very little to work with on his ascension to office. As such, the struggle continued.

Samora Machel’s Fight against South African Apartheid

As president of Mozambique, Samora Machel began forming policies that contributed majorly to the growth of the country. Machel held Marxist principles and beliefs and began the nationalisation of properties and plantations owned by the Portuguese.

Schools and health centres were built in various communities across the country. Mozambique began to experience massive growth until fresh attacks were launched against it by a group named RENAMO, Resistência Nacional Moçambicana or Mozambique National Resistance in English.

RENAMO was a group that consisted of white minority rulers from South Africa and Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. These rulers believed Mozambique’s independence threatened their grip on the colonies and also disproved earlier theories of Africans being unable to govern themselves.

Amílcar Cabral was the second anti-Portuguese leader to be assassinated after Mozambique’s Eduardo Mondlane in February 1969.

Machel had allowed African liberation fighters like Robert Mugabe and other apartheid freedom fighters to use some parts of Mozambique as training grounds which enabled them to launch attacks against the white leaders.

The Rhodesian white leaders then employed the strategy of divide and conquer by pitching the Africans against themselves through mistrust, internal disputes, and so on. This was how RENAMO was created.

RENAMO’s attacks hindered Mozambique’s growth as they were launched on key facilities, railways, schools, and clinics that had been built by FRELIMO. These attacks also led to the deaths of a large number of people and began a civil war that wreaked havoc on the country. The civil war would last for 15 years and drastically crippled the country’s economy. Other natural effects like droughts and floods also plagued the country thereby affecting its economic state.

Mozambique eventually had to seek help from the Soviet Union for funding to sustain the country. Having maintained a socialist system of government, Machel was shut out of receiving help from the United States and other countries that opposed socialism.

Samora Machel’s Death

In 1984, a peace treaty, termed the Nkumati Accord, was signed to reconcile FRELIMO and RENAMO. The agreement was on non-aggression and good neighbourliness signed by Mozambique and South Africa’s presidents, Samora Machel and Pieter Willem Botha.

The non-aggression accord stated that the South African government would stop backing the RENAMO and supplying them with weapons while FRELIMO would stop supporting the African National Congress (ANC), an anti-apartheid movement.

However, the agreement was broken off with South Africa moving RENAMO’s operational quarters to Malawi and continuing attacks. FRELIMO then countered by launching a joint Zimbabwean and Mozambican attack against RENAMO and the war continued.

Machel Samora
President Samora Machel was only 53 years old when he died and had ruled Mozambique for about 11 years.

Eventually, President Samora Machel was called for further peace talks at the African Leaders Summit which was held in Zambia in 1986. While returning from this trip, Machel was involved in an air crash around the Mbuzini region in South Africa. Machel did not survive the crash along with other ministers and government officials of Mozambique. Although the incident was blamed on weather conditions and technical problems, there was a popular belief that the South African government had a hand in his death. This was tied to an incident that had occurred two weeks prior at the same location where the crash happened. South African soldiers had been injured by landmines at the boundary points of Mozambique and South Africa.

Many believed that the crash had been a revenge act by the South African government. Panels were created to investigate the cause of the accident but no substantial proof was provided to back up the allegations levelled against the South African government. Samora Machel was mourned across the entire southern region of Africa and there were protests in South Africa and Zimbabwe over his death. President Samora Machel was only 53 years old when he died and had ruled Mozambique for about 11 years.

Samora Machel’s Legacy

Samora Machel’s administration had a great positive impact on Mozambique. Although many other factors stood as major stumbling blocks to the nation’s progress after gaining independence, Machel’s legacy is one to be remembered for years to come. He was an inspirational leader who diligently worked to foster economic growth and development in his country. He believed in changing the mentality of the people in order to build a society and successfully inspired a sense of national pride in Mozambicans under his leadership.

Samora Machel stamp
Postage stamp issued by the Soviet Union in Machel’s honour in 1986/Wikimedia Commons.

In 1999, South African and Mozambican presidents Nelson Mandela and Joaquim Chissano commemorated a monument at Mbuzini – the site of the crash in honour of the revolutionary leader and others who died in the crash. A street in Harare, Zimbabwe, was also named after Machel after the country gained its independence. This was in tribute to a man who had given his full support in their fight for freedom.

The famous A Luta Continua phrase made popular by Machel has now been indoctrinated by other groups especially in tertiary institutions in Nigeria as a chant for freedom and justice, a cause Samora Machel had died for.

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