By Luís Nhachote* At the height of the revolutionary epic, in the short years after independence in 1975, the nascent Mozambican governme
By Luís Nhachote*
At the height of the revolutionary epic, in the short years after independence in 1975, the nascent Mozambican government was very protective of the revolution and as such it nurtured a vengeful streak against anyone it deemed a reactionary.
Former revolutionary comrades were thrown into prison and reeducation centres because they so much as dared to hold a divergent thought. And as the country plunged into a new war, then against the former rebel movement Renamo, it hardened its views and, perhaps as to hold them responsible for spawning the rebel movement, it summarily executed its erstwhile comrades, especially those who had been tried for crimes against the revolution in Nachingwea, in Tanzania.
Specifically, most of those “needing reeducation” were housed in the M’telela reeducation centre in the northwestern Mozambican province of Niassa. When the M’telela reeducation centre was opened in 1976, a year after Independence, it housed about 3.600 political prisoners. However, at its closure at the beginning of the 80s, there were only about 400, which suggests the killing of over 3.200 prisoners.
Historical records show that the executions of the victims of the Nachingwea Trial took place along the road linking M’telela to Chiputo, in Niassa. Furthermore, the documents dispels any rumours over the place and dates on which the fate of the group comprising Uria Simango, Joana Simeão, Lázaro Nkavandame, Father Gwengere, and Raul Casal Ribeiro were decided.
The Centre for Investigative Journalism (CJI) has obtained a document issued by the former National Service for People’s Security (SNASP) which shows that the Standing Political Committee of Frelimo drove the process of extrajudicial execution of political prisoners held at the M’tela reeducation camp. Two members of the political body mentioned in the document, namely Sebastião Marcos Mabote and Marcelino dos Santos have already passed away. The remaining two are very much alive and living amongst us – former President Armando Emílio Guebuza and Alberto Joaquim Chipande.
Barnabé Lucas Nkomo, author of the book “Uria Simango: um homem, uma causa”, believes that the document is “the conclusive proof” confirming what took place and that the “doubts are starting to be dissipated” on what is considered as the most barbarous crime committed by the Frelimo leadership soon after the proclamation of independence of Mozambique.
So far the Frelimo party leadership has taken an ambiguous position with regard to responsibility of the summary executions of Mozambican political prisoners.
During the first multiparty parliament, former Security Minister Sérgio Vieira publicly admitted that the political prisoners had been executed for “treason, but years later he attributed the executions to third parties who were acting on their own agency.
Be that as it may, the remains of the so-called “reactionaries” have never been returned to their families to bury them according to their mores and traditions.
According to a document, on 8 November 1978 the Directorate of SNASP’s Security for the Leaders (DSR) issued order of service Lga-N/78 SECRETO informing the Services of the Security of the Leaders (SSR), in Niassa, of a trip by Armando Guebuza, Marcelino dos Santos (deceased), Alberto Chipande, Sabastião Marcos Mabote (deceased), to the province. They were all members of the extinct Frelimo’s Standing Political Committee, the highest body of the party during the one-party and totalitarian state.
The document reads that the delegation included Lagos Lidimo and Manuel Jeremias Chitupila. The document was signed by DSR director, Mateus Óscar Kida, who was Minister of Veteran Affairs during Guebuza’s tenure as president.
The SSR had the “… mission to protect the party leadership and the FDS (NE: Defence and Security Forces) who will lead the act of transferring the elements kept in the political reeducation centre”.
Barnabé Nkomo writes in his best-seller that the person who drove the prisoners to the site of the summary executions was the political commissioner of the Ministry of Security-SNASP, Major Abel Assikala. He was part of the high level delegation that travelled specifically to M’telela in official vehicles of the Niassa provincial government, at the time led by the deceased Aurélio Manave. The order would have been conveyed by the then deputy-Minister of Security Salésio Teodoro Nalyambipano, in compliance with a decision taken by Frelimo’s Standing Political Committee. Nalyambipano is currently the chair of the National Commission on Honours and Decorations, having previously been appointed by former President Joaquim Chissano to the function of extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador of Mozambique to Luanda.
“The DP’s highest officer will represent the Service…” reads the document. And Major Abel Assikala was that highest officer.
Lucas Nkomo told CJI he has no doubt that “with this documentary evidence that seems authentic to me, the thesis that the figures at the top of Frelimo did not know anything is defeated”.
“It was in 1978 (that the so-called reactionaries were executed), I’ve no doubts about that,” said Nkomo.
What still needs to be completely clarified are the execution dates of Celina Simango, Lúcia Casal Ribeiro, Paulo Gumane, Adelino Gwambe, Basílio Banda, Eugénio Zitha, among others.
When news that the so-called “reactionaries” had been executed extra-judiciously did the rounds in international circles, the Samora Machel government, through the Ministry of Security, issued the order 5/80 to justify the action.
Just before his death, Fernando dos Reis Ganhão, the first Vice-Chancellor of Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM) and member of Frelimo’s politico bureau, told Nkomo that the “order had come from Aurélio Manave”. Ganhão laid the sole responsibility for the summary executions on Manave, allegedly because the latter was upset “with a boy who dating his daughter.” (quando é que faleceram manave e ganhão)
But in “Indelible memories of the ‘years of the plague’”, (SAVANA, 19 May 1995 edition), Pita Filipe wrote the story of such a boy with the twist that there was no relation between the case and the summary executions of the political prisoners in M’telela. The “boy” who was dating Manave’s daughter, Anabela (who died in an ambush perpetrated by the former guerilla movement Renamo while on her way to the border town with Eswatini, Namaacha), was Manuel (Manolo) Cabral, brother to the photographer Zé Cabral. Manolo, who was indeed sent to the reeducation centre, is still alive and lives in Maputo but apparently has nothing to do with M’telela.
In na interview with the private television channel STV, Vieira confirmed the authenticity of the execution order signed by Jacinto Veloso. However, Vieira’s account of the authenticity of the document contradicts Óscar Monteiro’’s, who when interviewed earlier by the same channel, said it was false.
Justifying the crimes committed by Frelimo, Former President Joaquim Chissano told the press that “in any country the revolution has its own rules and norms and it’s normal that those individuals (political prisoners) were treated according to those norms,” adding that “right now, when we want to foster unity and harmony, it would be good to not open those dossiers.”
Furthermore, the late Marcelino dos Santos, then number two in Frelimo’s hierarchy, confirmed that the executions had been carried out on orders from the highest body of the party. In an interview in September 1997 on the publicly-owned Television of Mozambique (TVM), dos Santos said there were “attempts by the enemies to seek unhappy Mozambican elements, in particular those who could be useful (to their ends).”
In the same interview, Marcelino dos Santos stressed: “there came that awareness that we initially had that they are traitors and, therefore, should be executed.”
Apparently, Renamo had a plan to target the reeducation centre. British investigator Alex Vines confirmed this. The plan was to free the political prisoners and coopt them into their nascent rebel movement. At the time, Renamo needed big names to drive its political wing who would wean the rebel movement from its Rodhesian origins.
Initially Renamo had contacted the late Domingos Arouca, who had had left Mozambique in 1976 over disagreements with the left turn Frelimo had taken, to be the political face of the rebel movement. But the conversations ended without agreement. Arouca himself went on to escape a car bomb attempt in Lisbon, the capital of the former colonial power, but eventually returned to Mozambique after the signing of the Rome Peace Agreement between the Mozambican government and Renamo, in 1990.
However, despite all revelations painting the picture of the macabre crimes and the role played by Frelimo’s leadership, there has never been an attempt at an apology to the children and families of the political prisoners. (CJI)
Below is the list of Frelimo’s Standing Political Committee elected in the 3rd Congress, in February 1977, in hierarchal order:
Samora Moisés Machel
Marcelino dos Santos
Joaquim Alberto Chissano
Alberto Joaquim Chipande
Armando Emílio Guebuza
Mariano de Araújo Matsinhe
Mário da Graça Machungo
Updated from na article originally published in the weekly SAVANA , on 05.09.2014