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Samora Machel In Botswana (3)

We left off in March of 1963, with Mozambique’s future first President Samora Machel and his comrade Matias Mboa having crossed the border at Ramatlabama aboard the Rhodesia Railways train from Mahikeng bound for Bulawayo.

When they reached the Rhodesian border at Plumtree, however, their inability to speak either English or Chichewa (one of the languages of Malawi) raised suspicions. They might have been detained had it not been for the intervention of a (hereto unidentified) member of the Bechuanaland Peoples’ Party (BPP) who witnessed their predicament.

The BPP good Samaritan then convinced them to return with him to Francistown where on or about March 18, 1963 they formally requested political asylum. This resulted in the pair being initially issued temporary permits by the District Commissioner, while their movements were thereafter observed by the BP Special Branch. 

Prior to their entry into Botswana, Machel and Mboa had been informed that while transiting through Botswana they could find potential local support from members of the then two nationalist political parties in the territory, that is either the BPP or the Democratic Party (BDP). They were thus already somewhat familiar with the BPP when party members came forward to offer them advice and sanctuary.

On instructions from K.T. Motsete, the BPP’s leader, Machel and Mboa travelled from Francistown to Lobatse to await money and further facilitation from Frelimo’s headquarters in Dar es Salaam.

Mboa would later recall: “We managed to cross the border between Swaziland and South Africa and from here to Botswana, no problem. However, when we reached the border between Botswana and Southern Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe), we were discovered because of the language problem as neither of us spoke English nor the local language of Malawi. Fortunately, we were not arrested, but we had to go back to Botswana in Lobatse, home of head of one of the Tswana parties [K.T. Motsete], where we spent almost three months.”

Upon their arrival in Lobatse, Machel and Mboa were taken in by the Kgaboesele family at their modest Peleng home. There, they were soon joined by a third Mozambican, Angelo Vasoues de Lisboa Mucavel. 

At the time, John Kgaboesele was both an active member of the BPP and prominent amongst those within Peleng who were proactive in their support for the then large numbers of South African freedom fighters who passed through the community.

For his part, Matias Mboa has many warm memories of the hospitality he and his comrades received from the Kgaboeseles, noting that they had virtually nothing in terms of material wealth, but generously shared everything that they had at great inconvenience to themselves. John Kgaboesele is further remembered as a

man who was passionate about the then ongoing liberation struggles in the region and beyond, as well as the BPP’s own struggle for total independence from the U.K.

Communication between the Mozambicans and their hosts was at times difficult, but was nonetheless sustained by shared knowledge of South African vernacular, i.e. “isiZulu”.

On March 21, 1963, Machel, Mboa and de Lisboa they were further interviewed by the head of the BP Special Branch Southern Division, the man who had previously served as Mandela’s shadow guardian, Inspector Innes-Ker.

Lisboa had initially been given two-month residence permit, with Machel and Mboa receiving one-week renewable permits. Vasoues fell within Category 1 (Student) Political Refugees, though at the time the British were prepared to believe all three were motivated primarily by a desire for further education. As a result, after the interview Machel and Mboa were also given extended permits.

During the interview, Lisboa took the lead in speaking. The resulting Special Branch report, st other things, noted that:

Angelo Vasoues de Lisboa was a “Shagaan” born 27/11/1939 in Chongoene was a student who had studied for the Priesthood at Higher Seminary of Nomahacha in Lorenco Marques [Maputo], had passed a three-year philosophy course and was about to study theology when instead he decided to focus on law. He had become a member of Frelimo on November 20, 1962.

Samora Moises Machel was a Shagaan born 29/9/1933 at Bilene. He was a male nurse at Miguel Bombarda Hospital in Lorenco Marques. Educated at College of Antonio Enes and “passed J.C.” Joined Frelimo July 20, 1962.

Matias Zefanias [M]Boa was a Shagaan born 6/1/1940 at Marracuene, Lorenco Marques, was an Agricultural Assistant in the Agricultural Mission at L.M. he was also a J.C. level graduate at College of Antonio Enes. Joined Frelimo July 20, 1962.

“They had decided to pass through Swaziland and South Africa to Botswana, as route to Tanzania through northern Mozambique was too dangerous.

“They said that they heard the B.P.P. would assist them as they were also Pan-Africanists.

“Lisboa states that Motsete instructed them to wait in Lobatse and that he would speak to the President of the F.N.L. of Mozambique when he met him in Accra and say that they required money to get to Tanganyika. Lisboa say his President has promised them such help.

“They claim that they can get America scholarships through their organisation in Dar-es-Salaam….

“They will apparently be here for at least a couple of weeks.”

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