19 October 1986 – Samora Machel dies

On this day in South Africa’s history:
19 October 1986

Samora and Graca Machel

On 19 October 1986, the Mozambique President, Samora Machel and thirty-three other passengers, died when their Tupolev 134 plane crashed into the Lebombo Mountains, South Africa, after allegedly following a false beacon. Machel was a prominent leader of the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) and he led the Mozambican people in their fight for independence from Portugal. In 1975 they were victorious and he was elected as Mozambique’s first president.

At the time of his death, Machel had been in power for 11 years. On the day of the crash he was returning from an African leaders’ summit in Zambia. His death sent shockwaves throughout Southern Africa and the entire world. The crash remains a mystery; with some blaming it on bad weather and others believing that the South African authorities were to blame. A day before Machel’s death, Carlos Cardosa, Director of the Mozambican News Agency, received an anonymous message informing him that Machel had died.