Monday, April 13, 2015

The Evolution Of The Strong Visionary Leadership Of The Frontline States And Its Contribution To The Liberation Struggle In Southern Africa

H.E. Joaquim Alberto Chissano


Professor Haruna Yakubu, Vice-Chancellor of UDS,
Faculty Members of the UDS,
Dear Students,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed my pleasure and privilege to me to deliver this lecture at this prestigious university, as part of the 3rd Edition of the African Leadership Lecture series at the University for Development Studies (UDS) of Tamale, Ghana.

The Republic of Ghana constitutes the first shining independent country in Africa, which inspired other countries to fight for their freedom against colonialism and apartheid. I also would like to pay deserved tribute to the leadership of the UDS for its creativity in establishing the much needed discourse on African leadership series with the view to stimulating discussion and action on African Leadership and Governance, by sharing ideas in a University setting.

I recognize the aspiration of the lecture series as part of University responsibility to contribute to the national and transnational discourse on productive leadership to create a platform to inspire positive and innovative leadership and stimulate action for constructive leadership in Ghana and Africa in general.

It is with this in mind that I would like to share my views on the strong and visionary leadership of the Frontline States (FLS) during the Liberation struggle in Southern Africa, an issue that was also very close to the leadership in Ghana within the concept of Pan- Africanism and the Liberation struggles in Africa.

I have chosen the topic of the evolution of the strong visionary leadership of the Frontline States and its contribution to the Liberation struggles in Southern Africa because it gives me the opportunity to share with the future leaders of Africa some inspirational insights of the past, which, hopefully, will bring more confidence for our young leaders to take Africa to its rightful place, thus giving continuity to the efforts started by their forefathers.

I would like to share with you how first the national liberation struggle and later the independent Mozambique, led by FRELIMO benefited from this visionary leadership, particularly of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, the late President of the United Republic of Tanzania and Dr Kenneth Kaunda, the former President of the Republic of Zambia, who provided strong and visionary leadership, through actions that led to the creation of what became known as the Frontline States. I stand here before you as testimony to that visionary and strong leadership that championed the liberation struggle in Southern Africa.

My argument is that these were revolutionary and committed leaders who, by implementing innovative ideas to support the struggle for liberation in Africa, in particular in Southern Africa, ended up with the concept of Frontline States as a platform to provide leadership in the collective and individual efforts of the liberation struggle.

Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen;

Let me turn now to the inception of the Frontline States. It all started with the considerate conviction by Presidents Nyerere and Kaunda that their countries could not be effectively free and independent while a single country in the continent remained under colonialism or any other form of oppression, discrimination or subjugation, such as apartheid or racist minority regimes. Tanzania and Zambia were newly independent countries (respectively in 1961 and 1965) confronted with many economic problems to solve.

Zambia was a landlocked country, dependent on the seaports of Mozambique, then under Portuguese colonialism, and South Africa, then under apartheid. These leaders were confronted with the formidable challenge of how their poor countries, vulnerable to pressures due to their dependency to oppressive regimes on transport networks, could at the same time support struggles against the same very oppressive regimes.

These leaders showed the necessary visionary leadership not to bow to pressure, but stand to what was right: the struggle to free Southern Africa from the colonial yoke, apartheid and minority regimes.

The other belief they had was that unity of effort, courage and the mobilization of their people to be part of the struggle was a strong force to drive them to success. These leaders mobilized their people to make the necessary sacrifices and support the liberation struggles in Southern Africa. They also mobilized the international community to support these struggles. The peoples of those countries because they had the enlightened leadership, voluntarily consented these sacrifices with the certainty that after the liberation of the continent they would tread speedily towards progress and better life.

To address the dependency challenge, these leaders came up with the innovative solution of courageously building alternative transport routes. They first established an air bridge between Tanzania and Zambia, using airplanes to transport goods. Then they tarmacked a long highway of more than one thousand miles, linking Dar es Salam and Lusaka, followed by the building of a long railway, named Tazara, and an oil pipeline, called Tazama.

As the building of the alternative transport route was underway, we in FRELIMO were requested to suspend the armed operations in the zones neighboring the most vulnerable countries, such as Zambia and Malawi, to give chance to this construction of the alternative routes.

Malawi, a country also landlocked and dependent on the ports of Mozambique and on trade links with apartheid South Africa was invited to join in this liberation exercise. But, unfortunately, due to lack of a long-term and visionary leadership, Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, the then President of Malawi, refused to join this initiative and preferred to continue his close collaboration with colonialism and apartheid. For these reasons I consider the actions of Presidents Nyerere and Kaunda as pioneers of what we term today as the economic integration of Africa.

Already in those days, Presidents Nyerere and Kaunda, due to their visionary leadership and foresight, had thought about the roles that independent Mozambique and Angola could play, not only for the liberation of South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, but also in the concerted efforts for the development of the Central and Southern regions of Africa.

The two leaders argued that it was not proper to implement their strategy without involving the peoples whom they were supporting. To this end, Samora Moises Machel, the leader of FRELIMO (Mozambique Liberation Front) and Dr Agostinho Neto, the leader of the MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola), were invited, from 1973, to participate in the restricted meetings of the two leaders, even before they won the independence of their countries.

They were considering Samora Machel and Agostinho Neto as the potential leaders of independent Mozambique and Angola, respectively. The gathering of these leaders constitutes what I consider the birth of what was later known as the Frontline States. In fact, this designation only came about after the independence of Mozambique in 1975.
It is worth mentioning that Sir Seretse Khama, Leader of Botswana, was approached by the two leaders and invited to join the efforts to support the liberation struggle and, in spite of the geographical closeness of his country and heavy dependence on the apartheid South Africa, he accepted to cooperate.

H.E. Chissano during a courtesy call on Prez John Dramani Mahama
As far as I recall, one of the steps taken was to look for an improvement of the crossing of Zambezi River between Zambia and Botswana, at Kazungula. From these discussions, a first decision taken was to acquire a new ferryboat, with a bigger capacity. In pursuit of this long-term vision, the two countries have recently launched the building of a modern bridge, to be completed by 2018, financed by the two governments, with the financial support of the African Development Bank and the Government of Japan.

Anyway, Botswana, since the beginning of the 60’s, even before it was proclaimed a Republic, through Sir Seretse Khama, was giving shelter to refugees from Mozambique and South Africa, crossing Botswana on their way to Zambia and later to Tanzania, to join their respective liberation movements.

Once my country became independent, Zambia, Tanzania, Angola, Botswana and Mozambique continued to coordinate their efforts to support the liberation struggles of Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa. It was in the course of these interactions that Sir Seretse Khama came up with some ideas for economic cooperation among the countries of the Frontline States. 

This led to the convening in 1980 of a meeting that launched the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), composed by the Frontline States, plus Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland. President Seretse Khama was elected SADCC Chairperson, while President Nyerere remained Chairperson of the Frontline States.

SADCC was essentially created to promote economic cooperation amongst its members, with the ultimate goal of reducing their dependency to Apartheid South Africa. The liberation movements of Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe also attended this conference, in anticipation of their countries joining the organization once independent.

The establishment of SADCC represented another step in the regional integration vision outlined by the leadership of the Frontline States. The economic cooperation amongst SADCC Member States was so successful that it demanded further steps to deepen it.

This, together with the independence of Zimbabwe ad Namibia, led to the establishment in 1990, of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) as a higher step in regional cooperation, towards regional integration that is still being pursued in Southern Africa.

The leadership of the Frontline States was internationally recognized and the organization was seen as a key and unavoidable interlocutor in efforts to solve the various conflicts in Southern Africa. For instance, within the framework of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Frontline States was regarded as the reference point for addressing issues related to the liberation of Southern Africa.

Moreover, in the case of Zimbabwe, there was an Anglo-American initiative through which the United Kingdom and the United States were engaging the Frontline States in efforts to achieve the independence of that country. With regard to Namibia, an international contact group comprised of the 5 Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council, the UN Special Representative, Marti Athisari and the 5 Frontline States was established to spearhead efforts for the independence of Namibia.

Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen;

In my particular case, I greatly benefitted from the vision, leadership and vast experience of the leaders of the Frontline States. Indeed, during our struggle for Independence, President Samora Machel was invited to the meetings of the Frontline States, which was actually a tete-a-tete meeting of the leaders, and I had to assist him with interpretation from English to Portuguese and vice-versa.

Thus, my exposure to the vision and experiences of these leaders started earlier than many of my colleagues. Therefore I’m a witness of the rock solid commitment of those leaders to the liberation of Southern Africa, and indeed of the entire African Continent.
Each one of these sons of Africa had to lead their peoples through very difficult circumstances, facing and defeating mighty enemies. This happened because those leaders had a vision of their countries liberated from colonialism, apartheid and racism, associated to a strong commitment to reach that goal, through their individual and collective participation.

Therefore, it is absolutely correct to say that Africa did have strong and visionary leaders during that period, and, that many of them, were no doubt product of the individual and collective leadership learning from the Frontline States. Significantly, in 1976 Nigeria identified herself as a long distance member of the Frontline States, and was invited to participate in its meetings. I am indeed privileged to stand here today as a product of practical or empirical leadership mentoring from the Frontline States.

As we take part in this 3rd African leadership series it is important to seize the opportunity to pay special tribute to Mwalimu Nyerere and the people of Tanzania for their commitment to the liberation struggles in Southern Africa. President Nyerere not only took upon himself the leadership of an international campaign for the liberation of Southern Africa, but also spearheaded through popular marches, rallies and fundraising, a strong national campaign for the support of liberation struggles of the region.

All the Southern African liberation movements, including FRELIMO, MPLA, the ANC, PAC, ZANU, ZAPU and SWAPO had their bases or representations in Tanzania. Almost every liberation movement cadre went through Dar es Salaam to Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, People’s Republic of China, People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, and Cuba, either for military training or for academic studies.

Besides, the Government of Tanzania also made available land for: (i) building camps for political and military training; (ii) building schools and health care facilities, to provide relevant services to cadres; and, (iii) land for agricultural production.

The Government of Zambia established a liberation centre providing offices for all liberation movements, besides providing land for building camps for the transit of cadres and logistic support, as well as for agricultural production to feed combatants in transit and those in the frontline. Frelimo was able to cultivate in Zambia, 120 hectares of maize and vegetables, to feed its combatants.

Strong national and international mobilization for the support of the liberation struggles was also undertaken by Presidents Kaunda and Sir Seretse Khama, and later on by other leaders of Southern African countries as they became independent.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

Allow me to share with you the leadership role played by Mozambique during the liberation struggles in Southern Africa.

The First Leader of FRELIMO, Dr. Eduardo Mondlane had the leadership challenge of uniting the divided people of Mozambique on the common goal of freeing the country from the colonial yoke. With the support of Presidents Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere, he started this by uniting in 1962, three liberation groups, namely MANU, UDENAMO and UNAMI, into a single and stronger liberation movement: FRELIMO.
This was critical because these three movements happened to have been formed along regional lines, which was risking to divide Mozambique along these regions. President Mondlane as an internationally respected leader, has successfully mobilized international support to the Mozambican liberation cause, particularly in Europe and the United States.

President Mondlane was tragically killed in 1969 in Dar es Salaam in a bomb attack. He was replaced by Samora Machel who led Mozambique into independence in 1975. President Samora Machel was a great leader who successfully mobilized the Mozambican people to consolidate national unity and intensify the liberation struggle in Mozambique. He was a charismatic leader who identified himself with the Mozambican people, mobilizing them to face the challenges of the destabilization attacks perpetrated by the apartheid regime of South Africa and the minority regime of the then Southern Rhodesia.

Immediately after independence, President Samora Machel led the country to economic growth and social development, and conducted a relentless campaign against corruption. These positive socio-economic achievements were halted by the emergence of a war of destabilization orchestrated by the apartheid regime of South Africa and the minority regime of Southern Rhodesia.

Due to his sound leadership skills, President Samora Machel, gained the admiration and respect of fellow African Leaders and from elsewhere in the world, in recognition of his experience in leading the liberation struggle in all its aspects notably political, diplomatic and military, as well as his strategic vision of Southern Africa, Africa and the world.

President Samora Machel also mobilized the Mozambican people to support liberation struggles in Africa and elsewhere in the world. In this regard, Mozambique harboured ZANU bases and provided support in weapons, logistics and troops to the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe. Mozambique also provided military training to Ugandan freedom fighters, as well as, logistical support and troops to fight the brutal dictatorship of Idi Amin in Uganda.

Another example of the Mozambican solidarity for liberation struggles around the world, was the establishment of a national solidarity fund, through which Mozambicans were encouraged to give their regular financial contribution of one day salary per month to these endeavours. This solidarity fund was used to support African liberation movements as well as refugees from around the world, particularly from East Timor, Chile and Brazil. President Samora Machel also played a leading role in mobilizing the international community to fight colonialism and apartheid.

Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

As a conclusion I would like to make some specific comments on the nature of the revolutionary and visionary leadership that characterized the Frontline States decision-making and leadership style.

The Leaders of the Frontline States were not self-fish and they considered the support to the liberation struggles in Southern Africa as part of a visionary, responsible and accountable leadership. Solidarity was their guiding principle. President Nyerere used to tell Tanzanians, “Their struggle is our struggle. We should therefore give even the little we have. Let us fasten our belts to support the liberation struggle”.

This meant that Tanzanians learned that to die a little for the liberation struggle and going hungry in order to support the struggle was the ultimate sacrifice for every Tanzanian. They learned that Africa was not free until the entire continent was liberated from colonialism and apartheid.

For the Leaders of the Frontline States, the struggle for the liberation of the Southern African was part of national struggles; and, sacrificing for the liberation struggle was considered as a common cause, essential for the development of their own countries. These leaders demonstrated a sense of patriotism and placed the liberation of the continent before self-interest and the interests of their individual and collective countries.

They shall therefore remain in the annals of history as thoughtful and visionary leaders. So glory is to the Leaders of the Frontline States for demonstrating in their engagements and actions that leadership matters as it is all about freedom.

The Leaders of the Frontline States had a clear notion of common purpose and destiny. This leadership value, I would suggest, has its inspiration from the notion of Pan-Africanism, which has been clearly championed by the historical leadership of Ghana in African politics and leadership style.

Dr Kwame Nkrumah was among such visionary leaders. As an influential 20th-century advocate of Pan-Africanism, he shall remain in the annals of Africa leadership history as an icon of the liberation struggles in Africa. Under the leadership of Dr. Nkrumah, Ghana provided multiforme support to the liberation movements of the continent, which no doubt has greatly inspired and influenced their fight against oppressive regimes in Africa.

For instance, I have to mention here that some Mozambican freedom fighters were trained in Ghana those days. The training of these cadres was just one way Ghana has contributed for the liberation struggle of Mozambique. Thanks again, Ghana; your contribution was not in vain.

Coming back to our main topic, I find it appropriate and indeed desirable to argue that Nkrumah, Nyerere and Kaunda meet the common definition of a visionary as “a leader of excellence who sees what others do not see, who achieves for now and plans for the future, which positively impacts different generations and rises up other visionaries.”
This to me is what characterized the visionary and strong leadership of the Frontline States, built solidly on commitment and accountability to the people and the struggle for the liberation of the continent from the colonial yoke, minority rule and apartheid regime.

The Leaders of the Frontline States had a sound sense of commitment to the cause of liberation of Southern Africa, as well as accountability to their peoples and international partners. In fact, the Leaders of the Frontline States always conducted themselves in an exemplary manner, leading by example, taking collective decisions and committing themselves to their implementation.

The Leaders of the Frontline States also had a sense of shared responsibility in the quest for the liberation of Africa. Thus, with regard to the liberation struggles in Southern Africa, the Frontline States remained the focal point for action and coordinated their efforts with the OAU Coordinating Committee for the liberation of Africa.

Within this framework of synergy and collaboration with the OAU policy organs and the Coordinating Committee for the Liberation of Africa, the Frontline States was able to interface with the rest of the Continent on issues of liberation struggles in other parts of Africa.

Against this background, I would, therefore, argue that the Frontline States developed a leadership architecture that had several value propositions including commitment, accountability and shared responsibility, all manifested in the visionary leadership of Presidents Nyerere, Kaunda, Machel, Neto, Khama and others.  We in Mozambique are counted as beneficiaries of the wise, strong and visionary leadership of the Frontline States.

However, We in Africa despite being proud of our rich history have so far failed to conduct our own research and publish our version of events related to our history, in particular of the liberation struggles. President Mugabe rightly emphasized this point by arguing that “we have not done much by way of paying tribute to our founding fathers.

Yes, something has been done for Kwame Nkrumah at the AU, and recently a hall was named after Nelson Mandela. But we forget perhaps as a new generation of leaders that through the visionary and strong leadership, the Frontline States carried the burden of freeing Africa and most of it was borne by one country-Tanzania.”

In Southern Africa there was a worthy attempt made in that regard, with the Hashim Mbita project publication, that documents the history of the Liberation struggles in Southern Africa. Gen. Hashim Mbita was the third and last Executive Secretary of the OAU Coordinating Committee for the Liberation of Africa.

My appeal to all is that let us recognize and celebrate the strong and visionary leadership of our forefathers who provided the required leadership for the liberation of the continent, particularly in Southern Africa.

The Hashim Mbita project is just one example of what needs to be done. I therefore encourage African Universities to research and publish on positive African leadership, in particular on the remarkable achievements of African Leaders such as Nyerere, Nkrumah, Machel, Neto, Khama, Kaunda and others, who demonstrated continuous courage and commitment to liberate the continent from colonial domination, minority rule and the oppressive apartheid regime in South Africa, as well as for Pan-Africanism.

It is important to learn from the past, to build a better future for all of us.
A luta continua!
I thank you very much for your kind attention.

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