The 25th anniversary of the plane crash that killed Samora Machel and 34 other people is clearly a painful memory for Mrs Machel and her children. Khulumani extends its condolences to them, and as fellow victims and survivors of apartheid-era tragedies, it supports their quest for a proper investigation of the circumstances of the crash.
Khulumani also recognises that because a person has in the meantime rebuilt their life, this does not take away the pain of past devastating events.
Khulumani victims and survivors of apartheid-era gross human rights abuses and violations, like the Machel family, live with the pain of past events every day. Unlike Ma'Machel, many of us have not yet been able to rebuild our lives, although we work all the time towards that goal. Some of us are now in worse-off positions than before democracy. But we are not asking for charity. We are asking for justice to be done, for redress for the events of the past that harmed our lives so severely, and for respect for our efforts to contribute to building a just and inclusive democracy.
This is why we ask that promises made during CODESA, the transition to democratic rule, and in the setting up of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), should now be kept. Contrary to the narrative that the TRC healed and reconciled South Africa, the continuing growth of Khulumani and its membership bears testimony to the fact that this is not the truth. The book of the past is not closed, just as Ma'Machel herself confirms through her expressed wish that the causes of the fatal air crash that killed her husband and 34 others be fully investigated and the truth uncovered.
Khulumani asserts that the work of the TRC has not been concluded. The TRC should not be regarded as a project in the past. It should rather be understood as having initiated a process that is far from complete. For many of us, the truth has not yet been recovered, and our lives have not yet been restored. The TRC was a first step in a long journey to reconciliation, and reconciliation without reparations, restitution and ongoing truth recovery processes, is empty and worthless. There are hundreds of us whose cases still need investigation just as is required in the case of the aeroplane crash that killed President Machel along with 34 associates.
While we remember the untimely passing of Comrade Samora Machel, we also remember how our concerns have been treated as insignificant by our present government. Our letters and communications with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and its TRC unit, as well as with the Presidency, are usually ignored or responded to with condescension, and sometimes even with arrogance – as if we are people who do not deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. We are, in fact, the very people referred to in the Preamble to our Constitution who are supposed to be “honoured” as those “who suffered for justice and freedom in our land”.
Ma'Machel, Khulumani recognises you and your children as people who suffered for justice and freedom in our land; we know that your husband, President Samora Machel, was fighting for justice and freedom in your land of origin, as well as in ours and in the whole sub-region. We grieve with you at this time of remembering the unexplained tragedy of his death, and we honour him as a fellow comrade who paid the ultimate price, seemingly through the actions of apartheid agents.