No Longer at This Address – From Aliwal Street to Samora Machel Street

It’s been a long time since we’ve run one of our ‘No Longer at This Address’ features where we look at the history behind the (somewhat controversial) road name changes in Durban. Interestingly not all of the new road names are named after South Africans, with quite a few named in honour of struggle heroes from abroad.

Samora Machel Street, formerly Aliwal Street, recognises the former revolutionary leader and president of Mozambique. Born in 1933 to farmers, Machel saw the effect that colonial Portuguese rule had on his people. His parents were forced to grow labour-intensive cotton, instead of food with which they could feed their family, and as an adult working as a nurse, Machel witnessed how black nurses were paid less than their white counterparts for the same work, and was exposed to the differences in medical care given to black and white patients. He was once quoted as saying that the rich man’s dog got more in the way of vaccination, medicine and medical care than did the workers upon whom the rich man’s wealth was built.

In 1962 Machel joined the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo), becoming the commander and chief in 1970. The revolutionary army of Frelimo weakened the Portuguese government, and after the country’s coup in 1974 the Portuguese were forced to leave Mozambique, with Machel becoming  Mozambique’s first independent president in June 1975. As a Marxist Machel called for the nationalisation of the Portuguese plantations and property, and moved quickly to establish public schools and health clinics for the poor. Despite having popular support, counter-revolutionary organisations destroyed schools and hospitals built by Frelimo, and with the economy struggling, Mozambique soon became dependant on overseas aid.

On October 19, 1986 Samora Machel was on his way back from an international meeting in Zambia when the plane he was travelling in crashed in the Lebombo Mountains, near Mbuzini. There were nine survivors but President Machel and twenty-four others died, including ministers and officials of the Mozambique government. Although, Machel had signed a non-agression pact with the South African government, there was widespread speculation that the apartheid regime was involved in the death of the Mozambican president.

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