Mozambique's International
Relations with South Africa

Dossier MZ-0007, part 12


Button Button


12. Did the Leopard Change its Spots?
Regional Peace Initiatives, 1988

Louis Trichardt memorial, Maputo, 1989

Above: The Louis Trichardt memorial in Maputo. In January 1984, during the early negotiations before the Nkomati Accord, a member of the South African delegation deposited a wreath there, and in October 1988 a high-level delegation including Pik Botha repeated the gesture at a ceremony attended by Jacinto Veloso.

This year, 1988, was the year in which the South African regime launched or participated in a series of regional peace initiatives (Namibia, Angola) while at the same time, in the case of Mozambique, continuing to support forms of direct and indirect aggression. In the words of the historian David Morton,

for more than a decade, South Africa was the bully that shook hands with Mozambican leaders with one hand while pummelling Mozambique with the other (JSAS, vol.41 no.2, 2015, p.351).

Pik Botha apparently saw no irony in a white-minority apartheid regime lecturing Mozambique on the character of “African tradition”, remarking – in comments that were both tone-deaf and patronising - at a press conference in February that

The South African Government was deeply concerned about the educational situation in Mozambique which had virtually come to a standstill, as well as the health situation- particularly in respect of malaria … The Mozambique Government is not aware of the wishes of the overwhelming majority of its people and rules the country by force, which is contrary to African traditions and norms... the Mozambique Government must … prove that it has discarded foreign ideologies …

Despite this attitude, by the middle of the year South Africa had rescheduled R26 million of Mozambican debt, and negotiations continued about the complex status of the Cahora Bassa hydro-electric scheme. At the same time, in April, the attempted assassination in Maputo of the ANC militant Albie Sachs by means of a bomb planted in his car, revealed the massive contradictions within the South African regime: Sachs was gravely injured and was fortunate to survive. Nonetheless, formal relations continued to expand, with President P. W. Botha paying a visit to Mozambique in September, and a new trade mission being opened at more or less the same time. A delegation visited the Louis Trichardt memorial in Maputo, and the South Africans also provided a ship-load of non-lethal equipment for the defence of Cahora Bassa against RENAMO attacks, delivered in late November.

On the history and significance of the Louis Trichardt memorial in Maputo from 1968 onwards, see David Morton, “A Voortrekker memorial in revolutionary Maputo,” Journal of Southern African Studies vol.41, no.2, 2015, p.335-352 (requires subscription). On the peace initiatives of 1988-1989 in the region as a whole, see Colin Darch, "Apartheid South Africa and the Peace Processes of 1988–1989 in the Southern African Region: Did the Leopard Change its Spots?" in: Miroliubie i mirotvorchestvo v Afrike: sbornik statei k 90-letiiu akademika Apollon Borisovich Davidson (Moscow: Izdat, Ves’ Mir, 2019, p.208-237).

MHN Resources

Consolidated Downloadable Zipped Files

Click on the yellow folder image below to download a zipped file of the twelfth of a series of dossiers on South Africa-Mozambique relations. The archive covers the year 1988, and contains 187 documents. New items will be added from time to time: this edition of the dossier is dated 23 October 2021.

Zipped file image