Mozambique's International
Relations with South Africa

Dossier MZ-0007, part 11


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11. Despite Deadly Commando Raid in May
Negotiations Eventually Resume, 1987

Abandoned SA commando vehicle, May 1987

Above: One of the vehicles abandoned by the group of armed South Africans who mounted an attack on residences in Maputo in May, killing three Mozambican citizens. Despite this attack, and bellicose threats from Magnus Malan, formal discussions continued between the two governments. (Photo: Notícias, 30 May 1987).

At the beginning of the year, in the aftermath of Mbuzini, it was reported that the apartheid government had issued a more-or-less direct threat against five ANC representatives in Maputo, saying that it “could no longer tolerate” their presence in the Mozambican capital. The five included Jacob Zuma, Indries Naidoo and Sue Rabkin, all of whom were evacuated to another country. Nevertheless, other reports stated that at least one hundred ANC members remained in the country, at least some of them working in civilian occupations or as academics.

On 29 May, a group of South Africans attacked offices and houses in Maputo connected to the ANC, killing three Mozambicans – a night watchman and a husband and wife living in one of the residences that was attacked. The group, described as commandos, abandoned two bakkies and a minibus, as well as armaments. It appeared that they had departed by sea. The SADF later refused to comment on the attack.

The Mozambican government’s official position remained one of denying that the conflict with the MNR/RENAMO could be described as a “civil war”, but that it was rather a war of destabilisation in which the apartheid regime was using the rebels or "armed bandits" merely as a proxy force. In April, Prime Minister Mário Machungo stated this position bluntly at a conference in Geneva:

We do not have a civil war in Mozambique. What we have is a situation of destabilisation and aggression waged by the South African racist regime."

However, by the middle of the year the two sides had begun to talk to each other again, despite ongoing threats from Magnus Malan and the inauguration of a new air force base 180 km. from the Mozambique frontier, and by September formal discussions of security issues were again on the agenda. Violations of Mozambican airspace nonetheless continued, with Mozambique seizing a South African helicopter in December. An electric fence built by South Africa along the border to block unauthorised crossings caused some deaths.

MHN Resources

Consolidated Downloadable Zipped Files

Click on the yellow folder image below to download a zipped file of the eleventh of a series of dossiers on South Africa-Mozambique relations. The archive covers the year 1987, and contains 81 documents. New items will be added from time to time: this edition of the dossier is dated 23 October 2021.

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