MAPUTO, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi described Filipe Samuel Magaia, the first head of the guerrilla army that defeated Portuguese colonialism, as a source of inspiration and pride for Mozambicans, as they build the motherland and national unity.

He was speaking at a rally in the Maputo neighbourhood of Chamanculo, shortly after inaugurating a monument built in tribute to Magaia, half a century after his death.

Magaia was born on March 7, 1937 in Mocuba in the central province of Zambezia. He was recruited into the Portuguese colonial army, but then made his way to Tanzania, where he joined the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo). He became the head of the Frelimo Defence and Security Department, which meant that he was the first commander of the Frelimo army, when it launched the independence war in September 1964. Magaia died in October 1966.

Nyusi said Magaia’s legacy should be a source of inspiration for all young Mozambicans. He urged the country’s youth to raise their patriotic spirits, and commit themselves to the cause of development and the welfare of their fellow citizens.

Today we remember a citizen who, when he was still very young, suffered the barbaric nature of Portuguese colonial rule, to which he was never reconciled, declared the President. Magaia, he said, had been a key figure in training fighters in Frelimo’s first guerrilla bases, so that they could launch the national liberation struggle,

His passage through the Portuguese colonial army was an unequalled moment for him to understand the colonial regime from within, its strong points and its weak points, Nyusi continued. This knowledge would make him one of the greatest strategists of our struggle.

Alberto Chipande, the man who led Frelimo’s first guerrilla operation, and who later became Mozambique’s first Defence Minister, declared that the determination, courage and discipline of Magaia were the virtues of a national hero.

Magaia had a patriotic and disciplined spirit, declared Chipande. Right until the day of his death, he showed that he was a man of determination, a clear minded soldier, an excellent military instructor, a strategist, a visionary mobilise and a brave nationalist.

He was a source of inspiration for the guerrillas of Frelimo, he added. It was Magaia who organised the Defence Department, directed the struggle, waged battles, and set up the fronts in Cabo Delgado, Niassa, Tete and Zambezia.

Fernando Faustino, the General Secretary of the Association of Veterans of the National Liberation Struggle (ACLLN), said that Magaia had fought against racial segregation and the exploitation of man by man.

It was the inhuman attitudes and practices of the Portuguese colonial regime that made Magaia understand early on that he had been born a slave and that it was necessary to fight for freedom, declared Faustino.

A representative of the Magaia family stressed that he had been one of the founders of the Nucleus of Mozambican Secondary Students (NESAM) alongside such figures as Joaquim Chissano and Armando Guebuza, who would both later become President of Mozambique. Magaia, he said, had a spirit of sacrifice and of total commitment to the cause of national liberation.