June 1974 – Such events as the collapse of the power-sharing between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, Nixon fighting impeachment after Watergate and Giscard D’Estaing‘s French Presidential victory were the flavour of the times.
In Uganda, Idi Amin was ranting about the exposure of his terror regime by the BBC. In Mozambique, the ceasefire asked of Frelimo had not been followed, although the Portuguese Army was not active, despite the increase of incidents.
A farming couple in the Vila Pery area were killed on 6th June and busses travelling the Beira-Umtali route were fired upon. Frelimo was active as far south as the Rio Save, so that route was closed to us as Greet and I packed up to head back to South Africa.
On the radio to William Bond, based in the Zambezi valley, I established that the village of Sena, on the Zambezi riverbank, had been under mortar fire, but we could avoid that route because the Mopeia ferry was running again. However, there had been several incidents in the Inhaminga area which was unavoidably our only road. Both the road and adjacent rail had been under attack.
Once again putting the Landy on a coaster from Quelimane, this time to Lourenço Marques, with us catching a commercial flight there to retrieve it, might have been an option, but the company director, Tony Venn, had informed me that the costs of my return would have to be borne by me, so this route was now impossible.
There was no alternative but to run the gauntlet with my wife and eight month old daughter, Nicci. After completing my current work and handing it in, with a brief visit to Ibo Island, we packed and headed south from Alto Moloque to Mopeia. We queued for the ferry, crossed the mighty river and with a certain anxiety headed for Inhaminga and the tee-junction to the Beira-Umtali road. Most of the way, the sand road ran next to the railway line, where we saw at first hand the results of landmines laid on the rails.
It was with considerable relief that we safely crossed the border into Rhodesia!
On 7th September that year, Portugal granted independence to Mozambique, effective immediately. Frelimo was to enforce ceasefire and take over power. Full independence to be implemented by June 1975.In mid-September 1974, Frelimo troops were landed from a Portuguese ship in Lourenço Marques, and left standing on the quayside for a whole day before it was decided where to send them.
At first some whites tried to resist the hand-over, taking over the local radio station, but later giving themselves up. In various quarters, inter-racial riots broke out, whilst Portuguese troops tried to keep order, further inflaming resentment by white Mozambicans who felt that they had been betrayed by Portugal, firstly by failing to subdue Frelimo in the ten-year war, and now by giving their country away. A large proportion of the whites began to flee to South Africa; a mad rush at first, slowing to a thousand a day by the end of September. Blacks along the railway line to South Africa hurled stones and abuse at the loaded trains as they went.
The precarious balance of power in Southern Africa had abruptly given a big lurch. South Africa now had a large border directly onto an infiltration frontier, and Rhodesia had lost her nearest sea-port.