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Digital Archive International History Declassified

September 10, 1980

MINUTES OF CONVERSATION BETWEEN TODOR ZHIVKOV AND SAMORA MACHEL

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    Both leaders discuss recent developments in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Angola, East Timor, Western Sahara, Poland, and Afghanistan.
    "Minutes of Conversation between Todor Zhivkov and Samora Machel," September 10, 1980, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Central State Archive, Sofia, Fond 1-B, Record 60, File 271. Obtained by the Bulgarian Cold War Research Group. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/113421
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MINUTES

Of the Official talks between Comrade Todor Zhivkov, First Secretary of the CC BCP and President of the State Council of the People's Republic of Bulgaria and Samora Machel, Chairman of FRELIMO[1] and President of the People's Republic of Mozambique

Sofia, September, 10th, 1980, /"Boyana" residence/

SAMORA MACHEL: We had the pleasure to meet comrade Todor Zhivkov in 1978 in Maputo when he was head of a very important delegation of the Bulgarian Communist Party and the Bulgarian State. It was then that we got to know each other better, stating that there were common ideological and political viewpoints between our Parties and States. Comrade President, we do consider that your visit lays the grounds for a strong cooperation between our countries. Then we signed a Treaty of Friendship and Mutual Cooperation, which is a solid base for the further development of our bilateral relations.

[...]

SAMORA MACHEL: Thank you again for the visit of the delegation of the People's Republic of Bulgaria to Mozambique; it helped specify our stance on certain issues. There are new forces consistently trying to make their way into our zone; these attempts were mainly on the part of Western countries; meanwhile, there has been passiveness on the part of the socialist countries. We will be having a frank and open conversation here. We are aware that when you go to a doctor you must tell him what it is that exactly hurts you, so that he might determine the nature of the disease and prescribe the most appropriate treatment.

Let me say some words on the internal situation of the People's Republic of Mozambique after the victory in Zimbabwe.

[...]

The US imperialism has been expanding its military bases in Egypt, Kenya, Somalia; it has been increasing its Navy in the Indian Ocean, and fortifying its bases on the Diego Garcia Island. The French imperialism has been strengthening its positions in the Comoros Islands. The imperialists keep making use of their sea base Simonstone and stimulating the inter-African conflicts. We have witnessed the attempts to expand their influence in Africa, Zaire's attempts towards Cabinda, for instance. I am telling this only to you, I do not know whether Kaunda[2] has talked with you about that. Zaire has occupied part of Zambia for two years now. They have secret and mysterious talks, yet we don't know all about them. Why is it so? Because this is the region richest in copper, cobalt, chrome and other riches. They started discussing Zaire's rearward position is Morocco, Egypt, and France. I have no idea whether Kaunda has asked comrade Zhivkov for something, or some arms, since they have to struggle.

TODOR ZHIVKOV: He put forth this problem in the most general terms, to simply inform me.

SAMORA MACHEL: He has made a mistake. He shouldn't have merely informed you; he should have asked for weapons instead. After all, we're friends. And the Zambian people are well aware of this fact. Mozambique, as well as Tanzania is also aware of it. We talked with Mobutu[3] to leave the country, since this is Zambia's territory. We saw that Uganda invaded Tanzania in 1978-1979. We witnessed Senegal's and Guinea-Conakri's territorial claims towards Guinea-Bissau; bauxite deposits and oil fields were found there and thus the conflicts at present. In the period 1st -  15th August "Mirage" aircraft piloted by Moroccans was located in Guinea-Conakri. There were also military ships ready to attack. I am sharing this information only for you, it should not be made public.

We were asked to intervene, and talk with both countries situated in the north of the continent; we are now witnessing a newly emerging phenomenon - a war for colonial legacy. Such a policy and tactic has been adopted by a member country of the Organization for African Unity /OAU/.

We think that Morocco is to blame for the Sahara people, and all Africans. Morocco has been committing criminal acts resulting in a restoration of colonialism.

[...]

In 1974 Mozambique defeated Portuguese colonialism. We were the first to introduce Marxism and Leninism in the region. We were the first to establish diplomatic relations with the socialist countries as our natural allies. I started to think that exactly we could provide a real picture to the socialist countries of what the situation in South Africa is. Unfortunately we made a mistake. For quite some time ZAPU[4] was avoided and had no contacts with a number of socialist countries, and the enemy took advantage of the situation. We talked about this issue with our Soviet comrades. I would like to point out that the idea that it was the Soviet Union that might back up a coup-d'etat in favor of Nkomo[5] was promoted in Zambia. This is the enemy's attempt, spreading this idea around so as to create uncertainty. I told our Soviet comrades what such action was aimed at. It accounts for several facts. ZAPU has not struggled, yet it has been provided a lot of armament. ZAPU's troops remained in Zambia; they remained in Angola; and only after cease-fire, when independence was about to be declared; a ZAPU guerrilla unit of 4500 men, equipped with technologically up-to-date armament, entered the country. Mugabe[6] had already reached success by then. He asked them: "What do you need these weapons for?" He asked this question, for the armament had not been made use of during the war. Yet the imperialist countries made attempts to take advantage of this situation to press their anti-Soviet view on. It is not true, however, that Mugabe bears any malice towards the Soviet Union. Mugabe's refusal to accept Soviet armament and have it dislocated in his country, since it was ZAPU's, has been much capitalized on). In fact Mugabe did not oppose receiving Soviet weapons. He refused to buy these from Nkomo. We consider it important to have these difficulties overcome soon so that agreement might be reached.

The Bulgarian Communist Party, and my comrade and friend Todor Zhivkov in particular, were conscientious enough to realize what was going on in Zimbabwe; they took a brave stance for establishing official relations with Zimbabwe long before the conference in Lancaster House was held, and this proved really helpful to us.

Zimbabwe is quite different from any other country in Africa and we are aware of that. Mozambique's economic needs and demand are quite different from Zimbabwe's, since the latter is a developed economy. It relies on support on the part of England, the USA, the Federal Republic of Germany, Japan, and many other industrialized countries. I visited the country and was able to see this everywhere. Zimbabwe has been a major exporter of steel, coal, chrome, copper, tobacco, corn,  meat, and a number of other commodities. All these are being produced in Zimbabwe. It has been exporting gold as well. The country ranks fourth in the world in terms of gold diggings and production. It's true that Zimbabwe is a special case. Zimbabwe has been able to resist isolation for 15 years now; it is this 15-year isolation that has determined  its accelerated economic expansion and growth. Yet another commodity that is manufactured are automobiles and spare parts.

The socialist countries must bear this in mind; we should be frank in discussing it. Smith's[7] regime has proved quite efficient, well organized and diligent, not too bureaucratic though, not contaminated with the red-tape syndrome, yet highly disciplined. Another very important asset of Smith's regime is the feeling for being punctual and economical, avoiding waste.

We have often wondered whether the Zimbabweans would be able to reform this regime. We even discussed with them how to effect that. Therefore we think that our relations with Mugabe's government should be rapidly and unequivocally expanded, since such expanding relations would enhance the socialist countries' influence in Zimbabwe. I have already pointed out that Zimbabwe is the second country in Africa after the South African Republic that is highly organized. The problem to solve now is how to provide the people with all these achievements.

I would like to inform you that, at the People's Republic of Mozambique's initiative, we have already agreed on Prime Minister Mugabe's receiving a top-level Soviet delegation, so as to make a review of their past relations, and lay the basis for trust in the development of these relations in the future. Thus we contacted both the Soviet Union and Zimbabwe, and, as a result, all I just told you about actually took place. We served as the "spring-board" to balance and regulate their relations and offset pressure. We were the ones to inform Zimbabwe of the Soviet opinion, and vice-versa, and we thus reached an agreement.

I think that we have already had a lot of talks and still more are to be held. Of course we had our top-level talks way back during the war in Zimbabwe. We sent some comrades of ours, so that they might give a detailed account of the situation to our Soviet comrades. Unfortunately the Vice-minister, Mr Ilichev[8] that was head of the Soviet delegation, knew everything. We stopped talking after some time, for he said he knew everything. It was then that we asked: "Why do you want information since you know everything?"

I think that comrade Brezhnev has not been informed of the Zimbabwe story. I have had talks with many comrades of high posts and do think that comrade Brezhnev knows nothing about the Zimbabwe story. And this issue should be solved to the mutual interest of both parties. The Soviet Union produces chrome, and in the same time it needs much more chrome. I don't know whether your country, comrade Zhivkov, also needs chrome. You have your own cosmonauts now.

[...]

I also think that the socialist countries should be a factor of greater importance in the region of South Africa; they should play a more central and active role, and thus become a decisive factor.

The nine independent countries in the region decided to join their efforts in developing their economies and expanding their mutual cooperation. These are Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi, Angola, and Zaire that has recently joined in. In the future another two countries will be included: Burundi and Rwanda. Why do I think so? Since Nakala's port will be made use of Tanzania will be exploiting the coal deposits, the ferrous and other ores, yet it has no port. Therefore we talked this issue over with the Tanzanians, as well as the issue of nickel and other riches; we also had talks with Burundi and Rwanda, so that the port of Nakala might be used. Zaire and Zambia need the three ports: that of Nakala, Beira and Mambone; they will also need Namibia's port in the future, since it borders on Zambia and Botswana.

[...]

Comrade Zhivkov, what must be understood is the mentality and culture of the former colonies. In the former English colonies one could sense Great Britain's impact. The people that were colonized by Great Britain could not even imagine that there might be any other country of such modem technologies. Thus these people decided that it was Mozambique that is to be kept aside, because of Mozambique's influence in the region. That's the first aspect of the problem.

You know that the French zone on the continent is France's possession. The same holds true for all French colonies: the people could not even imagine that there might be any other country of modem technologies apart from France. That is why their relations with Great Britain are not strong enough, unlike those with France. It is not by chance that these former colonies have been grouped under a convention signed in Lome[9]; France and England still dominate this region. This is a central point.

What was Mozambique? It was a colony of Portugal. And it is no longer such, it is a free country. The first technologies we got to know were the Soviet ones and these of the socialist countries: the technologies ranging from armament to the sputnik (satellite). This is what we know.

Now they are asking us whether we are intending to become a COMECON member or not. We confirm this rumor although we know it could cause some troubles regarding our relations with former French and British colonies.

[...]

We do support Afghanistan. Each country has the right to choose its friends. We are sorry, however, that information of the region is not available to us. The only information we have access to is what the press provides. This is an obstacle to our actual support for Afghanistan.

The tension in Eastern Timor is still building up. This colony of Portugal is characterized with a high level of crime and violence against the people of Timor. We think that the socialist countries, the world's zone of freedom, should lend a helpful hand to the people of Timor that is struggling to achieve freedom and independence.

As for Europe, we would like to ask you for more detailed information on the situation in Poland. It was difficult to get access to more comprehensive information of the situation there. We are concerned about Poland.

[...]

(After the break)

TODOR ZHIVKOV: Esteemed Comrade Samora Machel! Dear comrades!

Dear Friends!

We managed to share our impressions of your analysis of this morning. We are extremely glad about it. Especially taking into consideration the fact that we do not know much about what is going on in your country and in the region as a whole. We have been provided extra information on these issues. What we most highly appreciate is the serious and thorough Marxist - Leninist analysis of the situation in your country and in the region; we thank you once again.

Let me inform you in brief about our work and tasks here in Bulgaria.

[...]

Let me now take the liberty to comment on certain issues you dwelled upon relating to our bilateral relations.

First on Zimbabwe. You must bear in mind that we, the socialist countries, do not know the situation in the region as well as you do. As for Zimbabwe, we have always supported ZAPU that preceded ZANU[10] before its splitting up. The latter was a right decision. After its breaking up we stated that we would like to see a united people's front; we, the socialist countries, will back up such a front. We have always insisted on their uniting, the setting up of a common front and their not splitting up. I think the policy adopted was correct. It is true that we did not know many details, we were not completely acquainted with the different parties to the dispute. What do you think we could decide under such circumstances: there were proponents of ZANU, other proponents of ZAPU? We put forth the issue of their uniting, of joining the efforts; this I consider very important. This was namely our policy.

When I visited your region, it was there that I met Mugabe for the first time. I was impressed with his personality. We had an interesting and constructive talk. I invited him to visit our country. There was an official statement that I had met Mugabe and had invited him to visit our country.

When we came back, we found out that Nkomo had already arrived without any invitation whatsoever. I had a serious talk with him. The question I put forth first was: "What are your relations with Smith? Listen," I told him, " I have been a professional revolutionary for nearly two decades. I am quite well aware of the nature of your relations with Nigeria and Ian Smith. Have you coordinated your action with the Front? You are member of Front." After that I told him: "Are you sure you will work within the Front? Is such a Front necessary at all?" He answered: "Yes, it is. However, we cannot work with Mugabe." I said: "When we worked for our Front some time ago (during the World War II), there were many people that were not to our liking; yet we were guided in our action by the interests of the people." We had a very serious discussion on this problem. Later he said to our comrade who was accompanying him that he had never had such a talk with any leader so far.

When Mugabe came we also pointed out that a United Front has to be established. I put forth this issue once again, I have often put it on the agenda. Even if we cannot work with the leaders, we must approach the people at the lower levels so that a Front could be set up; because our enemy is strong. You made a brilliant analysis of the situation and the enemy's strength. And I think that it is you, the Front line countries, even the nine you mentioned, that will be able to build up such a united front to deal with the problems. For we can talk with you, but we do not know the situation well enough and we do not know what advice to give to you. If it had been on the Balkans, in Europe, we could have suggested something. The situation is that we know nothing of your region.

As for our commitment, we would do our best to increase our assistance and provide for our common coordinated effort in this respect.

As for Spanish Sahara, what we maintain in all international meetings and talks is that Sahara belongs to the people living there. And it is this people that have the right to decide the country future. We have always voted in favor of such a position, both at all international fora and at the UN plenary sessions.

DIMITAR  STANISHEV:[11] That refers to the principle of self-determination.

TODOR ZHIVKOV: Observing of the principle of self-determination. We must admit that we have incurred heavy losses  due to this principle. Our agreement on fishing signed with Morocco is null and void now. We had to decrease to a minimum level the imports of phosphates from this country. Our trade has been frozen to a large extent. The same situation is observed in the other socialist countries as well. It is not by chance that they do all this. It is a result of our common stance. We cannot condemn now Morocco directly. Why? Because there might arise problems with the Arab countries.

[...]

You wanted us to inform you of Poland and Afghanistan.

I must admit we do not have much information on these two countries. If it hadn't been for the Soviet Union's effort, Afghanistan would have become an American base. Afghanistan and the Soviet Union have a common border of about 2000 km. The Soviet Union cannot let the Americans have such a border as their base. Under such circumstances the Soviet Union must have about 40 divisions dislocated there. The situation with Angola is similar. If it hadn't been for the Cubans and the Soviet armament there, Angola of the present day would be non-existent.

SAMORA MACHEL: Our common border with Zimbabwe runs about 1250 km; that is why I dwelled on the situation there.

TODOR ZHIVKOV: On Poland. I would like to point out once again that we lack enough information. Comrade Gerek12 would not have informed us of the situation there; therefore we do not have complete information. Yet what do have suffices to draw certain conclusions. For the period since the 1970's, ever since comrade Gerek became head of the Party, a lot of efforts and funds have been put into developing the industry, since, in terms of its industrial development, Poland was lagging behind and was in a more backward state than the German Democratic Republic and Czechoslovakia. A favorable economic environment facilitated the establishment of modem industries and creating jobs for millions of young people. That is the positive aspect of Poland's situation. But what was it that actually happened? The leaders, with Gerek at the top, proved inexperienced and unprepared to manage such a numerous and complex party and country.

If we consider their debt to the capitalist countries we can say that the official data is 20 billion, whereas the actual data go beyond it. They are now importing from the West grains and grain fodder, as well as components for the fodder for 8 9 billion US dollars annually. The interest alone on this debt exceeds 2 billion $.

[...]

TODOR ZHIVKOV: We have been progressing along the same highway. That's most important. All other issues will be tackled. What matter is that the highway is the same.

SAMORA MACHEL: That's why I claim that we have taken a common road. Will there be smaller and larger highways?

TODOR ZHIVKOV: We're on the same highway.

SAMORA MACHEL: Thank you, comrade Zhivkov.

TODOR ZHIVKOV: Thank you.

[1] Frente de Libertacao de Mocambique.

[2] Kenet Kaunda - President of Zambia.

[3] Mobutu Sese Seco - President of Zaire

[4] Zimbabwe African People's Union.

[5] Joshua Nkomo - leader of ZAPU.

[6] Robert Mugabe - leader of ZANU and Prime Minister of Zimbabwe.

[7] Jan Smith - Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia /now Zimbabwe/.

[8] Leonid Ilichev - a Soviet Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.

[9] Capital of Togo.

[10] Zimbabwe African National Union.

[11] CC BCP Secretary for International Relations.

[12] Edward Gerek - First Secretary of the CC of the Polish United Worker's Party and President of Poland.

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