Honarary degree for Janet Mondlane

Mozambique’s largest university, the Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM), on Monday awarded an honorary degree in Education Sciences to Janet Mondlane, widow of the founder and first President of the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO), Eduardo Mondlane, after whom the university is named.

Mondlane was studying for a doctorate in the United States at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois, when he met, and fell in love with Janet Rae Johnson. The two married in 1956, and Janet agreed to leave the US and accompany her husband to Tanzania where, in 1962, he united the three existing nationalist movements into Frelimo.

In 1963, Janet became director of the Mozambique Institute, which was the Frelimo secondary school in Dar es Salaam. She coordinated Frelimo educational activities and raised funds for scholarships so that Mozambicans could obtain abroad the opportunities that were denied to them by the Portuguese colonial regime.

After the assassination of her husband by a parcel bomb sent by the Portuguese secret police, the PIDE, on 3 February 1969, Janet came under attack from the right-wing faction in Frelimo, led by former deputy president Uria Simango, who accused her of being an “imperialist agent”, and unsuccessfully demanded that she be sent back to the United States.

After Mozambican independence in 1975, Janet held several government positions, and was general secretary of the National AIDS Council from 2000-2003. In 1996 she set up the Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane Foundation to promote greater knowledge of her husband’s life and work. She wrote an account of her life with Eduardo, entitled “My heart is in the hands of a black man”, and has been publishing the voluminous correspondence of Eduardo Mondlane.

At the Monday ceremony, President Armando Guebuza recalled how the Mondlane couple had abandoned their life in the United States to work for the liberation of Mozambique. Eduardo Mondlane had a promising diplomatic and university career ahead of him – but abandoned it in order to fight for the freedom of his people.

Janet too had become “a member of the pioneering generation of the fearless children of Mozambique who took the first steps in designing and implementing the foundations of our struggle against foreign rule”.

She had set an example of “dedication to noble causes, by agreeing to leave behind her comfortable life to accompany her husband on the thorny paths of our liberation”.

With the assassination of Eduardo Mondlane, Guebuza recalled, “the enemies of our freedom and independence expected that Janet would lose her enthusiasm for the cause of the heroic Mozambican people. But they were wrong”.

She worked with “redoubled determination and greater patriotic fervour, and, as a loving mother, instilled in her children the noble values that characterise the Mozambican people”.

“Janet did not vacillate and did not allow herself to be intimidated by those who saw in her virtues and her commitment to the cause of her people a threat to their own project to destroy the cohesion of our liberation movement”, Guebuza added. “Janet knew that Frelimo was her extended family and that the Mozambican people were her heroic people”.

He recalled Janet’s role in seeking funding for Frelimo’s educational activities. Initially the Mozambique Institute was funded by the Ford Foundation – but when, under pressure from the Portuguese colonial-fascist government, the Foundation cut off its support, Janet “looked for alternative sources of funding, and managed to obtain support from the World Council of Churches, from Sweden and later from other Nordic countries”.

The President stressed that Janet had also played a key role in Frelimo’s other social programmes, both inside Frelimo’s liberated areas in Mozambique, and among Mozambican refugees in Tanzania.

Janet, he concluded, was “part of that generation of dedicated young people who, under frighteningly tough, complex and difficult circumstances, where daily life was characterized by all manner of shortages, planted the seeds of our education, health and social welfare systems”.

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Post published in: Africa News

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