Armando Loureira and Rebecca da Costa (not their real names) married young. They both graduated cum laude in the veterinary science class of 1972.
Armando joined a British company with international agricultural interests, and Rebecca was employed by government. A son was born 12 months later, and soon, as owners of a small home and with doting grandparents living close by, they had lives filled with joy.
But this was Mozambique. A war of attrition between Portugal and FRELIMO (the Mozambique Liberation Front) had been waging in northern Mozambique since 1962.
Fortunately, being far from Lourenço Marques, the young Loureira family got on with their lives and paid little heed to it.
Then, in April 1974, the authoritarian Portuguese regime in Lisbon was overthrown in a coup d’etat, and Mozambique gained independence under Samora Machel.
He speedily transformed the country into a socialist one-party state, and abolished private ownership of land.
Then he issued an ultimatum to all Portuguese residents: choose Mozambique citizenship or leave the country within 90 days. Some 370 000 skilled people fled, resulting in economic collapse and chaos.
Born and educated there, the young Loureiras didn’t take long to decide. They were Mozambicans, and they would stay.
I met Armando many years ago. We were both involved in the citrus industry and our paths crossed from time to time, but I’d lost touch with him.
Recently, we met again, and he invited me to their spectacular home on the Mozambique coast, where we reflected on the past.
Their two children have degrees from South African and Australian universities, and have highly successful careers in Mozambique. Armando has remained involved in agriculture and plays an influential role in business circles in the country. They still live close to their parents in Maputo.
When I asked Armando what the secret of their adaptation to the traumatic changes and chaos after independence had been, he answered with one word: attitude!
They understood and sympathised with the frustrations and anger of the local people at the manner in which the Portuguese authorities had treated them, and identified with their aspirations.
Appreciating there had to be drastic change, they wanted to be part of it and to contribute. The disruption and chaos that resulted were more severe than they ever expected, but they persevered.
While they were discussing their emotions as life unfolded for them, I was struck by the fact that neither displayed any bitterness or had anything bad to say about anyone.
When I pointed out that Mozambique today remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with a credit rating far worse than South Africa’s, Armando acknowledged it, but highlighted the positives.
“Yes, Peter,” he said, “but without even talking about the colossal resources that Mozambique holds in minerals and hydrocarbons, the country’s geography puts it in a uniquely privileged position.
Its extensive coastline offers huge potential for more ports to serve neighbouring landlocked countries.
“We have enormous tracts of arable land and considerable water resources, which will allow for development of intensive agriculture. So as we develop a more educated group of managers and upskill our workers, we have to be patient, but with resources such as this, Mozambique’s future is assured.”
Compare this positive attitude with the negative one which so often emanates from South Africans, where political changes taking place pale into insignificance compared with those that faced the Loureiras in 1974. It was a humbling moment for me.
It’s time to be positive, get involved, and follow the outstanding example set by Armando, Rebecca and their families