Michael Wolfers (1938-2014) was a journalist and lecturer who developed a deep knowledge and understanding for Lusophone and Francophone Africa. As a student at Oxford University, he became friends with, and subsequently the biographer of, Thomas Hodgkin and it was this friendship that helped to alter the course of his life. He developed a passionate commitment to the liberation of Africa from colonialism and its off-shoot, apartheid, and became involved with Frelimo, MPLA and PAIGC in their struggle to free their countries – Mozambique, Angola and Guine-Bissau, respectively – from Portuguese fascist and colonial rule. The overthrow of the fascist government of Marcelo Caetano by a military coup, led by General Spinola, was very much caused by the unwinnable nature of these colonial wars.
When Angola became independent in 1975, Michael was one of the two British journalists, the other being Jane Bergerol, who reported from Luanda. The MPLA government was immediately attacked from Zaire in the north and by a South African army invasion from apartheid-occupied Namibia in the south. It was during this period that the Callaghan Government in the UK facilitated the recruitment of mercenaries to fight in Angola against the MPLA, and the offices of the Committee for Freedom in Mozambique, Angola and Guine (CFMAG) in London were bombed. The arrival of Cuban troops in Angola turned the tide of war on favour of the MPLA. Michael and Jane produced a book, “Angola on the Frontline” giving a detailed report of the war, and especially exposing the intervention by the apartheid army in the war.
After the book was published, Michael went to work for Radio Mozambique, where he was based for several years, working alongside people like Ruth First, Polly Gaster, Carlos Cardoso and Paul Fauvet. From there he went on to work at the University of Juba in the Sudan, and after that to work in Ghana.
None of this, however, gives a full impression of the man. He had a wide knowledge of literature, was good company and an excellent raconteur. His range of stories about the politics and politicians of Africa was unrivalled. This, of course, was because he knew many of these politicians personally, being friends with people like Samora Machel of Mozambique, Oliver Tambo of the African National Congress and Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso.
He will be much missed.