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Saturday, July 18, 1998 Published at 23:22 GMT 00:22 UK

World: Africa

Graca Machel - profile

Graca Machel has a long political record

Although Graca Machel has married one of the world's best known statesmen, at 52 she has a record as a political heavy weight in her own right.

The widow of the founding president of Mozambique, Samora Machel, she joined the independence struggle, later rising to become a government minister.

Since the death of her husband in a mysterious plane crash in 1986, she has campaigned vigorously on behalf of the world's children and for human rights.

[ image: At ease in the gaze of the world's media]
At ease in the gaze of the world's media
Last December she gave her support to a commemorative programme marking the 50th anniversary of the universal declaration of human rights.

She defined her support as a part of lifetime commitment: "It is the meaning of what my life has been since a youth - to try to fight for the dignity and the freedom of my own people."

She is at ease on the world stage and, since stories of their romantic involvement was confirmed two years ago, has accompanied Mr Mandela on official visits abroad.

[ image: Nelson Mandela:
Nelson Mandela: "She changed my life"
Wedding plans have been a constant line of inquiry for the world's media on these occasions, but Graca Machel had a way of deflecting enquiries with a smile leaving Mr Mandela to comment.

On a recent visit to Britain he joked: "It is not something you discuss with journalists."

Now, with marriage apparently sealing Mr Mandela's commitment to retire from South African politics, it may be that Graca Machel takes on the role as the high profile partner.

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