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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 500

Paragraph Numbers 35 to 48

Volume 2

Chapter 6

Subsection 3

35 The flight sergeant testified that such a beacon could have been used to divert and bring down a plane. The Commission was given the name of the person who built the beacon and the person who gave the orders for it to be built.

36 Two pilots flying in the area that night have said the Maputo signal came on unusually early.

37 In August 1998, the Commission was given the name of a person who is alleged to have erected a decoy beacon on the side of the mountain at Mbuzini. The end of the lifespan of the Commission’s Human Rights Violations Committee at the end of August 1998 prevented the investigators from corroborating this information.

38 Investigations also revealed that, had there not been an intention to bring the aircraft down, the South African authorities could have prevented the incident, or at least ensured fewer casualties. There is no doubt that the South African authorities had the ability to monitor the aircraft. According to Dr Minty, the head of the South African Air Force responded to an article he wrote for Amnesty International Monitor shortly after the crash, acknowledging that the air force had in fact monitored the aircraft that night.

39 Although the plane entered a military and operational zone (a “special restricted airspace”) which was under twenty-four hour radar surveillance by a highly sophisticated Plessey system, no warning was given that the plane was off-course and in South African airspace, nor was preventive action taken. A member of the Mozambican investigating team told the Commission:

I think it is reasonable to assume that they (the South Africans) saw the flight diverting from its normal path, going towards the crash site. And I also think that it’s reasonable to say that they failed all the basic norms and regulations of international aviation. Because they failed to warn the crew about the mistake which was being made.

The South African security forces

40 A large number of South African Special Forces troops converged in the area of Komatipoort/Mbuzini on the night of the crash.

41 “Ben” a former MI officer, testified at the section 29 enquiry in Cape Town that he had been based at Skwamans, a secret security police base shared with MI operatives halfway between Mbuzini and Komatipoort, at the time of the incident. He claims that a number of high-ranking security force officials converged on Skwamans for a meeting and a braai the day before the crash. They left late that night in a small plane and some returned after the crash had taken place. In a sworn statement, he provided the names of General Kat Liebenberg, Foreign Minister Pik Botha, General van der Westhuizen of Military Intelligence (MI) and about fifteen others, mostly from Eastern Transvaal Command and Group 33.

42 Also present was the Eastern Transvaal MI head, Captain Wayne Lelly, who headed up another secret base, Sub-station 4, which overlooked the mountain where the plane first hit. This base was opened a year before the crash and, according to “Ben”, was used by MI to interrogate cadres. “Ben” alleges that some of the operatives went to Sub-station 4 “at the crack of dawn” on the day of the crash. He also forwarded the names of some askaris and five reconnaissance force members.

43 Captain Lelly now lives in Mozambique and has confirmed his presence on the scene, but claims it was for another operation.

44 An independent source confirmed to a Gauteng investigator that Skwamans was closed shortly after the crash. Several other sources confirmed the presence and involvement of Captain Lelly and an MI planning commander.

45 Many other security force members confirmed to the Commission that there had been a strong presence of police and military personnel in the area at the time of the incident.

The wreckage

46 The Commission attempted to track down the scattered pieces of wreckage of the plane. It was decided that the Commission would assist the Department of Arts and Culture, Science and Technology in its effort to collect the pieces as part of their planned memorial for Mbuzini.

47 The main pieces of wreckage are still at Tonga police station, where they were taken after the investigation. Some pieces found their way to a game farm. The rest of the wreckage is at a scrap yard in Witrivier.

■ CONCLUSION

48 The investigations conducted by the Commission raised a number of questions, including the possibility of a false beacon and the absence of a warning from the South African authorities. The matter requires further investigation by an appropriate structure.

 
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