Hawks probing Samora Machel crash

2012-12-12 20:25
Samora Machel (Picture: AP)

Samora Machel (Picture: AP)

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Johannesburg - South African investigators have launched an investigation into the plane crash that killed neighbouring Mozambique's Marxist president Samora Machel 26 years ago, police said Wednesday.

"I do confirm the Hawks are investigating circumstances surrounding the crash," said Paul Ramaloko, spokesman for South Africa's specialised investigative police, which heads the probe.

During the Cold War, Machel's Russian Tupolev airplane crashed into the Lebombo mountains just a few kilometres from the border between Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland on the night of 19 October 1986.

An inquiry led by South Africa's fervently anti-communist government blamed the Russian crew for the accident which killed 35 of the 44 aboard, including government ministers and academics.

But some believe a decoy radio signal had deceived the pilot into flying lower than was safe.

At the time there was friction between apartheid South Africa and its socialist neighbour, and South Africa secretly funded a civil war to undermine the Frelimo government.

Machel's widow Graça, who is currently married to Nelson Mandela, has called repeatedly for a proper investigation.

Despite commitments from then-president Nelson Mandela and his successor Thabo Mbeki, recommendations to reopen the investigation into the crash were never carried out.

After the end of white minority rule South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission held a closed session into the crash in 1994.

Last week crime scene experts took "aerial photos and GPS readings" at a military zone in the eastern Mpumalanga province which sent aerial information to military bases in the region, South African daily The Times reported Wednesday.

Shocked by the death of their liberation hero and first president since 1975 independence from Portugal, the case looms large on Mozambique's national psyche.

"You reopen the wounds as you go through the details how the day started, how you were informed [of the crash], because there is no closure," Machel's widow Graça told AFP in 2011.

She married Mandela in 1998.

- SAPA

Read more on:    samora machel  |  jacob zuma  |  mozambique  |  southern africa  |  air crashes
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