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Author`s name Dmitriy Sudakov

South African Republic to rehabilitate Soviet pilots

South African Republic to rehabilitate Soviet pilots. 48857.jpeg

South Africa's elite police unit "Hawks" has reopened the investigation of the crash of Tu-134, resulting in the death of Mozambican President Samora Machel. Perhaps now, 26 years later, the good name of the Soviet pilots will be restored.

The news was confirmed by global news agency. A representative of the investigative group Ramoloko told Agence France-Presse that he confirmed that the Hawks would be investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident. 

The death of President Samora Machel of Mozambique in in a plane crash in 1986 caused a great deal of controversy regarding its causes. An international commission investigating the tragedy concluded that the cause of the tragedy was a pilot error. However, the flight engineer Vladimir Novoselov, the only surviving member of the crew, denied it. "I'm sure that this was not an accident, but sabotage. South Americans planned it in advance," Novoselov told reporters.

Indeed, the relations between Mozambique and apartheid South Africa were very tense. Samora Machel (FRELIMO) who came to power in 1975 after the collapse of the Portuguese colonial system, took course towards leaving the area of influence of South Africa and rapprochement with the USSR. The apartheid government strongly resisted it. From the territory of South Africa "the Mozambique National Resistance" (MNS) attacked local authorities, took hostages, blew up facilities. Given that these were the years of the "cold war", and that South Africa had better players behind it - the United States and Great Britain - Soviet specialists always preferred the theory of sabotage. However, documented evidence has never been found.

On the night of October 19, the president's plane Tu-134 was traveling from Lusaka (Zambia) to Maputo. Suddenly, 96 kilometers away from the airport, it turned at 37 degrees to the right of the course and 10 minutes later crashed into a mountain in South Africa, near the border with Mozambique. 39 people were killed. The plane was operated by Mozambique and manufactured in the Soviet Union, and in accordance with the regulations of the International Civil Aviation Organization, the investigation was conducted on a tripartite basis, that is, with participation of representatives of South Africa, Mozambique and the Soviet Union. The first theory suggested that the pilots were drunk, but it was later withdrawn. The Joint Commission has determined that the aircraft was technically not defective; the crew strictly followed the chosen course, with a deviation from the axis of the route at no more than 4-6 km, which is admissible. The weather conditions were also normal.

As for the actions of the crew, the investigation confirmed that it was in good working condition, fully in control of the plane, and had clear communication with the dispatcher in Maputo airport. In January of 1987, the South African government unilaterally decided that the final conclusion would be prepared not by the joint commission but the court that started its hearing on January 20 in the capital of South Africa. As a result, the Soviet pilots were found the culprits of the accident. The Soviets had their own assessment of the tragedy and came to the conclusion that the reason for the deviation of the aircraft from the course was a false radio navigation beacon located outside the airport in Maputo. Soviet experts believed that it was a deliberate and well-planned action to destroy Samora Machel.    

South African journalist Jacques Du Preez who conducted his own investigation shared this opinion. Du Preez talked to local farmers who were the first ones to come to the crash site. In their stories they mentioned an army tent they saw on the mountain where the plane crashed. It was located approximately 150 meters from the remains of the aircraft. According to eyewitnesses, the tent was deserted the day after the accident.

However, these findings were not supported by experts from South Africa, the UK and the U.S. who were involved in the investigation. South African newspaper Times Live reported that the resumption of the investigation was personally authorized by South African President Jacob Zuma on newly discovered evidence. As follows from the above information, the facts were known, but for obvious reasons hidden. Senior Investigator Dumisa Ntsebeza told the reporters that the Ministry of Justice was given 43 documents relating to the catastrophe that they have not been able to fully explore due to the lack of time. These documents contain detailed information, including testimony under oath to military intelligence (apartheid) of witnesses who took part in the creation of false beacons.  

Why was the investigation reopened? The issue was raised at the political level in the framework of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission between South Africa and Mozambique. Ntsebeza told Time Live that people were dying, memory was fading, documents were getting lost, and the time was covering the tracks. If Samora Machel was lured into a deadly trap on South African soil, it was a crime, and a proper criminal investigation must be conducted.

Both Mozambique and Russia want to know the truth and await rehabilitation of the Soviet pilots.

Lyuba Lulko


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