February 9, 2006

South Africa to review Samora Machel’s death

South Africa has announced the re-opening of the investigation into Mozambique's founding President Samora Machel’s death. In 1986 Machel mysteriously died in a plane crash over South Africa while in conflict with the apartheid regime. Officially, the pilot is blamed for the crash.

Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula has stated that there were indeed good reasons to look into the 19 October 1986 plane crash again. However, he refused answering whether he had been presented new evidence or whether he knew something not known to the public. He would only say "there is reason" to re-open the case and added that he had recognised that the official story behind President Machel's death needed revision. "We will deploy some of the best resources we have, human and material, to get to the bottom of that matter," he stressed. "We owe it to the people of Mozambique to ensure the matter is thoroughly investigated."

The news that South Africa intends answering the questions around Machel's death evoked an emotional reaction. Egidio Vaz, a researcher at the Southern Africa Research and Documentation centre, said that people still frequently made reference to Machel on political and social issues. Machel's legacy was strong as the liberator of the people from colonialism, and also for contributing to the destruction of apartheid.

Machel had died with 24 others in a plane crash, at the height of regional cold war and apartheid tensions. He was returning from a summit in Zambia when his plane veered off course and crashed in hilly terrain in Mbuzini, in South Africa's Mpumalanga province, near the borders with Mozambique and Swaziland. An initial probe by South Africa's apartheid government ruled out foul play, but Soviet and Mozambican officials who investigated the crash claimed there had been a cover-up, and it was not an accident. The possibility that a false beacon was used to lure the plane off its course has been raised repeatedly. A subsequent Truth and Reconciliation Commission probe into the matter was inconclusive and recommended further investigation. (Business Day, South Africa / afrol News, Norway)


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