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Probe into Machel’s death 30 years ago yields no answers

Cape Town – Investigations into the death of former Mozambican president Samora Machel remain unclear, 30 years after he died in a plane crash. 

This was despite reports in 2012 that South African investigators had launched a probe into the plane crash that killed him on October 19, 1986. 

“I can confirm the Hawks are investigating circumstances surrounding the crash,” a spokesperson for South Africa’s specialised investigative police was quoted as saying at the time. 

Machel’s Russian Tupolev airplane crashed into the Lebombo mountains, just a few kilometres from the border between Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland.

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An inquiry led by South Africa’s apartheid government blamed the Russian crew for the accident which killed 35 of the 44 aboard, including government ministers and academics. 

But some believed 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. 

‘There is no report’

In an interview with News24, Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi said a report regarding the tragic accident was sitting with the president. 

“The report is sitting with the president. However, I am not sure whether the investigation had been completed or not, as I was not here when it was being investigated,” said Mulaudzi. 

Deputy Director General and acting spokesperson in the office of the President, Dr Bongani Ngqulunga, however, denied the claims that the report was with the president. 

“There is no report. If there was a report the Hawks would have sent their report to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for prosecution if there was any wrong doing,”  Ngqulunga told News24. 

But Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa’s spokesperson, Lisa Combrinck, maintained that an investigation into what had caused the tragic plane crash was ongoing. 

She said that the investigation was to put to rest ongoing suspicion that the apartheid government was involved in the tragic plane crash.

Dark days 

“The suspicion that the South African authorities in 1986 were involved remains. Therefore an investigation into what happened is ongoing, but I am not at liberty to give out details. The Hawks are responsible for the investigations,” said Combrinck.


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