Friday, December 14, 2012

Investigation of Mozambique President Samora Machel's Death Reopened

Investigation of Machel’s death reopened

Friday, 14 December 2012 00:00

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s elite police unit the Hawks have launched a fresh investigation of the 1986 plane crash on its territory that killed Samora Machel, the president of Mozambique who was a
fierce opponent of the apartheid government.

Speculation has long persisted that apartheid-era security agencies brought the plane down to rid Pretoria of a hostile neighbouring president. But previous probes into the crash, in rugged terrain near the border between the two countries, have failed to bring to light conclusive evidence of this.

Hawks spokesman Paul Ramaloko said on Wednesday that the probe was being conducted jointly with Mozambican officials.

“I do confirm it and we are working with the Mozambicans on this,” Mr Ramaloko said, but he gave no further details.

Machel was a charismatic military commander and ardent Marxist who became Mozambique’s founding president in 1975 after the nation gained independence from Portugal, putting it on the frontline in the struggle against white-ruled South Africa.

He was killed with 33 others in October 1986, when the presidential aircraft, a Soviet Tupolev, crashed in mountainous countryside en route to Mozambique from Zambia.

The Times newspaper reported on Wednesday that the government had launched a new investigation because fresh evidence had emerged indicating the involvement of apartheid-era security officials.

Mr Ramaloko, asked whether the inquiry would focus on government officials or security forces under apartheid, said: “I really cannot say who will be implicated, or if they are still alive.”

Tension was running high in the region at the time of the crash.

Mozambique was in the throes of a civil war, in which South African-backed Renamo rebels were fighting against Machel’s government and ruling the Frelimo party.

In 1987, a South African judge concluded the crash was caused by pilot error on the part of the Soviet crew.

After apartheid ended, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission carried out an inconclusive probe of the crash and said further investigation was needed. — Reuters.

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