Sunday, November 23, 2014

Cover-up in Mandela pilot's crash: Mother

The family of Nelson Mandela's pilot who perished in an air-crash two years ago, accuse the SA National Defense Force of covering up details of the accident.

Major Kurt Misrole died with 10 other passengers on December 5, 2012, exactly a year before Mandela died.

According to a report on the SA Air Force website, "the C-47TP Dakota transport aircraft of 35 Squadron was on a routine shuttle run from AFB [Air Force Base] Waterkloof near Pretoria to Mthatha in the Eastern Cape when it encountered severe weather conditions on December 5.

"The wreckage of the aircraft was found the next morning, having crashed on a mountain top near Giants Castle in the Drakensburg mountains. All 11 members of the air force aboard were killed".

Misrole's mother, Beulah Misrole, said Kurt was not supposed to have been at work on that day as he had taken leave until January 2013.

It is believed the C-47TP Dakota plane was going to deliver medical support for the then ailing Mandela.

The plane had been in the air force service for more than 75 years.

A board of inquiry was instituted into the accident, and at a memorial service for the late 11 crew members on December 11 that year, Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said: "The investigation results will be made public as soon as possible..."

But two years later, Misrole is still fighting a seemingly lost battle to get the defense force to release the findings.

In her attempts, she even applied the Promotion of Access to Information Act to force the unit to release the report.

Responding to Misrole's request last month, defense secretary Colonel GJ Barnard said the report was being referred to the defense intelligence division "for declassification and/or masking process as no department of defense records may be released to the public without the said process".

Thereafter, it will be referred to the chief of defense force General Solly Shoke and Barnard for recommendations and to decide whether it should be released or not.

"It's a cover-up. I've done all I could to get answers from SANDF about the incident. I have even sent out an advert to newspapers last year seeking assistance and I'm doing that again this year.

"I've sent letters to the office of the defense minister but they get returned because someone is not collecting them from the post office. I'm not going anywhere unless they put a bullet through my head," said 58-year-old Misrole.

She said her research, which included talking to Kurt's colleagues, led her to believe the aircraft was not in good condition.

Ironically, Kurt qualified as a military pilot on December 5 2002, the same date that he and Mandela died.

"I believe something was wrong with that aircraft. It was old and had no blackbox and it's not clear if it had any oxygen cylinders.

The aircraft crashed at 11000 feet [3353m] and it couldn't have gone higher than that," said Misrole.

The defence spokesman Xolani Mabanga said they acted fairly in dealing with the report, adding that they needed more time to declassify it before it could be released to the public.

"The declassifying process requires us to look at the contents of the report and to ensure that we do not divulge information that could land in wrong hands," said Mabanga.

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