Mozambican Talks to Apartheid Panel
Jun. 23, 1998
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ The widow of Mozambican President Samora Machel, who died in a suspicious 1986 plane crash, appeared today before a panel investigating apartheid-era crimes.
Graca Machel testified behind closed doors to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which says it has new information on the crash that killed 34 people.
South African President Nelson Mandela, who is romantically involved with Machel's widow, has vowed to find the truth about his death. Mrs. Machel was to share the results of her inquiries into the death of her husband, the panel said.
A 1987 inquiry concluded pilot error caused the Russian-made Tupelov plane, which had been traveling from Malawi to Mozambique, to crash into a hill in eastern South Africa.
A South African weekly newspaper said investigators for the apartheid government, who included former U.S. astronaut Frank Borman, found the Russian pilots ignored an automatic warning that the plane was approaching the ground.
In the minutes before the crash, the co-pilot was listening to a Moscow radio station, and the captain was trying to order drinks for the flight deck, the Mail and Guardian reported last week.
But Russian experts who helped with a subsequent investigation concluded the pilots were following a decoy signal they believed was being transmitted from the airport in Maputo, Mozambique's capital.
A Truth Commission spokesman, Vuyani Green, said recently that evidence links activities of the apartheid-era South African Defense Force to the crash.
Machel and South Africa's government had been at odds. Mozambique gave refuge to South African anti-apartheid guerrillas. South Africa's white-minority government backed a rebel movement in Mozambique that tried to unseat Machel's socialist government.