From THE BEELD newspaper today:
16/07/2000 18:03 - (SA)
Margo commission 'cover-up'
Philip de Bruin
Johannesburg - The Margo commission of investigation into the Helderberg disaster in 1987, did not follow prescribed procedures and there are allegations of a cover-up by the commission itself.
This information is contained in a report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which investigated the Helderberg disaster in 1998. The report is probably the strongest evidence to date that Armscor played a big role in the cause of the fire or fires which resulted in the aircraft crashing off the coast of Mauritius in November 1987.
According to the TRC report, interviews with various pilots were carried out and everyone believed that SAA passenger flights "were often used to transport arms and other Armscor equipment."
This information came after Beeld revealed that an American transcription of a section of the Helderberg flight recorder, which until now was inaudible, indicated that Captain Dawie Uys, the pilot of the Helderberg, informed his crew that there was a bomb on board the flight.
Since Beeld's disclosures of this transcription, and various other revelations, including that Uys was involved in a strong verbal exchange with a senior SAA official regarding certain cargo loaded into the Helderberg before it left for Taipei, the American copy of the flight recording was brought into South Africa very quietly.
At present sensitive negotiations between the American and South African authorities are underway. They are trying to examine this copy of the flight recorder to determine if they get the same result as that of the Americans.
The American tape is being kept under great secrecy in a safe on the West Rand.
The TRC report says that various SAA employees testified that it was not unusual for passenger flights to transport "suspicious parcels", presumably for Armscor. On top of which, members of the Flight Engineers Association indicated that the Margo commission "overlooked important information."
"There were allegations of a cover-up by the Margo commission," read the report.
Another important observation of the TRC is that the mysterious disappearance of the tape recording of the last conversation that Uys had with the control tower at the then Jan Smuts Airport, could be linked to the American CIA.
"In a letter to the TRC, a naval officer from America says that the CIA has a copy of this last conversation.
The TRC wrote to the Director of the CIA and asked that he confirm this information and make the tape available. No reaction has been received from the CIA," states the TRC report.
Also, as far as the Margo commission's findings that the fire that was caused by "normal packaging material" in the Helderberg, the TRC expresses its doubts. The TRC investigation indicates that it was unlikely that normal packaging material could have caused the fire.
The TRC also found that the then Civil Aviation Authority neglected to get hold of all documentation.
A lawyer who acted for the CAA, "as well as Judge Margo himself" requested that a submission from the flight engineers' association that there were two fires on board, not be submitted to the Margo commission.
The TRC also found that important eye witnesses were not asked to testify before the Margo commission and that the Margo commission neglected to let someone from Armscor testify. "It is clear that further investigations are necessary before this case can be regarded complete."