Page 3 of 18|
link to Helderberg crash probed|
May 20 2000 at
A highly volatile chemical substance on board the Helderberg,
the SAA aircraft that plunged into the sea off Mauritius in 1987, was a vital
component of Project Coast, the apartheid government's chemical and biological
The significance of an apparently negligible amount
of the extremely dangerous substance was recognised by a former employee at Delta
G Scientific, a military front company, during the investigation that has led
to the current trial of Project Coast chief Wouter Basson.
investigation has turned up a Helderberg weigh bill which records the presence
of 300g of the substance.
However, efforts to make a direct link between
Project Coast and the 300g of activated
carbon shipped from Tokyo to Johannesburg-based chemical importer Mikem
Africa have been frustrated by the extraordinary secrecy surrounding the chemical
and biological warfare project and the destruction of documents.
activated carbon did cause the fire on the doomed aircraft, the legal repercussion
would prevent anyone from now admitting the deadly cargo was on its way to Project
But the Helderberg crash, which claimed the lives of all 159 people
aboard the Boeing 747 Combi, came at a time when a South African company was preparing
to manufacture 45 000 sets of clothing designed to protect troops against nuclear,
biological and chemical (NBC) attack.
The protective inner lining of
the so-called NBC suits contains activated carbon.
of Niel Knobel, the former SADF surgeon-general, last November, Basson's defence
counsel, Jaap Cilliers, said the activated carbon was so finely ground that it
"appeared almost liquid" when poured.
Even after insertion
in the suits, Cilliers claimed, the chemical molecules remained in perpetual motion,
and spontaneous combustion could result.
According to Cilliers, this
had caused a secret SADF depot to burn to the ground, destroying thousands of
Ironically, Cilliers also told Knobel that Basson - who was
never involved in the official investigation - believed a chemical fire had been
the cause of the plane crash.
The former Delta G employee, who does not
wish to be named, said this week that an activated carbon fire could smoulder
"for days - you might think you had it under control, but it would flare
up again, no matter what you tried to extinguish it with".
has long been speculation that there were two fires on board the Helderberg on
the night of November 28 1987, the first shortly after the aircraft took off from
Taipei, and another as it prepared to land at the Mauritius airport, by which
time all fire extinguishers on board would have been empty.
Margo enquiry into the crash pinpointed the source of the fatal fire as the cargo
pallet in the front right-hand corner of the upper hold. The activated carbon
is believed to have been on that pallet.
Knobel, who was Basson's immediate
superior on Project Coast, testified that he and other SADF generals serving on
the Controlling Management Committee "did not want to know" details
of what chemicals and technology Basson acquired, nor where or how he did so.
Because of the extreme sensitivity of chemical and biological programmes,
Basson was given extraordinary leeway, as the SADF high command believed "the
end justifies the means".
There has been speculation over the years
that the cargo which caused the Helderberg fire originated in the United States
and was shipped to Taipei via a circuitous route, including Tokyo, to disguise
Knobel is on record as saying Project Coast's "achievements"
would never have been possible without the clandestine support of foreign intelligence
agencies, such as the CIA and MI5, but has stopped short of indicating whether
such assistance was officially sanctioned by the American and British authorities.
One of the few restrictions placed on Basson, according to Knobel, was that
he was not to use commercial airlines to transport chemicals for Project Coast,
because of the potential hazards.
However, several senior South African
Airways pilots have admitted in the past few years that they ferried arms components
and explosives clandestinely on passenger flights in sanctions-busting exercises.
International airline regulations prohibit the transport of more than 100g
of activated carbon on any flight. The substance must be packed in a steel container
and the total weight may not exceed 500g. The 300g of activated carbon on the
Helderberg thus exceeded the safety limit by 200g.
According to scientists,
activated carbon is "highly and spontaneously combustible" when exposed
to heat and becomes explosive when combined with acetone. The Helderberg cargo
also included a consignment of beauty products, many of which contain acetone.
Mixed with liquid oxygen, activated carbon becomes a powerful bomb "which
leaves no trace", scientists say.
In his testimony against Basson
last year, Knobel said that in 1986 a company called Technotek was instructed
to launch research into the "special material" needed for production
of NBC suits.
In February 1987, just nine months before the Helderberg
crash, Technotek was given a multi-million rand contract to deliver 45 000 NBC
suits to the SADF over the next three years.
The company was owned by
Charles van Remoortere, a Belgian businessman based in Pretoria, whose father
served as deputy to the US's General Alexander Haig while he was commander of
the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in the 1970s.
The NBC suits for
the SADF were manufactured on sub-contract by National Tents & Sails.
Among the 61 charges of drug dealing, fraud and murder that Basson is facing
are three related to the unauthorised sale of more than 30 000 NBC suits from
SADF stores to a Belgian company, Seyntex, during the 1991 Gulf war.
Basson allegedly used the R10-million proceeds of the deal for personal gain.
The suits are believed to have been supplied to allied forces in the Persian Gulf.
for truth about Helderberg, says PI|
May 18 2000 at
|By Johan Schronen|
Margo Commission's report, containing the findings of the inquest into the Helderberg
air disaster in 1987, is not worth the paper it was written on.
hard-hitting statement came on Thursday from private forensic consultant Dave
Klatzow, who has a doctorate in chemistry, in support of dramatic new claims suggesting
the Helderberg carried a deadly illegal cargo of explosive chemicals.
The Helderberg crashed into the sea off Mauritius in 1987 while on a flight from
Taipei to Johannesburg, killing all 159 passengers and crew.
indecipherable tape recording of the conversations of the Helderberg's cockpit
crew has been electronically enhanced to reveal the captain had warned his crew
of a deadly cargo on board - a claim which had been refuted by Judge Cecil Margo
in his inquest into the disaster.
Dr Klatzow said he was independently
employed by Boeing to investigate chemical aspects in the Helderberg inquiry and
later, in 1995, by The Star as an adviser on the Helderberg crash. He said he
believed the Margo Report was a coverup.
"I did my own investigation
and spent several months doing extensive research into the findings of the Margo
Report. I was shocked by what amounted to a clumsy coverup by the parties involved,"
He said leading forensic fire investigator, Graham Southheard
of J H Burgoyne and Partners in London, found it was scientifically proven that
there was an "accelerated fire of a substance which had its own built-in
oxygen" on board the Helderberg.
"This proven fact does not
fit in with claims that there was activated carbon made from coconut shell on
board which, when ignited, depended on atmospheric oxygen and produced a diffusion
flame fire with limited temperature," said Klatzow.
of the Margo Report also actively tries to prevent the publication of a transcript.
"The Margo Commission raised more questions than answers," Klatzow
According to a waybill in possession of an Afrikaans newspaper,
the ill-fated Helderberg was carrying about 300g of a chemical used in the manufacture
of untraceable bombs.
Beeld said it had obtained the waybill, which indicated
that 300g of activated carbon was taken aboard the Helderberg sealed in a packet
which, in total, weighed 1kg.
According to the newspaper, Council for
Scientific and Industrial Research chemist Dr Wynand Louw said activated carbon
could be used to manufacture a bomb when mixed with a liquid gas.
published a picture of the reported waybill which said the packet contained "activated
carbon coconut shell, quantity 300g".
But Klatzow said it was part
of an elaborate coverup and that the time had come for the truth to be exposed.
for secret bomb on Helderberg'|
May 18 2000 at
Helderberg, the Ill-fated SAA Boeing, was carrying a kilogram of a chemical substance
used in the manufacture of untraceable bombs, a Johannesburg newspaper reported
in its Thursday edition.
Beeld newspaper said it had obtained a waybill
which suggested that one kilogram of activated carbon was in the cargo hold of
the Helderberg when it crashed into the sea off Mauritius in 1987 while on a flight
from Taipei to Johannesburg.
Beeld did not say where it obtained the
The newspaper quoted a Centre for Scientific and Industrial
Research chemist, Dr Wynand Louw, as saying activated carbon could be used to
manufacture a bomb when mixed with a liquid gas.
"A property of
such a bomb is that it would leave no trace. Nobody could ever establish what
kind of bomb it was after the explosion."
Beeld said that, according
to the waybill, 300g of activated carbon was taken aboard the Helderberg, but
the packet in which the chemical was placed weighed one kilogram.
one hundred grams of activated carbon may be transported on an aircraft in terms
of International Air Transport Association regulations.
a picture of the reported waybill which said the packet contained "activated
carbon coconut shell, quantity 300g".
The report followed claims
on Tuesday that previously indecipherable tape recordings of the Helderberg's
cockpit crew had been electronically enhanced to reveal that the captain had warned
his crew of a deadly cargo on board. - Sapa
tape a hoax, say experts|
May 17 2000 at
Claims that the pilot of the doomed SAA Helderberg knew
he was carrying a deadly cargo when he crashed into the sea off Mauritius 13 years
ago are unfounded, say aviation experts.
A recording on the cockpit voice
recorder of the Helderberg about 20 minutes before the aircraft crashed was not
audible to investigators 13 years ago.
On Wednesday, Beeld newspaper
published an excerpt of the tape which, according to a former SABC journalist,
Neels van Wyk, had been enhanced by an American expert.
On the tape,
the pilot, Captain Dawie Uys, is allegedly heard telling his crew that a deadly
cargo was being carried in the back of the plane.
However, the tape has
been received with some scepticism.
Rennie van Zyl, the chief technical
investigator of the crash 13 years ago, said the authenticity of the recording
needed to verified.
"You would have to convince me considerably
that there is new evidence, and that it is accurate and correct. The only way
we are going to know if there was criminal activity will be if someone owns up,
and it can be proved not to be a hoax," he said.
chief executive officer of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), said they would
reopen the investigation into the crash only if new information came to light.
Voices on the recording, undecipherable 13 years ago, still cannot be understood.
Abrahams said the recording was very indistinct and that staffers of the
actuality programme Carte Blanche, who were considering running the story, could
not make head or tail of it either.
Van Wyk has apparently tried to cash
in on the story, and is believed to have tried selling the story to newspapers
in the UK and South Africa for a sizeable sum.
The CAA said it would
also require a report from the US audio laboratory that amplified the recording
and would be interested in speaking to Van Wyk, who gave the recording to the
laboratory and then passed it on to the CAA.
"We are trying to ascertain
the authenticity of the audio recording and to verify the transcript," said
Van Zyl said Van Wyk, then a journalist at the SABC, had offered
soon after the crash to assist the investigation using the corporation's sound
equipment. Van Zyl said he gave a digital copy to Van Wyk, but nothing pertinent
to the investigation could be deciphered from the recording.
later, Van Wyk claims that once the recording had been enhanced, it was possible
to hear the pilot saying he knew they were carrying a deadly cargo.
CAA has a copy of the enhanced recording, as well as a transcript of it. Van Wyk
gave both to Carte Blanche, who in turn gave the tape and transcript to the CAA.
A commission of inquiry into the crash, headed by Justice Cecil Margo, was
unable to determine the cause of the crash. Claims had been made that the aircraft
was carrying dangerous goods, with or without the knowledge of SAA, and that this
had contributed to the accident.
SAA could face lawsuits amounting to
tens of millions of rands by relatives of the 159 people killed in the crash if
it was found that a dangerous substance was aboard the Helderberg, attorney Peter
Reynolds of legal firm Webber Wentzel Bowens said.
recording re-opens Helderberg case|
17 2000 at 01:11PM
Erika de Beer
The Civil Aviation Authority on Wednesday confirmed it
was investigating new evidence that there was a "deadly cargo" on board
South African Airways' Helderberg aircraft that crashed into the Indian Ocean
in 1987, killing all 159 people aboard.
The authority had not yet established
whether that could indeed be heard on the technologically enhanced cockpit voice
recording of the Helderberg, CAA chief executive officer Trevor Abrahams said
at a news conference in Pretoria.
Neels van Wyk, who was involved with
the investigation of the disaster and now lives in the United States, sent the
CAA a transcript of the enhanced recording, Abrahams said.
Van Wyk also
sent copies to some South African media.
A large part of the original
recording was inaudible.
Van Wyk gave a copy of that to the Forensic
Audio Laboratory in the United States. The FAL managed to enhance part of the
previously inaudible recording.
According to that, Captain Dawie Uys
informed his crew that a "deadly cargo" was being transported in the
back of the plane, Beeld reported on Wednesday.
Abrahams said Van Wyk
had referred the CAA to the producers of the M-Net programme Carte Blanche who
had an audio copy of the enhanced recording.
However, neither the CAA
or Carte Blanche had yet been able to corroborate the recording with the transcript.
Whenever new evidence emerged about an accident, the CAA was obliged to consider
it, Abrahams said.
The CAA's first task would be to establish whether
the recording had been correctly transcribed and whether it was authentic, he
The Helderberg, a Boeing 747 Combi, crashed into the Indian Ocean
about 160km north-east of Mauritius on November 28, 1987.
inquiry led by Judge Cecil Margo found that nobody was to blame for the crash.
In 1998 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had hearings behind closed
doors about the disaster.
Dr David Klatzow, a prominent forensic expert
who researched the cause of the crash, has claimed that the Helderberg carried
ammonia perchlorate, a highly unstable additive, used to make rocket fuel.
This would be used to make arms that matched the advanced Russian weaponry
being used against it in Angola at the time.
Sanctions made it impossible
for South Africa to import the arms, Klatzow has claimed.
to the TRC also set out to prove that there were two fires on board the Helderberg.
The first started an hour after it took off from Taipei. This fire was put out,
but the pilot was ordered to break the golden rule of landing at the nearest airport
to prevent a foreign country discovering the chemicals on board.
the second fire broke out the plane went down, Klatzow said.
In its report
on the matter, the TRC said that during the initial investigation, the director
of civil aviation (the predecessor of the CAA) neglected to secure all documentation
and recordings as required by the Flight Engineers Association regulations.
The TRC found that nothing in the cargo inventory could have resulted in
a "self-promoted" fire. "However, the original cargo manifests
were not part of the record of the Margo Commission, and it is uncertain whether
those in the possession of the commission are authentic.
is therefore no reliable list of what cargo was being transported by the Helderberg
when it crashed. It was suggested that Armscor may have had a goods consignment
on the Helderberg that could have been responsible for causing the fire,"
the report said.
"Interviews with SAA pilots indicated that there
was a belief among pilots that passenger flights were frequently used to transport
armaments and components for Armscor," the TRC said. - Sapa
decision expected soon|
Philip de Bruin An announcement whether
the inquiry into the 1987 Helderberg air disaster should be formally reopened,
is expected within a couple of weeks.
Minister of Transport, Dullah Omar, has
already been briefed this weekend about the FBI's latest transcripts of the contents
of the Helderberg's flight recorder.
A delegation of the task team, appointed
to advise Omar on the Helderberg inquiry, returned from the United States on Friday.
The team is headed by the advocate John Welch of the Pretoria office of Public
The team had lengthy deliberations with US forensic expert, Jack
Mitchell, who interpreted the contents of the flight recorder earlier this year.
According to the latest version the pilot of the Helderberg, Dawie Uys, refers
to explosives aboard the plane. The team also studied Mitchell's transcripts.
The team is also expected to comment on the authenticity and accuracy of Mitchell's
transcripts when it makes an announcement about the validity of the re-opening
of the inquiry into the air disaster.
The South African team concluded its
mission with a visit to Rennie van Zyl in Canada. Van Zyl was head of civil aviation
in South Africa at the time of the Helderberg crash.
Neither Mitchell nor Van
Zyl wanted to comment on their conversations with Welch, except to confirm that
they had both met with Welch.
Welch told Beeld on Sunday that he had briefed
Omar on his return to South Africa. "I can add that the visit [to the US]
was definitely worthwhile," Welch said.
Welch did not want to comment
whether the FBI endorsed Mitchell's transcript of the flight recorder, adding
that he needed to first submit a report to National Director of Public Prosecutions,
"We'll table the report within the next week or two.
And I'll probably speak to him about the content before then," Welch said.
The Welch task team was appointed after Beeld published several revelations
regarding the Helderberg, including Armscor connections, information that SAA
passenger airplanes were used to courier weapons during the apartheid years and
that Armscor delegations were hosted abroad under the pretext of diplomatic missions.
Beeld also received allegations that the Margo Commission of Inquiry into the
disaster intimidated and threatened some of the witnesses.
believe that the inquiry is most likely to be re-opened. Speculation over the
years has been that the Helderberg crash was no accident and that a massive cover-up
followed the disaster.