It’s more than four years since a South African Air Force (SAAF) C-47TP crashed in the Drakensberg, killing all 11 aboard. The families of some of the dead have approached a parliamentarian because they feel let down by the air force.
“Indications are no final information about the crash was ever given to the family of co-pilot Major Kurt Misrole and pilot Captain Zack Smith,” Kobus Marais, opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister, said.
The Drakensberg crash and loss of life in December 2012 was the worst non-combat accident recorded in 50 years of South African military flying.
After the crash Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, said it was “not right” the SAAF should be flying aircraft more than 60 years old. Subsequently, SAAF Deputy Chief, Major General Gerald Malinga, said the board of enquiry into the crash would take as long as was necessary to establish all the facts. This was in response to a Ministerial request for at least an interim report to provide closure to the families of airmen and other military personnel killed when the twin-engined aircraft crash in bad weather in the Giant’s Castle area of the Drakensberg.
In December 2014 Misrole’s mother told the Cape Times she had not been given answers by the SAAF as regards Kurt’s apparent medical unfitness to fly at the time.
Beulah Misrole was quoted by the paper as saying: “Why was he expected to fly on a mission when he was declared medically unfit for external deployment by the military health unit?”
A political aspect to the ill-fated flight from AFB Waterkloof to Umtata was raised in 2015 by SA National Defence Union (Sandu) national secretary, Pikkie Greeff.
Speaking at an international defence anti-corruption conference in Johannesburg, he said a preliminary report stated the flight deck crew were forced to fly in poor weather after they indicated the weather was bad and recommended the flight be aborted. Greeff said the officials who ordered the flight were not court martialled as they should have been.
The issue was also raised by previous Democratic Alliance shadow defence and military veterans minister David Maynier. In March 2015 he wanted to know why the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) had not been briefed about the crash, three years earlier, and why the committee had not had sight of the board of enquiry report.
Marais said he would “definitely” be taking the matter further and “demanding outcomes” from Parliament’s defence and military veterans’ committees.
“I will also be asking for the final report of the board of enquiry that investigated the Drakensberg crash. It is important for the families to get closure and for the SAAF to ensure similar incidents do not happen in the future,” he said.
SAAF media relations had not responded to questions about the board of enquiry and whether its report had been completed and handed to air force chief, Lieutenant General Zakes Msimang, at the time of publication.