Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Some more of Machel

During March 1987, while employed as a Forensic Ballistic Specialist for the SA Police, our department took occupation of the 1st floor in General Lothar Neethling’s brand-new, ultra-modern Forensic Science Laboratory, situated in Silverton, Pretoria.

The new laboratory was somewhat of a showpiece for the SA Police, which was not surprising considering that the facility was, at that point in time, the biggest and most well-equipped Forensic Lab in the entire southern hemisphere.

With intentions of bolstering international support, and in the interests of validating the professional and transparent image of the facility, the various forensic units were encouraged to display examples of their “expertise”. The corridor walls worked quite well to accomplish that task. It not only added some decorative colour to the bare white walls of the new interior, but it also smoothed the process of escorting tour groups through the building.

The photography unit was located on the 2nd floor of the building, where they shared space with a fine bunch of colleagues attached to the Disputed Document Section (aka Handwriting Experts).

A portion of the corridor wall, directly opposite the photography unit, was adorned with an assortment of photographs depicting a number of high-profile cases. Among these photographs on display were pictures of the Samora Machel plane-crash incident.

It so happened that an Afrikaans-speaking lady, whose diverse duties also included the ushering of tour groups through the new facility, one day had the unfortunate experience of addressing a group of medical students, who insisted that only English, and no Afrikaans, be used during the tour. Yes, you guessed it!... The poor nervous lady then made the grave error of pointing out pictures of Samora Machel’s fatal accident, using a collection of English words she had no intention of uttering, but which spontaneously slipped from her dry tongue:

“Here we see wreckage of the aeroplane scattered all over the place. This picture here shows what we think may be the head of Samora Machel; that picture over there shows some more of him. We have some more of Machel, but they’re too ugly to put on display.”

And that is how the joke started, in the corridors of the Forensic Science Lab – roughly 6 months after the plane crash.

Rumours that it began on the scene of the crash when Neethling, members of his forensic team, and apparently ol’ PW Botha as well, were examining the wreckage, are as false as the rumours that Samora Machel's death on 19 October 1986 was the result of an assassination plot.

The truth is Samora Machel and 33 others died in the plane crash, because their Russian pilot was still under the influence from the previous nights boozing-spree. The pilot thus ignored the fundamental rule of aviation safety: 8 hours between bottle and throttle.

I thought I’d share this little story with readers, particularly in the light of the fact that Mozambicans will this week commemorate the plane crash that killed their president 25 years ago
(news report here).

The Nkomati Accord was a non-aggression pact signed on 16 March 1984 between the government of the People's Republic of Mozambique and the government of the Republic of South Africa. The event took place at the South African town of Komatipoort with the signatories being Samora Machel and PW Botha.

The agreement was that South Africa would stop offering assistance to RENAMO, if Mozambique stopped supporting the African National Congress (ANC). However, Machel only partially honoured commitments to expel various ANC members from his territory, with the result that the civil war in Mozambique, which first started in 1977, continued for another 8 years. The Rome General Peace Accords, finally ended the Mozambican Civil War in October 1992.

Every single Marxist-Communist in this country will continue remembering their ‘fallen’
(pardon the pun) comrade, and others like him, until the day every citizen in this country regards them as their own special heroes too, rather than the villains they really were. As far as jokes like these are concerned – the day will come when that too will be outlawed, because it hurts some people's feelings... Shame!
“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” - George Washington


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