CHAIRPERSON: Shall I formally welcome you, Mr Braizblatt, let me formally welcome you to this enquiry. It's an investigative enquiry, it's not a disciplinary enquiry, it's not a trial, it's not a hearing and it is intended to gather information around the issues which I hope were mentioned in your invitation for you to attend. We are thankful that you are here and we have to apologise that we have had to cause you to wait whilst we were taking other testimony in relation to something else. Before you testify I would like to swear you in.

MR BRAIZBLATT: (Duly sworn in, states)

CHAIRPERSON: Mr Terreblanche?

MS TERREBLANCHE: Thank you very much for coming so far, you still live in Israel?


MS TERREBLANCHE: We have been in need to question you about a number of things. Can you just briefly tell us when you started your career in SAA?


MS TERREBLANCHE: And you have been Cargo Manager in Tel Aviv since then, and you still are?


MS PATTA: Mr Braizblatt, we have heard a number of witnesses telling us that during the mid 1980's there was an SAA flight that went over Portugal and Italy and then landed in Tel Aviv?

MR BRAIZBLATT: A passenger flight.

MS PATTA: Was that a weekly flight?

MR BRAIZBLATT: A weekly flight.

MS PATTA: According to some of the pilots and crew who were on that route, you as Manager was aware of some military cargo that was off-loaded in Tel Aviv, is that correct?

MR BRAIZBLATT: I don't think that they've got it correct, no. I think that what they're referring to are boxes, large boxed that were freighted on board the aircraft. I doubt very very much if it was military cargo. I have my doubts. Once again we can't know what type of cargo it is, there's no way we can know, we can only go according to what's written on the airway ...(indistinct) manifest.

MS PATTA: Right, so you have no knowledge of the cargo that you off-load for SAA?

MR BRAIZBLATT: Well, there's no way we can know what we off-load, I mean, we don't off-load it physically, Israel airport authorities off-loads the cargo. The cargo is then taken to the customs warehouse. We're not even allowed to look into the cargo, by international regulation, it's not our job to do so.

MS PATTA: Even if it's then re-loaded on another flight?


MS PATTA: Right. Mr Braizblatt, let me take you back to 1985, the 4th of June. A South African flight was standing over waiting and they were off-loading and one of these crates apparently fell out.

MR BRAIZBLATT: I know of that, I know of that incident, yes. I was called out to the aircraft once they'd already got the crate onto her belly.

MS PATTA: And did you see the contents?

MR BRAIZBLATT: I saw something there, I didn't see the actual contents because I only saw the part that was facing towards me when I came to look at what was happening down there.

MS PATTA: So what did you see?

MR BRAIZBLATT: What I saw was a metal object. I can't tell you what it was, because I - to be quite honest with you, at the time it didn't even interest me what it was. What interested me was getting the cargo off-loaded the aircraft and getting everything out as soon as possible so as we could re-load and go back.

MS PATTA: Now, as I understand, the pilot on this flight, Mr Flippie Loog ...(intervention)

MR BRAIZBLATT: It's possible that they saw things, - that, yes, because I wasn't on the ground or I wasn't at the aircraft belly at the time of off-loading.

MS PATTA: Well, Mr Loog told me that he went to you and asked you what - if you can confirm that this was a missile, and he wanted to know whether it was with or without fuel. You said that you did not know, but that they should not make such, let me just read to you this,

"I asked Jossie whether the missile contained fuel, and if so solid or liquid, after all, I was flying with it. He said he did not know. Jossie admitted that this was off-loaded every week. It was loaded at Jan Smuts and flown on the route Portugal-Italy-Tel Aviv and is destined for the military missile programme with Israel."

MR BRAIZBLATT: Definitely incorrect, I think that's very malicious to say a thing like that. Two things, no 1, as I said to you, we had large boxes, it's not my duty to look into these boxes and see what's inside these boxes, definitely not, I'm not even allowed to do it, that's no 1. No 2, to say that missiles were on board an aircraft, I would never say a thing like that, and I doubt very, very much whether the Israeli authorities would allow any dangerous missiles or anything like that to land at Tel Aviv Airport on board a passenger aircraft, knowingly, because of the implications involved should a thing like that happen. Just think for one minute, if an aircraft should have an explosion or a mid-air disaster, whatever, the first thing the Israeli's would say is, this is a sabotage attempt against a company flying into Israel with Jewish passengers on board. Do you understand the ramifications, therefor the Israeli's would never ever, as far as I know agree, to any cargo like that been placed on board the aircraft. There might have been military shipments on board the aircraft, but not of a dangerous category, they certainly wouldn't allow it. Another thing which, I mean, just living in Israel, I know, the Israeli authorities would never allow anything military to come into Israel by a 2nd or 3rd country because this would be already a breach of their own security.

MS PATTA: Mr Braizblatt, but let's remember the time, it was 1985, Israel was good friends with South Africa.

MR BRAIZBLATT: That doesn't matter.

MS PATTA: And it was a time when we were - we now know with hindsight we were defying the arms embargo, we have information about front companies having been used. It seems remarkable that Flippie Loog would lie about something like this, something he was reluctant to talk about initially anyway.

MR BRAIZBLATT: Miss Patta, first of all, it's highly likely that there was movement of whatever there was in between the two countries. It's likely, I don't know anything about it. If there was, I doubt very much if it would have been on board a civil aircraft because of the ramifications involved in whatever aspect there could be. Now I certainly don't know of any missiles, armed, fuelled or not fuelled.

MS PATTA: So Flippie Loog is lying?

MR BRAIZBLATT: I don't know. I am certainly not lying because I certainly don't know of any missiles that - look I'm also explaining to you the ramifications involved.

MS PATTA: Let me just ask it to you ...(intervention)

MR BRAIZBLATT: Just think for one moment of a passenger aircraft coming into Israel and something happening to that aircraft. In 1985 when we had plenty of enemies looking for Israeli aircraft all around the world and found a lot of aircraft bound for Israel around the world - the Swiss Air, the Swiss aircraft that went down over Switzerland, the first thing the Israeli's would have said, there's a sabotage against a civilian air-flight into our country.

CHAIRPERSON: Let's imagine, Mr Braizblatt, that the South Africans and the Israeli's were embarking on a joint nuclear programme, a programme that they didn't want the Americans to know about, a programme they didn't want anyone to know about, not if there were ingredients which they have to get, let's say uranium and all sorts of stuff like that, and even rock fuel, these would not be things that they would want anybody to know about ...(intervention)


CHAIRPERSON: But then wouldn't it be the perfect situation for them to say, let us use a normal passenger flight which is not going to attract attention, let's take a risk, after all this is something that we are never going to be able to do without taking a risk, if we are to prevent the international community of the eyes of the entire world knowing about it. Now, are you saying it is beyond the realm of possibility that a gamble like that could have been taken?

MR BRAIZBLATT: Look, I'm not professional enough to say it's beyond the realm, but what I think is - you're having said that, I think it would be stupid of them to take it via two points in Europe. That would be a suicide gamble in case the aircraft stays there for whatever technical reason there may be. It stands to reason that there may have been things, but I would think that they probably had them on cargo flights direct backwards and forwards, or by sea. But if you're asking me, does the possibility exist, the possibility exists. It's a very doubtful and highly improbable proposition. There were things like aircraft parts, but nothing - I personally never saw a missile and I certainly wasn't asked whether it was fuelled or unfuelled, and how could I possibly tell that it was fuelled or unfuelled?

MS PATTA: Right, now, you were Cargo Agent, and you've been that for a long time ...(intervention)

MR BRAIZBLATT: That's correct.

MS PATTA: And you are, I presume, responsible for the safe loading and off-loading of cargo on planes?

MR BRAIZBLATT: To a certain extent, but you must understand, we have handling agents that do the work for us, they get paid to do it. We also have airport authority, they actually load and unload the aircraft. They're professionals at it, it's their job.

MS PATTA: Right, but now I want to just put this to you, a week after this happened on the flight with Mr Loog, the flight of Captain Deon Storm came in and the same thing happened, a crate broke open revealing a long metal object looking like a missile. Now I just find it very difficult to understand why you never knew about it or saw it, being the Cargo Agent.

MR BRAIZBLATT: Yes. Okay, now no 1, I did tell you that I was called to the aircraft after the things had fallen down, because I'm not at - look, my job isn't only cargo, my job is passenger, cargo and operations, therefor I'm not at the aircraft all the time, I'm at the aircraft the moment it lands and the moment it takes off. In between those two times I'm situated in the arrivals hall dealing with passengers that have come in, problems with lost suitcases, whatever, and I also alternate in between the departure hall where we have problems with passengers that are there ...(indistinct). That is why we have a handling agent, to take care of all these matters. And quite right, metal object, I told her I don't know what it was. I got to the aircraft after the crates had been off-loaded because I was asked to come out, but I couldn't see anything, I could only see the profile of it, and only a slight profile of it.

MS PATTA: How often were these crates, the similar crates, off-loaded?

MR BRAIZBLATT: We're speaking about 1985, I think maybe - I tried remembering this myself because I thought that would be one of your questions, four maybe five times.

MS PATTA: During mid 1985?


MS PATTA: And later one, before that?

MR BRAIZBLATT: Look, we've even had big crates today.

MS PATTA: But we're talking about a particular ...(intervention)

MR BRAIZBLATT: I can't know what was in those crates.

MS PATTA: But we've looking at a particular kind of crate.

MR BRAIZBLATT: It's incorrect to say that, I'll tell you why. We, for instance, forward irrigation equipment. Now irrigation equipment as you well know, sometimes they have to forward them in pipes that can be 4 - 5 metres long, because this goes with a whole computer system and they're in very very similar crates. And at the same time one of the freight - one of the companies that was forwarding out to an irrigation company here in South Africa, he was forwarding these irrigation modules in small packets and they were coming back from South Africa for repair as well. We had one case where it came back from South Africa for repair, they couldn't disassemble the damn thing and it came back to the Kibbutz for repair. So, not necessarily, we've had this, we've had an occasion of a crate, but who can tell what's inside it? You know, we've had occasions where we've had crates that are, what, 1 metre 20 by 2 metres by 3 metres and then, you can't know what's inside them. These are boxes, they are computer equipment and things like that inside, telecommunications equipment that has to go standing upright, because you can't fold a telephonic switchboard in any other way.

MS PATTA: If something dangerous would have been placed on a flight to South Africa, I suppose ...(intervention)

MR BRAIZBLATT: To South Africa ...(intervention)

MS PATTA: Can you just listen to the question. If something dangerous, but packed according to Iata and Icao standards, would you know about it when such a parcel goes on a flight to South Africa?

MR BRAIZBLATT: If the Shipper would have declared it as being a DGR, dangerous goods, yes, we would have known about it.


MR BRAIZBLATT: That's why there's a Shipper's declaration. We would have known about it and the goods would have been checked thoroughly.

MS PATTA: How often did that happen?

MR BRAIZBLATT: During that period it didn't happen at all, but basically very little, because at that period our cargo capacity from Tel Aviv to Johannesburg was virtually nil. Now, why was it virtually nil? The flight as you were saying yourself, was going via Europe. We weren't given allowances for a cargo out of Tel Aviv at that period. Very small allowances were given for us, because our yield on cargo from Tel Aviv was a lot less than what the yield would have been from Rome or from Portugal, don't forget, Rome, Portugal is further away from Israel and therefor they were charging higher rates. We were trying to compete with out first competitor LL, who was charging rock-bottom rates. So basically, what we were carrying at the time was very small items of irrigation equipment, we had perishable food products, we had swimwear, ladies swimming costumes, that's what our basic cargo was during the 80's. We could have had a lot more, but we didn't have the space to have it.

MR MAGADHLA: Were you summoned to the spot where you saw the object which you say you only saw the profile of?


MR MAGADHLA: Now what was the purpose of summoning you to the spot, to inspect, to say what the object was, or to do what?

MR BRAIZBLATT: No, the airport authority asked me to come out as see these long objects, these long boxes that we knew nothing about, that they were going to be on board the aircraft. They said, look, here's a very long object that couldn't be off-loaded manually, you just can't off-load it from a 747, very difficult. Once again, I'm speaking about something that's about 3˝ - 4 metres in length.

MR MAGADHLA: Was there no interest in knowing what the object was?

MR BRAIZBLATT: On whose part?

MR MAGADHLA: Your part and on the part of the people who called you to see the object.

MR BRAIZBLATT: They obviously didn't think it was anything of any important nature, or else they would have asked me, but once again, I've said to you before, and I clarify this again, in my capacity of being out at the airport, I'm interested in three things, first customer satisfaction, on time performance, and getting the aircraft out as soon as I possibly can, getting it away from me so as it can start back on its roundward journey. We have got cargo handling agents, they're being paid to do this job, it's their job to see what is the matter, what goes on. If there would have been - this is where the whole thing lies, if there would have been something abnormal it would have been written up.

MR MAGADHLA: The thing is they called you. You say it's their job and why would they have called you if it was not important for you to see the object and also to say whatever you had to say about the object?

MR BRAIZBLATT: Once again, I clarify myself of what told you before, Mr Magadhla, the airport authority called me to show me the long object, why wasn't I informed or why didn't I inform them to have special equipment ready to off-load this object?

MR MAGADHLA: Okay. Now, you are aware that after that air crash there was an investigation by aviation people?

MR BRAIZBLATT: After the Helderberg?


MR BRAIZBLATT: Yes, I'm aware.

MR MAGADHLA: Were you one of the people who were approached to give whatever version you had to give with regards to the handling of whatever objects that went into that plane.

MR BRAIZBLATT: Into which plane?

MR MAGADHLA: Into the Helderberg.

MR BRAIZBLATT: I had nothing to do with the Helderberg, I was in Tel Aviv. Helderberg was from Australia to Mauritius.

MR MAGADHLA: The other object that we're talking about is not an object that had to do with the Helderberg, okay.

MR BRAIZBLATT: I don't understand the - I had nothing to do with the Helderberg.

MR MAGADHLA: No, it's okay ...(inaudible)

MS PATTA: Mr Braizblatt, why did they need special equipment, was it particularly heavy, or was it particularly long?

MR BRAIZBLATT: Particularly long. Now also, it doesn't matter, once you have a long piece, it's difficult to manoeuvre it around and take it off, because the high-loaders that we have at the airport servicing passenger aircraft are used for pellets, ordinary pellets, as opposed to cargo aircraft that would have a doubt pellet loader, that would be easier to remove from the belly of an aircraft.

MS PATTA: But you also said it couldn't be done manually.

MR BRAIZBLATT: It can't be done manually because we don't have 15 or 20 airport porters to pick it up.

MS PATTA: So it is heavy?

MR BRAIZBLATT: Anything that's over 200kg - 300kg, you're not going to get 2 or 3 people picking it up, you're going to need a lot more that 2 or 3 people. You see, what they used was a bar of a series of bars and they were manoeuvring it around, pushing it around on the series of bars to get it off sideways onto the high-loader, and from there using a fork-lift to take it down.

MS PATTA: I think you've answered.

MR BRAIZBLATT: Okay, I hope that's helped you, I don't know.

MS PATTA: Very much so, thank you.

MR MAGADHLA: This object that you say according to you was unknown, you didn't know what it was, what if it was a dangerous object?

MR BRAIZBLATT: I shudder to think of it, I don't even want to think of it, what if it was, I don't even want to think of it.

MR MAGADHLA: I hear there was an object which you were not made to prepare for it, and there it is and you are called to come and have a look at it and you are satisfied with ...(intervention)

MR BRAIZBLATT: Don't forget this is an object that's come from our head office, from Johannesburg. This is an object that was supposedly had gone through security and everything else. This was for me safe cargo, it wasn't anything else, it was safe cargo. Had it not been safe cargo I should have been advised. What you're asking me, do I question the authority of the people that sent me things.

MR MAGADHLA: No, I'm not saying that, I'm saying, if you had this abnormally heavy object that needed some kind of machine to lift it and you did not know what it was, knowing that dangerous objects are not allowed in the area of the planes, didn't it occur in your mind that, but what is this object?

MR BRAIZBLATT: No it didn't because ...(intervention)

MR MAGADHLA: Is it a dangerous or a safe object?

MR BRAIZBLATT: No, because once again, had we have known, we have to rely on two things, or I have to rely on three things basically. I have to rely on information that's sent to me, that information that is sent to me has to rely on Shipper's declaration, dangerous goods, what I told Mrs Terreblanche, we rely on this things because if we have to start checking every single piece of cargo, heavy or not heavy, that falls off a gully or falls off a trolley or whatever, we'd be there all day and all night. We have heavy objects, we have objects that are 2 metres in length weighing 1˝ tons, these are dyes, these are dyes or moulds for making things.

MR MAGADHLA: I'm was just asking because you are talking about the agricultural modules that came from South Africa for repairs or something, and that those, because they were modules they were not dangerous to anything or suspected to be dangerous, you have had occasion to know what they were exactly. But here's this one where you are called to come and see and you don't bother - remember we have said that those times leaving the story that you say that you had other authorities, other people dealing with that stuff, but you're also aware that those times were embargo times and things may not have been told to everybody. Now here's this thing all of a sudden, showing itself that there's something that is here and you don't know about, this is the context in which these questions are being asked.

MR BRAIZBLATT: Okay, Mr Magadhla, let me clarify my statement in regarding irrigation equipment. For me irrigation equipment was very important, it was important because we were selling the space for this equipment. We were selling space from Tel Aviv for this equipment. This was equipment where we had a local shipper in Israel, using SA services. So for me his stuff was very important and needed to be taken care of. I didn't want to loose a client, so when I knew that he was getting stuff back I was doubly sure to make - it was in our promotional interest to make double sure, whereas the shipments you're speaking about, there was not way that any of us could know the nature or the illegal nature if you wish to call it, if it was illegal, of what was inside. And it wasn't something that I could worry myself with to start checking what's going on, because once again, if the manifest would have said aircraft parts for example, or wings or things like that, or it would have said, let's say, commercial shipment or consolidated shipment or tractor part, or whatever, that's what I would have to rely on. That's what I would have to rely on, you see. If later a claim would come against us for anything damaged it would have been a claim for a damaged part.

MR MAGADHLA: Thank you.


MS PATTA: Were you aware of a frequent number, a significant number of misdeclarations of SAA planes that you say, for example, you say you had to rely on the cargo manifest, but the cargo manifest may say computer parts where in fact it was actually something that was misdeclared, it was something else. Were you aware of that at all?

MR BRAIZBLATT: From Johannesburg to Tel Aviv or from Tel Aviv to Johannesburg?

MS PATTA: From both directions.

MR BRAIZBLATT: I can vouch there were nothing from Tel Aviv at that time because I've explained to already.

MS PATTA: You know what was in the cargo going from Tel Aviv?

MR BRAIZBLATT: I can - I didn't inspect the cargo, I didn't open up the cargo or the cargo boxes, but our clients, I mean I know who I was in touch with, I was in touch with the irrigation company ...(indistinct) and there's another company that did a lot of work here with South African, I was in touch with Gottex who at the time were forwarding a lot of swimwear and general ladies wear, and I was in touch Aggrexco who was forwarding processed meat products into South Africa. Don't forget, we had a limited space, we weren't allowed to forward a lot.

MS PATTA: But you seem to have a remarkable knowledge of every other item that was on the plane, excepting this particular one which you ...(intervention)

MR BRAIZBLATT: No, I'm referring to cargo from Tel Aviv.

MS PATTA: I'm saying in both directions. You never knew what came from Jo'burg?

MR BRAIZBLATT: From South Africa, no.

MS PATTA: You never knew of anything?

MR BRAIZBLATT: Now, I had to go according the cargo manifest and it didn't basically it didn't even interest me, because, once again, we had a handling agent who was in touch directly with the agents and with the customers. We didn't even see who was couriering the things.

MS PATTA: As Cargo Manager, is not security one, and safety of passengers also one of your concerns?

MR BRAIZBLATT: Definitely.

MS PATTA: So were you not concerned that there was an object that might endanger the passengers, were you not even vaguely concerned?

MR BRAIZBLATT: From where, from Johannesburg ...(intervention)

MS PATTA: I'm talking about the specific incident that Flippie Loog mentioned.

MR BRAIZBLATT: From Johannesburg to Tel Aviv?

MS PATTA: Yes, you weren't concerned?

MR BRAIZBLATT: I don't know what you've saying by I wasn't concerned, I mean in which respect could I - I've got to rely, in other words what you're saying to me is, why didn't you tell Johannesburg that you had a dangerous article on board and why did they put it on board. That's what you're asking me.

MS PATTA: I'm asking why you didn't even bother to find out, your told Mr Magadhla you weren't interested.

MR BRAIZBLATT: No, because once again, we have our handling agents, and our customs agents. Had there been something of a peculiar nature they would have straight away told me.

MS PATTA: Let's assume they wouldn't have.

CHAIRPERSON: I think what we want to establish from you, Mr Braizblatt, is whether you had a process to deal with misdeclared objects.

MR BRAIZBLATT: From Johannesburg to Tel Aviv or from ...(intervention)

CHAIRPERSON: From anywhere. Particularly now, because there is an incident. You see, the problem is that all these questions are asked against a background of a statement that has been made by somebody who says, who gives a sinister interpretation to the events of that day. You are giving it an innocent interpretation, you say, well, an object fell, I didn't know what it was, it was a missile, I don't know if it was a missile. The person says you were specifically asked if it had needed fuel or stuff like that, it makes it dangerous. I know that you said that it's a malicious statement, but it's a statement that is there and for us, therefor to test whether it is that statement or your statement or evidence that must be relied on, we must test your responses, and I find it remarkable to say nothing else, that weren't you were concerned about the safety of passengers when an object drops out which may or may not be a missile, which may or may not have contained fuel. All you tell us is that your attitude was that, well, I didn't know what it was, I came there having been asked, summoned to come and look at it, firstly not telling us why it was necessary for you to be summonsed, but having gone there, when you get there, what do you do. You look at it, you said, fold it right back on, did it fall out and what is it, I don't know, nobody knows it, and you put it back. Now you must appreciate, therefor, that our problem is, there is a sinister interpretation that has been given on the events of that day. So you have to satisfy us that you did conduct yourself in a way that must make us reject the version that has been given to us.

MR BRAIZBLATT: Okay, let me try and clarify that, and I want you to understand this. The set-up and an airport is such, any airport, any aircraft that's handled by anybody, we have airport authority porters, we have our handling agents. Now, we as airline representatives unfortunately don't have enough of our own staff to be everywhere all the time. That's why we rely very heavily upon our handling agents. When I was called out to the aircraft, if you remember I said to you, they called me out to say, hey look at these long objects that were on board your aircraft. Nobody told me that something had fallen out that was damaged, the crate was damaged. I told you I saw it on the profile. Now at the same time what I'm saying to you is, everything is then taken on the dollies to the cargo acceptance centre. At the cargo acceptance centre it is then stored in accordance to size and aircraft and date that it arrived on. Now, if you're asking me, then why didn't you check in, it's a dangerous goods, for me it wasn't a dangerous goods because I didn't receive any pre-advise that I had dangerous goods on board. Now, once again, I rely on our handling agents, on our cargo handling agents, LL in this case, to tell me if something was bad or wrong, if something was cleared incorrectly, damaged. That's why we are paying them the money to do this. It didn't even dawn on me to think that maybe this object was a missile, the thought would not even have occurred to me, I mean, to think of a thing like that. Now to ask me, just think for yourselves for a moment, to ask me, Jossie, does this contain rocket fuel. How can I know if it contains rocket fuel, how can I possibly know, just think for a moment. I mean we've got to try and be a bit fair here.

CHAIRPERSON: Let me answer that question. Why would a person who was not running after us to give us that information, who was solicited to give an account of a story that has apparently been told over and over, a story that you also do not deny, only to the extent that it implicates you ...(inaudible) Is there any reason why the person, quite apart from being malicious, knowing how serious the ramification and the implications of that statement is, why would he say something like that if that a conversation never took place in the form in which it took place, according to him?

MR BRAIZBLATT: I found I'm now speaking as a person that doesn't live in South Africa and has got nothing to do with your present future situation, and I found, I don't even know how to express this, I found all sorts of stories going around about all sorts of things in order to do all sorts of harm to all sorts of people at all sorts of walks of life. Now, I would have remembered had I been asked if a missile had rocket fuel in it ...(intervention)

CHAIRPERSON: You see, the problem is that ...(intervention)

MR BRAIZBLATT: And at the same time, just like I'm answering you, it could be, I would have said, look, how can I know if the thing had missile fuel, I didn't even know it was a missile. I mean, people are trying to, it's beyond me, why, I've got my personal opinions why, it's my own personal opinions.

MS PATTA: These particular two captains were both former South African Airways ...(intervention)


MS PATTA: Pilots, yes, so they knew what a missile looked like. They were also highly concerned and ...(indistinct), so I would just find it very difficult if they did not enquire on the ground, was it with you or somebody else, to clarify what it was that they were seeing.

MR BRAIZBLATT: Did they clarify this when they returned to Johannesburg, did they ask as soon as they came back to Johannesburg what it was?

MS PATTA: Yes, they did. They also did so because they could get no clarification on the ground.

MR BRAIZBLATT: We certainly didn't know. Once again I say, look, we didn't know. If we would have know, we didn't know, there's no way we can know. I mean, look, with all due respect, I can't tell from looking at a profile and a box that's partly damaged if it's a missile, I really can't tell. I don't know whether anyone of us here can tell, I certainly can't.

CHAIRPERSON: Are there any further questions for this witness? Thank you, Mr Braizblatt, thank you for having come.

MR BRAIZBLATT: Thank you for having me.

CHAIRPERSON: And you should appreciate that we have a job to do and we're trying to it.

MR BRAIZBLATT: I most certainly do.

CHAIRPERSON: Otherwise you are excused for the moment.


CHAIRPERSON: I do not know whether you have any witnesses to call.

MR BRAIZBLATT: Sorry, I'm on my way if you don't need me any further. Thank you very much.

CHAIRPERSON: We'll adjourn for ten minutes which would mean we should re-assemble at 11h50. I'm sure the tea has gone cold.




MS TERREBLANCHE: Mr Chairman, we've got at court Dr J L Steyn, the former Managing Director of Altec and his attorney. Mr Peyaga who is now the Armscor Company Secretary wishes to sit in, do you have an objection to that?

CHAIRPERSON: Has he been subpoenaed. We have a big problem with that. Unfortunately the law is very clear, it's only witnesses who have been subpoenaed and members of the staff or the Commission who can and should be present at a section 29 enquiry. It's not a public hearing.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Mr Peyaga is however here as the lawyer to the next witness who is Mr Steyl from Armscor.

CHAIRPERSON: Ms Terreblanche, I don't understand. Is the person who you are talking about a lawyer? Are you a lawyer?


No it's not, it's a Commission, but you are not representing any of the people who are going to be testifying.

MR PEYAGA: ...(inaudible)

CHAIRPERSON: Does he have any objections to you being here, because if he had, then,

MR PEYAGA: ...(inaudible)

CHAIRPERSON: Are you adopting Mr Peyaga as part of your legal team.

MR PEYAGA: No, I'm not as part of Dr Steyl's legal team, but obviously because of the position that I have in Armscor and the fact that I have consulted with Dr Steyl, I am his lawyer, I feel that there would not be much of a detriment either to this case or the Commission's secrecy provisions if I am here.

CHAIRPERSON: I'm just constrained about the legal provisions, they seem to be parametery. I will err on the side of relaxing what I consider to be an irregularity, and I will not take it further on that.

This is a section 29 enquiry, it is an enquiry that is intended to be an investigation into the issues in relation to which who have been called or subpoenaed or invited to give evidence must provide us with information. So it is an investigation and an information gathering exercise. The law, section 29 and particularly sub-section 5 of act 34 of 1995 provides that all information gathered at such an enquiry remains confidential until it has been released by the Commission, subject to the requirements of the act. So none of the information gathered at this part of the proceedings will be made available to the public because of the provisions of section 29. It is for that reason that only members of the Commission's staff and Commissioners are present and need to be present at this enquiry, and it is also our placing that only witnesses who have been subpoenaed and/or their legal representatives are permitted to be present. I must state for the record that I am not satisfied that sufficient reason has been given for the presence of the other legal representative who is going to be representing a client who has not yet been called, but I hear his submission that he has consulted Dr Steyn, I also take not that Dr Steyn and his legal representative do not have any objection to him being here. I do not know if it is a matter in relation to it. I have a discretion, but having said that, I will play it by the ear for the moment. Let me just emphasise again that every person who is in these proceedings is sworn to confidentiality and it is for that reason the law is strict about who should be present.

The members of this panel, starting with myself, Ntsebeza, a Commissioner in the Human Rights Violation Committee. To my right is Mr Wilson Magadhla, Head of Special Investigations. And to the right is Ms Chrystelle Terreblanche, who has investigated all issues that are sought to be explored in this matter. And with me is Ms Debra Patta who has been contacted to the Commission and is going to assist Ms Terreblanche in putting questions relevant to issues that are going to be dealt with in this enquiry. There is also Ms Glenda Wildschut who is a Commissioner in the Reparations and Rehabilitations Committee, she's not here today, but we're hoping to be joined by her in the afternoon.

Before Dr Steyn gives evidence, I will have to swear him in.

CHAIRPERSON: May I just indicate that if it is in Afrikaans that you feel you can best express yourself, there is provision for simultaneous translation and if it is your wish that you should either respond in Afrikaans then you can make use of these listening devices. I don't know - we have translators there and I don't know in what channel Afrikaans is - channel 1. So if you are more comfortable with Afrikaans than otherwise, please feel free at any stage to deal with it.

I do not know how you propose to deal with the issues, Ms Terreblanche, I don't know whether there's a proposed statement that should be read into the record or whether the witness will respond to questions, otherwise the ball is in your court.

MR J L STEYN: (Duly sworn in, states):

MS TERREBLANCHE: Thank you, Mr Chair. I have invited Mr Steyn here to clear up a number of issues, the invitation read that he should answer questions pertaining to the relationship between Armscor and the Altech during the latter half of the 1980's and to provide details and answer questions about Altec's trade with foreign countries during the latter half of the 1980's. I do not know whether you have prepared anything in writing or whether you wish to just answer questions.

MR STEYN: Chair, I have not prepared anything in writing.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Thank you. Can you just as a matter of introduction please tell us how you came to be the Managing Director of Altech, where your career started, what your expertise is in?

MR STEYN: Chair, I am a Physicist by training and I have been working with Armscor for about 18 years, until, I guess, about 1990. At the end of that period I was asked to join Altech and I was not the Managing Director of Altech, I was asked to join as a Group Executive Director of a number of companies in Altech, and I did. After Altec I then also went on and joined Telkom, our telecommunications operator where I have been until last year. I am now no longer in the service of Telkom either.

CHAIRPERSON: You are not on the record.

MS TERREBLANCHE: The first question that we would like you to clear up, is the relationship that existed all along between Armscor and Altech?

MR STEYN: Chair, as far as I know, this relationship between Altech and Armscor was a normal procurement business relationship, I have to say as far as I know, because I was not directly involved in the procurement line, I was at the time in charge of research and development. So to the best of my knowledge it was just a normal relationship between our procurement divisions and a private sector company.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Would you then describe Altech as a private sector company that did the bulk of its work for Armscor?

MR STEYN: No, Chair, Altech is a holding company of a number of operating companies, quite a big number of operating companies. Some of these companies are in telecommunications, other are in information technology, other in defence work. So it was a conglomerate of companies, still is.

MS TERREBLANCHE: I now understand that you were not with Altech at the time of the Helderberg disaster, which is the subject of our enquiry.

MR STEYN: That's correct, Chair, I was still with Armscor at the time, if I remember, 1987. I left Armscor in 1990/1989 and went to Altech.

MS TERREBLANCHE: However, you said that even after you joined you had no knowledge that there was cargo destined for Altech on the Helderberg?

MR STEYN: I had no knowledge of that. I still have no knowledge of that.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Our problem is this, that at the time the Margo Board of Enquiry wrote to Armscor and asked Armscor whether they or any of their subsidiary companies or companies that did procurement work for them had an cargo on the plane. They made an emphatic denial. We now know that there was a number of cargoes destined for Barlow Rand, which was then not known also as an Armscor related company, and then two cargo which were from a specific pallet that were destined for Altech. It came from Japan, the assignment was set to be or labelled as fax machines, the other one measuring instruments. This cargo was never searched in Taipei where it was re-loaded and unfortunately none of this was recovered during the search operation. From most other consignments one or two pieces were recovered. There has been a lot of speculation over the years that some of the cargo that came from Japan could have caused - with something illegal destined for Armscor, I'm sure you're aware of that. Perhaps you can just help us how to establish, or to clear this matter up, how to establish what was really on that cargo and why it was not owned up to by Armscor or Altech.

MR STEYN: Chair, I couldn't speculate at all on this issue. I am aware of the fact that Armscor made declarations on this score at the time and I couldn't possibly add anything to that.

MS TERREBLANCHE: But you must understand that there is a possibility, quite a high probability now that that was a false statement from Armscor.

MR STEYN: I have no way of saying whether that could be so or not, as far as I am concerned, I cannot add anything to that.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Did you work under Mr Bill Venter?

MR STEYN: Yes, I did work under Dr Bill Venter, although my reporting line was not directly to Dr Venter, I reported to the Chairman of Altech, who in turn reported to Dr Venter.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Dr Venter, you are aware, was also President of the CSIR?

MR STEYN: No, Chair, Dr Venter I know is the Chairman of the Board.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Yes, I'm sorry, yes, incorrect. Unfortunately, you know, our problem is also that they did the tests, the CSIR did the tests to find out what kind of substance - or were one of the companies that did the official test, so there might have also been a conflict of interests.

MS PATTA: Since I have spoken to you, have you done anything to try and find out whether there was a consignment on the Helderberg?

MR STEYN: I have, Chair, had a discussion with Mr Wiehahn to inform him that I was invited to give testimony and I have of course searched my memory as clearly as I could. It is a period of 10 years ago, maybe 11 years ago if I'm not mistaken. There is nothing that I can find in my memory that would suggest that there was dangerous substances on that cargo. If I had known, even at the time - excuse me, let me put that right, I was not in a direct position to be involved in those matters in my responsibilities and there is nothing now that I could have found in my recollection that would add to that.

MS PATTA: But we now know that Armscor was in fact sanctions busting and that a lot of things were probably and most likely from what we have now found out, cargoed on passenger planes for Armscor.

MR STEYN: Chair, I certainly knew nothing of that and I certainly know nothing of that now.

MS PATTA: Have you found out what Altec was importing from Japan at the time?

MR STEYN: Chair, the business of Altech is a very wide electronics business. There is always components, electronic component systems being imported into the company or into the range of companies. I couldn't possibly say at a specific moment what they were importing and what they were not importing, but when you say that it was fax machines and measuring equipment, it certainly does not sound to me as if that is out of the ordinary for that business. That would be rather typical for that matter.

MS PATTA: Dr Steyn, presumably if Altech, according to the cargo manifest Altech had this stuff on the plane, presumably Altech would have claimed insurance, do you if Altech claimed insurance for the stuff that was lost that went down with the plane, it was expensive, it lost the company money, and could you find those records for us?

MR STEYN: Chairman, I have no idea what the answer to that question is, and no, I could not, as explained, I've left the service of Altech some four years ago, and I think the recourse would be to the company itself directly.

MS PATTA: Can you help us clear up the fact that, or to understand whether there was a specific relationship between Somchem and Altech at any particular time?

MR STEYN: Chair, if there was, I would be surprised. The businesses are completely different. I'm sure that in the South African industry most industrialists know each other, but I am not aware of a specific relationship, business relationship between Somchem and Altech in the latter half of the 1980's.

MS PATTA: Why are you saying in the latter half of the 1980's?

MR STEYN: There might have been before that, I don't know.

MS PATTA: I would similarly like to ask you, was there any specific relation between Altec and the Maritime Institute?

MR STEYN: Chair, there the relationship might have been more natural. The Institute for Maritime Technology was Armscor's research and development facility for maritime matters, and many of the equipment that they used and many of the technologies that they used were of an electronic nature, so that would have been more understandable. If you ask me, do I recall specific contracts or relationships, no I don't.

MS PATTA: During your time at Armscor did you know a procurement person by the name of Mr Oslo?

MR STEYN: No, could you be more specific in terms of the first name?

MS PATTA: I'm sorry, I've lost it - Barry.

MR STEYN: Barry Oslo, no, I'm afraid I don't. I don't recall someone like that.

MS PATTA: He died on the plane after having a very strange trip and Armscor has, until yesterday, denied that he was an agent for them. Mr Chair, I don't have any further question.

MR TERREBLANCHE: Maybe, seeing as you were a member where you were working for Armscor in 1987, you could just explain, the way Armscor would bring materials into the country, it was a time of sanctions busting, there was an arms embargo against South Africa, we now know with the benefit of hindsight that Armscor did contravene international relations, regulations and brought material in. Could you just give us a picture of the kind of practices that Armscor was involved in at the time and how they would link up with South African Airways.

MR STEYN: Chair, as explained earlier on here, my job was at the time, the research and development, and although I was aware of the procurement activity of Armscor, I was not involved. I would propose that you ask those questions to the people who know far better than I do, I'm sorry to be - I do not mean not to co-operate, I'd like to co-operate as far as I can, but certainly there are just people that know this better than I do.

CHAIRPERSON: And who would those be?

MR STEYN: Chair, my understanding is that, for example, you have Mr Richard Steyl here next, and I would say that Mr Steyl certainly is in a much better position to answer.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Dr Steyn, just one more question, I mean certainly as a person in charge of research and development you would rely very heavily on certain procurements in terms of reverse engineering which was a kind of speciality?

MR STEYN: We were at the time - I'm sorry, Chair, yes, obviously, but self-sufficiency was for us a very important aspect at the time so to be as independent as we could be.

MS PATTA: Dr Steyn, say for example you needed something for the research and development programme, but you could not get through self-sufficiency, it had to be brought here from abroad, how would you go about doing that, who would you go to and say, I need this stuff and, you know, what was the procedure?

MR STEYN: If something like that occurred, we would have specialist divisions for procurement in Armscor and I would ask my colleagues to assist me in the procurement.

MS PATTA: You would go to them and say I need X and they would do what, I mean, when would the stuff come, if you could just give us a little bit more detail?

MR STEYN: I would raise the requirement to my procurement colleagues and they would devise the plan and they would try and procure the equipment or whatever for us.

MS TERREBLANCHE: As a Physicist, can you perhaps tell us what you know about Ammonium Perchlorate?

MR STEYN: Yes, let me be clear that I'm a Physicist and therefor my training is not in the chemist, but I know that Ammonium Perchlorate is an oxydite, that's why I know.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Was it ever to you knowledge as a Physicist, used in a South African rocket programme?

MR STEYN: Ammonium Perchlorate was used in propellants, yes.

MS TERREBLANCHE: And what was the nature of research around that, or would you not have been involved in that?

MR STEYN: I am sorry, Chair, I am not aware of the detail of that because I was overall accountable for these matters, but I expect that with Somchem people would be able to answer that in much more detail than I can.

MS TERREBLANCHE: But as a person who was in charge of the kind of development, you would have known what the kind of priorities overall?

MR STEYN: Yes, Chair.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Can you just tell us, in the mid 80's what they were?

MR STEYN: The priorities for research and development, I'm afraid that that would take quite a lot of reflection, can I maybe take a bit of time to do that, I frankly don't remember.

CHAIRPERSON: Now when you say some time, do you mean - how long a time.

MR STEYN: Chair, I'm going to have to reconstruct in my mind as far as I can remember the priorities. I can give you a speculative answer now, if that's what you want, but I'm under oath and I do not wish to state speculation for fact.

CHAIRPERSON: I think that's fair enough. Now, I didn't get the evidence on where you were at the time of the disaster. Were you in Armscor?

MR STEYN: Yes, I was in Armscor, Chair.

CHAIRPERSON: You were in Armscor. Now, you will be aware that the Star Newspaper carried a number of articles around the Helderberg disaster.

MR STEYN: I'm aware of it.

CHAIRPERSON: Some of them were of a nature that protect in a great deal Armscor, you recall that?

MR STEYN: I do, sir.

CHAIRPERSON: Although there was legal recourse, it would appear against the Star Newspaper, Armscor pressured as I understand, to take the Star Newspaper to the Press Counsel. I'm not criticising, but is that your recollection of events?

MR STEYN: It is indeed, sir, yes.

CHAIRPERSON: Now one of the claims that were made, and I just want to know whether you are aware of this, was that after the crash, South African Airways and the Military immediately dispatched aircraft to Mauritius and in that aircraft some - quite a number of Armscor personnel were on board. Do you know if this is so, and they stayed at the Meridian Hotel in Mauritius?

MR STEYN: I don't know all the facts that you say. What I do know is that Armscor sent a small team of scientists from the Institute for Maritime Technology to help in the official search. Armscor was requested by the South African Airways.

CHAIRPERSON: Why was this so, why was this necessary, it had nothing to do with the Armscor, there was no official link as far as could be seen between Armscor and SAA?

MR STEYN: Chair, the Institute for Maritime Technology had a capability, I'm sure they still have, I haven't been there for a long time, to do the mathematics of search. If one searches for something at sea one needs quite sophisticated mathematics to do so.

CHAIRPERSON: Are you saying, are you suggesting that South African Airways didn't have their own capability?

MR STEYN: I wouldn't know, Chair. I know about the IMT capability and about their underwater detection capability, that part I know, yes.

CHAIRPERSON: Would you know why it was speculated, I want to put it at that lowest level, that the job of the Armscor people was to search for drums?

MR STEYN: I don't, sir.

CHAIRPERSON: Do you know that that was the instruction?

MR STEYN: Definitely not, I don't know that that was the instruction.

CHAIRPERSON: Now, APC, I do not know off-hand what it is, but it's the team that you referred to by Ms Terreblanche, the Ammonium Perchlorate. Now, would that be a dangerous substance in your expert opinion?

MR STEYN: I'm not an expert on the chemicals of propulsion, but I would say, yes, it is a repellent or it is one of the composition parts of a propellant.

CHAIRPERSON: Is it some sort of fuel, is it liquid or,

MR STEYN: I don't know, Chair.

CHAIRPERSON: You don't. Is it combustible, is it a sort or thing that might cause fire?

MR STEYN: Yes, I would say so.

CHAIRPERSON: And it would not be the sort of thing that you would normally expect would be conveyed and transported in an aircraft?

MR STEYN: I would not, no, but again, sir I ...(intervention)

CHAIRPERSON: Put it this way, if you were to take the decision, even with your limited knowledge of the components of this chemical, were you to be asked to convey it in an aircraft, you would certainly not choose a passenger airliner to convey that sort of ...(intervention)

MR STEYN: Definitely not, if you asked me personally.

CHAIRPERSON: Yes, I'm doing that. You see, I'm asking because the theory is, and this is where Armscor comes in, that what was being conveyed in that passenger airliner was APC and that it created because of its combustible components, a fire, the nature of which caused the disaster in the form that took place. Now, what did - it says if, let's just accept that that is the theory, what it says therefor, is that if the fire started in circumstances where the pilot detected it, the easiest thing for the pilot to do, would be either to land at the nearest airfield or to return to base or where they had taken from. Would you agree with that?

MR STEYN: I'm afraid, Chair, it is a subject of which I know nothing. I would be speculating if I would make an opinion on that.

CHAIRPERSON: Let me ask another question, if APC was one of the ingredients in your research, that you were to import from elsewhere to the extent that it would be used in developing the armourments ...(indistinct) by South Africa, it would have been in contravention of the arms embargo which was in place at the time. Would you agree with that proposition?

MR STEYN: I am really sorry to disappoint you, Chair, but I do not know the specifics of what the embargo did and what it did not include. What I can tell you, because I can see that this is a matter of concern for you, is that our propulsion industry at the time was a very very well-developed industry, still is and propellants of most modern kinds were developed

there and produced there to the standard of most international standards. I would be really surprised if there was any cause for this substance to be transported on aircraft at all. I apologise that I cannot be more specific on this issue, but I am very sure that there are countless people of Somchem that could answer all your questions as perfectly.

MS TERREBLANCHE: I would like to ask Mr Peyaga, we have made numerous enquiries about the whereabouts of the relevant people from Somchem, I'm afraid we're not very close to them.

CHAIRPERSON: I do not know that Mr Peyaga is in a position to recite at the moment, maybe at another time, for one thing, he has not been sworn in and for another, we having a witness on the stand, we either have to say we have no further questions from him in which event we should release him and then continue the next issue. Do you have any questions?

MS PATTA: Just one, maybe just one, I understand about APC and that wasn't your area of expertise, do you remember Somchem being shut down in 1987 because they needed to extend its production capacity for the Intercontinental Missile Ballistic Programme when you were at Armscor because they needed to do renovations?

MR STEYN: I do not remember shut-down, no. I do remember construction, yes.

MS PATTA: And when they were constructing, did this hamper the production of APC?

MR STEYN: I don't know about that at all, I was not aware of that.

CHAIRPERSON: Did it hamper the production of anything at all, I mean, would you be saying you were at full capacity during the construction period as you were before it?

MR STEYN: I was, Chair, not aware of any interruptions.

CHAIRPERSON: But you are not saying, you are stating your considered opinion as to what the production levels were?

What I'm trying to say, if we had it on authority that there either was a shut-down or an interruption in production activity levels, you wouldn't deny that, or are you saying you are certain, you emphatically deny that there every was either an interruption in the production or a shut-down?

MR STEYN: Chair, I want to be as explicit as I can. If there was an interruption of the supply, I am sure that I would have known and I didn't know about it.

MS TERREBLANCHE: One last question, you - I just want to make sure that I interpret you correctly, you said that after the Helderberg accident you were requested by SAA or the Maritime Institute was requested to help with the search by SAA?

MR STEYN: That is certainly my recollection, yes.


MR MAGADHLA: Thank you, Mr Chair. Were any of Armscor employees summoned to give evidence before the Margo Commission on the Helderberg issue?

MR STEYN: I don't know, sir.

MR MAGADHLA: Even those who had been invited to join the search in the sea, the area of the disaster?

MR STEYN: I don't know, I'm not aware of people being asked to give evidence, I don't know, I simply don't know.

CHAIRPERSON: Would you have expected that they should have been called, given that they had been officially asked by SAA to go and assist and they did in fact go to assist.

MR STEYN: I don't know, sir, I would speculate if I have to tell you that.

MR MAGADHLA: Did you ever get a report seeing that you knew that these people had gone there and that being confirmed? Did you ever get a report that in fact this was the product of their investigation?

MR STEYN: Yes, I know about such a report, I know about the reports that were sent in to Armscor about the findings of the team and about the work that they had done in helping the search teams to find the pieces of wreckage.

MR MAGADHLA: Was that report ever discussed at a level where you participated in the discussions of that report?

MR STEYN: I do not recall that, sir.

CHAIRPERSON: So you only know that there was a report that was filed, but you don't know what its contents were?

MR STEYN: To my recollection, Mr Chair ...(intervention)

MS PATTA: Excuse me, we do have the report.

CHAIRPERSON: I'm asking the witness, in fact.

MR STEYN: To my recollection, sir, the IMT, the Institute of Maritime Technology made quite an important contribution towards this search by helping the search parties with the patterns in which they searched, this was contained in the report. That, at least, I remember.

CHAIRPERSON: Do you remember, because you've got a copy of the report or is it because you discussed it at your level?

MR STEYN: I remember because it was due to a discussion at that level, sir.

CHAIRPERSON: And what was that discussion about, what was it seeking to say?

MR STEYN: I think basically there was satisfaction about the job that they've done. I must say that I'm struggling to remember the exact content. There was also some aspect of the underwater detection that was not as satisfying as they'd hoped for. If I remember correctly, and here I must confess that my memory is not crisp, the wreckage pieces was on a very great depth and this caused a problem for the team.

CHAIRPERSON: Now at the time that this report was being discussed, was there already a speculation about the possibility of the plane ever being caused by, not only the fire on board, but also by that fire being caused by a combustible substance that may have irregularly carried on that flight? Was that discussed as part of that analysis of the report?

MR STEYN: I don't remember that.

CHAIRPERSON: You are not saying that it never was discussed, for instance where it could be said, look we have found no evidence that the fire was caused by a combustible substance that was - because we went there, we searched, we got the parts and they were analysed, they were subjected to forensic tests and all that and there is no way in which that theory can be confirmed. Was there a discussion of that nature in the ...(intervention)

MR STEYN: I don't remember such a discussion, Chair, and it might be my poor memory or it might just be that that came out after the fact.


MR MAGADHLA: In view of the fact that certain reports in the Press at the time, I think one of which led to the complaint by Armscor to the Press Counsel. According to your knowledge, did the investigation into the disaster itself extend to certain officials of Armscor, where certain officials of Armscor approached you with a view to ascertaining from them as to whether there was any involvement by Armscor or not?

MR STEYN: Chair, I'd like to understand the question as well, this investigation ...(intervention)

MR MAGADHLA: There was the Margo Investigation, the Margo Commission, now did that extend to certain officials of Armscor being asked questions as to whether or not they had anything to do with the disaster itself, or whether having material, dangerous material loaded into the aircraft?

MR STEYN: Thank you for clarifying that. I don't remember, I cannot recall about Armscor officials being part of this, but of course for our Chief Executive Officer, Mr ...(inaudible), I do remember that Mr van Vuuren of course made sure that that matter was investigated to make sure that there was nothing that could possibly have been involved in Armscor.

MR MAGADHLA: Was that an internal investigation by Armscor?

MR STEYN: As far as I know, yes.

MR MAGADHLA: Could it have been then that that report would have formed part of, or would have been present to the Commission as the version of the happenings by Armscor?

MR STEYN: It could have been, Mr Chair, I simply don't know.

MR MAGADHLA: Thank you.

CHAIRPERSON: Any further questions?

MS TERREBLANCHE: No further questions, I would just like to make an appeal to Dr Steyn that if he can have a bit of a memory about the priorities at the time if he can send us such a short list, just to make sure that we thoroughly canvassed everything.

MR STEYN: Chair, I'd gladly do that with the understanding that what you will get is the recollection of a retired man of 11 years ago. I trust that you will understand.

CHAIRPERSON: We'll take that into account.

MR STEYN: Thank you, sir.

CHAIRPERSON: May I take the opportunity then to thank you for having come. I don't even think the notice was sufficient, but you and your attorney found it possible to come. It's a job that we're not enjoying doing, not only because of the circumstances, and the tragedy that accompanied these events, but also because we have to do it in circumstances where we've go all sorts of constraints, time constraints, capacity constraints, but there is a persistent cry from those who suffered great losses that an attempt must be again done in order to try and see if no further light can be thrown on this tragedy. Thank you very much.

MR STEYN: Chair, thank you, we - I certainly personally respect the work that you are doing, thank you.

CHAIRPERSON: You're welcome, Dr Steyn. Ms Terreblanche?


MS TERREBLANCHE: I was hoping before lunch to call Mr Peyaga's client, Mr Richard Steyl.

CHAIRPERSON: Can we - is lunch ready?

MS TERREBLANCHE: I don't believe so, we have not been informed, I can have a look, but we do have two more witnesses that have time constraints and, but I can check quickly if lunch is ready.

CHAIRPERSON: I was going to propose that we take lunch now, but we come back at 13h30/13h45.

MR STEYN: Mr Chairman, may I be excused?

CHAIRPERSON: You are excused, thank you.

MS TERREBLANCHE: But we must just establish if lunch is there.

CHAIRPERSON: Yes, we'll adjourn for one minute for you to do what you have to do.

We will now adjourn and Ms Terreblanche, you must make sure that our guests are called to lunch and until 13h30 or such time, or so soon thereafter as it becomes necessary.



CHAIRPERSON: This is a resumption of a section 29 process, an investigative enquiry held in terms of section 29 of the promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, 34 of 1995. I have already welcomed your legal representative, Mr Steyl, but I welcome him now formally as your legal representative and I will ask you to place yourself on the record.

MR STEYL: I am Richard David Steyl from Pretoria.

CHAIRPERSON: Mr Peyaga, if you could place yourself on the record.

MR PEYAGA: My name is Elias Machodi Peyaga and I'm representing Mr Steyl. Mr Steyl would prefer to give his testimony in Afrikaans.

CHAIRPERSON: Mr Steyl I have to swear you in, so if you will stand, thank you.

JOHAN LODEWIKUS STEYL: (Duly sworn in, states):

CHAIRPERSON: There is a facility, you have it in your hands, I'm sure Afrikaans is on channel 1 and I'm sure even as I speak you will be hearing the Afrikaans translation getting into your ears, do you hear it.

MR STEYL: Not yet.

CHAIRPERSON: Do you hear anything?

MR STEYL: Yes, thank you, I can hear now.

CHAIRPERSON: Okay so it appears that the Afrikaans is on channel 2, well, I don't know, both English and Afrikaans are on channel 2, the engineers must please put us on track. I want to make sure that the Afrikaans version is getting through.

MR STEYL: Yes, I can.

CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. The witness has been sworn in.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Thank you, Mr Chair. Welcome Mr Steyl, Mr Peyaga. Mr Steyl thank you for coming here, we've called you here with a very broad outline to answer questions about procurement during 1980's. Can you just tell us a little bit about your career in Armscor.

MR STEYL: Honourable Chairperson, I joined Armscor in 1978 and the first three or four years I did administrative duties in the foreign trade department of Armscor, and in 1981 I became involved in the shipping section of Armscor and this responsibility I kept throughout my career there, up to the present day. So, to sum up, my duties were foreign trade and the specific responsibility of shipping services, and the shipping services included the importation of goods and also exportation of goods, that is procurement, foreign procurement.

MS TERREBLANCHE: During 1987 when the unfortunate Helderberg disaster took place you were involved in shipping?


MS TERREBLANCHE: Do you have any knowledge of any Armscor device or devices which were carried by means of passenger liners or passenger planes or by means of civil aviation methods?

MR STEYL: I'd like to answer you as follows, the imports, as far as imports were concerned, our department in Armscor only did the customs clearance, in other words we did place cargo on board of planes or ships, but as soon as the cargo arrived in Cape Town Harbour or Durban Harbour, we would then do the necessary customs clearance. These clearances were done as follows, importers with the Armscor departments or Armscor contractors or Armscor subsidiaries, if they had cargo on board a plane or a ship, they would give us the instruction that the cargo would be arriving on a specific flight or a specific ship and that we had to make arrangements for the necessary customs clearance and we would have to take charge of the domestic supply.

Now the answer your question, when the Helderberg disaster took place, our department had had no request to clear any cargo on board the Helderberg. We monitored the situation, because I had received instruction from my superiors to ascertain whether there had been such cargo on board and we monitored it for weeks afterwards to find out whether there had been any loading bill document which could perhaps confirm that there was cargo on board the Helderberg, no such document emerged or there was not such request, that's why I told you I did not have any knowledge of any cargo on board Helderberg and it is also our policy and our view that we would comply with all the IATA rules and that if there had been cargo on board the plane, it would have been permissible cargo and not non-permissible cargo.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Thank you for that answer, I would like to find out more specifically, were you aware of any circumstances where Armscor made use of civil aviation either as a result of sanctions busting or on a basis or urgency, are you aware of any cargo which entered the country by means of a civil aviation plane which fell into the dangerous category?

MR STEYL: No, definitely not, I'm not aware of any cargo which was unlawfully placed on a civil passenger plane. A lot of cargo came in and 99% of these consignments which came in consisted of normal commercial cargo, whether spare parts, electronic equipment or whatever, which had no connection with explosives or ammunition. If it was allowed and allowed to be loaded in terms of IATA rules we would have given that permission, we would never have given permission for loading stuff outside of the IATA rules.

MS TERREBLANCHE: But you worked for a specific department, and you say that other Armscor departments usually asked that things be loaded?


MS TERREBLANCHE: So who did the actual shipping?

MR STEYL: No, let me correct that, they didn't ask the permission, we did the clearance, in other words, if contractors or subsidiaries of Armscor loaded cargo on planes or ships, I didn't know about it until the cargo actually arrived.

MS PATTA: Are you happy that the affilliators of Armscor was in all ways above board in terms of what you required and the way that things should have been shipped?

MR STEYL: I'd like to answer you as follows, it was a subject which was hotly discussed at the time and I'm talking about the era before the Helderberg disaster. The two subjects which were quite sensitively addressed in this group was, not to place any impermissible cargo on board passenger liners or IATA liners or planes and at that stage the State departments only paid import duties on the consignments coming in, and the other point that was emphasised at the time was that employees were not allowed to include any personal cargo in State consignments for obvious tax purposes. So these two issues were always raised at each and every seminar and conference and I believe that we did everything in our power to ensure that that did not happen. If anybody had done that, any member of staff, he would be acting of his own accord and we might not have known about it, but I can't believe that such a thing happened.

MS TERREBLANCHE: So it never came to light that any member of staff did such a thing?

MR STEYL: As far as I'm aware, it never came to light that any such a thing happened.

MS PATTA: Mr Steyl, we have information from a pilot, a captain Jimmy Hippert who was flying from Spain and a Foreign Affairs official approached him and asked him to bring a package for his wife as a birthday present, it was wrapped up as a birthday present. He said it was valuable glass, "waardevolle glass" was the words that were used. He didn't believe this because it wasn't heavy enough and he opened it and inside he found Nitro-glycerine which he was being asked to take in. And when he complained to the Airline, he was visited by South African Security Officials and said that he should not interfere in this at all. I mean, there we have one small example of, Nitro-glycerine is a dangerous substance, which was being illegally smuggled. Do you expect us to believe that at the time of the arms embargo that when South Africa was battling to develop its own programmed, missile programmes and other such things in South Africa, that nothing was ever illegally transported into the country. How did you manage to the stuff then?

MR STEYL: It is very difficult to comment on that because if that was an individual involved in that instance, and my responsibility was official consignments, so if that happened it's strange that there wasn't the necessary follow-up action taken to expose that person to Armscor to prove that that person was busy with an illegal transaction. I can't comment on that because I'm not aware of any such an incident. To further answer your question, we obviously had many consignments which could not be transported on passenger planes and then we made use of ships and we went as far as hiring ships where we did the chartering of the ship, we hired the entire ship to be able to get the freight here. So there ways and means to transport sensitive cargo imported into the country, so it wasn't necessary to import these things on board a passenger plane. I'm not aware of any such incident.

MS PATTA: Mr Steyl, you testified a minute ago that after the Helderberg went down your superiors actually asked you to monitor the situation, why would they do that if you never transported those kinds of substances on planes? Surely that implies that there must have been some kind of suspicion in Armscor that you were in fact doing that kind of thing and that it was quite possible that Armscor could have had stuff on the Helderberg?

MR STEYL: I can't think that there was a specific suspicion. I saw it as a normal procedure that after the accident Armscor was visited by security personnel, they asked us certain questions, they asked us whether we'd been aware of any cargo whatsoever, dangerous or non-dangerous, any cargo, whether Armscor had any cargo on board, and that's why we were so very keen to make sure that if there was something we would find out what it was and who had loaded it, or to find out whether perhaps there was no cargo. And I can say with certainty we didn't find anything.

MS PATTA: But there was even - you entertained the possibility that you might have had cargo on the plane? You didn't just say to us, there's not ways, we'd never do anything like that, you entertained the possibility.

MR STEYL: I can answer you in this way, in Armscor in the shipping department, we acted in good faith and I think one could say that perhaps one did have the fear that somebody in his individual capacity, his personal capacity had perhaps done something. We believe that he didn't, but it could have been a person who in his personal capacity did such a thing, and we had to ascertain that at all costs, but we couldn't ascertain that.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Armscor in those days had many private agents, what I mean by that, is people who on a once-off basis or a couple of times did foreign procurement, is that not so?

MR STEYL: That is correct. I checked, when we looked at the enquiry or when we tried to determine whether there was anything, we in that time, 1987, when the disaster took place, we handled about ±20 customs clearances per day. In other words 20 imports per day were dealt with. That gives us about 400 imports per month. Now, the biggest portion of that, and I refer to a percentage of 98/99%, came from contractors appointed by Armscor, subsidiaries of Armscor and a small percentage of that was stuff which Armscor imported directly. In other words your statement is correct, there were many agents and many contractors.

MS TERREBLANCHE: I'm also referring to individuals like Mr Oslo who died in the Helderberg disaster.

MR STEYL: Because I did not deal with foreign procurement directly or deal directly with agents, I'm assuming that there were agents, but I can't tell you who they were and how many there were and what exactly they did.

CHAIRPERSON: Any questions, Mr Magadhla?

MR MAGADHLA: Mr Steyl, would you reject out of hand any suggestion that during those years the South African Authorities or the South African Government was involved in sanction busting together with their allies world-wide?

MR STEYL: Honourable Chairperson, I would like to believe that in my capacity in Armscor that there would not have been cases where we as Armscor or as the Government had committed any malicious acts such as for instance placing cargo on board a passenger liner, what individuals might or might not have done I can't comment on, but officially I have to say, I believe no, the answer is no.

MR MAGADHLA: You're saying according to yourself there were no sanction busting by the South African Government?

MR STEYL: I'm sorry, I misunderstood you.

MR MAGADHLA: The question was, would you reject out of hand any idea or any suggestion that South Africa did embark on sanction busting during those years together or in conjunction with their allies somewhere else?

MR STEYL: Honourable Chairperson, I must answer that positively, I do believe that there were agreements with other countries and I think those other countries did help our Government.

MR MAGADHLA: Now, besides shipments and besides freights using airways to convey whatever stuff between South Africa and her allies in that sanction busting - in those sanction busting operations or undertakings, how else would it have been done according to your thinking or your understanding?

MR STEYL: I would as I answered just now, there were countries who helped us with certain venting of sanctions and if there weren't countries then there were individuals in countries who provided in-user certificates whereby certain procurement functions were complied with or fulfilled. Am I perhaps answering your question, perhaps you should just repeat the question.

MR MAGADHLA: To an extent you are, but what I'm driving at is that we are talking about the Helderberg and as you have conceded that after the Helderberg incident there was some kind of an investigation even by yourselves. Now, the popular suggestion and suspicion is that on that plane there was a dangerous cargo that was loaded from Taipei. Now, that would have been cargo which would have had to do either with Armscor or Armscor subsidiaries. The question is in the context of that incident, now you are saying there could have been individuals and there could have been agents and there could have been whoever, but I'm saying whoever it could have been, how could they have carried out, helped South Africa without having to use ships or aeroplanes?

MR STEYL: Chairperson, the countries that helped South Africa and of which I was aware, in those countries there were very strict security measures. Firstly to not reveal and make public the fact that a particular country helped us, it was handled in a very sensitive way. In those cases their security people, the country that was helping us, their security personnel and our own security people co-operated very closely to deal with the freight or cargo issue between those two countries to deal with it in a very safe manner. And that's why in most cases, almost all the cases, those consignments were consolidated in the country and then a chartered ship would be sent to go and fetch the consignment. If it could be flown then a chartered plane would be sent to go and fetch the consignment. I can't think for one moment that where the governments of other countries were involved, that either their government or our government would have allowed it being placed unlawfully on a passenger plane.

MS PATTA: Were you aware of the amendment to the dangerous goods legislation in terms of aircraft in 1986, that according to that if armourments were to be conveyed, Armscor would be, and particularly Armscor's procurement services overseas, would be the person to decide whether or not it is too dangerous, in addition that the legislation made provision for certain exemptions in terms of national interest?

MR STEYL: I am aware of the amendment to the legislation. I never interpreted the legislation as giving Armscor an unfettered right to convey dangerous goods or substances on passenger planes. I did not see that legislation as not being subordinate to IATA rules. The way I saw it is that when charter planes were used, the legislation was such that the airspace covered by those planes, or the countries to whom the airspace belonged had to be asked permission if armourments were conveyed across their airspace. That is in connection with chartered flights.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Are you saying that permission was not asked?

MR STEYL: Permission was not asked for other countries, in other words, if we used charter flights we did not request permission from neighbouring countries that there was military ammunitions on board the plane.

MS TERREBLANCHE: But that is in contravention of international rules.

MR STEYL: That is how I interpreted the amendment.

MS PATTA: When Somchem needed to procure stuff for its work, how would they go about it?

MR STEYL: Once again, I did not myself actually do the procurement, there was a procurement section and Somchem had its own procurement section and Armscor had its own procurement section. And the ways in which they would have done it, well, I can't give you a firsthand account of that, what I can say is that when the cargo was to be shipped, I would have been involved. If it was a commercial freight the sender would have sent the cargo, it would be a free on-board transaction. If it was dangerous freight which had anything to do with sanctions busting, then we were tasked with chartering a ship or to find room on board a ship to bring this freight to South Africa.

MS PATTA: So that would work for all the various companies of Armscor, that's how it would work. In 1987 Somchem was producing Ammonium Perchlorate, which was used in the manufacture of solid rocket fuels and at some point, am I correct in saying that there were extensions done to Somchem because you needed to increase the capacity of Somchem to produce APC?

MR STEYL: Yes, what is the question?

MS PATTA: Am I correct in saying that there were extensions done to Somchem because you needed to increase its capacity to produce Ammonium Perchlorate?

MR STEYL: It may be, I don't know.

MS PATTA: You're not aware of Somchem having extensions done and the plant shutting down temporarily while these extensions were done?

MR STEYL: I was aware of the fact that they manufactured it, I wasn't aware of the fact that they had a shortage and that Armscor was instructed to obtain addition supplies, so no, I was not aware.

MS PATTA: I wasn't asking you if Armscor was instructed to obtain additional supplies, I was asking you if you though Somchem had shut down. But it's interesting that you make that leap, that Armscor was instructed, that you're saying that they weren't instructed to obtain additional supplies, it's an interesting leap that you've made there. So you're not aware of procuring any Ammonium Perchlorate for Somchem in 1987?

MR STEYL: Armscor may be so aware, I personally am not aware.

MS PATTA: But you were at shipping, you were in procurements?


MS PATTA: You knew of the stuff coming in?

MR STEYL: I can't recall that in 1987 or in that period that I was involved in importing this product or to issue clearances for such a product into South Africa.

MS PATTA: Well, what sort of products were coming in in 1987?

MR STEYL: As I said just now, we dealt with about 20 shipments or consignments per day and very few of those consisted of dangerous cargo. If a ship came into Durban and Cape Town Harbours with dangerous cargo or freight, I didn't always know what exactly this commodity was. I would know that it was a class 1 or class 2 commodity, in the shipping terms for what it was, such as explosives, class 1 or whatever, but the exact names of these explosives that I was not aware of.

MS PATTA: But you knew that they were explosives?

MR STEYL: Yes, obviously.

MS PATTA: You knew that they were and you - so you knew that we were exporting, bringing in chemical additives used in the manufacture of rocket fuel?

MR STEYL: If you're saying that I was aware that we were exporting fuel for rockets, I have to say, no. I was aware of the fact that certain substances were imported, but what the exact application was, I wasn't quite sure.

MS TERREBLANCHE: When you are saying raw materials, are you saying raw materials for use in rocket fuel?

MR STEYL: No, I'm talking about chemicals. I'm not a scientist, so I can't really make sense of a particular chemical, when that was imported I wouldn't know what the application of that would be.

MS PATTA: But you're saying that you were aware that certain chemicals were coming in, used in the manufacture of rocket fuels that were explosives?

MR STEYL: I am aware of certain chemical substances which entered the country by ship. What the application was I don't know.

MS TERREBLANCHE: I would just like to go the legislation from 1986, you said that it made provision for the fact that you need not notify neighbouring countries when you were overflying their airspace with dangerous cargo?

MR STEYL: Let me answer it in this way, when we chartered a plane we would tell the owner of the plane or the crew of the plane what these commodities were. They then submitted their flight plans, worked out their own route and ...(indistinct) their flight plans, and we left it to them to make the necessary flight arrangements. We in Armscor did not notify the neighbouring countries the plane needed overflight rights, but we didn't notify the neighbouring countries that a plane was about to cross their airspace and that it had specific armourments on board. That we did not do.

MS TERREBLANCHE: What would have happened if there was such a flight containing dangerous cargo on board and also cargo which needed to be kept a secret from the numerous countries that were hostile toward us at the time and should not have known about our armourments, what would have happened if such a plane encountered some difficulties or problems? What would Armscor's approach have been?

MR STEYL: I don't think we could have acted prescriptively towards the crew, the captain was at all times aware of what he was conveying and he was in charge of the plane. We had basically no radio communication with him once he was air-borne, we did have communication with his owners. But if he was in trouble and he had to make a crash-landing or emergency landing, that would have been the decision of the captain of the plane.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Would Armscor in all cases have owned the person as the person flying with their cargo?

MR STEYL: Obviously Armscor was running a risk, it had a risk because it was placing cargo in possession of a conveyer or a carrier and the only claim which Armscor had against the carrier was this cargo manifest accompanying the cargo, and on this document there was an addressee, a person to whom it was being sent. And if this plan was to land, the Authorities of that country would obviously have known who the sender was and who the addressee was and what the commodity was.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Unless of course the plane landed up in the sea?

MR STEYL: I have my doubts about the question or the answer to that, because there are certain cargo documents that would not necessarily be on the plane, there would be, for instance, air freight letters or cargo manifests which the owners of the plane would have in their possession. In other words, they would be able to state or explain should the plane go missing what exactly the cargo was and where was it going to.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Captain Deon Storm who was a pilot in the South African Airways, a former Air Force pilot and also later a security officer at Jan Smuts, he said that they did a kind of a spot check which indicated that almost 80%, I just have to verify that, say 60% of all cargo which was not declared or declared incorrectly, contained military or military type or Armscor type of cargo.

MR STEYL: I can't comment on that because when we received cargo or when we sent cargo off, I was operating on the information given to me or to my people. We never did any inspections or it was very seldom that inspections were done to see whether the actual content of the consignment corresponded with the freight documents, so I can't comment on that.

MS TERREBLANCHE: So you say you're not aware of any such thing, that it actually occurred?

MR STEYL: I am aware, or I believe that most of the cargo was vaguely defined, I'm not talking about dangerous stuff or explosives, I'm not talking about that being defined or described as harmless, but for instance if there were aeroplane spare parts being shipped, it might just be vaguely described as parts, and the particulars would not be given.

MS TERREBLANCHE: It is quite co-incidental that you mention that example, because Captain Storm and somebody else also said that, Mr Rene van Zyl of the Civil Aviation Directorate, they both said that virtually all Armscor goods incorrectly described was described as plane spare parts.

MR STEYL: That may be, but I must also point out that by far the majority of these consignments were actually aeroplane spare parts.

MS PATTA: I'd like to just read you something from a former Armscor employee,

"That South Africa's Ammonium Perchlorate production facility was set up in the 1970's at Somchem. The initial capacity of this plant was about 100 tons per annum. Around the time of the Helderberg crash South Africa was involved in military operations in Angola, Namibia and on the home front. The operational demand for solid rocket fuels was high, also around the time of the crash Armscor was busy developing the means to produce its own inter-continental missile ballistic programme using US technology obtained in a devious manner by Israel. The development programme was getting well advanced about then, with full-scale rockets being tested and at a new secret test facility near Rooi Els. I mention the ICBM to emphasise that not only was the military demand for APC high at the time, but the demand for APC to feed these big hungry space rockets was also soaring. Somchem with its 100 ton per year capacity was not keeping up with the demand. Of course this had been foreseen and a decision was made to double it. This involved shutting down the plant for the duration of the extensions. Because of the on-going demand it was impossible to stock-pile APC prior to the shutdown. Obviously for a period of several months a large quantity of APC had to be sourced outside the country in defines of prevailing military sanctions. This was difficult and expensive and I believe that initially the necessary APC supply was sourced from America and that it was brought in on SAA passenger planes as an integral part of the necessary deception."

Are you aware of this, Mr Steyl?

MR STEYL: Chairperson, I'm not at all aware of that. It may be that there were problems with the plant, and if the plant was closed, I can't comment on that, I don't know about that, but that there were that vast amounts of the chemical entering the country, well, I'm not aware of that. I can't think for one moment that such vast amounts could enter the country commercially from the States and I also can't conceive of such large amounts of the stuff could be brought in in the cargo holds of planes. You mentioned Israel, the sea transport or traffic between South Africa and Israel was done on such a regular basis that it could actually have been conveyed very easily between South Africa and Israel.

MS TERREBLANCHE: I would just like to ask Mr Peyaga something, should I ask you first?

CHAIRPERSON: I can't understand how you can do that, he's not testifying. You can't, if there's anything that you want to clear with him in his capacity or whatever, I think you should find the time to do that and we can make an arrangement in terms of which we will receive whatever he has to say, but we can't in the middle of putting questions to the witness put other questions to somebody else who is legal representative of that particular person.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Is this something that I can read into the record?

CHAIRPERSON: Can we adjourn quickly so that I can appreciate the nature of your request. We'll adjourn for five minutes.




CHAIRPERSON: Ms Terreblanche?

MS TERREBLANCHE: I don't have any more questions, Ms Patta?


CHAIRPERSON: Is there something you wanted to place on the record?

MS TERREBLANCHE: I would just like to say that I think we really should be addressing some of these questions to a representative of Somchem at the time, either the former MD or the former Procurement Officer, we have the names of, but can't locate, and I think that perhaps Mr Steyl is not the right person.

CHAIRPERSON: Mr Steyl, do you know of anyone from Somchem whom you think would be appropriate to come and address us?

MR STEYL: Mr Chairperson, the procurement person who did the procurement at Somchem for many years, there's a person by the name of Humphreys and I would think that he, Francois Humphreys, would be the suitable person to be able to answer your questions.

CHAIRPERSON: Where can we get hold of him?

MR STEYL: Until recently he was still involved in Somchem and then he was transferred to Denel, head office in Pretoria, but I have an idea that he retired a month or two ago and I do not know exactly where he is at this moment.

CHAIRPERSON: Ms Terreblanche, does that assist you?

MS TERREBLANCHE: At this stage it assists me. I would just like to ask that if either of the two gentlemen have any idea where to locate Mr Decker or Mr Humphreys if they could pass on that information to us.

CHAIRPERSON: Can I just put a few questions. Now, I don't know if I got it correctly from you, at the time of the Helderberg incident, where you with Armscor?

MR STEYL: That's correct, yes.

CHAIRPERSON: And what position did you hold then?

MR STEYL: Manager of Shipping Services.

CHAIRPERSON: And would the decision to send the Maritime Institute to participate in the investigation taken by you or would it be taken by somebody higher than you?

MR STEYL: No, it was not a decision made by me. I had to accept that it was made by the Management of Armscor. I only read about their involvement in the newspapers, I was not involved in the decision making.

CHAIRPERSON: Were you not aware that after the crash, such as it was called, South African Airways and the Military immediately dispatched an aircraft to Mauritius, are you aware of that, and that on board some of this aircraft were a number of Armscor personnel who stayed at the Meridian Hotel in Mauritius?

MR STEYL: At the time that this was arranged I was not aware of the fact. I read about it for the first time in the newspapers.

CHAIRPERSON: Dr Steyn who was before you confirmed this that there was a group who was sent, and he said it was the Maritime Institute who had been requested by SAA to go and assist in the search. Now, what did you read in the newspapers, what was the purpose of them going there?

MR STEYL: What I read in the newspapers is that they went to look at certain things which had washed up on the beach, they were looking for certain objects, cargo, I don't know what it was, but they were looking for one or other item which could have washed up from the sea, that's what I read in the newspapers. What I understood from Armscor when this was said in the newspapers was that they were sent there, IMT was sent there to help with the investigation, but I cannot comment any further, I do not know.

CHAIRPERSON: You yourself never saw the investigation report when your group of people came back, did you?

MR STEYL: No, I did not see it.

CHAIRPERSON: So you know nothing about either their going or their returning or the report that they compiled?

MR STEYL: That's correct, I do not know.


MR MAGADHLA: Do you know if Armscor participated in the investigation by Justice Margo, by perhaps making a submission as to what their side of the story was?

MR STEYL: No, I am not aware of any submission made by Armscor to the Margo Commission.

MR MAGADHLA: But were you yourself approached by the investigators of the crash itself for your own role as what you were at the time?

MR STEYL: No, I was not approached by the investigative team, I was only approached by my own Management, that of Armscor and at a stage we were visited by the SOS security, who came to question us and look at our records at that stage as to whether there was any possibility that we had any cargo on that aeroplane, that was my only involvement in the investigation of the Helderberg incident.

MR MAGADHLA: Was it that they felt that it would have happened that you had cargo on that plane and it was left for you to say, no or yes, you did? Did this mean that, according to them, this would have been practised at times where there would have been any incident like the one, but seeing that now there was this incident, they felt they should come and find out from you whether this time around you had any cargo in that plane, in that particular plane?

MR STEYL: The way in which I interpreted it, was that it was merely a routine visit, because at that stage in the newspapers there were reports or rumours that Armscor could be involved, they did not ignore this, but they then came to ask the questions and do the investigating.

MR MAGADHLA: Their investigation as you know, did not extend beyond the country. They wouldn't perhaps have investigated Armscor activities in Taipei for instance, or in Israel, with regards to conveying that kind of stuff in aeroplanes?

MR STEYL: It is very difficult for me to comment on this question because I cannot say yes or no, whether the airline SAA or the Margo Commission did such investigations, I'm not aware of any such investigations. I cannot answer, I do not know.

MR MAGADHLA: Would you have been part of a panel or a group of officials of Armscor who would have received a briefing from representatives of Armscor in that situation, for instance, a representative of Armscor would have under normal circumstances perhaps after the whole investigation, the whole Margo report or Commission, would then have come to that panel of people or that group of people, officials to say, look this is how it has all gone, our contribution has been appreciated and this is - now it's over?

MR STEYL: At that stage, I'm now referring to the late 80's, '87 when the accident took place, I was not in the Senior Management team of Armscor and if such sessions were held, then I was not involved because I have no knowledge of any such sessions.

MR MAGADHLA: Thank you.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Mr Chair, I think we have concluded.

CHAIRPERSON: Well, it remains for me, Mr Steyl, to thank you and your legal representative, Mr Peyaga, for having come and in circumstances where notice was possibly short where you could not even try and get documentation if you would have been able to from your offices or the offices which you held at the time. I would like you to appreciate that this is an enquiry we are having to do in the light of persistent requests from families of people lost friends and relatives in that tragedy. It's an enquiry that we would have loved to do on the scale of the Margo Enquiry, but we just do not have the resources and the capacity and the time to do it in, but we are trying and endeavouring to come to terms with the reality of this tragedy, but our own direction is to follow the paths that we hope will reveal at some stage the truth about what happened, and I'm sure it will be in the interest of everybody if we're able to get to that truth. And to the extent that you have contributed to telling the story in your own way, in the way in which you heard whether it was rumours, and in the way in which you have information that you can share with us to that extent, we thank you. You are excused and in the event, as Ms Terreblanche asked, you are able to trace or assist us in tracing people in Somchem who you consider might shed light on this mystery, we would be very much indebted to you if you could let us know, whether by yourself or through your legal representative, Mr Peyaga. You're excused.

MR STEYL: Thank you very much.


MS TERREBLANCHE: Thank you very much, Mr Chairman ...(intervention)

CHAIRPERSON: Do you have any further evidence, Ms Terreblanche?

MS TERREBLANCHE: Yes, I have two more witnesses for the day, this actually concludes our witnesses for the Helderberg. I am now calling Mr J N J van Rensburg, he was the attorney who assisted Judge Margo on both the enquiries.

CHAIRPERSON: Okay, you're excused Mr Peyaga.

CHAIRPERSON: Mr van Rensburg you are reminded that you are still under oath.

This is the enquiry into the Helderberg air disaster and Mr van Rensburg, who has been sworn in already, will testify. Miss Terreblanche?

MS TERREBLANCHE: Thank you. Now, Mr van Rensburg, I assume that the same procedure was followed vis a vis DCA with the Helderberg enquiry.

MR VAN RENSBURG: In terms of annex. 13.2, the Chicago Convention, yes.

MS TERREBLANCHE: So basically they provided you with evidence?

MR VAN RENSBURG: That's correct.

MS TERREBLANCHE: I also understand that when, just before the enquiry was opened or started, some submissions were asked for from all interested parties.


MS TERREBLANCHE: And was there a deadline to that?

MR VAN RENSBURG: If I can just give you an idea here ...(intervention)

MS TERREBLANCHE: How much time did they get?

MR VAN RENSBURG: No, no, it was - we published well in advance, before the actual hearings, I mean, the Board conducted its proceedings in public in Johannesburg on the 15, 16, 17, 18, 22, 23, 24 and 25 of August 1989, this was after notice had been given and advertisements placed of the date and place of the hearings. I still recall that when the venue of the hearings in Johannesburg in the Johannesburg Supreme Court was determined, then we published the notices for all interested parties to come forward with whatever evidence they may have.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Now at what stage did you first get a transcription or listen to the CVR records that there were, the recovered black box records?

MR VAN RENSBURG: Well that was, we even listened to that during the course of the hearing and we've read it as it was typed.

MS TERREBLANCHE: I hear what you're saying, but at what stage did you first have access to it, before or during the enquiry?

MR VAN RENSBURG: No, I think we had, you know, it's quite some time ago, but if my memory serves me, I think we listened to that before the hearing and during the course of the hearing, and it was also on paper of course.

MS TERREBLANCHE: You relied, as in the previous enquiry, it was relied on Dr Leonard Jansen to do the interpretation?

MR VAN RENSBURG: Yes, we analysed the DVI.

MS TERREBLANCHE: And the full transcript?


MS TERREBLANCHE: Now, at the enquiry the Pilots Association was called right in the beginning to ask their permission to play the entire recording and run into the court record the entire transcript, is that correct?


MS TERREBLANCHE: And they were questioned by Judge Margo a number of times where they said, yes, they would not mind the whole one until he said that perhaps it contains confidential evidence, and then they conceded and said, well in that case, no, they don't want the whole one.

MR VAN RENSBURG: No, I do not recall the reference to confidential information, but what I recall which also came from the Airline Pilots Association that some strong language was used by Captain Dawie Uys on board that aircraft and they didn't want all those heavy expressions or strong language to be broadcast in open, because it was an open hearing, the general members of public were there and there was some objection to that part, but not because of confidential information, to the best of my recollection.

MS TERREBLANCHE: What stage was it decided that only the part from when the fire warning bell rang was applicable to the enquiry, and not the part where the strong language was used?

MR VAN RENSBURG: No, the strong language was used right through, I mean up to the last bit, I mean, if you go through that recording, Dawie Uys was very tense up to the last minute.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Listen to the question, at what stage was it determined that only the part after the fire-bell rang was applicable to the investigation and the enquiry, as to the cause of the accident?

MR VAN RENSBURG: I think when Judge Margo made it clear to the Airline Pilots Association that that's the critical time just before the accident and they will not be able to stand in his way to play that part because that is of critical importance, and that is why that part only was incorporated in the record.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Would you say that Judge Margo had a better understanding of such an interpretation that a pilot?

MR VAN RENSBURG: Well, I will not judge that, I just know that Judge Margo is also an experienced pilot and he was assisted by even more experienced pilots that any pilot of the Airline Association in this enquiry. We had test-pilots from all over the place, and I will not try to be the judge of who was the better one to assess the situation.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Just for the record, Judge Margo never flew a 747.

MR VAN RENSBURG: No, that is correct, but many of the other witnesses involved, they flew that type of aircraft, and we had them all there.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Do you think that the Pilots Association and the Flight Engineers Association were interested parties in this investigation?

MR VAN RENSBURG: Of course yes, they reacted to the notice that we published and that's why they came. They are always an interested party when it comes to aviation matters. They've just recently filed a serious complaint about air traffic control all over with the Licensing Councils, nationally and internationally, so we would most definitely regard them, that's why they've been given audience there.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Would they have had access to all records, even the entire CVR recording?

MR VAN RENSBURG: Absolutely. It was an entire open - even, you know, with the previous investigation, I was personally attacked by not one person, but more than one when I said to the Media, that as we are leading the evidence to this Counsel, as we handed it up to the Chairman of the Board of Enquiry, I always secured an extra copy for the Media and said, as you get it, here it is for the Media. I was criticised for doing that, but we decided it's an open enquiry, whatever comes to record must be part of the record, we are not to try and hold anything back. And that was the attitude from the Board's side, internationally represented and all the legal representatives involved in the Enquiry.

MS TERREBLANCHE: I think you must now listen closely, we have had more than one person come forward, particularly pertaining to the Flight Engineers Association who said that they asked for participation, but was given only observer status. They then had difficulty of accessing the full transcript of the voice recording. After securing that, a number of them put together - well, were in fact originally seconded to the board, but was never used, put together their own interpretation of the CVR where they said that the part that was not played and not taken in account, was vital to determine the cause of the accident or the wreckage of the plane. Now, we've had it from more than one person that there was a meeting called after this submission was made, in Judge Margo’s chambers. First of all they were told that they were out of the deadline, they dispute that, saying that they were 48 hours inside the deadline of making submissions. We were told ...(intervention)

CHAIRPERSON: You have put a number of things to him already, can he react to some of these that you have already put to him. Do you still remember some of the things that have been put to you?

MR VAN RENSBURG: Mr Chairman, what we must be clear on, I recall the discussions between the Board and the Airline Pilots Association and the Engineers, but, you know, the invitation was addressed to all and sundry who may have had evidence, hard evidence to consider by this Board to come forward and to submit the evidence. Now, I can't recall any evidence that was submitted by the Airline Pilots Association in writing and was subjected to cross-examination. Mr Rene van Zyl will most definitely be in a better position to give you a complete breakdown of the discussions that took place between the DCA and the Airline Pilots Association.

MS TERREBLANCHE: With respect, I'm saying that the flight engineers only had access to the tape at a very late stage. They then had to go back and do an expert analysis because they realised, immediately after listening to it, that there was a different interpretation at stake here. I am talking about representations made to the Board once the enquiry had started. Can you recall such an incident, and I have been told a number of times, I think Ms Patta has been told a number of times, that you were present in Judge Margo’s chambers.

CHAIRPERSON: Let's get first things first, are we talking about the Flight Engineers Association or the Airline Pilots Association, because I think Mr van Rensburg is responding to this as though he was responding to both of them. I think all your line of questioning has been on the Flight Engineers Association, let's deal with that first and all the queries that she is raising in regard thereto.

MR VAN RENSBURG: I'm not very clear on the Flight Engineers Association. I remember the Airline Pilots Association, but you must please accept that the investigator in charge in terms of annex. 13 and the Aviation Act is a Board of Enquiry. It's not for me as an individual or any other person so conduct an investigation into an accident like that, that's why a Board of Enquiry has been appointed, and if any person would then come forward with evidence that could assist the Board of Enquiry, the investigator in charge, to get to the cause of the accident with hard evidence that is submitted to cross-examination and tested, and that would have been refused, then I would have regarded this as an irregularity, but I'm not aware of anything like that, that evidence was submitted and that they were declined or that they haven't been given access. That, I would suggest, that you talk to Mr Rene van Zyl and see whether there was anything of that sort.

MS TERREBLANCHE: I want to speak to you, because what I have been told is, that at this meeting there was a man called Jimmy Mittins of the Flight Engineers Association and other members, Peter de Beer, the Vice-President Ray Scott and a guy called Judge Bedar, on the other side was Margo, Rene van Zyl, Mitchell and the attorney Van Rensburg. The FEA felt ...(intervention)

CHAIRPERSON: Do you recall a meeting of that nature?

MR VAN RENSBURG: Yes, I recall a meeting. We had many meetings in the chambers of Judge Margo, especially when people came forward to look at what they have and what they want to put forward. I remember a meeting, but the detail of the thing, that I'm very vague on, I mean, I can tell you, anything is possible there, I can't recall what was the subject matter of discussion.

CHAIRPERSON: Can you put a specific allegation, Ms Terreblanche.

MS TERREBLANCHE: The Flight Engineers Association felt,

"We wanted to carry on and at the very least, make a number of recommendations of which the most important was the disaster check list ...(intervention)

MR VAN RENSBURG: Of which the most important was?

MS TERREBLANCHE: The disaster check list, but that's not what I want to get at.

"We were summoned to the Chambers by Judge Margo because the CDR came in at a late stage and we wanted to make a submission."

Which they have made in written form and was placed before you the day or so before. They were told that it was late, first of all, and that therefor they must withdraw it. As I understand it, Judge Margo at a stage left the room and Mr Mitten was told, he claims and Mr Scott, they were told by you that the country cannot afford this enquiry into a two stage theory that they advanced on the basis of the full CVR, and that they should therefor withdraw. This could cost the country and a large amount of money was mentioned.

MR VAN RENSBURG: That I can't recall, with respect, Mr Chairman.

CHAIRPERSON: What is the large amount, Ms Terreblanche?

MS TERREBLANCHE: Something like R400 000.

MR VAN RENSBURG: No, I can assure you, that type of remark would most definitely not have come from me. The question of costs of the investigation, you know, this was quite a costly situation with all the stuff that we had to remove from the ocean bed, 4˝ kilometres down, would have been rather from Mr Rene van Zyl who was involved in the budget of the thing, I had absolutely nothing to do with the budget or the financial situation of the investigation, that was - if I have to give any evidence on that matter, I will just be swimming because I had no information whatsoever.

CHAIRPERSON: Can I just put the proposition in the manner in which I have understood to be put to previous witnesses here. The proposition is that Judge Margo in your presence and in the presence of the other people that have been mentioned, discouraged these people from making the sort of enquiry that they wanted to make, on the basis that it would cost the country a considerable amount of money, that it was not in the national interest, that in fact, they had to consider, not at that meeting but at another, the security of their jobs and their family. Now, I think what we are seeking to find out is whether a conversation of that nature, which in terms amounts to an intimidation of witnesses, whether a conversation of that nature ever took place, either at the meeting that she has mentioned, but at any other meeting at which you were present?

MR VAN RENSBURG: Mr Chairman, I recall meetings with the Flight Engineers Association and the Airline Pilots Association, but most definitely not any form of intimidation, because we had the approach to this whole thing, whatever information could be brought forward to throw light on a possible cause of this accident, must be considered, but in the same breath I must also say to you, when you do an investigation like this, you have many people from the general public who are looking for some sensational disclosure, and then they come forward with pure allegations and Judge Margo, as a Judge of the Supreme Court with his experience assessing witnesses, he would just ask one or two questions and see whether there's any substance in what this person is coming forward with. And if there is not substance, then he would be very firm to say, sorry, you are not raising anything here of any importance. Whether this was the case with the Airline Engineers Association, I can't say, I can't recall anything to that extent, and in the least, it would be against his nature to repudiate anything coming from that body, because it must be seen as an expert body, the Flight Engineers are experts in their field, if they ...(intervention)

CHAIRPERSON: My emphasis is on something much more serious, this information seeks to say Judge Margo actively dissuaded information which might have been material from being placed before the Commission on the basis that it was not in the national interest, it would cost the country a great deal of money, there was even a suggestion that words in the form of, they would play into the hands of the ANC, were used.

MR VAN RENSBURG: No, that, Mr Chairman, I can most definitely not verify, because the political say, whether we talk about political parties, with Justice Margo that was never ever part of his make-up to come forward with a political expression that, you are working in the hands of the ANC, or for that matter in the hands of any other political party. That, I can most definitely say to you, knowing him through the experiences that I've gone through in these investigations, that's not his approach, but if he's convinced that someone would come forward with a statement or an allegation that's of no substance, he can be firm to stop that, because we had a lot of real information to consider, and you can't loose time on something if it's not of substance and prove by solid evidence. That is a possibility.

CHAIRPERSON: Let us examine that. Let's examine Judge Margo in the context of his uprightness, and I'm not challenging for once your observation and your view of him. Now, during the course of that sort of enquiry, would you expect Judge Margo to invite anyone to his residence in the circumstances where the person came by himself in the absence of other interested parties, during the Commission of Enquiry, whilst it existed, would you expect that to be happening?

MR VAN RENSBURG: I won't say that won't be possible with him, but whether he will react to that, because he was always, when he heard something, wherever, he came back and he put it to us as the legal representatives, that's now in the case of the Helderberg enquiry, Advocate Southwood and Bob Nugent, he's a Judge today, Bob Nugent was the junior advocate with Brian Southwood, and then we would have said to him, yes, but let them come forward and let's assess the situation where everybody could be heard.

CHAIRPERSON: That's the procedure, that's the normal procedure, but would you expect Judge Margo to have invited to his home a person who was a material party, for instance a pilot, a person who had now become Manager, who had been given on evidence the tape from the UCR, would you have expected him to have invited that person, on that person's evidence, to his residence whilst this thing was taking place?

MR VAN RENSBURG: I wouldn't have - I won't expect that, but I can't say it hasn't happened, Mr Chairman.

CHAIRPERSON: I'm not saying that it has happened - well, we have now evidence, I'm trying to say the mere fact that you have a view of Judge Margo as having been a morally upright person, etc, should not by itself be conclusive or sufficient for you to say some of the things could not have happened, because a witness here yesterday told us under oath that he went to Judge Margo’s chambers, when this specific question was put, in denying, in an effort to deny that this meeting took place, they said the only time that he went and saw Judge Margo was not in his chambers, but at his home, at his invitation. And when he was getting out there, he's sure that the Flight Engineers were leaving, also having been there at the invitation of the Judge. I ask myself the question ...(intervention)

MR VAN RENSBURG: No, that's possible, but I can't verify it, I can't say it's impossible, most definitely not.

CHAIRPERSON: But what I want to get at is, would you consider it to have been highly irregular and improper of a sitting Judge, whilst handling a sensitive Commission of Enquiry of that nature, to be inviting people in that sort of fashion to his residence in the absence of the attorneys and in the absence of the other parties?

MR VAN RENSBURG: Mr Chairman, there I must say to you that Judge Margo has always said that this Enquiry is an inquisitorial enquiry, in other words it's ...(intervention)

CHAIRPERSON: That may well be, but it must be conducted in circumstances where the Enquiry is not only just, but is seen to be just, not only even-ended, but is seen to be even-ended, would you agree with me that, as a lawyer, if there was a suggestion that a Judge had invited people to his residence in the absence of the other parties, in the absence of their legal representatives, that would have been irregular.

MR VAN RENSBURG: Most definitely that would have been irregular, but I can also say that if that would have happened and something would have come out of that meeting, he would have insisted on getting that evidence submitted to the full Board.

CHAIRPERSON: That's the problem, because now what comes out of that meeting is that, he made a suggestion that people should cover up evidence, that's one of the allegations. That's why then the irregularity becomes even more important.

MR VAN RENSBURG: I hear you, but I can't comment on that.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Perhaps I should just remind you what, well maybe it will remind you when I tell you what people said further,

"We went back inside...", that's after the tea-break, "and said we will only withdraw if our recommendations are accepted. We were also saying that our Chairman is not present..." the Chairman of the Flight Association, ...(intervention)

MR VAN RENSBURG: The Flight Engineers now?

MS TERREBLANCHE: Yes, Flight Engineers Association.

"and we said that we cannot completely withdraw the report without his consent. We were just hoping that they will consider the two fire theory. The Chairperson was then flown back from England immediately and summoned to Judge Margo’s house, where he was persuaded to withdraw the report. He came out of that meeting telling us that this was done for fear and finance, the two wrong reasons."

MR VAN RENSBURG: No, I can't comment on that, I'm sorry, there I can't say anything.

MS TERREBLANCHE: It just strikes me as completely absurd that R28 million is spent on recovering the black box and then you listen to only a small part of it to find the true cause of the accident, and then determine at the end you can't find the true cause.

MR VAN RENSBURG: But what I must state categorically, Mr Chairman, I can't verify or confirm that meeting, because that meeting at Judge Margo’s house that I am now hearing of here, I have not been aware of that, I can assure you.

CHAIRPERSON: But are you then denying - that's technical, I'm sorry, Ms Terreblanche, but to the extent that the meeting or one of the meetings suggested to have taken place in chambers ...(intervention)

MR VAN RENSBURG: No, that has taken place for sure, I remember that.

CHAIRPERSON: But what you deny about that is the fact that Judge Margo persuaded people not to follow certain in the national interest, because of money and all that, are you denying that?

MR VAN RENSBURG: Yes, most definitely, I can't verify that at all, and I have nothing even to say in support of that, so as far as ...(intervention)

CHAIRPERSON: You were supposed to be present you see, that's why I want you to commit yourself to a version. Are you saying it never happened, or if it happened you have forgotten about it, what is your ...(intervention)

MR VAN RENSBURG: I recall the meeting, but I do not recall any allegation of, do this or do this because it's costing the country a lot of money or that finance was at all involved. It was argued on merits whenever we were present in his chambers and something came to the table, he always had the way of doing it, this is what has been put to me, what do you guys say, and then he addresses that to all the members of the Board, that was a meeting outside the hearing, but in his chambers with all the Board members present.

CHAIRPERSON: Can I get you clearly then, are you saying you don't recall it because it never happened, or you don't recall it because these things took place 11/12 years ago and it may have been said, except that not it is a serious change of mind.

MR VAN RENSBURG: These meetings may have taken place, I just can't recall the detail of any allegation with regard to finance or what it will cost the country, but that meetings ...(intervention)

CHAIRPERSON: Are you considering that it could have been said?

MR VAN RENSBURG: Yes, no, no, for sure, I just can't say with any conviction of my mind that that it's been said.

CHAIRPERSON: Okay, if it was said, would you agree that it was the most irresponsible statement to come from a Judge?

MR VAN RENSBURG: I agree with that, but I must tell you I ...(intervention)

CHAIRPERSON: I accept that you don't recall it, but you are considering the possibility that those who say it actually was said may be correct, and if it is so, ...(intervention)

MR VAN RENSBURG: Then it would have been irregular and not acceptable to me at least.

CHAIRPERSON: Ms Terreblanche?

MS TERREBLANCHE: Mr van Rensburg, you recall the meeting, but you don't recall the report that was handed in at the meeting by the Flight Engineers Association?

MR VAN RENSBURG: No, I don't recall that. You must really ask the Department what happened about that report, because I know and I remember that meetings took place, but what they've handed up or what they wanted to hand up, I have no record of because it's not part of the record that we've handed in, it was never submitted as evidence, whatever the reason was, I can't say.

MS PATTA: It's interesting that it wasn't submitted as evidence, it's a detailed report which goes into a detailed analysis of the cockpit voice recording, the whole cockpit voice recording which was not submitted in to the Margo Commission of Enquiry, only the last two minutes were, the whole cockpit voice recording by the way which does not contain any foul language, the only strong language is actually in the bit that was submitted to the court itself, that's when the swearing actually starts, but prior to that they talk about dinner and the lousy SAA food.


MS PATTA: I battle to see what's so problematic about that, but what's important about the whole cockpit voice recording is that it makes reference to dinner having been served shortly after take-off and if you go through the Flight Engineer's report, they basically assert that a fire broke out shortly after take-off and they go into a detailed technical analysis of it. It's not a political thing, it's a very conservative analysis of a cockpit voice recording which could have helped your Enquiry, and I find it remarkable, (a) that you don't remember this report, which was very useful and very explanatory, and that you don't remember it and that you actually then later had legal communications with the Flight Engineers Association that you yourself drew up in which you referred to this report.

MR VAN RENSBURG: You must just keep in mind, many of the communications in writing which I did, I did on direct instruction of the Board of Enquiry and in some cases I was not even present at that particular time. I remember the letters that we've written, this on that's just been given to me here addressed to the Chairman of the South African Airways Flight Engineers Association, I mean, that was done on instruction of the Board of Enquiry.

MS PATTA: So you remember that letter?

MR VAN RENSBURG: No, I can't say with any certainty, I know see it and I can confirm that this is a letter that I most definitely sent off to the Chairman of the South African Airways Flight Engineers Association, but I can't recall the detail or the contents of it. If I can go through it I can tell you, but this is a letter that I've written for sure.

MS PATTA: Mr Chair, can we give him two minutes to read through it?

CHAIRPERSON: Yes, Mr van Rensburg, can you read your own letter.

MR VAN RENSBURG: Yes, Mr Chairman, I recall this letter, and as I've said here we are directed by the Chairman of the Board of Enquiry to write to you as follows, and I know that this letter was settled by the entire Board of Enquiry before I sent it off on our letterhead, and there was some arguments about Captain Dawie Uys' file and his licence ratings and I know that DCA was also involved in that, and they refuted certain of the allegations made by the Flight Engineers and they had record available to say some of the stuff that they submitted was not true and then negotiations took place with a view to see whether they could be accommodated and I know that their recommendation, the recommendations made by the Flight Engineers have been incorporated in the report to the extent that Judge Margo has indicated. But that's all I remember of this thing, the detail behind this I can't give you any further information.

MS PATTA: Well maybe I'll just remind you, the detail behind this is it refers to this report that you can't remember ever having been brought before Judge Margo in his chambers, a detailed report which goes into a two fire theory on the Helderberg plane.

MR VAN RENSBURG: Which was withdrawn eventually.

MS PATTA: Which was withdraw eventually and there was legal - in fact so concerned were you about this report that you actually had to write a letter to the Flight Engineers Association saying that they were going to withdraw their report, and just putting it on record. The Flight Engineers Association then sent a letter back through their lawyers to you to say that,

"We are instructed that our client stands by its letter to the Helderberg Disaster Commission. Our client does not wish to respond to each allegation made in your letter and from the attitude reflected in the letter our client sees no purpose in doing so. This should not be construed as an admission of the accuracy or correctness of your letter and our client reserves its right to respond to the allegations at a later stage, should it become necessary."

Putting it on record that they actually disagreed with your interpretation of events. We don't need to go into the letters, but the point is that we actually even have legal communication about the Flight Engineers Association report, which amazingly, you can't remember, and I would put it to you that this report could have really helped solve a lot of the mysteries of the Helderberg, and when put off with the fact that a meeting was held in Judge Margo’s chambers and a meeting was held in Judge Margo’s home, which Captain de Beer was flown from London for as your letter states that he was flown out from London, and Captain Mickey Mitchell was instructed to bring him back from London, when you put that together with that and the evidence from the Flight Engineers Association that they were forced to withdraw their report for the two wrong reasons, fear and finance, we have a suppression of evidence here, that could have helped shed light on the Helderberg.

MR VAN RENSBURG: Mr Chairman, no, I don't think I would agree with a suppression of evidence, we have said here that this correspondence will form part of the records of the Board, copies of this letter was sent to the DCA, was sent to Mr Viv Lewis of the South African Airways, and was sent to Captain Mitchell as Director of Flight Operations, South African Airways. So, the matter was still open after this, that if they would have come forward with anything material to submit as evidence to the Board, they could have done so. I don't think I can agree with the statement that that was a suppression of evidence, I'll have to see much more before I can just concur with a statement like that.

CHAIRPERSON: Well, there's all sorts of qualifications, even to your acceptance, of the recommendation. In one breath you say, well, you know, the Board will give consideration to them, but immediately, in almost the same breath you say, from a superficial glance of those recommendations, let's assume that the substance of them had already been adopted in the Board's rough report, or already under consideration by the relevant authorities. This is a very unsatisfactory treatment of people who say, let us have you giving our report the due consideration, and you didn't and that is why I think, you know ...(indistinct) Hazelman & Thompson are making the disclaimer and are waiving their rights to say, we stand by what we've said and we are not accepting your interpretation of the events, and reserve our rights. Maybe that later stage that we were talking about is because they anticipated that one day there might have to be a Commission of this nature which would then look into what ...(inaudible) I still am not satisfied and I'm not passing judgement, I'm still not satisfied why it was not possible for that report to be received.

MR VAN RENSBURG: Mr Chairman, if I may speculate for the moment, I can tell you there must have been a discussion on the merits of the report between all the Board members and the Association and it must have been regarded as not of such material nature that it should have been taken further. Otherwise they would have followed it up, the door was kept open for the Engineers to come forward at any stage, they can even come today. If they come today and they put it further then ...(intervention)

CHAIRPERSON: Let's look at what you had had, because it appears that you are now closing, going towards closing the Commission. You had had a stunning situation where there was one tape which was either missing or had been rubbed off, so that was vital evidence that was not there. You had professionals who conducted an investigation going through millions of rands from what I'm told, which was making an analysis, an analysis that what showing that contrary to popular belief, that the conversation that was recorded from the cockpit was relating to the last 30 minutes as the aircraft was about to land at Mauritius. The likelihood was that that recording was of a conversation nearer to when the aircraft had left Taipei when dinner was served, because it was very unlikely that dinner would have been served just on the top of descent. Now, that is the vital - because we would then have to explain, and that Board would have had to explain, how does it happen that when there is an indication almost immediately after departure from Taipei, I'm talking hours, there is a recording which says, we have a smoke problem. In other words, it was not a done deal, what's more the - and this was considered by a Captain yesterday, in spite of the fact that he had been giving a lot of theories about might have happened, that pilots, especially crew, take their dinner as and when they want, they can take it in the evening, in the morning, whenever. Once it was put to him that if it is so that that 30 minute conversation where the voice cockpit recording says, we have a smoke problem, is relevant to the period when the aircraft was just about to descend on Mauritius Airport, Mount Pleasant, whatever. Then we would expect that recording to correspond with the recording from Mount Pleasant Airport and it was shown beyond a reasonable doubt that there was no correspondence at all, because what was recorded in that aircraft should also have been found to have been recorded in Mount Pleasant. So that theory seemed call into question any basis on which it could be said that conversation about dinner and women and what have you, was relevant to the period just on top of descent.

Now, we are saying if that was so, then it was bringing into question a whole list of things and therefor when that sort of information, which was put by Engineers who are professional in their field and had analysed all the voice recordings that was available, and it was sought to be put as being either late in coming or when it came, it had been considered. We are saying, when there is a corollary allegation that the Judge was in fact ill-disposed to receiving any enquiry that was going to call into question in the entire theory that was saying this fire must have broken out only when the thing was about to land. Then it calls into question as to whether in fact there wasn't a motive to suppress that information. I think that's the basis that is being put.

MR VAN RENSBURG: No, no I follow that, Mr Chairman, and I can agree with that, but I still think that your enquiry will be much wiser on the whole thing if the entire chain of events on those meetings, before and at the time with the Judge and before, would be discussed with the Directorate of Civil Aviation, because they were involved in that and they submitted the information. So I will sincerely say that they must also be given the opportunity to talk to you on this point.


MR MAGADHLA: Thank you, Mr Chair. Mr van Rensburg, were you aware of the fact that the Judge had summoned a witness to his house?

MR VAN RENSBURG: No, sir, I haven't been aware of that.

MR MAGADHLA: Had you been aware, what would you have done? What would have been your reaction?

MR VAN RENSBURG: Well, Mr Chairman, if you look at the provision of annex 13, the Chairman of the Board of Enquiry is the investigator in charge for all practical purposes. If he would do so, and in the same breath say that this is an inquisitorial enquiry and you can even listen to hearsay evidence, to circumstantial evidence and that the strong and formal rules of evidence do not apply to this type of investigation, then it is possible that something like this can happen, but I would still say whatever may be coming out of any informal discussion at the Judge's home or wherever must, if there's substance in it, must be put before the Board of Enquiry and I have not reason to believe that that hasn't been done. I've listened here today and I've heard about a motive of suppressing evidence, now that I must say categorically to you, was not my impression of Judge Margo or any of his Board members that they would do - because it was an international Board of Enquiry and the South Africans were in an absolute minority there, they could have been overpowered by the other Board members.

MR MAGADHLA: Something inquisitorial as you say, would that have involved - were all the other people involved, yourself too involved in the investigation, if this Judge would have just called this person secretly and had a discussion with him only to, maybe to implant in your mind that in an inquisitorial situation he could just do that, wouldn't it be a matter for concern to yourself, especially when he does not, the Judge himself, tell you that, look, I have had occasion to have a one to one meeting with one of these people, this is what he says.

MR VAN RENSBURG: I'm not accurate on this, Mr Chairman, but I'm pretty sure the way I know Justice Margo, that the meeting that took place eventually between himself, the other Board members and all of us present, must have been the follow-up of a meeting that could have taken place at his home, which I'm not aware of, but I'm listening to what you are saying here.

MR MAGADHLA: If you think it was a follow-up, was there any indication in whatever he said that this was a follow-up to a meeting he would have had with certain people?

MR VAN RENSBURG: No, I can't say that because I ...(intervention)

MR MAGADHLA: Why did you say it would have been a follow-up to a meeting that he would have had?

MR VAN RENSBURG: That's his nature, if he's heard anything anywhere, he's always come to us and said, I've heard this or we must look at this and please go a bit deeper into this, and then the investigating team will take that further. Now, I really can't say where he's heard it, it may have been at his house or any other place.

MR MAGADHLA: Now the tape that was a part of which was embargoed or censored, would this tape have been - or this discussion, would it have taken place just before the plane crash landed or when?

MR VAN RENSBURG: Yes, well that's my impression that the information we have on the cockpit voice recorder was the last minutes before the impact in the ocean before landing at Mauritius.

MR MAGADHLA: Would this have been after the people noticed that there was danger, that they were sort of in distress?

MR VAN RENSBURG: Most definitely because the smoke-detectors came on and that was when everything started gaining momentum and when oxygen was released and ...(intervention)

MR MAGADHLA: The unacceptable language therefor, in what context would it have been used, would it have been used in the context where one would be saying, well, I told these people, look what's happening now, or something else?

MR VAN RENSBURG: No, there I can't comment, Mr Chairman. I know what was said in the last minutes, but I mean, before that or if there was anything mysterious beforehand, I can't comment on.

MR MAGADHLA: Would it not have been proper therefor that even if this conversation would not be for public consumption, that those people who were involved in the Commission with the people who represented - the legal representatives of the victims were to listen to that thing for everybody to be satisfied about what was said there, in camera?

MR VAN RENSBURG: I don't think it's been kept away from them, we must accept that they are not investigating, or they were not investigating the accident, I mean, that was done by the Board of Enquiry, but whatever served before the Board of Enquiry was available to any interested party whether it's relatives of some of the victims or of the aircraft operators or whatever, it was available to them and it's up to this day, to the best of my knowledge available, the record is there.

MS PATTA: With due respect, just to come in there, the full cockpit voice recording was never put on the record, it was not available, the last two minutes were put on the record. Your own admission to us today was that the full cockpit voice recording was withheld because of the foul or the strong language that it contained, that it might upset the families.

MR VAN RENSBURG: But that does not ...(intervention)

MS PATTA: But now you're contradicting yourself, saying it was fully available.

MR VAN RENSBURG: No, not in the least, I'm not even trying to contradict myself, but that recording is still there. I mean, I don't think, if they must be called upon today at the DCA to give you the full recording that it won't be available.

MS PATTA: It's there, but it's not available publicly. The only thing that is a matter of public record is the last two minutes.

MR VAN RENSBURG: There was a reason why it wasn't publicly available, there was most definitely a reason. That reason wasn't to suppress vital evidence, that I can assure you, not to the best of my knowledge.

MS PATTA: The reason was because, you said, it had strong language.

MR VAN RENSBURG: Yes, that was a factor at the time, that strong language was used and they didn't want to publish that.

MS PATTA: Strong words like lousy food and stuff?

CHAIRPERSON: Can we, I think, I don't know, it seems to me we possibly have kind of asked at this point fairly extensively and I would, Ms Terreblanche, what would you want?

MS TERREBLANCHE: Little things that I would just like to check on. Just to say that the last half an hour of the Helderberg's conversation was with the Mauritius tower, there's no overlap between the CVR and that last half hour, so that CVR conversation took at least, it burned through, at least half an hour before the plane landed, or before it made contact with Mauritius. Therefor it could theoretically be in any part of that flight. Do you concede that, because there is no overlap?

MR VAN RENSBURG: Yes, no, but there was also a reason communication wise with the Pleasance Airport Traffic Controller, there was some problem there, so I'm not conceding that that thing could have taken place at any stage during the flight, if you have evidence to that effect which we haven't had, then I will be as surprised as anyone else, but not with the information available to me.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Just one thing, you said that Judge Margo continually asked you, did you hear of this and that, was there ever any discussion about the fact that the fire could have broken out earlier in the flight?

MR VAN RENSBURG: I think that must have been part of the Flight Engineer's situation which was debated and as you've seen, this letter which you've given me here, it was not only a matter between the Board and the Flight Engineers, it was a matter between the South African Airways and/or the parties that have received copies of the letter. So it wasn't a secret issue, I mean, this letter was sent to Rene van Zyl, to Viv Lewis of SAA and Captain Mitchell, Flight Operations, South African Airways.

MS TERREBLANCHE: But for some or other reason the submission was disregarded.

MR VAN RENSBURG: Yes, but not just lightly I can assure you, Mr Chairman, that wasn't done. Judge Margo would never have just, look, I mean, he had a responsibility of an international Board of Enquiry, the country's image was at stake here and a lot of people lost their relatives, everything he had to consider. He can't play around with superficial issues here, he must make sure that there's substance in what he said before he takes it up and makes findings on it.

MR MAGADHLA: Maybe, let's quickly run through the second tape, the tape that you are, what can you tell us about that one?

MR VAN RENSBURG: Mr Chairman, I can just say according to the information available to us there was no connection between the accident and the omission of the station ZUR to communicate with the Helderberg at the pre-arranged time, nor is there any significance in the fact that the ZUR tape covering that time was mislaid or wiped out by later use. There was sensational statements about the ZUR tapes and that it was wiped out and what have you. But again, it was the Board's duty to decide whether there was any bearing between that and a possible cause of the accident, and that was wiped out very early in the proceedings because the reasons were given by the South African Airways officials what the purpose of the ZUR tapes were, and all the experts involved in the investigating teams did not regard this as serious, but the moment you have an open hearing and it goes out to the general public that ZUR tapes were wiped out at the time, and when they were looked for it wasn't available, then it sounds suspicious, and obviously that's what happened here.

MR MAGADHLA: Finally, any reason for wiping them off?

MR VAN RENSBURG: Not to my knowledge, Mr Chairman, not that I'm aware of.

MR MAGADHLA: Thank you.


MS PATTA: On to another subject, can I ask why you failed to call the Mauritian campers who were camping on flat island who gave statements to the investigators and testified to seeing a big ball of fire with a black tail of smoke plunge into the Indian Ocean at exactly the time the Helderberg crash occurred?

MR VAN RENSBURG: Mr Chairman, I recall that part and I can tell you a lot was done to get hold of them, but in the final analysis they couldn't trace those people. They made the noise at the time to say they've seen this and they've seen that, and then it was followed up to please get hold of them because we were very uncertain about what happened in the final minutes of this sad flight of the Helderberg, and if anyone would have come forward from that part of the world close to the point of impact with that type of information, we would have considered it very carefully, but they have not pitched up. It was eventually said, no, they can't trace these people and they don't know where they are.

MS PATTA: Amazing, it took me 10 minutes to find them. I arrived in Mauritius at 09h00, looked in the phone book and phoned them, and they're at the same place they've been for the last ten years, and I actually got their names and addresses from statements that were given to Civil Aviation investigators on Mauritius Island.

MR VAN RENSBURG: That may be so, Mr Chairman, but now I can talk of experience here, we had no jurisdiction to subpoena witnesses to force them to come before.

CHAIRPERSON: That's another reason now, that's another reason.

MR VAN RENSBURG: No, no, but I mean we've tried and the moment you've asked people, Mr Chairman, really I must tell you here, we have tried to get hold of them, but they refused when they heard that they must testify and they must come under oath, they just tried to wipe that thing out and then not to get it close to us and they couldn't follow it further and we couldn't get hold of those people to come and tell us exactly what they've seen.

MS PATTA: Well we'll hear evidence from them tomorrow because we've got - they were very easily traceable and they said to me that they were amazed and surprised because they were waiting and willing and wanting to come to South Africa and they indicated to Roy Downs and Rene van Zyl that they were willing to come at the moments notice to South Africa to testify before the Truth Commission. In fact the one of them had been a witness in something else a year previously and he said he knows that their testimony was very important and he was shocked that South Africa never came to find them, it was only 10 years later when I phoned them up that they had contact with South Africa again.

MR VAN RENSBURG: Well if they can give any evidence that could give any further light, I'll be as pleased as you could be about it because it wasn't available at the time, but I say, get the evidence and cross-examine them and see exactly what it is. It may just give us more light on this incident.

CHAIRPERSON: Well for the moment you will be pleased to know that your pick-up truck is here so that you should be excused and released and should not miss your flight.

MR VAN RENSBURG: I thank you, Mr Chairman, am I excused for this proceedings, I mean, it won't be necessary to come here again?

CHAIRPERSON: No, well, for the moment I do not consider that you will be called, certain in the immediate future, should the need arise I'm sure it will be in terms and conditions that will have been arranged with you ahead of time.


CHAIRPERSON: You are excused.


MS TERREBLANCHE: Mr Chairman, I wish to call one more witness, do you want a break?

CHAIRPERSON: Call the witness, Ms Terreblanche. He has written a book, I don't know if his evidence is going to be as long as the book, because if that is going to be so, maybe we need to consider whether we need to take his evidence now.