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Thread: The mystery of the Rietbok (Non Fiction)

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Matatiele Kwazulu/Natal South Africa

    Default The mystery of the Rietbok (Non Fiction)

    Hi all havent been around for a bit My Father is home but now he is starting the Chemo, I am just glad he is home.

    This is a two parter so as usual wait for the big red finish

    here is a link to the video of the featured song:

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    1. Introduction.
    On the 13th March 1967, a Vickers Viscount 818 of South African Airways was approaching East London to land. Some witnesses had heard the aircraft fly over the airport and head out to sea where it would turn for finals. The aircraft never made it back to the airport, it crashed into the sea 1.5 miles off the beach with the loss of 25 passengers and crew. The aircraft was called the Rietbok. Many would say that there was nothing too unusual in that other similar air crashes had recently occurred due to structural failure. The Rietbok crash, however, had some sinister connotations which to this day are still unsolved, also there are hints and allegations of government conspiracies and cover ups with new evidence coming to the fore every now and then.

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    2. Bright Blue.
    In the 1980’s a pop group was formed called Bright Blue. They were responsible for several protest songs against Apartheid. The band members were often arrested and imprisoned to prevent them singing at shows but this did not stop them singing their protest songs, one of which was entitled weeping. The words of this song had a very deep impact on me as I was at the time serving my National Service to fight a war I did not believe in, for a government I did not support. As I have witnessed first hand what the Apartheid era government were capable of and the lengths to which they were prepared to go, I have my own suspicions about the crash of the Rietbok. The words of the song Weeping are printed on the images accompanying this non fiction story.

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    3. The inquest into the crash.
    The aircraft had crashed in very bad weather conditions and almost immediately there was a clampdown on any information regarding the crash. The government stated that no wreckage or bodies whatsoever were recovered and that effectively the aircraft disappeared without trace. A board of enquiry was set up to probe the crash. As no evidence could be found the findings, were to all intents, pure conjecture.
    Accident description:
    Status: Final
    Date: 13 Mar 1967
    Time: 17:10 UTC
    Type: Vickers 818 Viscount
    Operator: South African Airways-SAA
    Registration: ZS-CVA
    C/n / msn: 317
    First Flight: 1958
    Crew: Fatalities:5/Occupants:5
    Passengers: Fatalities:20/Occupants:20
    Total: Fatalities:25/Occupants:25
    Airplane Damage: Written off
    Airplane fate: Written off (Damaged beyond repair)
    Location: 35 km (21.9 mls) off East London, South Africa
    (Indian Ocean)*?
    Phase: Approach (APR)
    Nature: Domestic Scheduled Passenger
    Departure airport: Port Elizabeth Airport (PLZ)(PLZ/FAPE). South Africa
    Destination Airport: East London Airport (ELS)(ELS/FAEL). South Africa
    Flight number: 406
    Narrative: The aircraft (named ‘Rietbok’) was approaching East London in bad weather. Last report from the aircraft was when the crew reported at 2000 feet with the coastline in sight. The aircraft crashed into the sea 1 minute later.
    Probable Cause: The available data is not sufficient for the originating cause of the accident to be determined with any degree of probability. In the opinion of the Board certain possibilities can be excluded as being consistent with the evidence and/or as being remote and improbable; among these possibilities are structural failure, failure of controls, or control surfaces, multiple engine failure, engine failure, instrument failure, explosion, fire, a ‘bad weather’ accident and pilot error. However on the evidence the Board cannot exclude as originating cause of the accident a heart attack suffered by the Captain in the air, with ensuing loss of control of the aircraft, and the first officer being unable in the time available to regain sufficient control to prevent contact with the sea.

    Later on it was rumoured that the aircraft crashed as a result of a structural failure, because comparable accidents happened during that time.

    The above excerpts are from “Rietbok: new evidence” in the Daily Dispatch (Newspaper)dated 20th April 2001

    Well so far it seems just an unfortunate event without too much mystery, but other evidence suggests otherwise. Before we go into this evidence lets look at some South African history.

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    4. A brief description of Apartheid.
    Apartheid was a system that the old Nationalist Government in South Africa brought into being, it was simply a legalisation of segregation and government supported racial discrimination. Black people did not enjoy the freedoms that white people did, could not go where white people went, also black people had to carry a “Dompas” (Dumb pass) with them, a sort of identity document that stated where that person should be allowed, and that they were not first class citizens. A set of laws was enacted that enforced this status.

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    5. The Group Areas Act.
    The group areas act. This law dictated that non whites had to live in certain preordained areas these so called “Townships” were always several kilometres away from towns and cities (Kwa Mashu is situated 40km from the city of Durban and Soweto is a similar distance from Johannesberg ). A result of the group areas act was that a sort of curfew existed in that non whites found in towns and cities after a certain time were detained and were invariably treated brutally while detained. Another factor of the group areas act was that certain sectors of the country were allocated as self governing “Homelands” these homeland were usually set up with very little infrastructure, resources or assets, and were to all intents and purposes reliant on South Africa for almost everything. This law affected all facets of society in that white hobos were the only hobos that slept unmolested on city park benches black hobos were never even seen or allowed in the city centres.

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    6. The Immorality Act.
    The Immorality Act: This law made it illegal for people of different race groups to associate, it was illegal for a white person to marry a black or Asian person, a sort of Nazism in that the Nationalist Government wanted to keep the white race “Pure”. My marriage to a Zulu woman would have meant that the two of us would have had to leave the country and live elsewhere had we got together twenty five years ago, or face incarceration in prison for anything up to twenty years.

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    7. Ramifications of Apartheid era law
    All non whites had to ride on certain sections of public transport, use separate ablutions, non whites were bared from attending white schools, going into town libraries, government buildings and any other facilities that the government decided were for white entertainment only. Invariably the non white facilities were third rate and not well maintained by the government unlike white facilities that were maintained to the highest degrees of sanitation.
    The government maintained this hold over the country by instating a two year national service system that saw every white man from the moment they left school or attaining a certain age attending two years of military training and service, refusal to carry out National Service would result in eight years imprisonment and a criminal record. A non white could be detained at any time without reason or trial and as a result many non whites were picked up just for “looking” wrong or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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    8. The end of the era
    Many white and non white activists throughout these years were trying to fight the system and get the then South African government to change its ways. Eventually many nations imposed sanctions on South Africa and as a result the government held a referendum asking the white people if the country should continue as it was, or if equality should become a reality. The referendum resulted in the government starting to dismantle the structures of apartheid and within a few years Nelson Mandela had become South Africa’s first black president and the Nationalist Party effectively ceased to exist.

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    9. The Broederbond.
    The Broederbond were a powerful group of Afrikaans Nationalist businessmen, political figures and religious leaders who formed a sort of brotherhood that ensured Afrikaans people would wield power and wealth in South Africa. They supported Apartheid wholeheartedly as Apartheid excluded a large percentage of the nation from effectively competing for power and wealth, so it is not unrealistic to believe that the Broederbond and Nationalist government were working hand in hand to the point that the borders between the organisation and the government were extremely blurred. It was also unheard of for a Broederbond member to break ranks without extremely bad consequences for that particular individual.

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    10. Other mysteries.
    Geoffrey Jenkins wrote a fictional novel that tied the sinking without trace of the Steamship Waratah of the Blue Anchor line, and the Rietbok together, and associated their disappearance with a strange phenomenon reported by many seamen along this stretch of the coast. The phenomena was described as freak waves of extreme height that were also supposed to expose the sea floor as they drew water up to form the wave. The novel (Which I have read) is entitled Scend of the sea. No trace of the Waratah was ever found although recently some reports have come to light of a wreck being found in water too deep and turbulent to allow a definite identification to be made (Emlyn Brown Claims he found the Waratah wreck during a 1987 expidition). An eye witness account by Edward Joe Conquer surfaced in 1929, of a steamer resembling the Waratah rolling over and sinking, this account was recorded in the book ‘Eight bells at Salamander’ by Lawrence Green (Another I have read) It was later suggested that Conquer had in fact witnessed the sinking of the Khedive in 1910 and had his facts mixed up, it was also suggested by many that Conquer was a known liar, although there appears to be an official document that contains research into Conquers personality that states he is not the type to fabricate tales.
    In October 1925 the Greek Steamship Margarita also disappeared without trace in heavy weather.
    In 1936 the Cargo ship Rabaul was struck by a freak wave and the captain of the ship suggested that such a wave could have accounted for the Waratah.

    Part 2 follows

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Amsterdam, Holland


    A great tribute to the Rietbok my friend, and let's pray Apartheid is banned forever.
    Thanks for the interesting (and frightening) details. Your Viscount pics are fantastic
    Last edited by peer01; 12-10-2010 at 05:16 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Matatiele Kwazulu/Natal South Africa


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    11. A modern piece of the puzzle
    In 1991 the Ocianos a cruise liner sank of the Xora river. All on board were airlifted from the wreck by South African Air force Puma Helicopters. The ship went down after taking damage during a storm, however she took a long time to go down and it has been suggested that if many stupid mistakes that were made had not been, the ship might not have sunk.

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    12. Freak waves and NDB approach mishaps?
    In 1973 Professor J Mallory found that waves up to 20 metres +- 60 foot occur in a narrow belt of sea approximately 100 fathoms deep between Richards Bay and Cape Agulhas. It is suggested that a combination of the sudden sea bed drop away, the powerful Agulhas current, and the extreme gale force winds of a winter cold front causing a convergence of heavy sea swells, create super waves. Given the distance of the sea from East London airport, it is unlikely in my opinion that the Rietbok that had radioed in that the coast was in sight (in bad weather), and was at 2000 ft would have been taken out of the sky by a 60 foot wave only a minute later.
    Yet another theory was put forward by a flight instructor who believes that the crash was caused by “costal refraction error”. It seems the aircraft was carrying out an NDB approach and Costal refraction error had to be calculated to ensure you are where the instruments say you are, apparently costal error refraction only works against the horizontal and not the vertical. Could two competent airmen ignore their altitude readings and fly into the sea when they had moments before radioed in at 2000 ft and had a visual of the coastline ahead? I think not

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    13. J.P.Bruwer
    When the Rietbok went down off Kayser’s beach one of the passengers on board was a Mr J.P. Bruwer. He was the vice rector of Port Elizabeth University and a very disillusioned acting Chairman of the Broederbond. He had begun to publicly denounce Apartheid as racial discrimination, a fact that would not have endeared him to the Broederbond or Nationalist government. He had also stated that he believed he would be murdered for his beliefs shortly before the Rietbok crash.

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    14. Audrey Rosenthal
    Another passenger was an American woman known as Audrey Rosenthal. Audrey Rosenthal worked for the Defence and Aid Fund. Organisations such as the Pan African Congress and the African National Congress that had been banned in South Africa in 1966 were beneficiaries of the fund. Her duties were to have clandestine meetings with element of the PAC and the ANC that remained in hiding in South Africa, apparently she was also gathering intelligence to be used by the South African Freedom Movement. She had told some people that she believed that the “Special Branch” of the security police were onto her and this seemed to be borne out when both her and a companion saw observers watching them through binoculars in Port Elizabeth shortly before she left for East London aboard the Rietbok.
    After the crash stories were carried in some newspapers that the Security police were looking for a light brown briefcase belonging to a female passenger. Audrey Rosenthal carried a light brown briefcase with her throughout her stay in South Africa.

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    15. Now the story really gets a twist in the tail.
    A former Navy Diver “Malcolm Viviers” has stated that he was witness to video footage aboard the SA Navy Minesweeper SAS Johannesburg anchored a short time after the crash above the wreckage that showed parts of the aircraft and passengers still strapped into their seats on the seabed. Other Divers said that they were ordered to net the wreckage to the seabed to ensure that large parts of the aircraft did not wash ashore or surface. In 1998 efforts were made to have allegations of the cover up probed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and to have Max Maharaj the then Minister of Transport reopen the investigation. To date nothing further has come to light, is the present government somehow protecting the old government by continuing the cover up? Is there some kind of agreement not to disclose certain past sins of the “old” South Africa? Perhaps we will never know for sure, or maybe some of the individuals attempting to unearth the truth will find the wreckage and “evidence” of foul play, but as one who has lived in this country through some of the very bad times and seen what happened under the old regime I believe I can hazard an educated guess as to the true fate of the Rietbok, it is my contention that the old government saw and used the opportunity to rid itself of two troublesome birds with one stone, there are a great number of other similar murders and cover ups that are now public knowledge, the list starts off with the likes of Steve Biko, Griffiths Mxenge and many, many others, even Nelson Mandela knows the brutality that was the nationalist regime as it was this regime that kept him incarcerated on Robin Island prison camp table bay for 27 years.

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    16. Last word.
    Many years later but equally mysterious is the story of the South African Airways Boeing 747 The Helderberg that exploded and went down in the mid Indian ocean, but that is another story...

    My repaint of the Rietbok ZS-CVA will be available here soon.

    By all means guys make comments I am interested to hear what you think.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Amsterdam, Holland


    Sorry for interupting Rory May your Father recover soon

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Matatiele Kwazulu/Natal South Africa


    Thank you Jan I agree with all your sentiments regarding Apartheid (Apart-Hate was a popular version used by some of my freinds at the time) As for interuptions boss you can interupt any time you like BTW how about a raise?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Amsterdam, Holland


    a RAISE??? Did you loose your sentence or what????

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Albuquerque, NM, USA.


    Very nice post Rory. Great pix of the Viscount and a great narrative as well.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Denver, CO USA KAPA, KLMO, 35CO


    Welcome back, Rory!

    Nice shots and an interesting narrative! Good to have you back; hope your dad is comfortable and the rest of your family is doing well.
    Chemotherapy can be a real drain on someone... when my mother was sick I took her for chemo treatments once a week, and she
    definitely didn't feel very good afterward, but it usually passed in a day or two.

    Keep your head up, and we'll be hoping for the best.



    "I created the Little Black Book to keep myself from getting killed..." -- Captain Elrey Borge Jeppesen
    i5 M450 2.4/4GB RAM/ATI RADEON 5000HD 1GB GPU/500 GB HDD/WIN 7 PRO 64/FS9 CFS CFS2

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Matatiele Kwazulu/Natal South Africa


    Thank you Allan we are looking forward to a time when my father is given a clean bill of health, the doctors are confident that they got the Cancer and are saying that the Chemo is purely precautionary.

    NMLW thank you this story I felt was the best way to highlight the darkest days of South African history, in a way I feel almost privilaged in a way that I was a witness to it and was present when the great day arrived that saw Apartheid abolished hopefully for good.

    Hey boss I was only asking mumble... mumble...

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Orkney Islands, Scotland


    "Sorry, I wasn't listening. Could you go over that again please?"

    Very nice post!

    Corsair TX850 PSU, Gigabyte GA-Z68AP-D3 motherboard, Intel i7-2700K @3.5GHz w/ARCTIC Freezer Xtreme Rev.2 heatsink, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480 1.5GB, 8GB Kingston DDR3 RAM, Seagate 3.5inch Barracuda 1TB HDD + 64GB SSD, Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit

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