Mbalula releases report on 2020 air crash

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, has publicly released the report into the unfortunate incident where three South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) employees lost their lives when the aircraft they were traveling in crashed two years ago.

The three officials -- Captain Thabiso Tolo, first officer Tebogo Lekalakala and flight inspector, Gugu Mnguni -- were traveling from George Airport on a flight calibration mission on 23 January 2020 when this unfortunate incident happened.

“While the report is final, parties may still bring forth any new evidence they believe is material to the investigation and will add value in preventing future accidents and incidents of this nature,” the Minister said on Tuesday.

Addressing a media briefing in Pretoria, Mbalula said the full report is immediately available on the website of the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACCA), www.caa.co.za

The initial investigation was conducted by the Accident and Incident Investigation Division (AIID), a functionally independent unit reporting to the Minister, but administratively attached to the SACAA. 

The preliminary report was released by AIID in February 2020, 30 days after the accident and as required by Annex 13 of the Chicago Convention.  

“Following engagements with the families in the period following the accident, who they (families) and the aviation industry expressed discomfort with the proximity of the AIID to SACAA and expressed preference for an independent investigation, I then issued an order to this effect. 

“I then appointed the Ethiopian Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB), who undertook the independent aviation safety investigation,” Mbalula said.

There were delays with the investigation, which were occasioned by the travel restrictions and some members of the investigating team contracting COVID-19. Despite the challenges, the investigation was concluded.

“On Sunday 23 January 2022, I met the Tolo, Lekalakala and Mnguni families and handed over the final report which had been released to us by the Ethiopian Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau. 

“The report was then published and also uploaded on the website of the SACAA on the same day as required by Annex 13 of the Chicago Convention.  I extended my apologies to the families for the delay in finalising the report, which process was impacted on by the COVID-19 restrictions.

“Death of any kind brings sorrow, anguish and unanswered questions and many of us battle to find closure as those we lost are forever lingering in our memories,” the Minister said.

In terms of Annex 13 of the Chicago Convention, the sole purpose of the investigation is the prevention of accidents and not to apportion blame or liability.

“I am equally bound by the same Convention, to which South Africa is a signatory and have domesticated its provisions. With the report having been publicly released, affected parties can submit any further portfolio of evidence to the AAIB should they wish to rebut any finding in the report in terms of Annex 13 of the Convention, Standard 5.13,” the Minister said.

The Convention states that after the investigation has been closed, new and significant evidence becomes available, the State, which conducted the investigation, shall reopen it. However, when the State, which conducted the investigation, did not institute it, that State shall first obtain the consent of the State, which instituted the investigation.

“While our Civil Aviation regulation would ordinarily be applicable, were we the ones who conducted the investigation, the full provisions of the Chicago Conventions are applicable in this instance,” the Minister said. – SAnews.gov.za

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