Memorial initiative a tribute to Rietbok disaster
1967 crash of plane at Kayser’s Beach remains shrouded in mystery
An investigation by the Daily Dispatch into the 1967 Rietbok air disaster has spurred a high-profile initiative to memorialise victims and help their loved ones find closure.
In March, the Dispatch revealed new insights into the disaster which has been shrouded in mystery for decades.
Both victims’ families and forensic experts are convinced that the Rietbok was sabotaged by the apartheid government.
Their reasoning is not only were no bodies ever officially recovered, but the presence of two people on the flight – Prof Johan Bruwer, a leading Broederbond figure who was having a change of heart about apartheid’s policies, and US anti-apartheid activist Audrey Rosenthal – gave the National Party government cause to down the plane.
Within days of publication on March 16, the Dispatch was approached by East London historian and author Koko Qebeyi, who explained his idea was to pay tribute to the victims by way of a memorial at Kayser’s Beach, where the plane crashed.
It is envisaged that the memorial will be unveiled on the 53rd anniversary of the crash on March 13 2020.
In the two months since, Qebeyi has gathered together a team of more than 20 government representatives, academics, business people and filmmakers from across SA to work on the project.
He hopes that the project will ease some of the pain suffered by the families, but also ensure that the tragedy was not lost to South African history.
Meeting twice a month at the offices of the department of sport, recreation, arts and culture in East London, the project team has now registered an NPO, the Lighthouse Foundation, to take the initiative forward.
“While we have already gathered a lot of information and made contact with many people, we are appealing to anyone with information about the crash to come forward,” Qebeyi said.
At the most recent meeting of the Rietbok memorial team, including BCM officials, on Tuesday, researcher Viwe Pobana said the University of California, where Rosenthal had been a student in the 1960s, had now given permission for the team to access its archives to learn more about this key figure in the air disaster.
Filmmaker Gary Rusch, of East Londonbased Thatchroof Media, has been approached to produce a documentary around the memorial initiative and events of the Rietbok crash.
He hopes the project will ease some of the pain, but also ensure the tragedy is not lost to SA history