You may be wondering, what the heck does the South African Border War on the SWA/Namibia and Angola border in the late 80’s have in common with Pan Am Flight 103 and the Lockerbie bombing? Well, there is an interesting and uniquely South African connection.
Heralding the end of The Border War in 1988, as part of the pathway to peace, the United Nations pre-empted the process and appointed a Swedish UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson. In the eventuality of South Africa’s relinquishing control of Namibia.
Commissioner Carlsson’s role would be to administer the country on behalf of the UN, formulate its framework constitution, and organise free and fair elections based upon a non-racial universal franchise.
On their way to sign the brokered peace accords to end the Bush War on the 22nd December 1988 in New York, the South African VIP contingent including Pik Botha (the then Foreign Minister) and the United Nations representative – Bert Carlsson all booked their passage to New York on Pan Am Flight 103. Pan Am Flight 103 was a regularly scheduled Pan Am transatlantic flight from Frankfurt to Detroit via London and New York.
Sadly and very tragically, the UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson, was not present at the signing ceremony. He was killed on Pan Am Flight 103 when it exploded and crashed on Lockerbie, Scotland on 21 December 1988 en route from London to New York City – killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew, in what became known as the Lockerbie bombing after large sections of the aircraft crashed onto residential areas of Lockerbie, United Kingdom, killing 11 more people on the ground.
South African foreign minister Pik Botha, and the official South African delegation of 22 members had a very lucky escape. Their booking on Pan Am 103 was cancelled at the last minute and Botha, together with a smaller delegation, caught the earlier Pan Am 101 flight to New York.
Handed over by the Libyans and found guilty, a Libyan terrorist, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was jailed, the only person to be convicted for the attack. In 2003, Gaddafi, the Libyan despot, accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and paid compensation to the families of the victims. However many questions still exist on the motive and responsibility of the bombing – with Abdelbaset al-Megrahi protesting his innocence all the way to his death bed.
With Gaddafi out of the picture now, guess we will never know the full picture, and a tantalising titbit of a possible International terrorist conspiracy to derail the Namibian Peace Accords and/or deliver a killer blow to South Africa’s National Party elite and their policy of Apartheid will forever remain unanswered.
Pictured left is Bernt Carlsson and right is Pik Botha.