On this day, 34 years ago, the Presidential jet, OK1, was shot down over Angola. Fortunately, the plane was able to successfully make an emergency landing at the Cuito Bie airstrip.

In addition to the President, Sir Ketumile Masire, the plane, which had been en route to the Southern African Development Coordinating Conference (SADCC) summit in Luanda, was carrying the then Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, the Chief of Protocol, Bashi Ikitseng, the President’s Senior Private Secretary, Mogolori Modisi, PS for Political Affairs in the Office of the President, Molosiwa Selepeng, and a security officer named Mooketsi.

Also on board was BDF pilot, Captain Albert Scheefers, BDF technician Lieutenant Maapetsane as well as RAF training pilot Captain Arthur Rickets, who had been seconded by the British Aerospace company. Rickets presence was due to the fact that the Presidential Jet, a British Aerospace BAe125-800A, had only recently been purchased by the government, a move designed to end the states embarrassing and costly dependency on South African charters for regional trips.

According to reports, OK 1 had been flying over south-central Angola at 900km/h when a missile ripped off its right engine after an Angolan MiG-23 fighter jet had fired two R-60 (AA-8 Aphid) missiles at the plane. One missile hit the no. 2 engine, causing it to fall off the aircraft. The second missile may have hit the falling engine. The plane had also been targeted by surface-to-air missiles fired from Cuito Carnavale.

In the aftermath of the immediate incident, the Angolan Government put many conspiracy theories to rest by apologizing for the mistake which was almost certainly caused by a breakdown in communication.

It was by sheer luck the passengers did not suffer more extreme injuries. As it was a piece of shrapnel from a bolt had in fact struck Masire barely missing his spinal column and vital organs. In this respect, he had been shielded by his seat. Kedikilwe, Selepeng and Maapetsane subsequently suffered whiplash (causing them to have to wear neck braces for a period) while Ikitseng was also injured. A Cuban doctor stationed at Cuito Bie had been rushed to assist. While he confirmed Masire’s close call he was unable to immediately operate. Masire and the other injured subsequently received in some cases long-term follow-up care.

Sir Ketumile and members of his delegation subsequently returned to Gaborone aboard Angolan President Dos Santos presidential jet.

The clear heroes of the unfortunate incident were the flight crew who were able to get oxygen to the cabin while successfully manoeuvring the shattered plane’s safe descent. In this respect, it was Rickets an experienced fighter pilot who landed the plane

Addressing a crowd upon his safe return Masire observed that: ‘it was through the power of God, that everybody was safe and well’


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