Nineteen years after the plane crash in which the entire Zambian football squad was killed, the Zambian government has yet to release the full official report of the inquiry into the disaster.

And as next week’s anniversary of the 1993 crash looms, a relative of one the dead players has called on the government to come clean.

Michael Chanda, the elder brother of former Zambian forward Kelvin Mutale, said that although the report will not bring back his brother, it might prompt the authorities to take measures to avoid such accidents in future.

The two-engine air force Buffalo transport plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off Gabon, killing 18 footballers en route to a World Cup qualifier in Senegal and another 12 people on board.

Each year, relatives and friends of members of the team – probably the best Zambia has produced – join government officials at “Heroes’ Acre” outside Lusaka’s Independence Stadium for a memorial ceremony.

In 2003, the Zambian government issued a partial report in Parliament through former vice president Nevers Mumba, ascribing the accident to a mechanical fault in the plane’s left engine as the cause of the accident. Mumba added that this could only be confirmed by experts.

The report also indicated that the pilot was tired, having just flown back the previous day from playing in Mauritius, where Mutale scored three goals. It did not explain why the plane was allowed to fly

Mumba said the government would make an official statement on the report at a later date, which has never happened.

Asked why the government has not released the report and when it would do so, the permanent secretary in Zambia’s ministry of information, Amos Malupenga had not responded to the question by time of going to press.

In an interview this week, Michael Chanda said Zambia’s success in the Cup of Nations this year had only succeeded in bringing back memories of his brother.

He said he prayed for Zambian defender Stophila Sunzu as he stepped up to take the decisive spot kick in the final match against Ivory Coast at the final in February. However, when he scored his joy gave way to sadness.

“That joy brought back memories of my brother. I know that the team (of 1993) was headed for great success.”

Chanda said his brother was the hope of the family, a generous man who was much loved.

“While some of his friends spent their money drinking, Kelvin managed to build a house for dad and mum during his years as a footballer.”

According to the Aviation Safety Network (ASN), an exclusive service of Flight Safety Foundation, an investigation by Gabon’s ministry of defence suggested that after the failure of the left engine the pilot shut down the other engine, causing the plane to lose all power.

The report, released in November 2003, also found that the pilot was suffering from fatigue.

The ASN is a private, independent initiative founded by a Dutch national, started gathering information on aircraft accidents in 1983.

The Zambian squad was forced to confront painful memories of the tragedy when they went to play the Africa Cup final in the Gabonese capital, Libreville.

Kalusha Bwalya, probably Zambia's greatest player and now the president of the federation, escaped the April 28 crash because he was based in the Netherlands with PSV Eindhoven and so made his own travel arrangements.

Bwalya, the 1988 African footballer of the year and former Zambian skipper, told the BBC before the Africa Cup that his players will not to be pressured by the memories of the tragedy.

“I have said to the boys there is no pressure on them. But they have to know that one of the best teams in Africa and world football died off the coast of Gabon, so we will get emotional when we get there …”

Zambia’s 87-year-old former president, Kenneth Kaunda, traveled to Libreville for the final this year. Because of his intense interest in the game, the national side was once known as the KKXI.

The Mail and Guardian - SA, April 20 – 25 2012