The Conflict with Renamo
July-August 1981

Dossier MZ-0020

The Defection of Adriano Bomba

On 8 July 1981, a Mozambican air-force pilot, Adriano Bomba, flew his ageing MiG fighter at low level into South African airspace, where he was quickly intercepted. It turned out that he wanted to defect, and a few days later his brother, Boaventura Bomba, managed to slip across the border into Swaziland, in what was allegedly a planned joint defection. South African newspapers carried many stories, reports and interviews, often pushing the theme that life in South Africa must be better, even under apartheid, if a black Mozambican pilot wanted asylum. The Mozambican press was understandably much more restrained, and even suggested that Bomba had been forced to land. President Machel famously commented that at least the SADF now had one black pilot.

Both the Bomba brothers eventually joined the ranks of the MNR.

Two ‘spies’ with military rank escaped from prison in unexplained circumstances, and public appeals were made in the Mozambican press for assistance in their recapture.

Decoration

1977 1978 September 1981

The Conflict Continues

14 July 1981
Rebels claim SA aided fight against Maputo. Rand Daily Mail [Johannesburg], 14 July 1981. Captured MNR testify to the press in Maputo that they were kidnapped from a re-education centre and sent for training. The claims are dismissed by the SADF as 'propaganda'. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 53 kb.

17 July 1981
Mozambique dissident movement’s claims. Summary of World Broadcasts [London], 17 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 98 kb.

19 July 1981
África Livre lança do regime do apartheid: elementos do grupo entregam-se às FPLM. Tempo [Maputo], no.562, 19 July 1981, p.10-12. Testimony from five former MNR members that they abandoned the movement because of its lack of coherent political objectives. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 381 kb.

20 July 1981
Poen de Villiers. Mozambique preparing for attack by S[outh] A[frica]. Citizen [Johannesburg], 20 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 246 kb.

26 July 1981
Espiões evadidos: Ministério da Segurança lança apelo para captura. Notícias [Maputo], 26 July 1981, p.3. The escapees were Lt.-Col. Jossias Ressamo Dlakama and Lt.-Col. Fernandes Baptista. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 105 kb.

2 August 1981
Evadidos perigosos espiões: apelo para a captura. Tempo [Maputo], no.564, 2 August 1981, p.9. This story had already been reported in Notícias on 26 July. The rumour was that they had been trained in unarmed combat. They overcame and killed their armed guards and fled. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 122 kb.

Lieutenant Bomba Flies to South Africa

The photograph below shows two SADF pilots standing in front of Bomba’s MiG after he had landed it in South Africa.

Boletim da Celula

9 July 1981
Aviões da RSA interceptam MiG da RPM. Notícias [Maputo], 9 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 127 kb.

9 July 1981
Defection of the flyer from Frelimo. Pretoria News [Pretoria], 9 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 121 kb.

9 July 1981
Frelimo pilot defects. Sowetan [Johannesburg], 9 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 52 kb.

9 July 1981
MiG was probably tagged from take-off. Rand Daily Mail [Johannesburg], 9 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 235 kb.

9 July 1981
Mozambique pilot defects. New York Times [New York], 9 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 47 kb.

9 July 1981
Top-level move to decide jet’s fate. Star [Johannesburg], 9 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 143 kb.

9 July 1981
José Caetano. Our plane intercepted says Mozambique. Rand Daily Mail [Johannesburg], 9 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 203 kb.

9 July 1981
Don Marshall. MiG pilot defects. Rand Daily Mail [Johannesburg], 9 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 152 kb.

10 July 1981
A better life. Natal Mercury [Durban], 10 July 1981. Editorial comment on Bomba's decision to defect. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 121 kb.

10 July 1981
Comment: defector. Citizen [Johannesburg], 10 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 159 kb.

10 July 1981
Dramatic evidence of a struggling revolution. Evening Post [Port Elizabeth], 10 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 51 kb.

10 July 1981
Editorial opinion: a flight into history. Daily Dispatch [East London], 10 July 1981, p.19810710_flight_into_history. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 62 kb.

10 July 1981
Maputo wants access to MiG pilot. Star [Johannesburg], 10 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 29 kb.

10 July 1981
The MiG from Mozambique. Cape Times [Cape Town], 10 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 45 kb.

10 July 1981
MiG pilot: no request yet for asylum. Citizen [Johannesburg], 10 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 99 kb.

10 July 1981
What to do with our first black defector. Rand Daily Mail [Johannesburg], 10 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 75 kb.

10 July 1981
Carel Birkby. A toast to the aces of Cheetah Squadron. Rand Daily Mail [Johannesburg], 10 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 82 kb.

11 July 1981
Rob Nuttall. Points to be pondered on the defector. Eastern Province Herald [Port Elizabeth], 11 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 214 kb.

12 July 1981
Maputo asks to see pilot: defector faces death if he’s returned, says expert. Sunday Tribune [Durban], 12 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 179 kb.

13 July 1981
Winged victory. Natal Witness [Pietermaritzburg], 13 July 1981, p.4. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 30 kb.

14 July 1981
Defection of the Frelimo flyer. The Friend [Bloemfontein], 14 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 49 kb.

15 July 1981
Mozambique claims Bomba was anti-white. Pretoria News [Pretoria], 15 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 70 kb.

16 July 1981
Fugitive pilot remembered for anti-white attitudes. Star [Johannesburg], 16 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 46 kb.

19 July 1981
MiG moçambicano interceptado pela África do Sul. Tempo [Maputo], no.562, 19 July 1981, p.9. Note that the photograph published by Tempo on this page is not, in fact, a picture of Adriano Bomba. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 299 kb.

19 July 1981
Pilot’s brother seeks asylum. Sunday Times [Johannesburg], 19 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 42 kb.

19 July 1981
Desmond Blow. Now Boaventura Bomba crosses the Swazi border to look for asylum: pilot’s brother also defects to SA. Sunday Express [Johannesburg], 19 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 200 kb.

19 July 1981
Ron Golden. Bomba: follow me to South Africa. Sunday Tribune [Durban], 19 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 99 kb.

19 July 1981
Ray Smuts. My flight from broken promises: Mozambican defector talks to the press. Sunday Times [Johannesburg], 19 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 216 kb.

20 July 1981
He’s not a spy, say the experts. Rand Daily Mail [Johannesburg], 20 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 235 kb.

20 July 1981
Like a Bomba. Citizen [Johannesburg], 20 July 1981, p.6. Argues that Bomba's defection shows that ‘life in South Africa is better’. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 28 kb.

20 July 1981
Joubert Malherbe. Bomba copes with the press barrage. Rand Daily Mail [Johannesburg], 20 July 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 68 kb.

28 July 1981
Saldanha e Silva. Ex-Frelimo pede asilo a Pretória: a vida degrada-se em Moçambique, acusa Francisco Adriano Bomba. O Diabo [Lisbon], 28 July 1981, p.18. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 328 kb.

7 August 1981
Bafana Sibanyoni and Morgan Mjoko. This man Bomba. Sowetan [Johannesburg], 7 August 1981. Two reader’s letters. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 49 kb.

21 August 1981
Veleleni Mashumi. The freedom Bomba chose. Pretoria News [Pretoria], 21 August 1981. Click here to view or download a PDF, size 277 kb.

Decoration