Nongqai Blog bring Skillie home header

ABSTRACT: Bring Skillie Home – South African para Andries “Skillie” Human was last seen alive exiting the side-door of a Hercules aircraft at 500ft over the fortified military base Cassinga, 150kms across the border into Angola, on 4 May 1978. It was later established that he had landed in the Culonga River and drowned. His body was retrieved by a local headman and buried alongside the river.  Now a project to retrieve his remains needs your support.

FOCUS KEYWORD: Bring Skillie Home

KEYWORDS: Cassinga; Angola; 1978 South African para assault;  Andries “Skillie” Human; Parabat Veterans Organization.

AUTHOR: Mike McWilliams (Parabat Veterans Organization)


Andries “Skillie” Human was last seen alive exiting the side-door of a Hercules aircraft at 500ft over the fortified military base Cassinga, 150kms across the border into Angola, on 4 May 1978.

Skillie was only found to be Missing in Action that evening when the Parabats returned to base in South-West Africa/Namibia.

It was speculated that he had landed in the Culonga River alongside the camp, as the most probable cause of his disappearance.

Nongqai bring Skillie home photo of Skillie

Andries "Skillie" Human, MIA.

Over the years, every tour group that visited the battlefields of Angola was asked to enquire as to Skillie’s whereabouts.

In 2011 a rumor spread that Skillie had been found and buried by a local tribesman and this spurred the Parabat Veterans Organization (PVO) to plan a trip to search for the grave. Detailed estimates of Skillie’s landing site were made, taking into account the aircraft run-in speed and the location of the landing positions of his stick. The expedition anticipated using Ground Penetrating Radar and metal detectors to sweep the banks of the river.


While planning proceeded, a windfall came our way. A Namibian historian visited Cassinga and enquired about Skillie. The historian was taken to a nearby village where he met the man who had found Skillie’s body and buried him.

Nongqai Blog unmarked grave of Skillie Human

Skillie’s unmarked grave alongside the Culonga River at Cassinga

Skillie had indeed fallen into the river and drowned. A few days after the battle, his body floated to the surface and was retrieved by the headman and buried in a waist-deep grave next to the river. The old man took the historian to the grave site and showed him the indentation in the ground where the body lay.

A detailed GPS reading was taken at the site, as well as photographs.

The grave site is within 100m of the estimated landing area established by dead reckoning.

The plans for the expedition were immediately put into high gear and the Ebo Trust was contacted to help with the governmental interaction. The Trust had previously brought three SADF bodies back from Ebo near Luanda and had experience in this kind of project.


General Opperman of the Ebo Trust estimated that a sum of R350 000 would be needed to launch a successful expedition. This was based on the amount used to execute the retrieval of the Ebo remains. The PVO launched a multi-function fundraising effort in October 2016 and now, eight years later, we have about R300 000 in the bank.

The bank details for donations to the project: an 18A Tax exempt certificate can be issued if a POP is made, with the donor’s full name, sent to Willoughby Brits, Chairman PVO at

Parabat Veteran Organisation
Somerset West
Acc No 1131959035


During the fundraising effort, Mike McWilliams of the PVO was approached by Eeben Barlow, the founder of Executive Outcomes, the famous private security force. Eeben told of a friend of his, an MK soldier who had retrieved remains of dead ANC cadres from Angolan camps. This man had close relationships with both the SA and Angolan governments and was willing to help with the Skillie project.

One of the great difficulties the EBO Trust encountered while in Angola was a lack of cooperation with most government bodies there. This caused big delays and made things more expensive than what they should have been and the PVO was very keen to try to establish a better relationship with the Angolan government.


The Angolan Ambassador to South Africa was contacted and asked to help in smoothing the path of the expedition.

She was very happy to do so, and asked whether we could help her in return. Naturally, the PVO offered any help she may need.

A woman in her embassy in Pretoria was the wife of a FAPLA Captain, Jeronimo, who had gone MIA in 1981 during action against the SADF. Naturally, everyone was keen to find out what had happened to him. The Angolans believed he had been taken prisoner, but had never been repatriated at the end of hostilities.

Despite government-to-government enquiries and the intervention of the Red Cross, no trace was found of Capt. Jeronimo, dead or alive.

The Angolans knew the date when Capt. Jeronimo went missing and they also knew that he was a tank commander and where he was last seen, Xangongo.

After months of exhaustive investigation, the PVO came to the conclusion that he had not been a POW.


Eventually we tracked down the man who had shot out the only tank to be shot out alongside the Kunene River near Xangongo on that particular day.

The Soviet T34 had been shot out by a Ratel with a HEAT round. The T34 driver and gunner had managed to exit the tank; but died alongside it. The tank commander who took the full force of the HEAT round was killed in the turret.

The tank was driven away by a SADF tanker as a captured weapon with the body of the commander still in the turret.

On interviewing the tanker, he told of extracting the body from the turret the next morning and burying it where the tank had laid up overnight, somewhere in the trackless bush of Angola.

This series of events explained why the body was never found and the captured T43 had been taken back to Pretoria and is now on display at the Army College.

Nongqai Blog T34 tank at Army College

Col. Blahz Rieketts (MK) with Capt. Jeronimo’s (MPLA) T34 tank

The Angolans are very happy to have an answer to their mystery and are very well disposed to help with the Skillie Project.


We would very much like to Bring Skillie Home in June this year. It will have been exactly forty six years since he went missing and his widow, Rachel Human, would really like to get closure as soon as possible. May is the time when the rains stop in Angola, so it is the ideal time to launch the expedition. This means that we need to get the balance of R50 000 between now and then, to enable us to bring Skillie home and inter his remains at the Voortrekker Monument among all the other soldiers who lost their lives during the bush war.

 Mike McWilliams

Parabat Veterans Organization

073 164 3278

Nongqai Blog SA para jumping at Cassinga, Angola 1978

Rfn. Mike McWilliams 500 ft over Cassinga. (Photo: Sgnt. Des Steenkamp)

For the Wikipedia article on the battle of Cassinga, CLICK HERE.