16 October 2007

South Africa: SANDF to Investigate Death of 9 Soldiers

Lohatlha — The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has appointed a high level board of enquiry to investigate the death of nine soldiers who died during a training exercise.

The soldiers died during the SANDF's annual "Exercise Seboka" at the Army Combat Training Centre in Lohatlha, in the Northern Cape on Friday.

Brigadier General Kwena Mangope told BuaNews that investigations could start either on Tuesday or Wednesday.

"All the members of the board of enquiry are ready to start with the inquiry," said Brigadier General Mangope.

With regard to funeral arrangements of the fallen soldiers, Brigadier General Mangope said they were still consulting with the families of the deceased and once that has been done, funeral arrangements would be announced.

"We are currently engaged with the families to find out what funeral arrangements they would prefer," he said.

Most of the deceased were from Gauteng and others were from the Northern Cape and Limpopo.

The deceased are:

  •  Staff Sergeant John Bezuidenhoudt, 30
  •  Bombardier Khangeziwe, Lephunah Malaza, 24
  •  Gunner Emmah Thembekile Mthimunye, 20
  •  Gunner Rhulani Mihloti Mtileni, 23
  •  Gunner Sebenzile Veronica Nhlabathi, 20
  •  Gunner Thapelo James Nkwana, 21
  •  Gunner Sammuel Sphiwe Nyembe, 22
  •  Gunner Botse, Seipato, 21, and
  •  Gunner Rudzani Christopher Siphuma, 21.

The soldiers were killed in an accident involving a 35mm MK5 Anti Aircraft Gun.

At the time of the incident, a group of 24 soldiers were participating in a shooting exercise.

Of these, 16 soldiers, five of whom were female soldiers, sustained serious injuries and have been admitted to various hospitals in Bloemfontein. According to Brigadier General Mangope, those admitted in hospital are recovering well.

Over the weekend, the Minister of Defence, Mosiuoa Lekota, on behalf of the Department of Defence and the Chief of the SANDF, General Godfrey Ngwenya, extended sincerest sympathies and condolences to the families of the deceased.

Exercise Seboka is an annual joint conventional military exercise involving 5 000 soldiers from 18 army units, plus members of the SA Air Force, SA Navy and SA Military Health Service.

The exercise is aimed at preparing troops for battle.

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