WALVIS BAY – Tragedy struck the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Special Forces warfare exercise off the Namibian coast when a Malawian military officer drowned, while two South African officers are still missing after their boat capsized in the Atlantic ocean during the early hours of yesterday morning, about 27 kilometres from the Walvis Bay harbour. Two other officers are currently being treated at the Welwitchia private hospital in Walvis Bay. The officers participated in the SADC Special Forces warfare exercise, dubbed Welwitschia, that is currently underway at Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Henties Bay.
The regional exercise is hosted every year to sharpen the skills of SADC forces. The exercise involves physical exercises, practicing tactics, techniques and procedures of sea and desert warfare to improve the combat readiness and interoperability of the SADC Special Forces. The Nampol Crime Investigations Coordinator in the Erongo Region, Deputy Commissioner Ottilie Kashuupulwa told New Era that 32 military officers from different SADC countries took part in the exercise on Saturday night and were ferried with four normal size military boats to Sandwich harbour, about 50 kilometres from Walvis Bay.
Each of the boats take four persons. “It appears that the sea was rough and the wind was strong as well, which resulted in two of the boats capsizing. Others managed to swim to shore. Only the three did not make it to shore,” Kasshuupulwa explained. Yesterday afternoon, the director of the exercise, Colonel Martin Shikomba described the accident as an unfortunate situation that has shocked everybody. In a statement released by the Namibian Defence Force (NDF), Shikomba explained that the two boats were swamped by strong waves and capsized. “At around 21h00, the seaborne group in four boats were en route to conduct a scenario at Sandwich harbour, about 27 kilometres from Walvis Bay harbour. All members on the affected boats were washed off deck into the sea and forced to swim to shore. One member lost his life, two [are] hospitalized, while two [are] still missing,” he explained.
A search and rescue operation was launched immediately, while the navy was mobilised to assist in the effort. The names of the officers could not be released as their countries and next of kin are yet to be informed. The warfare exercise code-named ‘Welwitschia’ is a desert warfare simulation exercise that started on September 04 and is expected to end on October 10. Close to 720 military personnel from participating countries South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and host Namibia are participating in the exercise.
By Eveline de Klerk