WALVIS BAY – A body believed to be that of one of two soldiers of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Special Forces who drowned last month was found washed up ashore at Sandwhich Harbour, about 30 kilometres from Walvis Bay, over the weekend. But the Erongo regional police are yet to confirm whether the body is that of one of the soldiers who drowned during the SADC Special Forces warfare exercise off the Namibian coast that took place in September – October.
Last month a Malawian soldier and two South African defence force members drowned during an early morning sea-borne exercise. It appeared that the seas were rough and the wind was strong as well, which resulted in two of the four boats being used in the exercise capsizing. Some of the soldiers were able to swim to shore but three did not make it to shore. However the Malawian officer’s body was retrieved hours after the accident. The warfare exercise started on September 04 and ended on October 10.
“The body was discovered in the same location where the SADC warfare sea-borne exercise in which the two South African officers went missing was conducted,” acting crime coordinator for the police in the Erongo Region, Inspector Erustus Iikuyu, said yesterday afternoon confirming that a male corpse was discovered in the vicinity of Sandwhich Harbour.
The family members of the two South African soldiers arrived in the country last week Friday with the Commander of the South African Defence Force, Brigadier General Maphwanya Rudzani. They visited the area on Friday to come to try to come to terms with the tragedy.
According to Iikuyu the area where the body was found is only accessible with four-by-four vehicles and is quite popular among fishing folk. It is believed that the body must have washed up over the weekend. “We are hoping that the body is that of one of the missing Southern African officers,” he said.
Rudzani, who took part in the SADC warfare exercise, said the search for their two members will continue until they find something that will give the families some sort of closure.
The South African media reported that the two missing defence force members are Corporal Senatla Abel Sebooa and Kgabo Wilson Mabutla. Both were said to be 27 years old.
According to Rudzani the relatives were taken to various locations in the vicinity of the Walvis Bay saltpans and Donkie Bay where they were briefed about events that occurred prior to the disappearance of the men. “This was done purely to give the family some feeling as to what happened that fateful day as well as to find some sort of closure, while at the same time paint a clearer picture of the tragedy so that family members can get an understanding of the event that took place,” he explained.
He went on to say that the case is still being investigated by the Namibian police and that although the two soldiers are still missing they are not yet classified as deceased. “These decisions are solely also to be made by the family, however we will not rest until we find something. We have broadened our search as well and we hope that we can soon have some answers for the family,” he said.
Close to 720 military personnel from participating countries South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia participated in the exercise that is hosted every year to sharpen the skills of SADC Special Forces.
By Eveline de Klerk