Eveline de Klerk
South African High Commissioner to Namibia Mavivi Myakayaka-Manzini has paid tribute to two South African defence force members, who drowned during a SADC joint military exercise, dubbed Operation Welwitschia, that took place in Namibia on October 6, 2013.
Myakayaka-Manzini, who was welcoming the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) navy wing aboard the SAS Amatola at Walvis Bay on Tuesday evening, described the incident as tragic and a constant reminder of the dangers defence forces face while protecting peace and security throughout Africa.
“The last mission, three years ago in Namibia was not a very pleasant one for SANDF. I had to come here to meet some of your members following a tragic accident that claimed three lives, of which two was from us,” said Myakayaka-Manzini.
The two officials, Captain Kgabo Wilson Mabutla and Corporal Senatla Abel Sebooa, both 27 years old at that time, went missing alongside a Malawian defence force member, when a Barracuda rapid insertion and extraction boat they were on capsized.
They were part of a team of 32 Special Forces soldiers, who were taking part in the Special Forces exercise, Operation Welwitschia, off the coast of Sandwich Harbour near Walvis Bay.
At least 16 soldiers managed to swim to safety and the Malawian soldier’s body washed ashore several minutes after the incident. Sebooa’s body washed out weeks after the tragic event, but Mabutla’s remains were never recovered.
“Until today we have not been able to recover the remains of Mabutla. I relate this incident to show the sacrifices our uniformed men and women make in defence of peace and security in our country and Africa as a continent,” she said.
The South African navy also participated in the centenary commemoration of the SS Mendi, which sunk off the Isle of Wight in England on February 21, 1917, when she collided with another ship, claiming the lives of 600 South Africans within 20 minutes.