Special Forces operator death not in vain

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The death of a South African Special Forces operator in a firefight with ASWJ (Al Sunnah wa Jama’ah) insurgents in Mozambique will not be in vain.

Corporal Tebogo Radebe, a 31-year-old 5 Special Forces Regiment operator, was buried in his Paul Roux, Free State, home town where his commanding officer Colonel Michael Khasebe told mourners “we lost a hero”.

His remarks, including referring to the dead soldier as an “anchor” and a “dedicated man”, were reported by Government’s SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

“The life of a young man was cut short in its prime. Speaker after speaker spoke about the bravery of Corporal Radebe and how he mastered his role in 5 Special Forces Regiment. His superiors say he was due for promotion to sergeant this year,” according to the multi-channel radio and television broadcaster.

Khasebe is quoted as saying Radebe’s death will not be in vain – “We are not backing down. We are still going there with full power. There’s nothing that stops us, they shall know wherever they are, those who did this to our brother that we are coming with an iron fist from the sea and firepower from the north”.

Radebe died in a firefight with ASWJ insurgents, called “terrorists” by the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM), on 20 December in an ambush near Chai village in Mozambique’s beleaguered Cabo Delgado province.

Sandu (SA National Defence Union) was among the first to honour the fallen operator. Pikkie Greeff, national secretary of South Africa’s largest military labour organisation, said Radebe’s death was “a stark reminder” of the war South Africa was part of in Mozambique.

“This is as real as it gets for any soldier. Our soldiers go into combat knowing lives are at stake, they choose to do this for the greater good and for peace and stability in the sub-continent. The deployment continues without air combat support, such as attack helicopters or fighter aircraft, which is regrettable as it is potentially a game changer in this operation”.

The lack of top cover, in the form of either SA Air Force (SAAF) Gripen or Hawk jets or the home-grown Rooivalk combat support helicopter, during the ambush was noted by commentators. They included Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais and retired air force officers.

One, preferring anonymity, said it had to be borne in mind there were five Oryx medium transport and three Rooivalk helicopters deployed as a combined helicopter unit (CHU) for MONUSCO in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). “With the Gripens grounded (reported on defenceWeb in December) there is nothing else to send.”