Cultural rituals for drowned Special Forces operators


The families of two SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Special Forces operators who drowned off the Namibian coast will tomorrow conduct cultural rituals for them at Sandwich harbour in a private ceremony.

Captain Kgabo Wilson Mabutla (27) of Ga-Matlala in Limpopo and Corporal Senatla Abel Sebooa (27) of Orange Farm, south of Johannesburg, both from 4 Special Forces Regiment, went missing during a multi-national exercise early in October.

They were part of a contingent of 32 South African Special Forces operators taking part in Exercise Welwitschia. The Barracuda boat they and 13 other operators were aboard was part of a beach landing exercise. It was flooded by a large wave and capsized after executing a power turn. Another Barracuda came to the rescue and also capsized when operators from the first overturned craft scrambled to one side of the would-be rescue boat.

The body of a Malawian soldier was washed ashore and a subsequent search and rescue operation did not succeed in locating the South Africans.
“An extensive search and rescue operation has been underway since October 6 following the incident. The operation has now been downscaled but continues,” SANDF Joint Operations Captain (SAN) Zamo Sithole said.
“Senior officers will accompany family members of both operators to Sandwich harbour in Walvis Bay where cultural rituals will be conducted for both,” he said.

The South African party will return on Saturday.

Exercise Welwitschia saw more than 700 personnel from several Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, including South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and host Namibia taking part.

The desert warfare exercise began on September 4 and ended on October 10, with the main portion of the exercise taking place at Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Henties Bay between September 30 and October 7.

The exercise involved practicing tactics, techniques and procedures of desert warfare and improving the readiness and inter-operability of SADC Special Forces, the Namibian Defence Force (NDF) said. It also gave Special Forces from participating countries the chance to co-ordinate anti-piracy operations.