SANDF Major killed by a grenade in the DRC

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A South African Army Major has been killed in a grenade incident in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), whilst serving under the United Nations Monusco mission there.

Major Tolla Pieterse (46) was fatally wounded on Monday 8 July when a hand grenade exploded close to his sleeping quarters in the Beni base in the eastern region of the DRC.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in a statement said it is not clear what caused the hand grenade to explode, however a SANDF Board of Inquiry, which will also comprise United Nations officials, will be convened to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident.

The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Angie Motshekga, Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Bantu Hlomisa, and Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Richard Mkhungo together with Acting Secrectary for Defence, Dr Thobekile Gamede, as well the Chief of the South African National Defence Force, General Rudzani Maphwanya, convey their condolences to the family of the deceased and the entire defence family.

According to the Heidelberg Times, Pieterse had just arrived from South Africa, and had only been in the DRC for a few days.

He leaves behind two teenage daughters, Marla and Bianca, and his wife Marie.

“Tolla will be especially remembered for his sense of humour. He and Marie (swimming coach) were passionate swimmers and regularly participated in the Midmar Mile. They usually swam this as a fundraiser for a non-profit organization like the SAVF and/or the Cancer Society,” the Heidelberg Times reported. Tolla even braved the icy waters of Lesotho in the Ice-Swim at Afriski as a fundraiser.

Nearly a dozen SANDF members have died in the DRC this year. On 14 February, two soldiers were killed and three injured in an M23 mortar attack, while another two died on 29 February in a murder/suicide.

The following month, on 30 May, a medic was killed and 13 troops wounded during an M23 attack on Sake, and two Captains were killed on 25 June in another M23 mortar attack on Sake that also injured 20 SANDF troops. This year, there was also a non-combat SANDF fatality who passed away in hospital in the DRC.

Back in South Africa, four soldiers died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning last weekend whilst on anti-illegal mining operations.