Unintegrated soldiers vow to avenge killing of camp members

Canaan Mdletshe

Canaan Mdletshe

Some former soldiers of Umkhonto weSizwe and Apla, including ANC and IFP self- defence units, are threatening to hit back after two of their members were gunned down.

The situation is tense at the Wangu camp in Mandeni, on the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal, where these unintegrated soldiers have been camping.

Samkeliso Makhathini, 32, of uNgoye and Sibusiso Dube, 24, of eMpangeni were killed outside the camp on Christmas Day.

Zenzele Sishi, the group's leader, said yesterday that whoever killed his soldiers had started a civil war.

"They have declared war on us and we are going to respond. We are not afraid of anyone and we are going to search for the killers. We know them and we will kill them."

Sishi said they have been patient enough, but now that someone had forced their hand, they were in for a war.

"I can't allow people to kill my soldiers and let me tell you, this is war, and we are going to fight with our souls," Sishi said. "We are now going to intensify our training and perhaps this is the right time for the government to recognise us."

The soldiers had gone to a nearby homestead to celebrate Christmas when they were attacked by three gun-toting men.

The men apparently did not say a word, but pulled out guns and shot at three soldiers.

Two died and one survived.

Sishi alleges that the death of the soldiers follows from them arresting young men who were terrorising the community.

He claims these men were raping and robbing members of the community and the soldiers protected the residents by arresting them. He said the men were released and sought revenge.

Disgruntled soldiers belonging to the South African UnIntegrated Forces have been camping in the Wangu area for months.

The camp was used by the IFP to train its self-protection units during the political violence in the 1980s to early 1990s.

The soldiers made headlines three months ago when they invaded a farm in Pongola to use as their base camp as they prepared to cross the border to Mozambique and Swaziland for military training.

After being forced to vacate the farm, the soldiers headed to Mandeni and have been there since.

Sishi said yesterday that they would not back down until they become integrated.

"Spending Christmas in the bush should serve as a warning and now that two of my soldiers have been killed, it makes the situation even more complicated, but we won't succumb. We are now declaring war," Sishi said.

He said the fact that defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota never responded to their demands was a sign that he was not considering meeting them, but they would insist that he did.

SAPS Captain Jabulani Mdletshe confirmed the killing, saying police were still investigating.