We work together, we fight together, we die together - soldier at memorial service

2016-08-24 14:49

Bloemfontein - Family, friends and colleagues of the 11 soldiers killed in a bus crash on the R712 near Golden Gate in the Free State paid moving tributes to them on Wednesday.

Connie Khasu, a soldier who lost her sister in the crash, told the hundreds of people gathered at the Christian Revival Church in Bloemfontein that the 11 soldiers should be celebrated.  

"We work together, we fight together and we die together. We have to celebrate their lives because they didn't fall, but they have risen," she said.

She said that the women had asked her to join them to attend an event at Basotho Cultural Village last Friday, but that she was "too sick to join".

"I spoke to them in the morning and all of them said 'bye' to me on the [phone] speaker because I couldn't join them. Today is about celebrating them - soldiers die on the road and we shouldn't blame the driver or blame God," she said.

Some survivors of the crash also attended the memorial. They could not hold back tears as families of the deceased blew out candles in memory of their loved ones. 

Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula encouraged the families of the deceased to mourn their loved ones.

"You have a right to cry and grieve for your loved ones. As SANDF (South African Nation Defence Force), we have been hit by several thorns. The [crash] reminds us that life is too short. These women died at the prime of their careers. We should live each day as if it were our last," she said.

Incident under investigation

She also wished those who were in hospital a speedy recovery. 

Meanwhile, Free State Transport MEC Butana Komphela said the death of the soldiers should teach people how to love each other.

Those who died are:
- Phumza Teledimo, chaplain (37);
- Lesego Cynthia Rasethuntsha, cleaner (25);
- Corporal Akhona Tshoni, storeman (30);
- Lance Corporal Sharon Nosiphiwe Macala, personnel (27);
- Maria Jacobs, cleaner (57);
- Alice Thakanyane Masilo, cleaner (27);
- Lance Corporal Cheena Roberta Jonkers, storeman (30);
- Sergeant Matseko Josephine Madimabe, signaller (26);
- Lance Corporal Maditsietsi Constance Morotolo, signaller (26);
- Portia Palesa Ramabodu, health service assistant pharmacist (26);
- Private Maserame Dorcas Molibeli, caterer (25).

Several other soldiers were injured when the military bus transporting 40 people to the Basotho Cultural Village for an event overturned on the winding road in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park nature reserve.

Authorities were still investigating the accident.

Paramedics arrived at the crash site shortly before midday on Friday. Nine soldiers died at the scene. Several sustained injuries, ranging from serious to critical. They were treated at the scene and taken to local hospitals.

Two more people died after arriving at a hospital.

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