Exam cheat is training army

2013-04-07 10:00

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And UN lambasts discipline of South Africa’s ‘poorly trained’ troops.

The officer in charge of training soldiers for deployment to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is an exam cheat.

And in another embarrassment for the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), a top UN official sharply criticised the discipline and combat readiness of South African soldiers in Sudan in a recent letter.

Brigadier-General Sithabiso Mahlobo, who was found guilty in 2002 of cheating in exams, is in charge of the training of soldiers who are in the process of being deployed to the war-torn North Kivu province of the DRC.

He is the commander of 46 SA Brigade in Kengray, Joburg.

Mahlobo confirmed to City Press’ sister newspaper, Rapport, that he is responsible for training soldiers who will join the neutral international force (NIF) to fight the notorious M23 rebels in the DRC.

The NIF is a joint operation of the UN and the Southern African Development Community.

Mahlobo was demoted from general to major in 2002 after he was found to have cheated in a military exam by copying from another candidate.

Despite this, he again progressed through the ranks and was promoted to brigadier-general in 2008.

He then took over 46 SA Brigade.

According to military expert Helmoed-Römer Heitman, no officer who has been found guilty of an offence like cheating in examinations should train other soldiers.

Army spokesperson Brigadier-General Xolani Mabanga would not comment on this.

In an unrelated development, it has been revealed that a top SANDF commander refused to receive extra training for South African soldiers on duty in Sudan.

In a classified letter, Lieutenant-Colonel T Mashalaba, the commander of an infantry battalion of the SANDF, which was until recently deployed in the troubled Darfur region in Sudan, flatly refused to allow his soldiers to receive training from the UN and the African Union (AU) after one of his soldiers died in an ambush last year.

Mashalaba was in command of the 10 SA Infantry Battalion when Rifleman Vincent van der Walt (23) died in the ambush in October.

Two other South African soldiers were wounded in the attack.

They were stationed at the combined mission of the AU and UN (Unamid) in Darfur.

A UN official in Sudan reliably told City Press that Mashalaba was already on thin ice prior to this incident after ignoring an order to deploy his troops to a refugee camp.

A woman was apparently abducted on August 15 as a result.

Mashalaba allegedly also tried to halt the inquiry into the ambush in October.

“He involved himself personally in the inquiry and tried to halt it despite direct orders to cooperate,” the UN official said.

A letter from a senior Unamid official, in which the quality of South African soldiers’ training was sharply criticised, had been distributed among senior South African army officers just more than a month ago.

The letter, which was apparently also sent to top officials at the UN headquarters in New York, mentions the soldiers’ lack of discipline and their arrogance.

According to Mabanga, all South African soldiers are properly trained when they arrive at a mission and it is not acceptable practice to receive training from another country.

He said: “If any defects in our training are detected, they must be reported to us. We have not received any such communication from Unamid.”

He said the army has no knowledge of the accusations against Mashalaba.

The Zuma link

In 2010 the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) controversially awarded two oil concessions in the east of the country to President Jacob Zuma’s nephew, Khulubuse (pictured left).

The rights were originally awarded to Irish oil company Tullow and South Africa’s Divine Inspiration Group in 2006, but “reassigned” to two Khulubuse Zuma companies, Caprikat and Foxwhelp, which are registered in the British Virgin Islands.

The oil blocks are in Lake Albert in the east of the DRC on the border with Uganda.

In January last year, British oil industry watchdog Platform London reported that Zuma’s companies had begun exploration activities.

In 2010 Mark Willcox, chief executive of Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale’s Mvelaphanda Holdings, confirmed to the Mail & Guardian that they were giving “strategic advice” to Khulubuse Zuma.

Mvela signed two mining deals in the eastern DRC in 2004 relating to the Kilomoto gold project and the Ruashi copper-and-cobalt project.

Reuters reported that Khulubuse Zuma signed the deal with the DRC government on behalf of Caprikat and that Michael Hulley, President Zuma’s lawyer and legal adviser, signed the Foxwhelp deal.

Khulubuse Zuma said Hulley was his legal adviser too.

However, he says President Zuma was not involved in the deal. – Adriaan Basson

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