Respected officer dies after battle with cancer

2015-08-04 10:34
Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Molefe at a Carbineer Family Day.

Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Molefe at a Carbineer Family Day. (Supplied)

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LIEUTENANT-COLONEL Christopher Mfanafuthi Bhekumuzi Molefe, commanding officer of South Africa’s Senior Regiment, the Natal Carbineers, died on Sunday night. Molefe had fought a long and brave battle with cancer.

He was born on December 26, 1965, and grew up in Sobantu where he spent his afternoons, after school, helping in his grandmother’s shop or fetching and delivering laundry that the family took in to supplement their income.

Days after his 21st birthday, like many young men of the time, Molefe found his way into the service of Mkhonto Wesizwe (MK) to fight for the ANC in the freedom struggle. Travelling extensively through Africa and South Africa, he served this cause until his integration into the new South African National Defence Force at the beginning of June 1994.

He served his time, diligently, for almost five years as a private before his leadership abilities were recognised and he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in March of 2000.

During the next six years, he served as a junior officer at both 5 South African Infantry Battalion (5SAI) in ­Ladysmith and at Group 9 headquarters in Pietermaritzburg.

In 2006 he was promoted to the rank of captain and in 2010 became a “field officer” — major. He served as the second in command and then commanding officer (lieutenant-colonel) of 121 Battalion before transferring out of military service and taking up a civilian appointment as a director at the Department of Arts and Culture in Pietermaritzburg.

In 2012, he returned to the SANDF reserves and as the commanding officer of the Natal Carbineers.

During this time, Molefe was awarded the South Africa Medal, Good Service Medal Bronze, Unitas Medal, General Service Medal, the United Nations Medal and Tshumelo Ikatlaro Medal.

Shortly after his appointment, he was struck down by cancer.

Between bouts of treatment and the onslaught of this terrible disease, he ensured that he maintained his work ethic at both civilian and military offices. If he couldn’t get to the work, then he ensured the work got to him. It was a matter of time and he found himself confined to a wheel chair. Still he soldiered on.

At a function celebrating the 160th Anniversary Year of the Natal Carbineers, the communications officer, Major John Hall, said: “The regiment couldn’t have wished for a better man to be appointed to head the regiment at that time.”

For many, he will be remembered as the first black commanding officer. For those who served with him, he will be remembered as a fine and courageous soldier, a stern disciplinarian and compassionate leader.

Molefe is survived by his wife, Ntombi, daughter, Thato (15) and son, Lebo (10).

Funeral arrangements are being made.

Molefe will be accorded full military honours. — Supplied

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