Minister salutes CAR heroines

2013-05-23 19:35
Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula (Picture: AFP)

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula (Picture: AFP)

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Cape Town - Two women stole the show in the National Assembly on Wednesday for their bravery during the March battle between SA soldiers and Central African Republic (CAR) rebels.

Opening debate on her Budget Vote, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula made Susette Gates and one Corporal Nkoana stand up in the house.

She described how they put their lives at risk during the CAR clash, which left 13 SA National Defence Force members dead.

Gates was not soldier, but a civilian who works in the department's finance management division.

She was the financial officer for the SANDF mission in the CAR.

"When she (Gates) and the other contingent of civilians became aware of the imminent attack by the rebels they vacated their accommodation and were relocated to a safer place," said Mapisa-Nqakula.

Gates was forced to leave behind a significant cash contingency.

"She knew that should the money be discovered it would fall in the wrong hands and be used to fund rebel activity.

"At the height of the battle, she returned to the base to fetch the money and accounting documents, at great risk to her life," the minister said.

While leaving the base, Seleka rebels accosted her - demanding she hand over the money, which she had hidden in bags.

"She managed to convince them that she was carrying clothes and hitch hiked with French troops to the airport," Mapisa-Nqakula told MPs.

Gates returned to South Africa with the money, totalling R3m in foreign currency.

Corporal Nkoana is an army medic who volunteered to assist her wounded colleagues during "the heat of the battle".

"Whilst returning to the base the convoy was ambushed by Seleka rebels.

"Without vehicles and maps to guide them to base, 16 members were cut off from their company and realised that their hiding place was surrounded by rebels," the minister said.

This is where Nkoana earned the nickname "the human navigator", leading her colleagues out of rebel territory.

"For two long days and nights, they moved under her command and guidance, carrying casualties of war... Her actions saved all 16 of our soldiers, including two who were shot."

Mapisa-Nqakula described the two as "heroines" and "true patriots".

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