Fake soldier causes panic after infiltrating SANDF

Thapelo Mokgosi passed himself off as a soldier for years
Thapelo Mokgosi passed himself off as a soldier for years

The alleged infiltration of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) by a “rogue” soldier is being investigated by army intelligence services and the police.

City Press’ sister publication, Rapport, has established that a high-level investigation into the infiltration of the defence force has been ongoing for weeks, but kicked into high gear after the arrest of an alleged “ghost” soldier.

The so-called soldier has apparently been active on several army bases for years, even though he was not officially a soldier.

He was arrested when he tried to worm his way into the infantry group that was to accompany President Cyril Ramaphosa during his inauguration last weekend at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria.

“If he could get away with it for years, how many other ghost soldiers are out there, and what are they doing?” said a source close to the investigation.

According to Rapport’s sources, the police are searching for another two suspects.

They are also trying to confirm whether there was a conspiracy aimed at targeting any highly placed politicians, among them possibly Ramaphosa.

Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, spokesperson for the Hawks, referred inquiries to Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo, the national police spokesperson.

Naidoo referred Rapport to the army.

Defence force spokesperson Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi confirmed that the military police’s special investigating unit was working with the military’s defence intelligence division (previously military intelligence), as well as other intelligence services and the police, on a multi-agency investigation.

“There are others who are still being investigated for their involvement in a broader plan, but we cannot reveal further information at this point,” said Mgobozi.

“Any further information we release at this point could compromise the investigation.”

The bizarre incident of Thapelo Mokgosi (29), who was arrested when he tried to clear in with the 21 SA Infantry Battalion (21 SAI) at Thaba Tshwane in Pretoria, two weeks before the inauguration, has made investigators nervous.

Mokgosi has already appeared in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on charges that he falsely presented himself as a soldier, as well as on charges of the illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.

Rapport’s investigation revealed that:

. Mokgosi has indicated on his CV that he has been a soldier in the defence force since 2009, and his job description is protection services.

. He gives the name of Captain Jacob Sebolai as his “commander”.

Sebolai told Rapport that he knows Mokgosi and gave him an application form to join the defence force many years ago, but said he had no idea why Mokgosi would claim that he was his commander.

. Mokgosi regularly sent his family photographs of himself in uniform, among other soldiers at various military bases.

He also sent them a photo of himself on duty during the funeral of struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in April last year.

Thapelo Mokgosi sent photos like this one to his family

. His family is convinced that Mokgosi works for the army on a full-time basis.

Gugu Mokgosi, his brother, who has been living with him since 2017, said he (Mokgosi) left the house in an army uniform on a daily basis.

Gugu said Mokgosi would disappear for long stretches of time and was vague about the work he supposedly did for the army.

. Mokgosi’s Capitec Bank statements, dating from December 2018 to March 16 this year, show that he did not receive a salary.

The only payments were relatively small cash deposits. The last one was for R6 000, on February 28.

Gugu Mokgosi said he had received a WhatsApp voice note from what sounded like a military official, saying a large amount of money had been found on his brother.

“I do not know where the voice note comes from and who is speaking on it,” said Gugu, adding that he did not have any of his brother’s more recent bank statements.

. Before December 2018, Thapelo lived with a Catholic priest, Father Peter Motshegwa.

“I was completely convinced that Thapelo was in the army. He had many uniforms and he even dated a woman who was in uniform when she came to visit him,” said Motshegwa.

His daughter, Matabo Motshegwa, said the military police came to search their home shortly after Mokgosi was arrested.

She claims that an investigator told her that Mokgosi had even been living on a military base for some time.

Mokgosi was arrested at Thaba Tshwane a day before the president’s inauguration.

Captain Shane Southgate, the adjutant and a company commander of 21 SAI, has also been arrested and has already appeared in military court twice.

He was released on a warning on Friday.

Mgobozi confirmed that Southgate allegedly ordered a clerk to clear Mokgosi into the battalion.

The clerk suspected something was amiss when Mokgosi could not provide any of the military information that is required during the clearing-in process, such as his medical classification.

Advocate Pikkie Greef, of the SA National Defence Force Union, who represents Southgate, said the defence force had still not provided complete information about the charges to him and his client, except that Southgate’s arrest was related to a threat to national security and fraud.

Greef said his client denied that he knew Mokgosi or that he had had anything to do with the incident.

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