Family of SA man killed by Mozambique insurgents set up R1m fundraiser for his wife, 3 children

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Adrian Nel.
Adrian Nel.
  • A R1 million fundraiser was set up for the South African contractor killed by insurgents in northern Mozambique recently. 
  • Adrian Nel was a commercial diver, but Covid-19 travel restrictions forced him to take a job in constructing workers' accommodation camps. 
  • His memorial service is expected to take place in about two weeks' time, his family said. 

The family of the South African contractor killed by insurgents in northern Mozambique are hoping to raise R1 million to support his widow and their three young children in South Africa.

Adrian Nel, who would have turned 41 on 1 April, was shot dead days before his birthday as he tried to escape from the Amarula Hotel in Palma where he was sheltering with other foreign contractors, including his father, Greg Knox, and brother, Wesley Nel.

When disaster struck on 24 March, he had been working in Mozambique for fewer than three months after losing his job as a commercial diver for Petrodive in the Republic of Congo, due to the Covid-19-related travel restrictions.

In Palma he took a job to build workers' accommodation camps for the Total Liquefied Natural Gas Projects to provide for his family, including his children aged two, six and nine, said his mom, Meryl Knox, who set up the fundraiser page.

"Adi was not making a sustainable living doing dive jobs in South Africa during the lockdowns so he went to help out on the building of an accommodation camp that my husband Greg and my younger son Wesley are involved in," she said.

"Adi had experience in running sites before he started commercial diving."

What made things worse for the family was that his wife, Janik Armstrong, is a travel agent with Pentravel, and her earnings were also adversely affected by the pandemic.

"Adrian was the breadwinner of the family," Knox said.


She said although she knows that he has a life policy, it could take years to access the money.

"In the meantime, it's crucial that Janik and the children are able to survive, the children continue with their schools and if the financial burden is taken away from Janik, it will be a relief in an already difficult time."

Janik is French-Canadian and her parents are expected to travel to South Africa once they've had their Covid-19 vaccines to attend Nel's memorial service, which is expected to take place in about two weeks' time.

"Adrian was always a very brave person who would risk his life to save others in danger," his mom said. "On a few occasions he has saved people from drowning and helped people who have been badly injured in motor vehicle accidents."

On the fundraiser page the family said Adrian "gave his life to save the lives of his brother, his father and complete strangers".

The group of people trapped in the hotel had no weapons for protection, and were reliant on the private military contractors, Dyck Advisory Group, to keep their attackers at bay from the air.

"Adi put his life on the line to run out of the compound to retrieve a gun from an abandoned military vehicle in the road," the family wrote.

READ | Family traumatised after Hawks official blocks release of Mozambique victim's remains

He also drove one of the un-armoured cars in the convoy during the botched escape from the hotel, and was shot twice when the convoy was ambushed. "He continued driving whilst fatally wounded to ensure he could get his loved ones as far away from danger as possible," the family wrote.

His brother Wesley said none of the family had much experience with guns, which was why Adrian gave the gun to another South African trapped in the hotel to use to protect them.

He said the gun apparently wasn't working.

"At the end, I think we still made the right decision to try and escape out of there with a convoy, as the next morning the insurgents burned down Amarula and apparently killed many people," Wesley said.

Asked if they would return to Mozambique, he said he had not been back to work since the attack and took special leave.

He said:

We do have other projects in Africa, so the business will continue, but the company invested millions of dollars with partners in Palma, and with Total abandoning [its plant in nearby] Afungi, this could cause a lot of investors to lose their investments.

The family suffered another trauma when Adrian's body was detained for more than two hours after it was repatriated with his father and brother and other South Africans.

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