STATEMENT BY CHIEF OF THE NAVY, VICE ADMIRAL MONDE LOBESE, ON THE SAS MANTHATISI TRAGEDY
As the Chief of the South African Navy, I am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of three of our finest submariners, off the Kommetjie Coast on the Cape Peninsula on Wed 20 September 2023.
The Executive Officer (XO), Lieutenant Commander Gillian Hector, the Coxswain, Master Warrant Officer William Masela Mathipa, and the Coxswain under training, Warrant Officer Class 1 Mmokwapa Lucas Mojela, all lost their lives tragically in this incident.
The injured members were the Officer Commanding (OC), Commander Charles Nkolo Phokane, the Weapons Officer, Lieutenant Melinyani Gobinca, the Warrant Officer in Charge Submarine Escape Training Simulator, Warrant Officer Class 1 Brendan Daly who was also the safety swimmer from the helicopter who jumped into the water as a surface swimmer to assist, the Head of Section Electrical Department, Warrant Officer Class 2 Ayanda Mahlobo, and the Head of Department Detection, Warrant Officer Class 2 Charles Kriel.
I am currently attending the International Seapower Symposium in Newport, Rhode Island in the United States, where I was informed about this tragic incident. Upon hearing about the incident from my team, I tried getting myself home immediately however our Travel Agent was unable to secure an earlier flight.
The magnitude of this loss is something that is difficult to comprehend, as I spent time with the OC, XO and Coxswain just last Wednesday. They were so proud to inform me about their readiness to proceed to the Waterfront for the Mini Navy Festival and that they will conduct several evolutions en-route. We laughed and shook hands, and I wished them a safe journey, never thinking that this tragedy would occur.
Allow me to extend by heartfelt and sincere condolences to the family, friends, colleagues and shipmates of the three members. This is so very sad, not only for the families, but also for the Submarine Service, the South African Navy and South Africa in general.
We will remember the souls of the departed brave heroes and heroine who passed away serving their country with pride and diligence. Now is the time for the SA Navy Family to unite and pray for the departed shipmates and their families. Let us all be strong and keep their families in our prayers and thoughts.
The SA Navy Submarine Branch is a highly professional and well-trained organisation. That Mother Nature decided otherwise can’t be blamed on the SA Navy’s Professionalism. Tragedies of this nature happen all over the world with Navies. The Australian, Indian Chiefs of Navy as well as the US Chief of Naval Operations who were comforting me yesterday shared their own similar experiences while they were at sea.
Captain (SA Navy) Prince Tshabalala, Mobile: 060 506 0895
Commander Ruwayda Grootboom, Mobile: 066 220 4904
From left to right, Vice Admiral Monde Lobese, Commander Charles Phokane and the late Lieutenant Commander Gillian Hector.
Chief of the South African Navy greeting the late Coxswain of SAS MANTHATISI, Master Warrant Officer William Mathipa
Warrant Officer Class 1 Mmokwapa Lucas Mojela died during the tragic incident. image supplied: The SA Navy.