The Zimbabwe National Army has given promotion to five soldiers who had no choice but to swim to safety for a total period of three and a half hours in the shark-infested Atlantic Ocean after their boats capsized and sank during a SADC Special Forces operation somewhere late last year. The five soldiers involved are corporals Manunure Frequency, Mapfumo Samuel and Mutemera Shadreck of the 1 Commando Regiment as well as lance corporals Jakarasi Obey and Mukandiona Justice of the Parachute Regiment.
All the five individuals were promoted up a rank following their October 2013 heroics in Namibia. According to the latest issue of the ZNA magazine, Lieutenant-General Phillip Valerio Sibanda, the Army Commander, suggested their promotion as a result of “enduring difficult conditions in the ocean to survive disaster.” In The Sunday Mail interview last week, the Commanding Officer of 1 Commando Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Washington Chidavanyika, who was Zimbabwean stick commander for the Namibian operation, hailed the five as heroes.
He added that these were the five out of 21 members of the SADC Special Forces who successfully made it back alive after their sea-borne exercise code-named Weiwitchia went horribly wrong in the Atlantic Ocean, off the Namibian coast. So far, one Malawian soldier has already been reported to be dead after being hit on the head by propellers. There are also two South Africans who were “reported missing in action.”
Lieut-Col Chidavanyika also mentioned that their ability to make split-second decisions was the difference between life and death for the entire crew. “They came face-to-face with death but, like true soldiers, they did not let the daunting odds of survival deter them. On realising that their boat was slowly drifting deeper into the ocean, the team decided to swim to the shoreline but since it was pitch dark, orientation was difficult to maintain. They decided to swim close to each other and helped those who would have been tired by carrying them on their backs. I was confident that they would survive because we embark on some intensive pre-exercise training before such operations. The first thing they said to me when they made it to shore was ‘shefu, we made it’. It was a joyous moment for all involved,” he explained. For the rest of the story, you can read it from here.
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