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Sunday, 07 July 2024 15:35

SANDF probes tragic deaths of four members found dead in North West.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

The South African National Defense Force (SANDF) said Sunday that the police have launched an inquest after four SANDF soldiers were found dead Saturday in Orkney, North West Province.

In a statement released on Sunday (7/7), the SANDF said the soldiers were on duty as part of Operation Vala Umgodi - an operation that deals with illegal mining activities.

Preliminary findings showed that the deaths of the soldiers could have been caused by carbon monoxide poisoning from a possible fire they had made during the cold night inside the container structure.

SANDF spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said the deceased members were found inside a container structure which was used as a guard house for those on 24 hours duty.

He said when the next shift was taking over the following morning, the four men were found with their rifles and personal belongings still with them.

"SAPS was called in, and upon inspection of the scene, all four had died," Dlamini said in a statement on Sunday.

He said the district surgeon examined the bodies and confirmed that they sustained no injuries.

"A team from the Pretoria FSL Chemistry Unit also attended the scene and preliminary findings are that the death of the members could have been caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, from a possible fire made by the members during the cold night inside the container structure.

"The bodies of the deceased were transported to the Klerksdorp State mortuary for further investigation and for post-mortems to be conducted.

"The names of the deceased will be announced once the families have been informed and all processes and formalities have been completed following with the announcement of the funeral arrangements," Dlamini said.

The soldiers were part of a military operation that started in November 2023 when President Cyril Ramaphosa deployed 3,300 soldiers to tackle illegal mining activities by marauding gangs of artisanal miners.

The deployment came as the South African authorities battled to contain an illegal mining syndicate that is believed to have connections in high places.

The illegal miners, who are mostly undocumented foreigners from neighbouring countries, are blamed for the high crime in parts of the country.