Mapisa-Nqakula honours two unsung CAR heroines

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula gave Susette Gates and Alphina Moletana Nkoana a special mention in Parliament. (Gallo)

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula gave Susette Gates and Alphina Moletana Nkoana a special mention in Parliament. (Gallo)

Besides the 13 soldiers who died in clashes with the Seleka rebels in March, the South African government on Thursday highlighted civilian Susette Gates and medic Alphina Moletana Nkoana.

The two women got a special mention from Defence Minister Mapisa-Nqakula while she delivered her department's budget to Parliament, for their bravery during the battle of Bangui.

Mapisa-Nqakula told Parliament how Gates, a woman in her 40s – who works for the department's finance management division and was deployed as the financial officer of the South African mission in the CAR – fled the Central African country for South Africa with an equivalent of R3-million in her bag.

"When she and the other contingent of civilians became aware of the imminent attack by the rebels, they vacated their accommodation and were relocated to a safer place," said Mapisa-Nqakula.

"During this rush, she had to leave behind the cash contingency supporting the mission amounting to millions of rands.

"She knew that should the money be discovered it would fall in the wrong hands and be used to fund rebel activity."

Mapisa-Nqakula said that during the height of the battle in March, Gates risked her life and returned to the base to fetch the money and accounting documents.

According to the minister, Gates was confronted by the rebels who wanted to take the money-filled bags, but she managed to convince them that she was carrying clothes and hitchhiked with French troops to the airport.

"She brought back into South Africa the total amount of R3-million in foreign currency," said Mapisa-Nqakula to a rousing applause in the House.

Behind enemy lines​
Meanwhile, Mapisa-Nqakula said that Nkoana helped a team of 16 South Africans, including two who had been shot by the rebels, into safety over two days.

The defence minister explained that during the heat of the battle, Nkoana volunteered to go out and assist with casualties in the field. "While returning to the base, the convoy was ambushed by the Seleka rebels. Without vehicles and maps to guide them to base, 16 members were cut off from their company and realised that their hiding place was surrounded by rebels.
They were behind enemy lines."

But Nkoana, a medic, took the lead and decided on the best way out of a potential ambush situation.

For two days and nights, the South Africans moved under her command and guidance while keeping the commanders informed of their position and situation at all times.

"Her actions saved all 16 of our soldiers including two who were shot," said Mapisa-Nqakula.

"She has earned the nickname of 'human navigator' for her role in guiding her colleagues during the escape."

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