Soldier goes to work, disappears
LUVE – A local family claims to have been sent from pillar to post by the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF) as it tried to locate one of their own, who was a soldier.
Corporal Thathezakhe Dumsani Mngometulu, a resident of Luve, disappeared in 1995.
He was allegedly last seen with some members of the USDF who allegedly fetched him from his home and purportedly took him to the army clinic located within the Phocweni barracks.
That was the last time his family saw him.
For years, they visited various army departments trying to locate him, in vain.
The family says Mngometulu suffered from a rare sickness which confined him to a sick bed.
The sickness was said to have emanated from a traditional practice that will not be described for ethical reasons.
"They took him from our home and told us that they were taking him to the army hospital where he was to receive advanced medical attention," said Mlandvo Mngometulu, his 27-year-old son.
"That was the last time we saw him. Since then, he has never resurfaced. His remains, if he died, were never recovered," he said.
Mlandvo said the family had been visiting various offices within the army to look for him.
"In all the instances, they told us different stories. Some said he was still alive and was serving in one of the army camps but each time we visited the said camps to confirm the information, we did not find him."
The Times SUNDAY investigating team also worked on this matter for two weeks.
Some of his former colleagues in the force were visited and asked questions on Mngometulu.
Retired Sergeant Japhta Magwaza told this newspaper that Mngometulu was his colleague in various camps to which they were posted together.
"At some point, we were posted to Ngwavuma and then transferred to Nsingizini where we served for a number of years," he said.
Magwaza said in his knowledge, Mngometulu was taken from his home by some army officers who said they were taking him to the army hospital at Phocweni barracks.
Magwaza said because he was close to Mngometulu, after the latter’s disappearance in the 1990s, he tried to investigate his disappearance.
"I uncovered that when they took him from his home, they did not take him to Phocweni, instead they took him to Manzini Nazarene Hospital where he was treated," he said.
He said his efforts to trace him ended in a deadlock when information on his next destination from the Nazarene hospital was not forthcoming.
"All of a sudden no one knew anything about
him and this pained a lot of us because of having worked with him for many years, he was more of a brother to us," he said.
The Times SUNDAY team also visited Phocweni barracks.
This was after Magwaza had indicated that the disappeared officer was still in the force. When the team reached Phocweni, the officers there were not cooperative.
They told journalists that they (reporters) wanted to cause trouble for the army by digging information on a matter that happened a long-time ago and was forgotten.
After a long while, one of the officers who manned the post said the person we had been referred to by Magwaza was away on leave.
The team then contacted Army Spokesperson Khanya Dlamini.
Dlamini said the army did not have any record of Mngometulu in its records for both serving and retired officers. He said he only had a vague memory of Mngometulu’s case but when he checked the army files, he could not find his name or record.
He said if he does not exist in the army files, it means that he was never a soldier.
"I have looked at files at the various base stations where he was alleged to have worked but I could not find his name. I also looked at the files in our human resources department and his name was not there either," he said.
"I also checked records with our headquarters and even visited the personnel department. His records do not exist."
Dlamini said owing to the fact that Mngometulu’s file was not with the army he would not comment further on the issue.
‘We only want the truth’
SITEKI - Corporal Thathezakhe Dumsani Mngometulu’s children only want closure to the search of their father, which has lasted over 17 years.
Khosi Mngometulu, aged 23, said her siblings wanted the truth to come out.
She said she was present when army officers took her father away, purportedly to the army clinic at Phocweni.
"I still have a vivid memory of him lying on a mat. He was seriously ill," she said.
"We are not interested in money or benefits from the army. All we want is information on what happened to him because he cannot just disappear with no one knowing him."
Khosi said her father had nine children and all of them were out of school, having completed their form V classes.
She said as siblings they were greatly disturbed by the disappearance of their father.
"I am having sleepless nights. I dream of him and believe something drastic must have happened to him," she said.
"We cannot abandon the search because we believe there could be someone out there who might have information on him," she said.
"We therefore appeal to the nation to help us find him. Even if he died, we would have peace only if we knew," she said.
Her brother Mlandvo also said the disappearance of his father had caused him a lot of pain.
"The most painful thing is that some people seem not to know my father now. Even his former colleagues in the army are not helping us," he said.
He believes that his father is still alive and that the people who took him away from home had answers on what happened to him.
"It is impossible that a whole officer can disappear without trace. Someone out there must have information on what happened to him. We kindly appeal to his or her conscience to help us locate him," he said.
He said the whole family was not at peace with the incident.
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