By ZAINUL DAWOOD, IOL, 10/30/2017

Nomathemba Ngeleka was shot dead on Friday night while they were both at camp in the Eastern DRC. Photo: Supplied

Durban – Nomathemba Ngeleka was a heroine and role model to everyone in the Kwa- Nzimakwe community after she joined the SANDF in 2011.

Sadly, the private’s training as a peacekeeper in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was unable to save her from a bullet fired by her ex-boyfriend, a fellow peacekeeper, from Rustenburg.

Ngeleka, 27, was shot dead on Friday night while they were both at camp in the Eastern DRC.

She was based at 5 South African Infantry in Ladysmith, which was part of the UN Stabilisation Mission in the Congo (Monusco) tasked with the responsibility of ensuring peace and stability in the DRC.

The SANDF’s Director of Defence Corporate Communication, Brigadier-General Mafi Mgobozi, said the ex-boyfriend was in a critical condition in a Goma hospital after trying to commit suicide after the incident.

Mgobozi said the motive behind the shooting was not yet known.

Speaking yesterday at their family home near Munster on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, Ngeleka’s sister, Winnie, said the relationship between the two had deteriorated. They had dated for five years.

“Two weeks ago he phoned my parents and me to ask us if we could get Nomathemba to forgive him. He loved her very much and was keen on continuing the relationship. But my sister had made up her mind. It was her private life and we did not want to get involved,” Winnie said.

Now the family is picking up the pieces as they await the arrival of Ngeleka’s body this week.

Winnie became emotional as she recalled the close bond that the family shared, while the sound of hymns emanated from the house as friends and family began gathering to offer their condolences.

Ngeleka’s mother, Elizabeth, 50, wept uncontrollably while others around her prayed for strength for the family to overcome the tragedy. Her father, Nkosinathi, 58, paced around the house, still in a state of shock at losing his daughter.

On a wall in the house hangs a collage of photographs Ngeleka made of herself with an army truck and her friends during their training.

“She joined the army after completing matric at KwaMasosha Secondary School. Since Grade 10 she wanted to join the army,” said Winnie. “She had a passion for helping people. She kept fit with swimming and aerobics. She was always up for a challenge. She was studying at Unisa to improve herself and to one day move up the ranks.”

The family said this had been her second 12-month peacekeeping assignment in the DRC, and she and 149 other soldiers were scheduled to return home by mid-November.

“She was very excited to return home. She lived in Ladysmith because her battalion was based nearby. I spoke to her on Thursday and she seemed happy. When she went out on her first mission, it was difficult for us to see if she was doing well. Now that we have live video, we knew she was doing well and enjoying her job as a peacekeeper,” Winnie said.

“The family is very close and we are all taking it very badly. My brother, who lived with her in Ladysmith, cannot cope and is depressed. My sister’s death is tragic. Her memory will linger over the house for ever.”

Their father described Ngeleka, the mother of an 8-year-old daughter, as a pillar of strength and “the glue that kept the family together”.