Publication: Mail and Guardian Issued: Date: 2008-08-26 Reporter: Sapa

Defence Secretary Dies in Car Crash



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Defence secretary January Masilela died in a car accident in Bronkhorstspruit on Sunday, police have confirmed.

Gauteng police spokesperson Superintendent Eugene Opperman said on Monday that Masilela was alone in his car and that no other vehicle was involved in the accident, which occurred at 5.20am.

Masilela died at the scene. It appeared that he had lost control of his vehicle.

Defence Department spokesperson Sam Mkhwanazi said: "He is no longer with us, as of yet we don't know the cause of the death."

Family member Lucky Masilela said January had been driving along the N4 towards Pretoria when he apparently lost control of his car near the Ekandustria offramp. The vehicle veered off the road, overturned, and burst into flames.

Amscor's corporate journal, Salvo, said in 2001 that Masilela was born in Mhluzi township outside Nelspruit, Mpumalanga. He was exposed to the injustices of the apartheid system early on in his life.

"It was then that he decided he was not going to sit back. If it meant losing his life fighting the system, so be it."

He left the country in 1975 for Zambia where he joined the African National Congress (ANC), enlisting with Umkhonto weSizwe (MK).

That enlisting was the start of a long chapter of military training: first in Libya for his basic military course, then in the former Soviet Union where he spent about two years doing a senior course.

Determined to become a "super soldier", and as though he was aware that his role would be at a leadership level, Masilela proceeded with his advanced military courses, undergoing further training in Cuba and the People's Republic of Germany (East Germany).

Between 1982 and 1984 he studied and received a senior diploma in social science.

In 1987 he was posted to Botswana as MK's political commissar. His role covered, among others: strategy planning; sending missions across to South Africa; interacting and getting feedback from those already in the country; and also advising on further steps/action.

On his primary role as the South African National Defence Force secretary, Masilela said: "I am the chief accounting officer for the defence force.

"Among other things, this entails ensuring that we run an effective and cost-efficient organisation.

"The position also has the added responsibility of a principal policy adviser to the minister [of defence]." -- Sapa

With acknowledgements to Sapa and Mail and Guardian.