What Are SA Soldiers Doing in the DRC? Major Pieterse’s Tragic Death Raises Questions

Major Pieterse's Tragic Death

A Devastating Incident

Major Johan Christiaan “Tolla” Pieterse of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) was killed when a hand grenade exploded near his sleeping quarters in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), on Monday. Pieterse, part of the United Nations mission, died just two months before his 20th wedding anniversary with his wife, Marie.

A Dedicated Soldier and Family Man

Pieterse joined the military in 1997 and quickly rose through the ranks due to his passion and dedication. As the company commander of the 14 South African Infantry Battalion, he was known for his commitment to his family and the military. Marie, his wife, recalled his love for the Parachute Battalion and his role as a physical training instructor.

“He loved fitness and even participated in ‘fitness soldier,’ which he won several times,” said Marie.

Marie’s Heartbreaking Discovery

Marie knew something was wrong when Pieterse didn’t respond to her messages. The confirmation came when a SANDF chaplain and a family friend visited her home in Heidelberg, Gauteng.

“I collapsed at the gate when I saw them,” she recounted.

Major Pieterse’s Tragic Death: Family Memories

Pieterse’s daughters, Marla and Bianka, shared fond memories of their father. Marla remembered their last hunting trip and the bucket list he left for her.

“My father was my everything,” she said.

Bianka expressed her sorrow, wishing for one more chance to talk to her father.

“I can’t stop crying and I know it won’t bring my father back,” she lamented.

An Investigation Underway

SANDF spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini announced that an inquiry would investigate the grenade explosion. The incident adds to the recent toll, with two soldiers killed and four hospitalized last month in the DRC. SANDF troops are part of the SADC mission combating M23 rebels in the region.


The loss of Major Pieterse is a profound tragedy for his family and the nation. As the investigation continues, the South African government faces pressing questions about the safety and conditions of its deployed troops.

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