Nigeria: The South African mercenary that died

Nigeria: The South African mercenary that died

Thursday, March 12, 2015 4:22 pm

The first South African mercenary in the fight against Boko Haram has been killed, the South African newspaper, Daily Maverick, has reported.

Leon Lotz, a former South African Defence Force Koevoet operator turned private security contractor, died in a friendly-fire incident on March 9 when a Nigerian tank opened fire on his convoy.

Leon Lotz: the mercenary killed by friendly fire in Nigeria

Leon Lotz: the mercenary killed by friendly fire in Nigeria

The incident occurred in Nigeria’s Borno State, in the north-east of the country, near Boko Haram territory.

Lotz is reportedly from KwaZulu-Natal, and was involved in the support and maintenance of vehicles used by the Nigerian army in their ongoing offensive against Boko Haram.

There is a significant, albeit controversial, South African presence in north-eastern Nigeria. The Nigerian army is working with private security companies who employ South Africans, ostensibly to train troops in counter-terrorist activities. In January, News24 reported that former SADF soldiers formed the core of a multinational team of private military experts that were en route to Nigeria.

Communication between these private security contractors and the Nigerian army is thought to be very poor, which perhaps explains the confusion leading to Lotz’s death.

In another, as-yet unverified report of a friendly fire incident in the Mafa Local Government Area of Borno State, Nigerian forces mistakenly opened fire on a convoy transporting foreign security contractors. Two foreigners, one black and one Caucasian, were killed in the incident. It seems likely that this incident and the Lotz incident are the same.

According to a Daily Maverick source, Lotz was working for a private security company called Pilgrim Africa Ltd. According to the company overview on Bloomberg, “Pilgrims Africa Limited provides security services in Nigeria. It provides armed escort teams to protect people from militant and criminal action. The company was founded in 2008 and is headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria.”

Pilgrim Africa is owned by Cobus Claassens, a former member of infamous mercenary outfit Executive Outcomes. In December, on the subject of dealing with war crimes internationally, Claassens tweeted: “The UN needs Executive Outcomes to be resurrected. We knew how to deal with such rebels!!”

Any kind of mercenary activity is illegal under South African law. Responding to reports of South Africans in Nigeria, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said.

*Simon Allison reported this for Daily Maverick: Read more @

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