Johannesburg - On Father’s Day, Morné Lötter told his wife and two children he loved and missed them. Three days later, he was dead, together with two Denel Mechem colleagues - Alan Simpson, 53, of Port Elizabeth, and Somali Isak Mohammed Osman - in an attack on a UN compound in Mogadishu, their Somali workplace.
They were among at least 16 people killed.
On Thursday, Lötter’s widow, Yvette, said her family were struggling, but coping.
Her husband’s body was expected in South Africa on Friday. “He was a loving father, a good friend, an outgoing person.
“(The last time) I chatted to him was on Father’s Day. He said he misses us and loves us,” Yvette said.
On Thursday, the South African government strongly condemned the “disgraceful attack” on the UN common compound by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab.
Yvette said Lötter, 42, was born in George and had worked as a firefighter in Port Elizabeth before working as a firefighter in the SANDF.
Lötter joined Denel Mechem, which provided humanitarian demining services, about six years ago. “He loved his job,” Yvette said.
Lötter had been the facility manager at the compound that was attacked on Wednesday.
Yvette said Lötter and his colleagues had not been allowed to leave the compound, which was secure, and had therefore not needed to wear protective gear while working.
“It was not the safest job in the world (but) there were no (other) attacks on him. This seems to have been a random act,” she said.
She and Lötter had two children, a daughter aged 12 and a son of 15.
A family friend, Elize van Rensburg, said Lötter had last been home in April and had been expected to return on July 23.
“He lived his whole life for his family. He was a great father,” she said.
The Facebook page of Simpson, the maintenance manager of the compound, showed he was previously stationed in Ethiopia.
Denel said in a statement on Thursday that Lötter, Simpson and Osman had been part of the Denel Mechem contingent working on a UN contract “to provide camp management services and logistical support to the UN’s peacekeeping operations in Somalia”.
It said Denel’s remaining employees in Somalia had been moved to secure facilities and were out of danger.
In the statement, Denel’s group chief executive, Riaz Saloojee, who expressed his condolences to the families of those killed, said Denel Mechem was one of the world’s leading companies in disposing of landmines and humanitarian demining.
“Our employees are therefore often called upon to work in some of the most dangerous conflict zones.
“Our employees are well aware of the inherent dangers attached to their line of work. However, they continue with these necessary tasks with a remarkable devotion to duty,” Saloojee said.
The statement said Denel would work with local and international agencies to probe the events that led to the attack on the compound.
The Department of International Relations and Co-operation extended the government’s condolences to the UN, the Somali government and the family and friends of those who died, especially the two South Africans.
“The South African government also wishes to express its sincere gratitude to the Somali armed forces and the peacekeeping troops of the AU mission in Somalia who came to the assistance of those international development and humanitarian workers trapped in the UN compound during the attack.
“It is tragic that the United Nations, the international organisation promoting peace, social and economic development and humanitarian assistance to the Somali government and people of the country, have come under attack.”
The attack had come at a time “when sound progress has been registered towards the establishment of stability, and sustainable social and economic development in Somalia”.