As soldiers at Tempe Military Base in Bloemfontein come to terms with the carnage carried out by a colleague this week, questions are still being asked about what triggered the murder rampage which some have interpreted as being racially motivated.

On Friday, the Sunday Tribune retraced the steps of 28-year-old Lieutenant Sibusiso Madubela's 15-minute death dash around the 1 SA Infantry Battalion grounds, which left seven white people dead and five injured, and ended finally with Madubela being gunned down by three colleagues.

The horror story, which sent shock waves ripping through the country on Thursday, began at 8am when Madubela signed for an R4 rifle, as was usually done by soldiers on days of scheduled shooting practice.

Less than an hour later, after locating ammunition, he fired his first shot.

Provincial police Commissioner Denn Alberts said the cause of the killings is being investigated.

The current belief is that Madubela had snapped after discovering his salary had been suspended because he had been absent without leave.

His victims were high-ranking managers and administrative staff. According to some of the first 30 statements taken by the investigating team, Madubela appeared to have gunned for specific people and, on some occasions, pushed black people out of the way to fire on whites.

The first person to be shot was quadriplegic Captain Hannes de Jager, who had switched off the chin control for his wheelchair when he saw Madubela start the mass murder spree.

"I was busy working on the computer when he came in and pointed his rifle at the guy next to me. He tried to cock it and this guy jumped up and kicked the door closed," De Jager said. Within seconds, R4 rifle fire burst through the door, causing shrapnel injuries to De Jager's head.

"Another guy came into the office to help me and tilted my chair back, but I had already been hit. From then on I just heard shots as he went on down the passage," De Jager said.

De Jager described his relationship with Madubela prior to the attack as cordial, but, he said, "I would definitely not go so far as to say we were friends".

He said Madubela overtly ignored military etiquette by not saluting or greeting his superiors.

Disrespectful

His behaviour was generally disrespectful, and did not appear to be racially influenced, De Jager said.

Madubela went on to shoot Laurene Hamilton, 57, a military course administrator, in the face and chest, and then moved on to kill Warrant Officer Reg Sieberhagen, 38.

He moved down the passage towards the office of Lieutenant Colonel Jan Wessels, officer commanding 1 SAI, who was in Pretoria. "He pointed his rifle at my (white) secretary, but he didn't shoot her," Wessels said.

Next in line was Major Jacques Coetzer, 31, who was shot in the back of the head and died in hospital, and Sergeant Tertius Lombard.

Captain Jan Harm Steenkamp, speaking from his hospital bed at Three Military Hospital on Tempe Base, said he was discussing the morning conference with Major Zirk Coetsee in Coetsee's office when they heard the shooting.

"At first I didn't know it was shooting, but when the shouting started we both jumped up," Steenkamp said.

The men saw Madubela approach Major Wiehan van Noodwyk in a nearby office and shoot him twice at close range.

Van Noodwyk stumbled into Coetsee's office holding his chest.

"Major Coetsee helped him lie down and started putting pressure on his chest wound. I turned around to phone for a paramedic when I saw Madubela in front of me," Steenkamp said.

Coetsee jumped over the desk and Steenkamp was shot in the shoulder and fell to the ground. Madubela then turned on Coetsee, shooting him in the chest.

Madubela ran out of the command offices into the administration block where he shot dead Warrant Officer Johan Lombard and then ran on to the duty room where he killed Sergeant Doughie Douglas. It is believed he may have reloaded his rifle in the duty room, as ammunition is stored there.

Continuing his rampage, Madubela headed out past the bungalows where he encountered Sergeant Willie Nell and shot him dead.

Nell's wife Nadia, who was expecting their first child, gave birth to a baby girl hours after his death.

Running past the transport park area, Madubela saw Warrant Officer Aldo Mattheus and shot him in the leg.

Mattheus was carrying a loaded R4 rifle and shot back, hitting Madubela.

Another two soldiers caught up with Mattheus and also fired at Madubela, who died after running several metres.

Post mortem

Alberts said he could confirm that Madubela was shot more than once, but would not say how many times he was hit, as it would "pre-empt the findings of the post mortem report".

Brigadier General Hans Heinze, officer commanding of the Free State Command, said that 1 SAI had made very good progress regarding transformation.

However, the command structure was characterised by a majority of whites at the senior level - although the most senior black officer was one rank below the commander, while the junior level was "overwhelmingly black and coloured".

He said change still needed to take place and was under way.

Colonel Ras Venter, officer commanding of Three Military Hospital, said the ripple effect of the killings was expected to be a serious problem, as traumatised survivors and family members started understanding and accepting what had happened.

A debriefing team of psychologists, social workers and chaplains from the medical command had been working hard to make sure that all people affected had been debriefed.