World War II veteran Beki Booitjie Malefo died on Monday at the age of 102.
THE SOUTH African Cape Corps Ex-Servicemen’s Legion (Saccel) of the British Commonwealth Service League is saddened by the death of veteran Beki Booitjie Malefo who died on Monday at the age of 102.
Malefo died at his home in Stillwater a month before he was due to be fully recognised and acknowledged as the oldest living World War II veteran in South Africa and Africa.
Saccel said it only found out about the existence of Malefo in June 2022 because he had “disappeared” after the war.
It was confirmed that Malefo served at the Pretoria army base and was discharged after the end of the war.
Malefo’s existence was confirmed shortly after the story of William van Wyk, the World War II veteran who celebrated his 99th birthday in June this year and was known as the oldest living veteran in South Africa.
He was a corporal and had served as a guard at the Pretoria army base.
The national president of Saccel, Henry August, confirmed that Van Wyk had been recognised as the oldest living World War II veteran in South Africa until they learned of Malefo.
He said they were in the process of recognising Malefo and were working on getting him a military house from the Department of Military Veterans and a grant from the National War Fund.
“This (Malefo’s death) is very sad for us and we send our condolences to the family,” said August.
“We were honoured when we learned about Malefo, because there was no trace of his existence. It felt like we discovered a jewel, thus we were planning on coming to the Northern Cape sometime in July.”
“We were busy making arrangements to show him to the whole world.
“He was not in the Coloured Cape Corps, he was in the South African Natives Military Forces (SANMF).
“He deserved to be honoured for the role he played in the war.
“Upon hearing about him we sent the family forms to fill in, in order to start processing his military grant claim. We even notified the office of the Department of Military Veterans, whom we invited to be part of the ceremony but they have not yet responded. We were inviting them to come on board and to be part of this historic moment that we were planning.
“It was on Monday when they heard about his death and they got back to us.”
August made a commitment that the Department of Military Veterans will pay for Malefo’s funeral and erect a tombstone.
The DFA earlier this year visited Malefo’s small RDP house in Stillwater, where he lived with one of his daughters, Aganda Malefo, 62, and some of his grandchildren.
Neatly dressed in a blazer and formal trousers, he was excited to have a conversation.
He told the tales that he could remember of the time when he worked as a farm labourer following the termination of his military services.
Unfortunately he was not among the surviving members who received a bicycle,18 pounds and a pair of boots after the war.
He said he never knew about the existence of Saccel and was never called to attend any ceremony of the military services.
He, however, did not blame the army for what happened and admitted that all he wanted to do was to provide for his family through the little he earned working on farms.
He glowed with pride when he described how he had kept his military membership card safe over the years.
According to Malefo, he had, at some stage, worked in the mines in Johannesburg before he returned to Stillwater.
He said he served in the army for about three years.
“I did not go to participate in the army physically, as my fellow troop members, but was among the team that had to remain at the base in order to guard the weapons. The camp was in Wildrivier, near Witbank. We had to wait for orders and to prepare what needed to be sent to those who left,” said Malefo.
“I remember when we were to be discharged after being away from home for a long time. They said they are returning us home because the war has subsided and our services were no longer needed.
“On my return home, I stayed with my mother and grandparents on a farm near Blinkklip, where I herded Willem Snyman’s livestock.”
He said that he had been in the army with Snyman, who served in a higher rank during the war.
“I never received any compensation from the army on my return. I even tried to approach the offices to claim my benefits but there was never any progress, so I gave up.”
His 100th birthday party was funded by a local businessman.
In response to whether he knew how old he was, he said: “Hulle se ek is nou 102 jaar … Ek het darem ‘n koekie geeet en ‘n stukkie vleis. Ek is dankbaar vir dit. (They say that I am now 102 years old. I ate some cake and a piece of meat. I am thankful for that.)”
Malefo had 12 children with his late wife, Sannah, whom he said he was married to “forever”.
He also had 53 grandchildren, 98 great grandchildren and 23 great great grandchildren.