In March 2013, Lt-Col William Bucibe clambered into a stormwater drain in the Central African Republic (CAR) to collect the remains of Corp Ntebaleng Mogorosi, killed by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) in the Battle of Bangui. After putting Mogorosi in a body bag, he ordered troops to lift his shattered corpse out. Only, the body bag split halfway up, discharging Mogorosi’s remains into the ditch. “We had to go back again,” the hardened soldier told the authors of The Battle of Bangui: The Inside Story of South Africa’s Worst Military Scandal Since Apartheid. “It was very traumatic.”

It wasn’t the only bag to rip at the seams either; sometimes three bags had to be used for a single corpse. This was, Bucibe railed, a failure of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) procurement division writ large. Shoddy workmanship, it seemed, in service of greater profits...

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