MEET WOII THE WOMAN SNIPER FROM THE ZAMBIA ARMY
Going behind gender lines, Warrant Officer Class II (WOII) Manda Mary was among the troops from the Zambia Amy that were deployed in an operation to gun down the infamous Mailoni brothers, Mika, Fabian, and Stephano.
The recurring murders in Central Province between 2007 and 2013 prompted authorities to combine defence and security efforts to close the evil chapter of the serial killers, who terrified the people of Luano Valley.
However, before becoming WOII Manda Mary, she was born on October 6, 1984, in Chingola, and years later went on to pursue her primary education at Chalata Primary School.
She then went on to complete her secondary education at Ibolelo, where she managed to get a grade twelve certificate.
And on April 1st, 2005, after seven months of vigorous training at Munkulungwe Training Area in Tag Argan, Ndola, WOII Manda became a soldier, ready to defend and serve the people of Zambia.
After her pass out, she was sent to 3ZR, Chindwin Barracks, in Kabwe, as her first unit at the rank of private. A few months later, she was taken to the Military Training Establishment of Zambia to pursue a Skill at Arms course, which later made her an instructor in the unit during the regimentation of new soldiers.
She also went on to pursue a sniper course in preparation for the tasks she would encounter in her line of duty as she progressed in her military career.
At the rank of corporal, WOII Manda was a sniper and an instructor, two challenging roles for any soldier.
A sniper is a military marksman who engages a weapon to attack far-away targets. They typically possess advanced training and are armed with highly precise weapons, and they spend most of their days training and preparing to be deployed at any time.
In 2013, after about 8 years of service, she was selected as one of the troops that had been called upon to cease the dreadful murder spree of the Mailoni brothers.
It is believed that the Mailoni brothers forcibly displaced hundreds of families out of fear of becoming victims of the trio’s killing spree.
She explained that the hardest part about the operation was that the locals would tell stories of superstitions surrounding the trio and how so many people had traveled to try and end the unrelenting torment.
However, WOII Manda says despite being told about all these stories that cannot be proved scientifically or were beyond human understanding, she and her team managed to focus on their goal, which was to kill and bring an end to the misery of Luano people.
With the valley being one of the areas that had remained isolated largely due to a poor road network, foot patrolling was the only means the troops would use.
Having grown up in Luano Valley, the brothers were masters of their environment; this posed a challenge to troops as they would not carry out other operational duties such as escort duty and conducting patrols.
“Sometimes the locals would tell us that the Mailoni brothers were here and that they headed in a certain direction; we would follow footprint trails, but we would discover that they were heading in the opposite direction of their footprints,” she narrates.
Finally, several factors conspired against the brothers as new tactics were adopted, and these included adopting civil attire to masquerade as locals.
The long hunt for the Mailoni brothers came to an end on June 24, 2013, when a Zambia Army soldier, sent together on the mission with WOII Mary managed to shoot down the trio, marking the end of the notorious trio.
At a distance, the killings may have been seen as an exaggerated myth, but for Joe Shapela, at the rank of private (Pte), what was perceived as impossible for the people of Luano Valley.
On that day, Pte Shapela was informed by villagers that they had seen the Mailoni brothers’ footprints, and the soldiers tracking them.
Pte Shapela and his colleagues eventually came face to face with the Mailoni, who were charging at them with spears, but fortunately, Pte Shapela was quick to pull his trigger, knocking the brothers to the ground.
Legend has it that their mother, who had fled Kabwe in fear for her own life from her sons, availed herself after they were shot dead to identify their bodies.
As the tragic chapter of the trio came to an end, the expedition to arrest the brothers and the lapses in security are clear indications that the police service should strengthen their manhunting procedures to avoid the longevity of manhunts of this kind.
Her zeal to pursue further missions is packed with the bare essentials of life, despite the risks and hardships that come with going to war or delivering sanity to local communities where peace is threatened.
WOII Manda was sent out on another challenging mission in the Central African Republic (CAR) under the Zambian Battalion 4 (ZAMBATT 4) in 2018, where she was deployed as a protection force, making her the only woman sniper among the troops.
As a sniper, she played an important role in being on the lookout for suspicious vehicles or persons that would try to attack ZAMBATT or threaten peace in the area.
“We rotated with other snipers with our sniper rifles night and day.”
“Our main task was to monitor certain areas to deal with enemies in armoured vehicles.”
She is currently in Mongu Western Province on an operation called Kozo, living up to her mandate as a soldier to defend the integrity and sovereignty of Mother Zambia.
With all her strength, she juggles motherhood and being a soldier and executes all her duties with the utmost professionalism and valour.
A skilled sniper, WOII Manda takes pride in her ability to use any kind of weapon, including heavy machine guns.
(Source: Zambia Army)