This chapter is an appendix to 'Bad Guys' in which I wish to record some impressions of South African society; the background against which the material documented in this 'Trilogy' happened.

Much of it has been better documented elsewhere, and this chapter in no way pretends to be comprehensive.

Additional sources may be found in 'Out of Step' (CIIR, 1989), Cawthra (1986), and Cock & Nathan (1989), IDAF and COSAWR publications amongst others. My purpose is to document some subjective material, often written at the time, which might not have been documented in quite the same way elsewhere.


Also see CIIR (1898, p. 33), and Cawthra (1986, p. 138)

In November 1981 there was an attempt to topple the government of the Seychelles. It was badly organised, and the 'invaders', who posed as "The Ancient Order of Brothblowers", were discovered at the airport. They hijacked an aeroplane and flew to Durban. They were eventually charged with hijacking the aircraft, with little or no reference to the fact that they had tried to topple a foreign government. I heard rumours that a South African Air Force truck delivered a load of the assault rifles used to the house in Hilton, near Pietermaritzburg, of Colonel 'Mad Mike' Hoare, who lead the operation. (Cawthra, 1986, p. 40, 79)

In 1981 South African troops made a large scale invasion of Angola, Operation Protea (Cawthra, 1986, p. 154.) and the South African people only found out about this about a week after it had happened. The government maintains that it kept the information secret for security reasons, but that doesn't cut much ice when the rest of the world knows within hours what is happening. Its definitely worth listening to foreign broadcasts to find out what's really going on - not that I ever did this.

At the beginning of 1985, the SADF announced that all South African troops had been withdrawn from Angola. In May 1985, the Angolan Government announced that they had killed two and captured one South African saboteurs at an oil refinery in Cabinda, Northern Angola. At first the South African Government denied that there were any South Africans in Angola. A day or two later they softened their stand to say that, on occasion, South Africans had entered Angola to gather intelligence about the ANC. Later they admitted that Captain Wynand du Toit, the man who had been captured, was actually a South African 'Recce' commando. (Cawthra, 1986, p. 122, 158.) 'Liberal' South Africans covertly rejoiced about this having happened, as irrefutable evidence that we were actively destabilizing our neighbouring states, although the Government still maintained that they were not about to cause damage to Angolan property.

Wynand du Toit, the promoted to Major in absentia, was released in an exchange of prisoners while I was in Namibia in the third quarter of 1987. (See 'Grensvegter', Ch. 3.)

In 1980, an acquaintance who had just completed national service, working with payloads in the Air Force, recounted dropping mysterious crates very far over the borders of countries bordering on South Africa, presumably dropping weapons and supplies to Unita.


South Africa was a very authoritarian society. The message that most people were brought up with was 'Do what you're told! Don't question people in authority, and don't question by what right they have that authority.'

I noticed this particularly in retrospect when I saw the lack of respect shown by the British media towards British politicians. They do things that South African media people would not dare to do.

I remember that in the early or mid-eighties, large quantities of 'Rooibos' [bush] tea was found to contain rat and bird droppings. The official attitude, as I remember was not; "These people have been busted for not taking care of their crops," but "These people will suffer hardship if no one buys their food." (I notice a similar phenomenon in Britain where there have been several food scares in the years I have been here.)

Censorship was rife in South African society. I have difficulty with the idea that one person can decide what I, as another adult, can and cannot read. What makes them qualified to make such a decision on my behalf? I read in the newspapers of one censor who got her children to read material about which she had to make recommendations about whether it should be censored; If the children were offended, she would recommend that it should be censored. (I wish I had kept the reference!)

Films such as 'Jesus Christ Superstar' (Cawthra, 1986, p. 58) and 'Rocky Horror Picture Show' were banned outright, when the government had the option of placing a 2 - 21 age limit on them. They were unbanned with cuts in about 1984. I believe that a book by a leading American Family Therapist, Jay Haley, is banned. The title is: "The Power Strategies of Christ and Other Essays." I'm not absolutely sure of this. But I find that Britain also has strict censorship laws, which apply to some non-illustrated text books relating to my work.

Various publications, including 'Time' fought back at censorship by printing blank space where the censored material would have appeared, but legislation was then passed that they were not allowed to do this.


As part of school, children went to Velt [Bush] Schools (Cawthra, 1986, p. 58.) Youngsters I know went on such courses, which were aimed to instill South African values into the youth. One told me that wearing silk jogging shorts meant that you were either queer or a communist. This idea had to be refined when silk joggers became popular informal dress of Parabats. Children were also informed that they could pass on information to the police if the phoned the nearest police station, and asked to speak to 'Jasper'.


In the news following the 1987 General Election, the subject of emigration was discussed several times, and it was noted that young professional people were leaving the country at a - for some people - alarming rate. What else do they expect?

There was a debate at our most prestigious university, Wits, and the speaker advocating staying - a social worker - was given airtime on my favourite radio station. She maintained that if one person (white) reaches out a hand in love and friendship, another (black) hand will reach out with just as much friendship and love.

Yet even the army admits (to its officer candidates) that the situation in this country has gone beyond the point of no return. It might be that the SADF were just waiting for an 'uprising' which might give them license to use all the sophisticated weaponry they have been stockpiling for most of my lifetime.

Jokes made about the people leaving include:

"Will the last person to leave Jan Smuts (Johannesburg Airport) please switch off the lights?"

"Would the last person to leave Port Elizabeth please free the dolphins?" (Port Elizabeth is famous for its dolphinarium.)


In November 1984 there was a referendum of the white electorate about the Government's plans to introduce a Tricameral Parliament, allowing the Indian (Asian) and Coloured (Mixed race) people a parallel (but separate) government. No provision was made for a possible fourth parliament for blacks.

I remember commenting ironically at the time, mimicking the Government: 'The black people are shooting at us, so we have decided to give the Indians and the Coloureds the vote.'

It was expected that when the Tricameral Parliament was implemented, Indian and Coloured men would also be conscripted, but this never materialized. (Cawthra, 1986, p. 43)

"Democracy is too good a system of government to share with just anyone."

Jokes about African democracy: "One man - one vote - once!"

Q: What do you call a black man with a machine gun?

A: Sir!


In 1987 or 1988 a sick Russian seaman on a ship off the Cape coast was airlifted to a Cape Town hospital, and became something of a hero in the South African media ("See, we're not such Bad Guys really, are we?") I saw him on television, in which he said 'thanks' or 'hello' in Afrikaans. If we had met him in Angola, we would have shot him!

A friend at Pietermaritzburg University, Wendy Leeb, told me that she had read in the local paper of a trade agreement by which South Africa would be supplying wheat to the Soviet Union. This must have been in 1985 or before. At the same time white South Africans were conscripted to fight the evils of communism, and soviet imperialism, yet other sectors of the society were helping to feed the Russians.


Part of the Nationalist Government's plan to maintain white rule was to bundle off all the black people into the 'independent' homelands, where they could be ruled by their own people. As such they would never be 'South Africans' and would never be able to vote out a white government. Of course, all the resources, and most of the land remained in white South Africa.

It suited the Apartheid philosophy to give massive subsidies to the puppet governments. Much of this was abused, and the Prime Minister of Transkei bought himself a jet with some of this money, though there was no airport in Transkei big enough for it to land on.

South African entrepreneurs and South African finance built 'Sun City', a pleasure city of gambling and mildly erotic acts and films in Bophuthatswana in the Transvaal Province. Apparently the Bophuthatswana government took 50% of the profits, but it was still profitable, from all of the South Africans who flocked there to gamble; a vice not allowed in South Africa itself. Possibly Sun City acted as a valve by which unacceptable desires of South Africans could be exercised, without challenging the Dutch Reformed Church dominated Status Quo in South Africa.

Various celebrities were attracted to perform at Sun City. These included Frank Sinatra and Rock Group 'Queen'. A boycott was arranged, and a song released by Steven Van Zant; "I ain't going to play Sun City."

In February 1988 there was a coup d'etat in Bophuthatswana. Rather an ill organised one, it seemed, but the SADF immediately went straight in to this 'independent' homeland - supposedly a sovereign state - at the request of the toppled President - and restored their preferred government to power. They went in with armoured vehicles, with, was it General Geldenhuys in the front? (See 'Resister' No. 59.)

The Independent Homelands were considered by the rest of the world to be a ploy by the South African Government, but South Africa pretended to think of them as sovereign states. A friend of mine successfully evaded any military service by getting himself jobs in these homelands, and as long as he spent about half his time in the homeland, he was exempted.


Defence 'Bonus' bonds (Cawthra, 1986, p. 82), for which cash prises were offered, were promoted as being a patriotic act until the Dutch Reformed Church decided that they were sinful, after which they were discontinued.


'Necklacing' is the method used by the ANC to execute collaborators. Nelson Mandela's wife, Winny, refused to distance herself from this practise.

The procedure involves a tyre being placed over the shoulders and arms of the victim, then they are doused with petrol, and they are then given a dagga [cannabis] cigarette, with which they are set on fire.

This phenomenon has brought about different reactions from different sectors, and the Government of Bophutatswana is reputed to have simply banned tyres outright. Don't ask me how.

This provided evidence to South African whites of the barbarous acts of which black people were capable; "And you want to give these people the vote?"

Predictably, the necklace phenomenon has spawned the usual collection of sick jokes, examples of which follow;

Q: What do you call a black boy rolling a bicycle tyre along?

A: A law student!

Q: What do you call a tractor tyre?

A: A family pack!

Q: What do you call a lorry full of tyres?

A: A mobile court!

Q: What precautions can a black man take to prevent himself from being necklaced?

A: Put a broomstick through his ears!

Q: What do you call several Africans sitting in a bathtub with tyres around their necks?

A: Pooitjiekos! [A kind of stew]

These jokes are sick and offensive, yet one day they will have a place in social history.


The Nationalist Government maintained that it wanted to negotiate with the ANC, but specified that the ANC had to renounce violence before and talks could begin. Yet violence was the only means by which the ANC could make their presence felt, and to abandon it would throw away their bargaining power.

I find it ironic that the 'hit and run' tactics employed by the Boers against the British in the two Anglo-Boer wars at the turn of the century was identical to that used by the ANC from the 1960's onwards. Since then the sons and grandsons of the Boers were the governors being subjected to terrorist attacks. Why were the Boers 'Brave Soldiers' while the ANC were 'Cowardly murderous terrorists."?

In 1986 I heard rumours that the Eminent Person's Group, including Australia's premier Fraser, had asked the South African Government what the bottom line was for talking to the ANC. The SA Government had given them a bottom line. The Eminent Persons Group then took this to the ANC who accepted it, which apparently took the South African government by surprise. Just then South Africa bombed a couple of targets in Zimbabwe and Botswana which destroyed further negotiations. Was this possible progress deliberate sabotaged by the armed forces?

It was a much propagated view that 'unrest' was caused by external agitators (Cawthra, 1986, p. 221.). It was suggested that black people in South Africa enjoyed the highest standard of living per capita than enjoyed anywhere else in Africa. But would agitators achieve anything if there were no real grievances?

Ralph: If all unrest is caused by aggitators, try some aggitators in an old age home. Genuine grievances must exist.

Apparently, at some stage, the South African Government justified keeping Nelson Mandela prisoner, on the basis that the Russians were still keeping Andre Sakharov prisoner, or in internal exile. Sakharov was released in 1988, but his release was not followed immediately by Mandela's release. Mandela was, however, released on 11th February 1990.


I think that I had always imagined an apocalyptic future for white South Africa, and many other South Africans of my generation must have expected the same.

A military psychologist, Major Keith Ventress, in 1986 pointed out that while most South African whites see a dark future for themselves in this country, most blacks see a bright future; light at the end of the tunnel.


An insightful comment about the ruling Nationalist Party; "When the going gets tough, the Nats change the rules."

The Nats won the 1987 General Election, but the official opposition changed from the liberal PFP to the Conservative Party.

The "State President's Fund" was established to aid victims of 'Terrorist' attacks, and received donations of R 1 Million from at least one municipality. The fund took months to administer, and there were long delays before the first payments were made.

In the early eighties, if not earlier, the Nationalist Government were identified as having used public money to finance an English language newspaper, "The Citizen" as its mouthpiece. This newspaper was distributed in large numbers to national servicemen. That might have been in the 70's - probably was!

Another effort, which might have been more subtly funded was a song of peace and harmony, sung by local singers of different races who were paid substantially to participate. Many others refused to participate.

The song was produced and looked similar to Band Aid's "Do they know its Christmas?" It didn't catch on, and was eventually dismissed as a flop. The minister responsible for it was discredited or dismissed. Some said that it was worth the R 4 million costs just to get rid of that politician.


The South African government was very suspicious of its people, particularly English speakers, and especially University students. There were often rumours of police spies and informers lurking around the campuses.

The sister of a university friend of mine was approached, and offered generous financial incentives, as well as free petrol to be an informer. She was very distressed by this. Apparently she was approached because her mother had an Afrikaans maiden name - she might be more trusted than someone without any Afrikaans heritage. They could have come horribly unstuck using that as a criteria.

When I was in Durban, a social work student acquaintance of mine was rumoured to be a police spy. I don't remember what the evidence was.

Someone who had been a senior Scout in the Troop I was involved with in Pietermaritzburg was believed to be a spy. He tried to recruit someone I knew. She was distressed, and told several other people, one of whom told me. My informant described him prowling around the Pietermaritzburg Campus, like 'Dracula looking for victims.'

THE CIVIL CO-OPERATION BUREAU; it was after reading about this agency being the body from which Security Forces hit squads operated that I started to remember something, and long though I have considered it, I find it difficult to remember the details. I was speaking to someone once, and I think this was while I was in Angola. He was of similar rank, and I gathered that he worked in Natal, which was then my home unit. He mentioned that he did intelligence work of some kind, but I didn't become very curious at that time. What prickled my interest was when he mentioned that he took groups of children camping. I asked a little more about this, thinking that this might have been something interesting to get involved in. He mentioned something about that if one wanted to get the co-operation of parents, one could take their children camping. I think that I had heard something similar to this, which sounded pretty innocent, from Chris R-, who mentioned that a couple of his fellow officers had taken a group of children out camping at SADF expense, and he was under the impression that this was all some public relations exercise, as it might well have been. I remember being interested in this, but I didn't get around to following it up. I seem to remember another conversation, still in Angola, about the possibility of jobs for psychologists - and well paid jobs - working in some mysterious department, but there was some drawback that put off most of the people who were the sources of information. I am surprised at how vague my memories of this are, and how it was only about five years later that I realised the possible significance of what was going on around me.

A friend of mine, Ralph, a non-violent academic, spend three months in solitary confinement for assisting someone to escape from the Security Police. He was never brought to trial, but was held under the Terrorism Act. He was held in a small rural jail, which filled up with local drunks over weekends. I quote one amusing anecdote from his ordeal:

"There had been a great deal of carousing that weekend and the inn was a little full, and this young man, thick Dutchman policeman was propelling this [drunk] my way. I imagined a disturbed night, defending my food supply from him and probably having him puke on my nice palliasse, so stood in my door, arms akimbo, rather like a fishwife, defending my right to solitary confinement and reiterating that I was being held under Section 16 of the Terrorism Act, did he understand? Eventually he did, and I returned to what I regarded as my 'single' room."


"The Afrikaner Weerstands Beweeging [Afrikaner Resistance Movement - the 3-pronged swastika mob] want to drive the blacks into the sea, but the HNP [Conservative National Party] won't allow them on the beeches."

I was amused at the joke that `AWB' stood for `Afrikaners Without Brains'.


While sanctions were organised against South Africa, the South African Government maintained that (a) sanctions didn't work, (b) sanctions only hurt the blacks - the people they were designed to help.

In 1986, one of the main suppliers of films to South African cinemas was told to make all their cinemas multi- racial, or there would be no more movies supplied. It was touch and go in one conservative parliamentary seat, but entertainment won in the end, and all cinemas became multiracial overnight. And they say sanctions don't work?


I presume that the material I address here is more comprehensively covered in Cock & Nathan (1989), which I have not read.

South African Society was geared up to back the 'war effort', or to the idea of military service being an integral part of society, rather than something which was taken care of by people with a specific interest in 'that sort of thing'.

There were radio programmes such as 'Forces Favourites' in which girlfriends would write in delivering such cliched messages as 'To the army you are only a number, but to me you're everything', 'Vasbyt', 'Min dae, lang hare'. [Few days before long hair.] (Cawthra, 1986, p. 52 - 53., PARATUS February 1991 p. 21 Pat Kerr.)

I remember at high school how the assemble would stand for a minute's silence at the announcement of the death on the border of a former pupil of the school. This might be standard practise at different schools internationally, thought.

At high school, young people (mostly Afrikaans) would wear T-shirts emblazoned with the legend `Hy is daar' [He is there], with the implication that they were dating someone who was serving somewhere on the Border.

I remember encountering a white beggar who used, as a sympathy ploy, the idea that his son was on the Border. I suppose that some people might think that because he might have produced a son who was serving on the Border this was reason enough to buy him at least a drink. I didn't!


In 1982 a scandal was revealed that senior army officers made sport shooting game, possibly poaching, shooting from army helicopters. (Cawthra, 1986, p. 175.)

Something that I am surprised at not having been able to find a reference about; in 1985 there was a strong rumour reported in a French magazine that there was about to be a coup d'etat in South Africa. A number of high ranking Army and Police officers were identified by name. Nothing happened about that, but if the story had not been broken, I wonder what might have happened.

In 1984, four South African agents were arrested in Coventry trying illegally to buy weapons from Britain. They were released on bail that the South African Government paid. When the time of their court appearance arrived, they did not return, and the South African Government defended this. Their line was that their work had already saved the South African tax payer far more money than had been paid for their bail. The incident must surely have tarnished the 'word' of the South African government? (Cawthra, 1986, p. 95.)

An embarrassing mistake, rather than a scandal, happened in 1982 when the flagship of the South African Navy, a frigate called the S.A.S. President Kruger was sunk by its supply ship, the S.A.S. Tafelberg. (Cawthra, 1986, p. 100)


Most white males of school going age faced the army. Some ignored it hoping it would go away - and these were the people who often seemed to have been taken by surprise when they suddenly found themselves caught up in it, and unable to free themselves. (Also see '1 Mil'.)

Most went into the army, probably because it was unthinkable to spend six years in prison, and most people didn't feel strongly enough to leave the country.

I know other countries have had national service until recently, but I wonder what it must be like to be British or American or Australian, to leave school and to think about finding a job somewhere, or working for a year before going to college or university instead of knowing that one had to account for each year, and get deferment from the army that would 'get you in the end'..

How would it be to be able to grow up with the idea of being a soldier as remote as being an astronaut?

I went to a school in a conservative part of South Africa, the Orange Free State. At my school, in assembly, the principle told the girls that, as loyalty to the school, they should not date any boy who was not in one of the school rugby teams. Women played a similar role concerning national service. Women were exempt, except if they joined permanent force.

Often a favourite question would be 'Have you done the army yet?' - the implication being that if you had, you were a man, or if had not, then you weren't really worth bothering about. (CIIR, 1989, p. 54.)

I'm sure some girls enjoyed the idea of boys then knew being humiliated during basic training - supposedly this develops character. I don't have to look far away from home to cite examples of such women. I think it was one of the girls in my honours or masters classes who declared that "the men must go and fight and the women must stay at home and have babies." Frightening!

Somehow there is the idea that National Servicemen become second class citizens for the duration of National service, almost to the extent that people feel they are open to abuse by anyone.

I recall newspaper reports where National Servicemen, who had paid the full fare to fly home for a pass, where kept waiting longer when there was a delay, and not taken to the same hotel as the non-service passengers. The airline denied this, of course.

The army has trapped itself into the duration of national service. It would be easy to make it worse. In 1977, national servicemen were told; "You thought you were 'clearing out' after 18 months. This has changed. You will now be doing an extra six months. If you don't like it we can make you suffer until you like it."

Now that the army is too big, and they're getting everyone they can to serve, could they reduce the duration of service? What of the attitude of bullies at high school, like initiation; I did two years and I'm going to make sure that you do at least two years as well. (Three years after the above was written, in 1990, National Service was reduced to 1 year initially. - Okay, I was wrong!)

Consider how it would be if National Service were abolished; how would the Permanent Force survive without National Servicemen to blame everything on to?

What would be said on the day it was cancelled: "Okay chaps. You can all go home now - go back to your Mommies and Daddies."?

If you remove conscription, you lower the status of those to whom conscription has provided subordinates.

National Service or conscription leads to exploitation of ordinary people by people who are often the least suited to be in charge of others. National service places generally competent people in the hands of predominantly incompetent people. This is morally justified, in the name of patriotism, which removes channels of redress. [Source unknown]

Brigadier Dippenaar commented that National Service was needed; "Who in their right mind would want to be a private soldier?" (See '1 Mil'.) On another occasion, Major Coetzee Badenhorst observed that; "More blacks volunteer for the army than can be accommodated." Linking those two statements, I can see a way in which National Service could be abolished.

I think the bottom line was that whites could be expected to be more loyal to the government than black soldiers - surprise surprise! So they would get every possible white male into uniform - as lowly paid conscripts. The net was so wide that I saw one conscript with a boot sole built up six inches, and on the Border I met a Lieutenant (Whom I presume was a National Serviceman) who only had one arm.

I have often come across the notion, in Britain, that National Service would be good to sort out the thugs and hooligans who get Britain a bad name at soccer matches.

("GET THE YOBS INTO UNIFORM" "News of the world" September 10 1989 Page 8.)

I disagree, from what I would like to consider to be 'experience'. Most of the thugs that I came across in the SADF were discharged from the army, either 'administratively' ('Dishonourably') or else medically because they had 'Anti-social personality disorders'. The thugs and lager louts who provoke such suggestions, usually have great difficulty coping with harsh army discipline, and the army might not be able to cope with them. The army battles with people who are determined enough not to co-operate. Dangerous people can be even more dangerous if they are armed! Introducing National Service would mostly affect the law abiding members of society.

I was aware of the notion towards the end of my high school years that it was better to do one's national service immediately, because, following training, one's time was worth that much more that before further training; that one lost less in potential earnings by doing national service before one's time was worth anything. The other side of the debate, to which I subscribed, was that if one trained first, and especially if one trained in skills that would be seen as useful to the army, one had more chance of becoming an officer, being treated better and possibly being used after basics in one's chosen line of work, where one might actually gain some useful experience.

COUNTER ARGUMENT: It has also been suggested that conscription is the ultimate defence against coup d'etats, in that the citizens could not be counted on to obey unconstitutional orders from the military, and would not have the vested interested that a fully professional army would stand to gain from a coup d'etat.


The war in Namibia is not a war for men. It is a war for boys - or that's what comes through to the public; "Boetie gaan Border toe!" [Kid-brother goes to the Border]. National Servicemen, especially school-leavers are not men, but 'little brothers'. (Cawthra, 1986, p. 41.) The army is made to sound fun; adventures. And boys like adventures, don't they?

In South Africa, boys go to school and do as they are told. They don't dare question anything. "Who do you think you are that you can think for yourself? We will tell you what you can think, and censorship will prevent you from thinking what we don't want you to think."

Is it part of Afrikaans culture to domesticate things by referring to them in the diminutive? The 'Troepies' (again a diminutive for 'Troops') are flown to the Border in an aircraft nicknamed a 'Flossie' - this means 'a loose woman', we are led to believe. The manufacturers call it a Hercules, but the SADF romanticises or domesticates everything.

In fairness, though, at time of writing, the 1990 Gulf Crisis continues, and the papers are full of talk of 'Our boys in the Gulf'. Shame! They're away from their families for Christmas. That's a risk you run if you join up as a professional soldier.


"In George Orwell's "1984" he suggests that 'War is waged to keep the society intact'. I believed that we were occupying SWA-Namibia for so long to (a) have an excuse to justify having such a large army (b) as a training ground for troops who could then be unleashed against any uprising (c) to keep the society militarised - and suitably paranoid - 'die swart gevaar!'" (Written in 1986)

"Our economy is going down the drain, largely because we insist on protecting South West Africans/ Namibians from themselves, and people younger than me are dying there in greater and greater numbers."

The occupation of Namibia apparently cost the South African tax payer R 3 Million per day. (Cawthra, 1986, p. 176) Proportionately, three times more white South Africans died on the Border than Americans were killed in Vietnam. (CIIR, 1989, p. 31.)

Namibia became independent finally in April 1990.

Published: 1 July 2000.

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