1993 - 1994 Urban Counter Insurgency
1994 was the year of the first free democratic elections towards voting the ANC party into power. The turmoil in the rest of the country brought the worry that the voting process might be hijacked by different right wing organizations. Before, during and after the elections the whole of the SADF was making ready to ensure a peaceful event. I was stationed in different parts of Transvaal (now called Gauteng) but mainly was deployed to the then Bophuthatswana and Pretoria surroundings. Little known at the time was the cooperation between the Bophuthatswana leader Lucas Mangope and the right wing AWB commandos planning to overthrow the government with a coup if the ANC wins the voting. Certain elements of the SADF were also in waiting to be deployed to aid the effort of the coup. At the last moment the leaders of this movement decided to not execute the plan and move into the “new” South Africa peacefully. In the photos the first one is of the voting lines we needed to safeguard on the voting day. The second photo is the aftermath at Capital City in Mabopane, Bophuthatswana where the locals clashed with the Bop Police to cause havoc and disrupt the election effort, before voting day. Lives were taken and many more lost to ensure the elections went through smoothly. In photo # 5 one can see the size of a rioting mass outnumbering the SADF and Police maintaining the crowds. The constitution and the ‘The steps of using minimum force’ was very different to the ones used by today's armed forces.
This was my first experience of shots fired on us by other people. We realized pretty soon that there were AK 47's in the crowds, and at some evenings a heavy machine gun like a 23mm was also used but never hit our base as the shots fired was well high over our heads. It is my understanding that these areas still has the elements of illegal weaponry going around.
1998 Lesotho Conflict
In this photo you will notice my platoon medical orderly in a smiling face next to the statue in front of the clinic. We safeguarded him with our lives. I stopped my Casspir once a week at the clinic to allow him to assist the nurses inside. This meant so much to them and we won their hearts pretty soon.
1998 the Lesotho Defence Force was in shambles splitting the Defence Force into different groups and the invasion was called in from the newly formed South African National Defence Force.
At this time, I was already promoted to the rank of full Lieutenant and requested to move in with 2 SAI Bn (the old disbanded 32 Bn groupings that was still fighting fit) and assist with the invasion into Lesotho. Our mission was to establish contact with all the Lesotho Defence Force members who made themselves guilty of mutiny. They left their military bases unattended and were prepared to take up arms against any force willing to act against them. Some of these ex LDF members were very militant in their actions and the threat came clear after the initial contact with 44 ParaBn and 1 SAI Bn that intervened and received terrible resistance and casualties. The newly appointed President Mr Mandela wanted a non-conventional force to search for the soldiers in hiding and 2 SAI Bn was the answer. We were now head on with a force with almost the same training as ours. One of the towns within my area of responsibility was Roma. Good medical clinics, sufficient educational facilities, and the only international funded university. The other is me standing in front of another statue near a place of religion. We had to establish our own information and I was at some point very startled to see a roughly platoon strength of LDF soldiers running towards us for a possible negotiation to surrender their arms. Nobody new that I had a full-strength military camp in my area of responsibility. The more experienced NCOs in my platoon assisted me with the language problem and calmed all involved to rather have a peaceful talk. The last photo is of myself inside the Casspir APC that was my home for 3 months. I am preparing my lunch.
1999 Operation Neptune (Illegal abalone pouching and combating organized crime)
This tent was discovered by myself during the recce in the chopper. I later requested one of my platoon NCO's to do a close target reconnaissance on the position. It was found that the tent is the opening of an underground cooling container. At the day of the founding the container was empty and not in use.
The holiday vacation known to us as "Pearly Beach" near Hermanus. This was in our area of responsibility.
This was my kit for the 13 day operation. Pretty heavy with about 80kg of equipment packed. We did not need to walk far to our position and the chopper dropped us close to the hide about 2km still to go. I cashed the kit at the bottom of the mountain and only went up with the bare minimum. Every second day we replenished at around 02H00. On our exfiltration I needed to hump this bag to the pick up point. I struggled quite a bit going through dense terrain and my body was weaker than what we have started with. The walk to the pick up point was about 5 km.
Abalone poaching is one of the illegal activities that spurs up the organized crime network in the Western Cape. The illegal export to the Asian world.
This is an operation where we as the Reconnaissance Platoon assisted the SAPS operation in the fight against organized crime. Other parties involved were the SA Navy and other Intelligence gatherings from the SANDF. We were given a ‘hot spot’ area to reconnoiter ourselves, gather information, assist the SAPS with arrests and safely move in and out without being seen. We the Reconnaissance Platoon from the Infantry School had a x 35 strong team with soldiers we just trained ourselves for the past 26 weeks. We needed to make our own operational plans and I was appointed as the Platoon Commander. So here I am, a 26-year-old Lieutenant with a senior Warrant Officer to assist me, and a team of men (small team groups for a 2 week continuous observation post) that needs to get results out of nothing. To my assistance as air support, 1 x Alouette helicopter and 2 x Oryx troop carrying helicopters with night ops capability.
The operation was a very big success as we managed to infiltrate, assist the police unseen in the arrests of 22 poachers and a king pin in a roadblock in Bloemfontein, with the intel gathered from the 22 arrestees. We exfiltrated unseen after the 13th day as the intel gathered indicated that the bad guys are arming themselves to flush out the guys they do not know about hiding somewhere... some of the bad guys walked passed us about 5 meters from where we laid up during the period. No compromise took place.
2001 Special Forces Operations vs Greenpeace
Green Peace operations made threats to the National Key points of South Africa regarding the extraction of gas components from the seabed. The safe keeping of National Key points are the responsibility of the South African Special Forces Brigade. We first made a reconnaissance of the vessels, the possible routes, and the ability of the Green Peace operational force. I remember that I was responsible for a very quick recce of the vessels, and we led a three-man team that infiltrated into the harbor and onto one of the vessels disguised as crew members. We moved through the harbor security system, climbed onto the vessel, took photos of all relevant technical detail, and climbed off the vessel and left for our unit again. The operation moved around the southern tip of Africa, and we safeguarded the platforms known as Orca, Omega, and FA.
2003 Rapid Reaction Force Burundi (Spec Force Operation)
The Russian Antonov 124 was contracted to the SADC countries for the sole purpose of cargo transportation. Only cargo was allowed. I made my trip back to South Africa with one of these airplanes as the crew did not want to allow us in. I managed to talk myself into a seat back to South Africa with a crew chief that spoke little broken English. How I managed is still a mystery to me.
Being part of the FHM magazine reality.
Local inhabitants gathering to see what we are up to. Will never forget the unique smell of the crowds.
On our flight plan back to base, we requested to fly over a space we have not seen or reconnoitered before. It was known that one of the rebel groups use the area as their hide out. We were surprised to find this well-functioning monastery very close to the forest. Nobody knew about this monastery. It was well looked after and the believe was that someone or somebody is supporting this institution. There were a large group of white nuns present. On a later reconnaissance mission, it was established that one of the rebel groups use this a safe house. They receive blessings in the form of food, fresh fruit, medical attention, and care. Once they have recuperated, they move back into the forest to continue their mission.
The biggest crocodile in the world - Gustav. Yes, this is him!
Sometimes one need to look beyond the fatigue and move forward where there is a need. A need might be a General in Command of one of the rebel groupings that needs to talk to our Op Commander. We never knew if this was for real or might be the next ambush. They will send a messenger and then we had to move to their location asap. As soon as the info leaked out the FAB made their presence visible and then the operation was ruined.
The Vlermuis was a small 4 x 4 attack vehicle used by the Special Forces for quick reaction to contact. It did not provide much protection as it was only to transport the operators into the fight and to allow them to carry out the attack on foot. The individuals were therefore heavily armed, and ammunition and water were the basic components on the body. Take note – body armor as it was not yet used.
My dearest friend and I. Capt "Plastic" as the local children called him. He had a plastic prosthesis (left arm). I would not choose anybody else next to me if I had trouble.
I took this photo as the faces of the children left me thinking. Many of them saw a white man for the first time when we passed by. When we climbed of our vehicles to move closer to them in the effort to allow them to see that we are not bad people, many of them touched our arms and hands unannounced. They were staring at us with astonishment. In return for a laugh and a photo we offered them treats. To think of it, that baby might be 20 years old today. The older one might be 30 years old today. Will I ever see them again and was my few minutes in their presence worth the while and did that left a lasting impression? We will never know. Come to think of it it, it might even be possible that they have seen more terror than any other hard tempered soldier.
The calmness of Sunday mornings waiting for the pastor.
The driver of the HQ vehicle was also the signaler of the grouping. The passenger was the Operational Commander, I as the Operational Officer and because I had the training also the gunner in front, and the Intel Officer was at the back with the 60mm mortar. He was also a trained Infantry Officer before moving over to Intelligence.
Transport in country especially if you need to move in and out with quick success, was with the Oryx troop carrier helicopter. The rebel groups were quick to move to and from an area and we needed to stay on their heels. Helicopters therefore played a major role in the operations. The “Gunships” as we called them was an Alloette helicopter armed with a 20mm door gun. They always escorted the Oryx helicopters wherever we flew.
Our groupings consisted out of seaborne qualified SF operators, and as a recreational effort we manage a little time for R & R between the days in base. Keep in mind that the firearms and battle equipment never left our side. We trusted nobody.
Me taking the photo of dropping a team of Special Forces operators deep into the forest. Their mission was to establish safe communications with the rebel groupings with the aim of winning the hearts and minds.
We had an outreach to the most western positioned town in the country. They can only be successfully reached by helicopters. We flew in a water pump and established a water flow system to allow the water to be pump from the river to the village up onto the hill. Many of the villagers saw a white man and helicopter for the first time. There were so many of them that once the blades of the helicopters went still, we could smell the distinct smell of the population. It was quite overwhelming. The flight into the area was flown very high above the clouds for security and safety reasons. First time I see a pilot taking of his body armor and sitting on top of it.
Local prostitutes caught within our lines on their way to make business with our troops.
When possible we always flew above the clouds. The pilots took off their plate carriers and placed it underneath their buttocks. LOL
The "Palace" was the location of our more advanced medical facilities. It was the previous home of the King ruling the country. Fully equipped ICU and any medical treatment you can think of.
The central African Republic of Burundi had their share of conflict for quite some time. Many lives were lost within the genocide that occurred mainly because the tribal difference between the Hutu's and the Tutsi's cannot be resolved and the military is divided too. South Africa as part of the SADEC needed to intervene in a peacekeeping mission under the rules of the United Nations. We managed to move and do as we planned with the FAB (Burundian Military) always present. We treated them as Green forces and needed to influence the 13 different rebel groupings to surrender their firearms, and allow us to facilitate the integration of these forces peacefully into the FAB. We trusted nobody!
What a beautiful country. The Tanganyika is a pretty awesome lake with clear blue waters. It provides for life to the people of Burundi. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Tanganyika