Delta Charlie 03
A Personal perspective of the SWA/Namibia conflict. - The so called "Bush War".


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A Personal perspective of the SWA/Namibia conflict - The so called "Bush War".
Bibliography
Disclaimer
Incidents
For the Record
Maps
Summary
Footnotes

As subjects get researched this is where they will surface...

Some incidents I recall, some funny and some not so funny;
Stories not in chronological order - real names have been changed in most cases.
David & Johnathan
Bang bang
Right errr' Left
Meat is meat
Proving a point
Countdown
Slapgat

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  Bullseye
Hippo attack
Kentucky fried
The Cure
Sleeping partners
Footloose
Namesake
  Bumburn
Low level
Rambo
The midnight shadow
As the crow flies
Hitting the deck




David & Johnathan
Robinson was the smallest guy in our platoon, Beer was not the smartest but certainly one of the strongest and largest guy's in the platoon, Robinson could not handle a R1 rifle well, he was slightly taller than one! But when it came to the LMG it was a different story, he was an exellent marksman but could of course not carry or handle the thing, Beer on the other hand could not hit a barn door at 3 yards with anything, let alone a rifle or machinegun, our Instructor came up with this brilliant solution; He teamed Robinson up with Beer, LMG No1 was Robinson, No2 was Beer, Robinson would shoot and Beer would carry, when we did the Infantry Battle Trials in October 1972 they won the LMG section. It was quite strange to see the big Beer carrying the LMG just to plonk it down for Robinson to shoot, to us it was a perfect example of teamwork, individualy they were not the best soldiers but as a team they were the best in the country that year. They also were the best of buddies and visited each others families when on weekend pass, I believe Beer married Robinsons sister later.

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Bang bang
One day in 1979 while on guard duty at the main road guardpost in Oshikati we had a big fright, felt very sheepish after the incident but for a few seconds we thought this was IT. A convoy of SAR tanker trucks were driving up to the post when one of the trucks suffered a blowout, the report almost sounded like a landmine going off, everyone scrambled for cover but when no black cloud of smoke rose up we all sheepishly peered over the sandbags. The drivers of the tankers thought this was hillarious, all off us diving for cover. Needless to say we did not offer to help with the wheel change.

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Right er' Left
In general our instructors in Oudshoorn during basics were very good and not idiots as sometimes portrayed, exeptions were however to be found, much to the amusement of the troops. One Monday at drill practice on the parade ground the company sargeant major instructed our instructors to give the orders in english as this was the beginning of "english week", for a hour or two confusion reigned as we were not used to hearing the orders in english but after a few chasies to the rifle range we were getting the hang of it. Just after doing a left wheel the instructor shouted "regs om" instead of english "right wheel". One of the more witty english blokes promtly piped up, "corporal is that right or regs?" wereupon the corporal shouted "Nee troep dit is right left man!" (No troopie it is right left man!)
Needless to say we visited the rifle range again as reward for the laughter.

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Meat is meat
Sometimes I was amazed at the apparent incompetence that was shown by some divisions in the SADF, we had been stationed at Bawbawta for a while during our 1976 tour when the weekly rations arrived, lo and behold fresh meat! We had no refrigerators to store it in and a braai was the obvious choice of preperation. That evening we all had a slap up supper and the next morning, lunch and evening again. It was quite an effort to consume a weeks meat supply in 2 days but we did. Guard duty was however not boring as almost every person had nightmares and kept on moaning and groaning or talking in their sleep. Our signals operator even managed to get himself doubled back in his sleeping bag and when he woke up he could not get out and started screaming, we literaly had to shake him out. This happened twice more before the HQ in Rundu realised that we were not able to store fresh supplies or Wet Rations as it was known.

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Proving a point
My first patrol after our refresher course at Oshivello in 1977 was my "baptism of fire" not from the enemy but from my own section. I had been given the runts of wich one was a demoted section leader, a real NAFI character and complete washout. The day's route and the patrol objectives were easy and I was confident that we would return to t/b by nightfall, as the day wore on however the idiot kept on nigglig and trying to work the section up against me, I kept my cool and did my best to humor him, it was already late afternoon when things came to a head. The section basicaly mutinied and said I had no clue where we were, I was also a bit unsure but challenged them. If we did not cross the unimogs tracks in the next 5 cliks they were welcome to follow the idiot. Much to my relief and the section too we crossed the tracks diagonaly as I had said we would, 20 minutes later we were back in the t/b. During debrief our loot asked me if I had any problems during the patrol, he was aware of the idiots cussednes, I replied no but the boys know who to follow now. I never had any problems after that, if the idiot tried to say anything disparaging about me the rest woud tell him to shut up as he was a moron. His nickname became "Donkie se gat", meaning he was not even a Donkey's backside. On the next base rotation he was left behind in Coy HQ as one of the cleaning squad.

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Countdown
About 3 weeks after "Besembos" in 1977, while on patroll, with 8 men in total, my one tracker signalled "enemy tracks" and as I investigated we saw 2 sets of footprints, we reported to HQ and proceeded to track along the tracks as they were reasonably fresh, about 3 cliks later the tracker signaled +2, now we were following 4 insurgents, a few minutes later +1, now they were 5. I stopped and reported again, HQ was mounting a sweep ops as the tracks were still on a constant heading, they hoped to set up a stopper group or drop a followup group on the expected heading of the tracks . We again proceeded to follow and reported every 10 to 15 minutes now. Around 2 cliks further another 3 joined the group of 5, now we were up against 8, even odds. By this time I was not too happy to follow but orders are orders. So it went on, every few kliks more tracks would join, the group we were tracking were eventualy estimated to be 24 odd. By now the insurgents had probably spotted us as our tracker was estimating a 5 to 10 minute lead. We were all very tense by now and could hear the choppers flying in their search patterns ahead of us, without warning a herd of cattle came out of the bush, being chased my some youngsters, needless to say we found no further tracks after the mini stampede had passed. The subsequent sweep also revealed no tracks, the insurgents had been unsure of how many were tracking them, taken off their boots and mingled themselves in the cattle and subsequiently disapeared into the local population, an old terrorist trick. That was my closest to a contact on the border. In the following week our forces did manage to pick up some more tracks and in followups 18 insurgents were killed and a cache of mines were uncovered. So our initial contact had paid off and put pressure on the group of terrorists.

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Slapgat
During 1977 we used a sandbagged Unimog or Bosvark to transport the platoon's kit and supplies from t/b to t/b while on patrol, our loot would move the t/b every day and the returning patrols had to navigate to it, quite fun especially as there were little or no landmarks! We would have reason to be glad of his caution, platoon Bravo was not so enterprising and decided it was too much trouble to move t/b every or at least second day. The terr's must have spotted this and one evening at about 23h00 they got revved and their Bosvark got blown up by rpg fire and the spare ammo. They had even left most of the platoon's ammo on board! They managed to repel the attack but some were wounded but no fatalities fortunatley, they never t/b'd more then one night after that. It just proves that the instructors knew what they were talking about during refresher training in Oshivello.I think this incident is where one of them earned the Honoris Crux for pulling one of his buddies from under the burning Bosvark, this bloke thought he would be safer under the Bosvark than having to dig a slit trench, lazy blighter! (dates may be confused as it seems that this happened in '78)

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Bullseye
We had some excitement during our otherwise boring tour in 1979 when presumably 5 Swapo terrorists started firing mortars from the back of a Ford F100 pickup in the direction of the Oshikati airstrip one evening. They only managed 3 shots before they were eliminated by our Mortar section, the first round was a direct hit! Normaly a mortar crews first round is used to judge the range to target! We had a brilliant 80mm mortar commander that tour, he had a knack to judge distance to the target perfectly, being a surveyor in civviestreet probably helped too. He was up the o/p tower seconds after he had heard the first mortar being fired by the terrs and was shouting the coordinates to the mortar crew as he saw the flash of the second round, they only got one more round off when the first round from our crew hit them, a total of 6 rounds were fired and all hit the target, you don't get much to pick up after that. The police forensics team also determined that one of our mortar rounds had hit the terrorists mortar ammunition and this had added to the carnage at the scene.

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Hippo attack
One of the funniest incidents happened on the Zambezi near Katima in 1972, we had completed building a new bunker and guard/observation post at the pump station on the river, the first night passed uneventfully but on the second evening one of my section went to the lilly and as he turned to come back to the bunker he heard a noise in the reeds a few meter's away, being a nervous type he dashed to the bunker and dived in headfirst shouting that the terrorists were on his heels. The searchlight soon showed the terrorist to be a inquisitive hippo investigating the new bunker. We all became quite attached to our hippo visitors and got to know them well, some even took naps on the open area between the bunker and river. As long as the hippos were grunting and moving about we knew that the surrounding area was clear of any intruders and we could relax as well. Many beautiful sunsets were also seen from this post as the sun set over the mighty Zambezi.

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Kentucky fried
Bushmen are resourcefull hunters as we found out one evening on our way back from collecting the o/p troops from the "Golden Highway" in 1976. The Unimog was being driven at a fair turn of speed when all of a sudden the road ahead was filled with scores of Guineafowl, we ploughed through the swarm of birds, litteraly blood and feathers all over, the driver had no time to avoid the birds but had the presence of mind to hit the brakes and then reverse to the site of the decimation, we got off and collected some of the birds at the same time a group of bushmen appeared and also started harvesting the main lot of downed birds, all in all about 30 odd had been hit! Waving goodbye to the bushmen we progeeded to base with our share. The Guineafowl were cleaned and hung for a day after which some of our more cullinary inclined troops built a spit and proceeded to roast the fowl over coals, basting then in butter (also sent to us by mistake from Rundu). That evening we again had a feast, Kentucky a la Caprivi.

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The Cure
One of our functions on patrol was to see if any of the locals needed medical attention, upon visiting one kraal the headman complained to our medic that he suffered from backache, the medic decided to give the man some sleeping tablets, having explained the dosage we went on our way. About a week later we called on the kraal again, the headman was estatic to see us again, he wanted to know if we could give him more of the "painkillers" as the ones we had given had taken his backache away. It turned out the pills our medic had given him were knocking him out so well that he got a good nights rest every night and that was possibly why his backache had cleared up.

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Sleeping partners
During the tour in 1977 we were busy with "Ops Besembos" and during the sweep operation tracks had been picked up of a group about 16 terrorists, as we had been slogging since dawn we decided to bivvy for the night after reporting our RV to HQ, after a uneventful night we started up the next day and about 180m from our t/b we came across the place where the terrorists had spent their night, we were amazed that we had not heard or spotted them the previous night as we had been so close. We reported to HQ and a followup/tracker group was flown in by chopper, after making contact the followup group killed one and captured the rest, we were told that they had seen us make our t/b but were too tired and unsure of our numbers to make a fight of it as they had been on the run all day, this was one of our sections closest calls as on that particular patrol we were down to 6 men including the 2 bushmen trackers. I shudder to think of what would have happened if they attacked or ambushed us, bad odds indeed.

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Footloose
Being infantry one normaly prefered moving about on a veichle when the opportunity arose, exept one of our platoon commanders affectionatly called Rooies (Red one, due to his red beard.) of A Company, in 1977, after the 3'rd landmine incident he was a victim of he and his platoon took to moving on foot for the duration of the tour, even pulling out from the Company HQ base and doing 50 cliks on foot to the Battalion HQ at Okotoppi on the main tar road to Ondangwa - Oshikati, while the rest of the company's rode in comparatave comfort on the 10 ton Samils when we were relieved at the end of our tour. He was unfortunate to be in Company HQ on platoon rest rotation every time supplies had to be collected from Okotoppi, thus getting the job of convoy escourt duty, one time he was blown up on the outgoing as well as the return trip. Forunatley the mine incidents only damaged the Hippos and some eardrums but he clearly reckoned one can only be lucky so many times, three being his limit.His troops were inclined to agree and took his decision without any protest whatsoever!

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Namesake
Somewhere in Ovamboland a there is a Ovambo named Riley, this happened one evening before curfew on road patrol in 1979, we were patrolling the main road between Oshikati and Ondagwa when we were flagged down by locals, we were suspicous at fist as two days before a police patrol had drawn fire in the same locality, but our fears soon evaporated as the local explained that he had run out of fuel or had a flat (memory) and would we please take him and his wife to the hospital in Oshakati, she was about to give birth! A quick call to HQ for the ok and a helping hand from some lads in my section and the woman was bundeled on to our Buffel MPV, no mean feat as the thing stands about 6 feet from the ground. I thought that would be enough to induce labour but the women are tough in Ovamboland. Needless to say after a very fast trip to the hospital a bouncing baby boy was delivered and promptly named after the driver by a gratefull father, this time we realy had won the heart's and mind's of at least 2 locals.
To see what a Buffel AMV/MPV looks like go to Bad Guys Online and have a look.

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Bumburn
Flies were always present but one day in Katima it was evident that a plan had to be made as to go to the latrines was almost physicaly impossible due to the infestation of the longdrops, the normal dosing of lime and chlorine powder was just not working, our base medics came up with a wonderful concoction that worked until one bloke decided to have a smoke break while parlament was in session. He lit up and tossed the match into the pit and BOOM he was bumburned not to mention other p/parts. The medics had made their fly reppellent from Avgas and Diesel, this had brewed and with the natural gasses of fermentation had made a nice explosive mixture just waiting to be ignited. After this we grudgingly tolerated the flies for a while. The medics had the last say as the fly cure was used again a few times but under strict supervision and adequate ventilation of the longdrops, usualy followed by a precautionary "burnoff" as well as a huge red
NO SMOKING / GEEN ROOK
sign.

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Low level
Lookout post duty during 1976 at Bawbawta was a boring affair, not much to see exept the old base housing the refugees to the south of the platoon base and trees all around for miles east and west, to the north of the waterpoint a shona, of which the northern fringe was also the cutline demarcating the Angola/SWA border. However this changed one afternoon when we were informed to expect a visit from some top brass and Red Cross officials. The lookout was informed to keep a eye open for any approaching aircraft. Around 13h00 we all heard the sound of a turboprop plane approaching, however the lookouts could see nothing, the next moment the two troops hurled themselves from the lookout post as the plane came skimming the treetops directly for them. The two had thought the plane was going to hit them. Two very sheepish troops picked themselves up from the dust under the lookout tree, fortunatley it was not a high tree and the sand under the tree was comparatively loose. Sometimes pilots are sadists.

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Rambo
This relates to a incident in 1976 while at Bawbawta, some Recces arrived one afternoon with their chopped Unimog, no seats just sandbags and logs wired to the front bumper, one got off and shook hands with his comrades, all he had was a bushknife, water bottle, a small canvas pouch slung over his back, black pt shorts, nutria T shirt and running shoes. He promtly proceeded in the direction of Angola across the shona, we were told to expect him back in exactly the same place and time in 14 days time and to radio Fort Doppies upon his arival. We had heard of the recces prowess but this looked more like a suicide mission.
Sure enough 14 days later he strode into our base armed to the teeth and dressed in a rag tag of camo. I never found out his name but still remember the look of utter awe and amazement on our faces, we all let our imaginations run riot as to how he had come back armed with a RPG, AK47, enough ammo to kill a battalion and also a huge packback. These guys were truly the average troopies heroes and in my opinion Rambo was a puppy compared to them.

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The midnight shadow
One night in 1972, standing guard with a buddy at Katima's base magazine we happened to wonder why the sky had got so dark, a sudden cloud? Boy were we in for a surprise! When we decided to sweep the area with the seachlight we got the fright of our lives, a Bull Elephant was browsing from the tree over the bunker we were in, all we could see was this great big body, four huge leg's and massive tusks. Up to then I had not believed how stealthy Elephants could be, we had not heard his approach nor his browsing. Fortunately he was quite used to the area and stared moving off as we switched on the searchlight. Only then did he make a noise. We stood trembling in the bunker for quite a while, only switching off the searchlight when the officer on duty asked why we were using it so much.

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As the crow flies

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Hitting the deck

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xxxxxx

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Disclaimer:
Please note that I have made all possible effort not to use foul language or explicit descriptions, some incidents however may contain material of a more mature nature. This would however be in the interest of historical and factual correctness. Please read in the context of the of the history of the day. No items have been included to willingly offend any person or group.
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Military record:
I was trained as infantryman at 1 SAI battalion in Oudshoorn, was in the first group3 of National Servicemen to do active border duty in the Caprivi in 1972. Was stationed in Katima Mulilo on the Zambezi river from July to October. Did guard duty, patrols and night ambush patrols. The next year the duration of service was changed from 9 months to 12 months.
Allocated to Citizen Force unit 2 Regiment Bloemspruit, later renamed to Regiment Dan Pienaar in 1976, reamalgamated as Regiment Bloemspruit in 1999.
1974 - 3 week Camp at Madimbo / Limpopo vally. Nogal over Christmas, almost got fried by the sun.
1975 - 3 week Camp at Genl. De Wet t/a / Bloemfontein. Cold Cold Cold.
Did 4 x 12 week tours of border duty in S.W.A./Namibia, each time with D Coy. Platoon 3, section 3.
1976 - Bwabwata / Bagani / West Caprivi - Near Alpha group base and Fort Doppies. D Coy. Platoon 3 tasked to guard Angolan refugee camp at an abandoned base Bwabwata and secure the "Golden Highway" main road in our sector with o/p's. No action tour, was promoted to Lace Corporal - 2ic of section 3, the LMG squad. We amused ourselves by doing a run from base to the o/p every morning and late afternoon, the distance was approximatley 18 cliks, we of the "Bwabwata Harriers" became quite fit for a bunch of babysitters. We got this cushy job due to the main Angola push being over and someone had to keep an eye on the refugees and stop them from straying into the path of the Recces or Alpha group. They were prone to shoot first then check out the results.
'77 Okankolo / Okotoppe / Ovamboland - Crash course for Section leader, too few Corporals had been called up. Tasked to do "Hearts & Minds" patrols and insurgent tracking sweeps. "Operation Besembos" stopper group duty. This was our "Hot Tour" - Too many close calls, landmine incidents etc. My first tour as section leader and also got a bunch of misfits in my section, was also under strength as well - 8 man instead of 10 man section. Sometimes down to 6 due to 1 case of malaria, silly blighter vomited his pil after drinking with his HQ buddies, the other shot himself in the foot a week before we were to be relieved, fortunatly he did this in front of the CSM while reporting for guard duty. I preffered to be in the bush with this bunch as there they could not get hold of booze and grass. There they were good troops but on base rotation I had my hands full.
My ID when I was promoted to Cpl. Still a laaitie!
'78 Okankolo / Okotoppe / Ovamboland - More "Hearts & Minds" patrols and insurgent tracking sweeps. This was tour was similar to '77, one bad landmine incident with civillian casualty's. This was the tour the Regiment suffered its first fatality, our first Honoris Crux award too.
Delport J C Rfn 13 September 1978 Dan Pienaar Rgt
I was again given the runts of the company, but at least we were full strength and they pulled their weight when out in the bush. Walked on average 25 to 30 clik patrols almost every day.
'79 - Oshakati / Ovamboland (volunteer) - Joint unit, Base and Stragetic point protection with Goudveld Commando who were under strength. This was mainly guard duty, "hiway patrols" between Oshikati and Ondangwa and a few convoy excursions. Had a good section this time, a bit NAFI but no substance abusers. The company Mortar section had some target practice though. Caught up on a lot of reading and got a few turns at driving a Buffel albeit illegally as I had no Army Licence, if I could drive a car and motorcycle why not a Buffel. They were fun to drive but one had to consider their being rather top heavy for sudden manuevers. Hats off to the licenced drivers!
1980 Decided not to volunteer for 3 month tour, as I was newley married, but did the Platoon Commanders Course at Tempe / OFS Command. Scored 3 'rd highest for the course, got my right leg smashed up in a collision between my bike and a red mini on the morning of oldyears eve. That put and end to my combat career.
1981 - 1982 Promoted to Sargeant, would have been 2nd Leutenant but due to my medical status I no longer qualified. Volunteered as Battalion Clerk in HQ, did the spadework for both years callups. Got to know our CO real well. I think our unit got the Freedom of the City of Bloemfontein in this period, got all dressed up in my parade best with Liefie at my side and got to sit together with the VIP's and Brass.
1984 - 3 week Camp at Koffiefontein/HQ Bloemfontein as Battalion HQ Clerk. Some guys out on night exercise got frostbite, do not know why we alwas did camps in midwinter or midsummer. This was the first year the unit did not do border duty. Decided to call the army quits as our son was born in September, had got tired of the office routine and it took up a few evenings each week. Did apply for a PF appointment but was turned down on medical grounds, this also made me decide to "retire", if I was good enough to be a voulunteer why not PF? I suppose it was a case of sour grapes too.
**-**
Wore out about 5 pairs of boots on patrol and got to know some parts of Namibia very well, saw some magnificent sunsets and many a cold night on guard, I rather liked sleeping on sand, beats a stony hillside any day, digging is also much easier. Fortunatley was never in direct combat, came very close once on patroll in 1977, some of my buddies in our company were not so fortunate but lived to tell the tale, we all know what PTSD is all about.
Also qualified in the use of Night Vision equipment, 60mm mortar and Vickers machine gun (now vintage equipment, could boil water very nicely for a quick cuppa.).
Was classified as 1'st class shot, bronze in 72, classified Marksman in 76. Guess my eyes got better! Or my arms got stronger or I was motivated to shoot better as we were possibly going into combat.
I am not a militarist but pacifisim does not offer any answer, I believe in Teddy Rooseveldt's motto; Speak softly while carrying a BIG stick. (be prepared to use it and know how!)

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Bibliography
This is a refrence list of subject related books I have Read / Purchased.(it may evolve to a fully fledged page.)
Title - Author - Subject - ISBN No - Read/Purchased
Edens Exile - J Breytenbach - Accounts of conservation during the bush war, Caprivi Region. - - p
We Fear Naught but God. - P Els - a Recces Recollections. - - P

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Maps of the Operational area.
Click on the thumbnail or link.

baw.jpg Caprivi strip location of Bwabwata and Katima Mulilo 1976 tour

caprivi.jpg Caprivi strip Katima area 1972 National Service

kavango.jpg Kavango Rundu area - 1976 tour

Map on Barry Fowlers site "Bad Guys online" Sector 10

oshikati.jpg Owamboland Oshikati area

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Summary:
From my experiences and things I went through during this period of history I do believe that what the SADF had done in Angola and Namibia had a direct bearing on the final outcome in South Africa, we were able to become a democracy without undue influence from the Soviet Union as they had crumbled by the time Nelson Mandela was released in 1990. I will not go into the conspiracy theories that abound around the subject though, nor will I comment about the current state of affairs.
Although I did not do any protesting against the "Regime", nor did I even consider such unpatriotic action, I did not believe that "Apartheid" would last forever and that sooner or later all South Africans would have a say in the country's affairs, so doing my bit in the army was in effect a way of ensuring that a true democracy could be established in South Africa and not a communist dictatorship, therefore I am as much a "freedom fighter" as any Umkonto w'siswe or Apla member.
That some atrocities took place is a fact but not just due to "Apartheid", the ANC and other orginizations were just as guilty as the "Regime", I believe even more so. One must remember that we were involved in a low intensity war and in wartime some combatants do overstep the bounds of humanity. This is a fact of any war, large or small. We "civilized westerners" tend to think that it can be fought in a gentlemanly way but the opposite is true, warfare brings out the inherent evil of us humans in it's most deadly and barbaric form, the Anglo Boer war being a prime example.
I have one prayer and that is that we South Africans should not dwell in the past but look to the future, yet lest we forget the sacrifice of the fallen we should not repeat the past.

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Footnotes
1. Skydancer was my radio nickname in the army, we sometimes used them in place of callsigns, this was of course frowned upon but that's what happened. My military correct callsign was Delta Charlie 03 for D Coy./Platoon 3/Section 3, or 03 for short when talking to platoon HQ. I now use SkyDancer as my IRC chat nick.
2. As I was in the army more than 15 years ago my memory of certain events might be vague, if I have ommited anyting or names I apologize, if I do remember, come across information or get reminded I will make the neccesary changes.
3. I do believe that other NS troepies may have preceded us as signals, medic's, armour and airforce components but as far as I am able to acertain we were the first NS Infantry unit to do combat operations.

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