A strange occurrence is taking place in South Africa history is being rewritten to give credit to those who don't deserve it and discredit those who built the country to what it was before 1994. Whereas I was aware of the situation, I never realised how far this re-writing of history had gone until I read General Jannie Geldenhuys comment in the Afrikaans paper Rapport. (For those who read Afrikaans, see http://www.news24.com/Rapport/InDiepte/0,,752...). Geldenhuys served as the Chief of the South African Defence Force from 1985 to 1990.
Whatever faults the outside world ascribed to the old SADF, it was a proud, disciplined fighting machine that carried out its mission with pride and honour. Composed of Permanent Force (regulars) and National Service (conscripts) members (PF and NSM respectively), it never shirked from its mission, no matter how unpleasant or controversial. It was the NSM who made up the bulk of this once-proud defence force. As a young officer who commanded national servicemen at one time, I look back on those young men with immense pride. They never gave me any reason to doubt their loyalty to their army, their mission or their comrades. When they left after their 2-year service, they are the ones that built the dams, motorways, bridges, hospitals, schools and so on vital infrastructure that has since been left to be eroded away due to neglect and lack of maintenance.
Of course, criticism can be levelled at some of the officers and NCO''s who once served, but they too did the best they could do under the difficult circumstances they found themselves in. In general, the leadership was true leadership. Young officers and NCOs (18 and 19year-olds) took their sections, platoons and companies to war and they never lost a battle or ran away. Instead, it was the politicians who ran and hid when they were required to stand up. Whereas the military strategy was sound and attainable, the SADF was betrayed by a wishy-washy grand strategy a grand strategy that appears to have only made provision for the National Party politicians, the Broederbond and their fellow-travellers and, of course, their bail-out plans. Even then, they could show no honour or shame.
Whether fighting a counter-insurgency war, a semi-conventional war, a guerrilla war or urban warfare, the SADF stood its ground and consistently attained its mission. There were casualties, something any commander regrets deeply, but in real terms, the casualties were kept to the minimum. Indeed, during planning, a guideline we always received was to keep casualties to the minimum. Over a 23-year period of combat, the SADF suffered 613 members killed in action. Cuba suffered more than 2 300 killed in action over a 12-year period. Angolan, SWAPO and ANC casualties have never been made known. Yet, the ANC now wishes to claim that it defeated the SADF but, perhaps they may have a point: they certainly destroyed it when they came to power.
Elite units, with the exception of Special Forces, comprised both PF and NSM. Many national servicemen extended their two-year compulsory conscription period and joined the Permanent Force. They became officers and NCOs of exceptional quality. The PF and NSM officers and NCOs led their men in units such as the parachute units, armour, mechanised infantry, artillery, engineers, signallers and so forth. After their national service, they became members of the Citizen Force territorials and often spent 3-months a year serving in the SADF.
Entry into the South African Special Forces was more than difficult. By 1988, more than 100 000 soldiers both PF and NSM - had applied for Special Forces selection and training. Fewer than 480 qualified as operators. During operations beyond South Africa''s borders, more than 80 of these operators were killed in action. Indeed, Special Forces was the most highly decorated military unit in South Africa since the end of World War 2. (www.recce.co.za)
When South Africa became democratic, the SADF was sold out by the politicians mainly from the Broederbond who governed the country. Serving soldiers started losing their jobs under President de Klerks appeasement policy. Those that didnt lose their jobs then soon lost them under a new government. This military expertise South Africa once had has become lost. Many of these men are now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We now have a new army the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). This is a defence force that was unable to contain a small problem in Lesotho in September 1998. They have tarnished South Africans reputation with their despicable behaviour as UN peacekeepers. They have a trade union and can strike when they want to. Equipment has fallen into disrepair. Discipline is a rumour. The once world-class armaments industry (ARMSCOR) has been mismanaged into tatters.
Yet, history now needs to be re-written so that it would appear that the men of the new SANDF defeated the old SADF in battle. A new history needs to explain how they fought the SADF to a standstill, how they triumphed when the Russians, Cubans, Angolans and other failed.
The time has come for these fighters who now man the SANDF to list their victories. That might make for some very interesting but quick reading.
Maybe the next thing we will learn in history is that the ANC placed the first man on the moon
Some comments from Jan:-
[A long time back on AfricanCrisis some of our readers remarked that the ANC can't call their revolution a "war". They have to call it a "struggle" because they did not amount to much in actual combat.
The ANC is very embarrassed by the fact that most of their "fighting" was really done by the entire world which backed them. It looks pretty sucking when 40 million struggle to defeat 5 million and need the entire world behind them in order to do it, and even then, it takes 33 years...
So no doubt, the ANC now wishes to rewrite history. It couldn't win any real victories, but if it rewrites history it can invent and twist some facts to pretend it actually won by itself. The book of "ANC Military victories" might indeed be the shortest book in the world. Jan]
Posted By: The Centurion
Special Note: Unfortunately, the true identity of The Centurion has to be withheld. We at AfricanCrisis are very honoured to have his contributions and thoughts from time to time. This man has a long list of amazing achievements. He is well-connected and still active in Africa. We greatly value his thoughts because of his first-hand experience.
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