About Me

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I saw active service in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Force. I was the founder of the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes in 1989 and its chairman until I left in 1997. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime. EO also operated in South America and the Far East. I believe that only Africans (Black and White) can truly solve Africa’s problems. I was appointed Chairman of STTEP International in 2009 and also lecture at military colleges and universities in Africa on defence, intelligence and security issues. Prior to the STTEP International appointment, I served as an independent politico-military advisor to several African governments. Until recently, I was a contributing editor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

THE PASSING OF A GENERAL


The recent passing of Lt Gen R (Witkop) Badenhorst, SSAS, SD, SM, MMM came as a great shock to me.

I served under Gen Badenhorst when he was the sector commander of Sector 10 in then-South West Africa (now Namibia) and frequently reported to him or briefed him on 32 Bn’s reconnaissance operations. Regardless of the rank I held, he simply called me “Sapper”.

Whenever I was told to report to him, I felt both nervous and scared as he was known to be extremely cantankerous. He was a strict disciplinarian, set very high standards and took no nonsense – not even from his seniors in the armed forces or from politicians – especially politicians as he held them in very low regard.

In later years, he became the Chief of Logistics and then the Chief of Military Intelligence. As a member of MI at the time he was the chief, I did everything in my power to avoid him. Mostly, I was successful.

In later life, after he retired, our paths crossed again and we frequently had breakfast together and discussed all things military. Past operations, mistakes made, lessons learnt, political ineptness and the book I was writing about Executive Outcomes became the main topics of discussion. When he offered to write the foreword for my EO book, I was surprised, excited and honoured.  

When I was invited to travel to an African country to discuss doctrine with their armed forces, he offered to “come along” and he was a great source of support and amusement to me and despite his reputation in the military, I discovered that he had never lost his sense of humour. Our African hosts were extremely gracious and kind towards him and many moments of that visit remained with him for a long time after our return.



He had an incredible memory and recounted several stories to my wife that I had semi-forgotten about. Some I cannot recount here but one he particularly enjoyed telling had to do with a briefing a Special Forces officer and I had to give him in his office at Sector 10 headquarters. Maj JW from 5 Reconnaissance Regiment had to give a briefing about his pending operation and I (a captain at that time) a briefing on a pending 32 Reconnaissance Wing operation.

It was very obvious when we arrived at his HQ that Maj JW had ample time to prepare for his briefing as he arrived with flip charts, maps, transparencies and all the paraphernalia associated with given a detailed briefing. I on the other hand did not even have a piece of paper. Maj JW was smart, had shaved and even his boots were gleaming. I on the other hand looked like a scarecrow that had been dragged through a bush.

Glaring at both of us from behind his cigarette smokescreen, he demanded to know who would do the first briefing. I pointed a dirty finger at Maj JW – he in turn glared at me – and then he thankfully started preparing for his briefing. Meanwhile I was getting more and more concerned about my coming briefing, the status of my health after giving my briefing and even contemplated jumping through the window to escape my rapidly approaching fate.

Maj JW’s briefing was a proper Infantry School-style briefing. Brilliantly done and well presented, it showed that a lot of effort had gone into planning his operation. After Maj JW’s almost hour-long briefing, Witkop had no questions, although he gave the major his customary glare – all visible behind his Lexington cigarette smokescreen.

“Sapper, what is your plan?” he growled. Out the corner of my eye I saw Maj JW’s smile as he anticipated the tongue-lashing I was soon to get as he knew I had nothing to present my briefing with.

With trembling legs I walked closer to Witkop’s desk and with a shaky voice I presented my “plan” to him.

 “Sir, I don’t want to waste your time as I know you are very busy. The plan is to infiltrate the area, locate and follow the enemy’s tracks, find them and then kill them”.

I wasn’t sure who was the most surprised at my 15-second briefing – Witkop or Maj JW.

Witkop glared at me for what felt like an hour. Watching him slowly light another Lexington whilst given me the evil eye, I felt like a condemned prisoner marching towards the gallows. Then, he slowly smiled and with eyes twinkling he said “Mooi (Good) Sapper. Major, that is the type of briefing I like!”

Once outside the office, Maj JW cursed both my forefathers and myself and stomped off. I rejoined my team – relieved to have survived and happy with my performance.

Whenever Witkop told that story – which he did several times to my wife – he would always laugh about it. But, that was the type of man he was.

At our last meeting, he gave me valuable feedback on book I am currently writing and told me that he was looking forward to reading the rest of my work.

So, it was with great sadness that I learnt of the sudden passing of my old commander - and in later life my friend - Lt Gen R "Witkop Badenhorst SSAS, SD, SM, MMM.

Lt Gen Badenhorst's wife passed away after a long illness last week and he was admitted to hospital a few days later and whilst there decided to join her, barely a week after she died.


I will always remember him as he was – cantankerous, strict, sharp-minded and humorous. I am just sorry I was never able to bid him farewell. I am however very grateful that I was eventually able to know him as a person and call him my friend.

Goodbye General. 

26 comments:

Robin said...

Hi Eeben,

My condolences. Remember him in the positive light that your wrote about him always. His date was not with this world, but clearly with his beloved wife.

Regards
Robin

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I will remember him as that, Robin - thanks. To me, he was a true general.

Rgds,

Eeben

Skipper Badenhorst said...

Hello Eeben,

Thank you for your kind words and remembrence of a great soldier, general and father. He will always be remembered as a successful and a strict but fair man.

It is just a shame that some people on "die werf" does not share the same views, and only now when there can be no direct response has the guts to open their mouth.

Respect is earned by your actions! and not gained by insulting those who has passed away. Make no mistake Lt Gen Witkop Badenhorst was a well respected soldier, general and father!

Rest In Peace Lt Gen Witkop Badenhorst

Regards

Skipper Badenhorst

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Your dad once told me to judge myself by the enemies I have made – and that was how he saw those who were intent on slandering him, Skipper. Their dislike for him was based on their utter jealousy of him as a person, a soldier, a father and a general. They could never, in a million years, become even half the man he was.

The pleasure they may gain by bad-mouthing him will come to an abrupt end when those secrets he knew about them surface – as he did not take them with him but instead, made sure that they were known by some. When those things become known, their cowardice will surface very quickly as they try to distance themselves from their own actions. They were cowards whilst he was alive and now that he is gone, they are even bigger cowards.

I have received numerous messages from those African officers he met when he travelled with me. To a man, they all remembered some little thing he did or said, were deeply saddened at his passing and offered their condolences to your family in these difficult times.

Your dad was a proud man and would swell with pride when he discussed his children and their achievements with my wife and I.

Please accept our sincerest condolences at your great loss and know that we hope and pray that you will all have the strength you need in the coming days and years ahead without him and your mom.

Rgds,

Eeben

Labour Law said...

Well said.

As Gnl Badenhorst served at 10 after Brig. Joup Joubert, under who 32 served during a number of Ops' during my time, I am unfortunately not acquainted with his personal operational record. Is there any source that discribes such conduct? Could be very informative and get us to know him better. He is surely part of a legue of gentlemen: Serfontein, Joubert, Badehorst....
Thanks.

Old Soldier said...

I remember the Gen from my time at Mil Int. He was strict but fair. I worked for both him and Gen Joubert at the time at C Dir CI. Was quite the experience as a junior officer to see how those two old war horses operated. We salute you Gen go in peace. To your family our sincerest condolences

Lt Col J.J. van Rensburg

Dawie Badenhorst said...

Hi Eeben

Good to hear from you again.

Thank you for your kind and honest remarks about my father.

Regards

Dawie Badenhorst said...

Hi Eeben

Thank you for you kind and honest remarks about my father. He missed your company the last 2 years.

My regards to your wife and son

Dawie

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you Lt Col JJ.

I know his family will appreciate your condolences.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you for visiting my blog, Dawie.

Please accept our heartfelt and sincere condolences to you and your family.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I too miss our times together, Dawie. He always made me laugh even when times were tough. Sadly I often found myself caught up with work and could never get to spend the time with him I wanted to.

Thank you for your kind wishes to my family. They return the same to you. Please let me know when you come up this way again.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am unaware of any book that deals exclusively on Gen Badenhorst, Labour Law - but he pops up in numerous books on the wars in Southern Africa. Also, several very large operations took place under his watch.

Yes, he is certainly part of the league of gentlemen you mentioned: “Swarthand” Serfontein, Joep Joubert, Witkop Badenhorst – and to which I would also add Deon Ferreira, Jorrie Jordaan, Chris Thireon, Anton van Graan and Les Rudman and very few others. They were tough old guys who placed mission and men on the same plane. They were soldiers’ generals. (Not all of them have passed away for those who may suddenly have had an attack of sorrow).

Of all of them, I ended up being fortunate to get to know Gen Badenhorst the best and only recall being nervous and worried when I had to face the others mentioned.

Rgds,

Eeben

reflexivefire.com said...

Outstanding briefing Eeben. Condolences to the fallen.

Unknown said...

Dear Eeben, you said it all. I served under Genl Badenhorst as a recruit at the Inf School and then later on when I was based in Oshakati at 25 Fd Engr Sqn. He was a great leader and senior officer.

I would also like to offer my sincere condolences to his family.

Regards

michael b said...

The old guard are leaving. They were leaders of men and led their men with honour, distinction, care and an iron fist to ensure discipline.

I fear however that our country has no good Generals left to lead the military into the future. The old guard were the keepers of our country and served the land and its people with a sense of duty sorely lacking in the new class of post 1994.

My most sincerest condolences and respect to the General`s family.

Nico Badenhorst said...

Hi Eeben never got to know or meet you.
Thank you for your remarks and remembrance of my father on your blog.I would surely want to meet you some time. I enjoyed your book as much as all the other on the subject over the past years.

Whenever in Namibia and you need something I'll gladly assist you.
Our home is open for you and your family.
Best Nico Badenhorst

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Many thanks for your condolences to his family, Jack.

I know that his sons occasionally visit the blog and they will appreciate your thoughts.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Many thanks, Unknown. I know his family will appreciate your wishes.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

True words, well said. Thanks Michael.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you, Nico.

Although we have never met, your dad often spoke of his visits to you and how much he enjoyed them. He was very proud of you guys and what you had all achieved.

Thanks for your kind offer if ever I visit the ‘Nam. I will be sure to remember that. If you are ever in SA, the same applies to you and your family.

Rgds,

Eeben

armand de goede said...

Well said Eeben .

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I still miss chatting to him, Armand.
Rgds,
Eeben

Guy Reid said...

I remember him from sector 10 days Oshivelo 1982. Not a man to be trifled with ….

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

He certainly was a tough man Guy.
Rgds,
Eeben

Health Information Management said...

I was privileged to serve under Brigadier Witkop from Jul 1981 to Jun 1982 as his intelligence officer in Sector 10. We worked hard, and played hard. I recall one day when his voice hollered over everyone else's during morning tea. He said: "Luitenant Stalmann, hoekom is jy nie heeltemal aangetrek nie?" That was his way of telling me that I had a star missing on my shoulders. I didn't know it, but I had been promoted.
We worked hard during Ops Protea and (oopsy)Daisy, and reaped the rewards.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks Lt Stalmann,
He was certainly a character those who knew him can never forget.
Rgds,
Eeben