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.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


The Military Academy is an educational training unit of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) that houses the Faculty of Military Science of the University of Stellenbosch. As an institution, it offers undergraduate university education along with Professional Military Development for career-orientated officers.  Having successfully completed their undergraduate studies, the students are awarded a B Mil degree from University of Stellenbosch. 

The Academy, additionally, works at developing the SANDF’s future leaders and plays an important role in preparing and shaping the SANDF’s future leadership corps and equipping them with knowledge and insight to cope in dynamic and complex environments.

I was therefore greatly honoured to be invited by Professors Abel Esterhuyse and Francois Vrey to discuss my thoughts on conflict and war in Africa with the third-year strategy students at the Military Academy. My visit would be a quick one: an early morning flight to Cape Town and a return back to Johannesburg that afternoon.

My friend Mich and his colleague Botha met me on arrival and we had some time to catch up since we last saw one another during the drive to Saldanha.

Having never been to the Academy, it was both an eye-opener and a very enjoyable experience for me. What struck me most was the manner in which I was welcomed and the friendliness of everyone who I met and interacted with.

Having introduced me to his audience – which included not only the strategy students but other members of the Faculty as well as some members of 4 Reconnaissance Regiment - Prof Vrey handed me the floor and I was able to discuss my thoughts on conflict and war in Africa.

 Prof Francois Vrey (right) and I after the discussion

Most encouraging though were the questions asked after my discussion. Even more encouraging was the fact that most if not all members of the audience seem to realise and understand what is truly happening on our continent – and expressed their concerns both during question time and in private. These questions covered a range of topics from EO to current operations and why Africa is experiencing the problems we read about each day.

The comments even extended to the ICC and the question of who was indeed the greatest war criminal of modern times and who was most responsible for the slaughter of innocent civilians – an African warlord or a President who has hidden the slaughter of thousands of innocents under the guise of “collateral damage”.

As a token of thanks, Prof Vrey presented me with a book he and Prof Abel had edited – “On Military Culture”. Printed by UCT Press, the book is a welcome addition to my library.
Lunch was taken in the officer’s mess where Professor Very and I were subject to more questions – and some concerns - from the strategy students.

I left the Military Academy with a belief that if the final-year students are a reflection of our future officer corps, we are certainly on the road to improvement. I can but only hope that their new-found knowledge will be sought by others and not been seen as a threat by some senior officers.

My thanks to the Military Academy for giving me the opportunity to speak to the students and the other attending members. It was truly a privilege.

My thanks also to Mich and Botha for getting me there and back in time to catch my flight.

Friday, October 4, 2013


The phrase “If we don’t know where we are going, we can be sure we will never know how to get there” essentially refers to an absence of a strategy. However, the term “strategy” appears to have become confusing, misleading and frequently misused.

As I often find myself engaged in assisting with the development of strategies, I realise how difficult it must be for our clients to grapple with a subject that is both vague and unknown and that has, along the way, lost its true meaning.

I also find it incredibly sad that so many of the senior officials I engage with have been incorrectly educated as to what strategy really is and what its aim is. However, I cannot blame them as even when they want to discover more on this apparently vague concept, they revert to the internet which is fraught with numerous misleading articles on strategy and pages and pages of gobbledygook.

Strategy is neither an operational design nor a tactical plan – although these two concepts form an integral part in the implementation of strategy. It is therefore somewhat surprising to find that many label a very basic plan as a “strategy” or believe that strategy is the same as “tactics” – which it is not.

In its most simple form, strategy is a disciplined, intellectual, intelligence-driven exercise that ought to give us a guideline roadmap that will enable us to reach our ultimate desired destination or end state. This guideline roadmap may have several options or alternatives that can be used to get to our desired end-goal but it will need constant assessment of the risks enroute and readjustments as new intelligence becomes available on the opportunities, obstacles and other possibilities that present themselves. However, it must remain realistic.

This requires having to make choices – sometimes challenging ones – determine and prioritise objectives, identify and appreciate risks and how best to reduce them and make alliances and compromises to our advantage.  

The guideline roadmap must remain flexible (to be flexible we need options) and allow us to predict, exploit, defend and bypass all opportunities and threats, thus allowing us to reach our desired end destination or achieve our desired end state.

National strategy is, therefore, about determining and deciding on realistic options to achieve a desired future condition or future state and knowing how best to achieve it. By implication, it provides governmental direction to achieve the national political objectives in a complex, ever-evolving and dynamic strategic environment. This allows us to work at achieving our desired end goal with the resources we have – or are planning to acquire.

If, for example, we are developing a National Security Strategy (NSS), our strategy will be focussed on supporting the National Strategy and securing, strengthening and protecting the integrity of the state along with its interests and will therefore be influenced by factors such as:

1.     The National Strategy and its subsequent policies
  1. The international view ie how we perceive the world and how we want the world to perceive us
  2. The regional view ie how we want the region to perceive us and how we perceive the region
  3. The national view ie how we want our citizenry to perceive the state
  4. Our interests ie what is important to the state both nationally and internationally
  5. The threats that may impact on our interests and national security.
In its most basic form, our NSS is expressed in terms of realistic ENDS, WAYS and MEANS. These three concepts relate to:

  1. Our desired realistic END goal or end state
  2. The approaches and concept routes (options) ie the application of instruments that will allow us to determine the WAY to meet the ENDS
  3. The MEANS we have available ie the instruments of power including the capabilities, assets and resources we have to achieve our security objectives and goals
This approach will tell us how we need to organise and structure ourselves to accomplish our goals. Furthermore, it will allow us to identify any strategic deficiencies we may have and how these deficiencies can be exploited by hostile forces or how we need to overcome them.

For our NSS to succeed, it must be aligned with the strategies of other government agencies and departments to ensure unity of effort to achieve a common end-state.

The validity of our strategy must be tested against the relevant principles.

The invisible thread that ties the ENDS, WAYS and MEANS together is known as “doctrine” – a set of time-proven procedures, rules and policies that tell us “how” to do things and not “what” to do. Doctrine is however a guide to action and must not prevent or restrict our ability to think, analyse and adapt.

To strengthen, support and enable the implementation of the NSS, assessment and consideration must be given to:

  1. Operations by other government agencies/departments
  2. Political warfare operations
  3. Economic warfare operations
  4. Strategic warfare operations and so forth.
Strategy is seldom, if ever, tied to a specific timeframe. Rather, it is expressed in terms of short-, medium- and long-term objectives and goals.

Another misconception is that strategy is something we need to hurriedly develop simply to have a strategy and that it remains forever relevant. Nothing could be further from the truth as it remains under constant review and is continually adapted and expanded on as new intelligence flows in and new options present themselves.

If no strategy exists, it may take several months – or longer - to develop a very basic strategic outline. However, it is and will remain an on-going process and a critical component of a state’s aspirations.

Ultimately, a national strategy is about how the country’s leadership will use its instruments of influence and power, along with its assets and resources to meet its desired political objectives and achieve its desired end state.