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.