About Me

My photo
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.

Monday, March 25, 2013


As has become quite usual and an almost daily occurrence, rebel forces throughout central Africa have gained momentum and succeeded in defeating government forces. Often, the government forces appear to be very well trained in running away whilst the rebel forces appear to be better trained, have more cohesion, are better armed and even have better mobility than the government forces.

I am also amazed at how easily - and quickly - governments dismiss intelligence in favour of disinformation. Could it be that they believe the “advice” given them by foreign governments or so-called “subject matter experts” is more credible than that given by people who do actually have “ears on the ground”?

The escalation of tensions in the so-called Great Lakes region is a fine example of governments’ failure to listen. It appears they are advised to adopt the ostrich approach (sticking their heads in the sand and hoping the problem will simply go away) – an approach that is apparently becoming the norm. This approach apparently assures governments that the problem will indeed “go away” if it is simply ignored.

Often these rumours are clustered around other rumours that give credibility to the false sense of security that an interested party is trying to develop. Selected “leaks” to the media result in these rumour-clusters being given more credibility – and this is then fed back to the government as fact “as the media said so”.   

The end-result is that when they finally pull their heads out of the sand, the problem has become a crisis. Those who so generously misadvised at great financial cost have by then long flown the coup. The crisis rapidly escalates into a blood-letting of aggrieved citizens and ill-disciplined troops and the entire system of government collapses.

The culture of failing to listen is partly the result of being fed so much rubbish that it becomes literally impossible for governments to distinguish fact from fiction.

Without naming and shaming governments, we warned four different governments of threats being developed in their countries long before the threats manifested themselves. This intelligence (by the time we advised them, we were no longer giving them simple information) was discarded as rumours, whilst rumours and innuendo that painted a rosy picture were seen a “credible intelligence”. We are still trying to warn another government that a coup is imminent. No doubt they are also being advised it is nothing other than a rumour.

The impact this “intelligence” (rumours, innuendo and false stories) has on the Pillars of State is enormous in that it ultimately alters the perceptions of the populace and leads to a reaction that the governments have often not anticipated. The collapse of the armed forces simply adds to the unanticipated reaction as soldiers and civilians alike join rebel forces and begin a campaign of looting and intimidation.  

Then of course, we have the SANDF’s 2013 misadventure into Central African Republic (CAR). Again, a badly advised government force, ill-trained and totally unprepared for the rebel assault on the government of CAR. Needless to say, this has irreparably tarnished the reputation of the SANDF.

Whereas I mourn the death of every soldier, we must not forget that the SANDF has also been the beneficiary of “free advice” and “free training”. Sadly, this resulted in the Seleka rebel coalition outgunning and out-manoeuvring the SANDF. This confirms that not only was the overall SANDF strategy flawed but that the strategy had its foundation resting on poor intelligence – and no strategy can succeed if it is developed off assumptions and rumours.

Additionally, even the best strategy and operational designs will fail if the armed forces are not trained and equipped to implement the operational plans. Inadequately trained forces with poor leadership simply add fuel to the fire.  

This all goes back to failing to listen to good advice and instead opting for bad advice aimed at disadvantaging the recipient.

As long as governments fail to listen – instead relying on disinformation – this cycle of chaos will continue. 

Friday, March 8, 2013


It would almost be funny were it not so sad.

I come across many people on an almost-daily basis that have travelled from beyond the continent to Africa to witness “first-hand” the problems the continent has. Some are businessmen, some are academics, some are members of NGOs and some are from foreign government PMCs.

Almost to a man (or woman), they become “specialists” in African politics and security-related matters only a few days after having set foot on the continent. They firmly believe that they understand our problems better than we do, they have all the solutions and know exactly how our future will look if only we would listen to them. They question but then immediately disregard the answers they get as it does not match with their perceived reality – which is often totally removed from our reality. It is not uncommon to get a response to an answer to the effect that “No, you are wrong. I read on … (chose your search engine) what your problems are”

Many of these newly-born specialists may be well-meaning in their intentions but their actions often result in fuelling already volatile situations or they grossly miscalculate the diverse and complex environment they have entered. But being specialists, they believe they can solve the problem they themselves created and then make it even worse.

Apart from the many tourists that visit Africa, everyone else has one goal tied to their visit: to make money. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with that as we all work to make a profit. However, when they intend to make their money by manipulation, bad advice, acting with little or no integrity, promoting suspicion and even by blatantly lying, my hackles begin to rise. Sadly, some of these charlatans get appointed to serve as “specialist government advisors”. They develop hypothetical solutions to overcome imaginary problems and then implement their “solutions” regardless of reality.

These problems are very prevalent in the intelligence, military and law enforcement areas. Of course they are found in the other sectors as well but as we work in the listed fields, this is where I know I am treading on familiar ground.

As we have numerous ears on the ground as well as many friends across the continent, we regard ourselves as fairly well informed. It is, therefore, not unusual for us to be given advance warning of a potential conflict or problem brewing in or close to a certain country. If we can confirm the information we are given, we warn the targeted government that problems are marching towards their horizon. At times, this intelligence is acted on. On other occasions, this intelligence is discussed with foreign governments who then refute our warnings and claim that we are conducting a disinformation campaign in order to get a contract.  

The recent situation in Mali is a good example of intelligence being disregarded and bad advice from “specialists” heeded. Most everyone knows how that panned out. Were it not for the intervention of the French forces, the situation would be vastly different to what it currently is. But that conflict is not over yet.

We have been trying to warn another government of a pending coup but they have been advised by their “advisors” and “specialists” not to talk to us. Numerous other examples exist but I shall refrain from listing them in case the governments we warned are actually seriously considering our warnings.

Many will claim that we warn governments simply to get a contract. I know of several people and/or organisations that have made it their mission to make these claims and try to influence governments not to listen to what we have to say or to discredit us. These individuals and /or organisations are likewise “specialists” on both me and our company. They know more about me than I know about myself. But, truth be told, there is no way we could accept that many contracts from so many governments.

Back to reality: Much of the so-called specialist advice given to African governments is aimed at ensuring conflicts either start or escalate. Peace does not enter the equation although it is bandied about as a buzzword - yet it remains ever elusive. Attention is often diverted from existing problems by creating new problems. Conflict and war implies large profits – and the longer these conflicts continue, the longer the profits roll in. Sometimes these specialists even support both sides engaged in the conflict just to make sure they are covered, regardless the winner.

Many African governments are not masters of their own destiny. Through bad advice, manipulation, economic blackmail and the like, they have become the puppets that jump to their puppet masters’ strings. When they don’t jump at the appropriate time, they are branded as rogue governments. So, to maintain their positions, when asked to jump they then simply ask “How high?”

It can be argued that many African governments are to blame for the situations they find themselves in. Whereas that holds true in some instances, much of what we witness in Africa, especially in the security forces, has come about as a result of bad advice, poor training, incorrect structures, inadequate weapons, irrelevant doctrines and so forth. Co-join this situation to poor statecraft advice and we see what we see…To rectify this, new statecraft and defence approaches are planned and implemented – and fail.

Many of these so-called specialists that visit our shores may come with good intentions. However, given their “vast knowledge” of the continent and their deep “research” on Africa, it is no wonder that such a mess is created. Promises are easily made and then just as easily broken. But then, perhaps this is the aim all along – erode the Pillars of State and create chaos. Out of the chaos will come anger, civil disobedience, racial hatred and tensions, strikes, rebellions, religious intolerance, an increase in transnational crime, a collapse of law and order, distrust towards government agencies, armed conflict and insurgencies – and ultimately, a dysfunctional government or a government teetering on collapse.  This creates numerous problems on the security front but also abundant lucrative opportunities on the economic front.

The ultimate result of their “specialist advice” in terms of human suffering boggles the mind.

As I mentioned earlier, it would almost be funny were it were not so sad.