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.

Sunday, February 26, 2017


To say that I enjoyed myself at the recent Rooiplaas gathering would be somewhat of an understatement…
Conceived by Nico Beneke and ably assisted by Johan Landman - the Chairman and Vice Chairman respectively - Rooiplaas hosts several get-togethers throughout the year with the aim of bringing together ex-SADF airborne soldiers to socialize, make new friends, and reacquaint themselves with old friends. 
It has, since its inception, become a home for many men who served in the SADF’s airborne units and it is growing from strength to strength. What appealed to me is that this organisation is devoid of the politics and petty personal grievances some of the other veterans’ organisations are tainted with.  
Chappies van Zyl, the man who twisted my arm to join Rooiplaas

Chappies van Zyl, one of my ex-airborne sappers from days long past, eventually gave me no choice but to join the Rooiplaas community and Nico and Johan were very gracious to accept me into their ranks. And so it was that I was invited to attend their get-together in Bloemfontein on 23 February 2017.
On arrival, I was given a Rooiplaas T-shirt and cap just to make sure I was able to blend-in and not stand out like a sore thumb.
I was both honoured and privileged to give a brief discussion to the men (and their wives) on Executive Outcomes and STTEP, their founding, deployments, operations and so forth. Some of the talk was also centred on the disinformation and myths regarding both EO and STTEP.
After my talk, I was awarded my Rooiplaas Certificate of Membership (#0245) that will take pride of place in my study.
However, the success of any such event depends on numerous players who are not always visible but whose contributions make such an occasion a great success.
Thank you to Chute Systems who were kind enough to allow Rooiplaas to use their magnificent Bloemfontein facility. One of the owners, Waldo Krähenbühl, was on hand at all times to give his support and assistance wherever he could. Sadly, his colleague and co-owner, Douw Raimondo, was elsewhere and could not attend the evening with us.
Andre Botha deserves a special thank you for taking control of the ‘ kitchen’ and preparing a great meal for us. The meal was way better than any of us had ever experienced in our army days. Nico provided the food we all enjoyed.
Some of the Rooiplaas members

To the members of Rooiplaas and their wives, thank you for accepting me into your ranks and for not falling asleep during my talk.
To Nico and Johan a special word of thanks for organizing the get-together and for being such great hosts. A great thank you also to Nico Beneke for accommodating me at his wonderful guesthouse and for getting up early to make me coffee and see me on my way.
And finally, a special thanks to Chappies for twisting my arm…
I look forward to the next Rooiplaas get-together…

Friday, February 10, 2017


I count myself fortunate that I was able to lay my hands on a copy of Tom Fulton’s book ‘Into the Vortex’. Despite the many books written about the wars and conflicts in Southern Africa, this book is worthy to stand on its own.

Perhaps it was inquisitiveness or perhaps I was trying to relive the days of growing up in a slow-boiling Africa through Tom’s eyes, or perhaps both. Regardless, Tom’s book did not disappoint me.

The book is a vivid and exciting glimpse into days long gone—days when boys were boys and were forced through circumstance, challenges and conflicting politics to grow up and stand tall as both men and soldiers called on to fight a dirty war.

Tom takes the reader into his home as a young boy growing up in a sometimes difficult environment, but there is no pity as that was how it was—instead he uses his humour to lighten the situations he and his brother frequently found themselves in.

His entry into the Rhodesian Army and the subsequent humour and oftentimes sorrow that followed is well written and intense.  Commissioned as an officer in the Rhodesian African Rifles (RAR), he goes on to discuss the bonds made and shared as only men under fire can do. Readers who are unfamiliar with Africa and the closeness and comradeship of black and white men at war will do well to take note of the respect they had for one another.

The scenes of combat are well and intensely described along with the tension before triggers are pulled and the exhilaration of success and survival when the guns fell silent. At times, the fast pace of combat is softened with humour and the aftermath of a deployment where young men go about their social lives—social lives that were lived and enjoyed to the maximum.

Tom’s easy style of writing brings to life many sad and traumatic events, yet there is no trace of victimhood—the mark of a man and a soldier with character.

As clichéd as it might be, ‘Into the Vortex’ will stand on its own as a Rhodesian classic.

Well done Tom Fulton!   

For ordering information
The book can be ordered directly from Tom at:

Monday, February 6, 2017


Note: This is not a verbal attack on the KDF and I will not entertain comments in that vein.

The very tragic events at El Adde (Somalia) surrounding the recent fall of the Kenyan Defence Force (KDF) base to Al Shabaab’s ‘Saleh al Nabhan Battalion’—al Qaeda’s East African affiliate—is a good example of how many things that are wrong with African armies came together in a perfect storm.

The video produced by the enemy is equally disturbing as it illustrates the unpreparedness of the KDF.

The video can be viewed here, but a warning: It contains graphic scenes that may be disturbing to some: https://www.funker530.com/brutal-al-shabaab-raid-wipes-entire-kenyan-army-unit/

Regretfully, African governments and their armies continue to ignore the warning signs that result in an inability to prepare and defend against the coming storm…it is not a matter of ‘if’ but of ‘when’ the storm will make landfall and increase the damage to their countries and their credibility.

Africa is both today and tomorrow’s battlefield and it is being shaped today through a series of secret or shadow wars, proxy forces, covert actions, diplomatic and economic pressures, and domestic and regional terrorism. Added to this is a failure of governance that many African states exhibit and that has given rise to populism—a movement that is increasingly turning to violence and armed actions.

More worrying though, our armed forces are failing to keep pace with the ever-increasing speed of conflict and war. The pace at which technology has enabled information, intelligence, instructions, and disinformation to be transmitted via cell phones, social media and radio messages, has dramatically increased the pace and tempo of operations. It has also increased and underlined the requirement for in-depth intelligence operations to distinguish between fact, fiction and deception.

Filming these attacks, and highlighting many KDF failures, merely adds to the enemy’s propaganda efforts, and motivates and inspires potential recruits, when indeed, it ought to be the other way around.  

Armies need to realise that we need to think quick, act and react with agility and speed—or die. If quick thinking and agility is discarded, our armies may as well call it a day.  

Instead, we try to stick to what we think we know—ill-equipped, unbalanced World War 2 organisations totally unsuited to cope with the demands and fluid actions on the modern African battlefield.  This has resulted in poorly planned and uncoordinated operations, a lack of balanced forces, a lack of operational sustainability, a lack of momentum and great sluggishness when tasked to move rapidly—to name but a few.

These outdated approaches are then taught to African armies by trainers that have no or very little experience of the continent and indeed, seldom if ever, understand the enemy. Oftentimes, a different agenda is at play and the conflict is encouraged to continue as long as possible.

All too often, people want to point fingers at how bad their armies are, and the politicians are quick to blame them for a lack of battlefield success. But, the reality is that soldiers can only do what they are trained and equipped to do—and if they have the leadership they require supported with political and military will.

To fulfil their missions, African armies need to do a very serious doctrinal rethink, reorganize themselves to be agile, have mobility and firepower, ensure they have clear and unambiguous missions and mandates, and ensure the leadership group know how to lead—from the front.

The attack on El Adde ought to serve as a dire warning of what can happen to any armed force if we do not get our act together, sooner rather than later. Our armies need to be correctly trained, equipped, and postured, and not taught rubbish that is irrelevant.  

We need to start thinking very seriously before it is too late.

Note: For those interested in the developing situation in Kenya, more can be found by visiting Andrew Franklin’s Facebook pages at


Saturday, February 4, 2017


I have never been a member of any SADF Veterans Organisation for numerous reasons. Many have asked me to join them but I have always declined and walked away. That is until my old Parachute Sappers (specifically by name of Chappies van Zyl) twisted my arm to the point that it almost broke.

I finally relented when the founder of ‘Rooiplaas’ (Nico Beneke) graciously—and without Chappie’s violence—convinced me to find a home with them.  

I therefore dedicate this short piece to the men of Rooiplaas…a great group of ex-paratroopers from 1 Parachute Battalion…A true paratroopers’ community (http://www.rooiplaas.co.za)

To my new ‘home’, here is a story I wish to share with you all:

My sapper section (at that time, very few sappers were jump qualified) and I arrived in a cool Bloemfontein in early September 1978.

Our mission was to support an exercise of 1 Parachute Battalion known as Exercise Caledon Downs, an operational training exercise in the Wepener area of the Orange Free State.

Having no clue what equipment was required for the training exercise, we left Bethlehem (22 Field Squadron) with an old Bedford truck laden with mines, mine detectors, assault boats, explosives, and a mobile water point (I need to emphasise that whoever came up with the name ‘mobile water point’ must have been delusional!)

On arrival, and while my men wandered around the battalion area like lost sheep—or rather lost sappers—I attended the Orders Group (O Gp) for the exercise. Amongst the paras, the rumour mill was already hard at work—this they said, was to be a rehearsal for a large scale airborne operation into Angola.

The battalion’s pathfinders were to freefall into the designated target area under cover of darkness, and mark a drop zone (DZ) for the incoming parachute assault early the following morning.

In my absence, the men found what appeared to be a deserted bungalow and they would seek me out later to give me a bed they had ‘scored’ for me.

In the meantime, I left the O Gp feeling rather dejected after receiving our orders. There would be no big demolition tasks, no clearing or laying of minefields, no assault river crossing…only a damn water point for the paratroopers.

Giving my orders to my sappers was akin to addressing a rugby team that had suffered its worst loss ever. They were utterly disgusted at what they were supposed to do to support the exercise.

Early the next morning, my sappers, under the capable command of my troop sergeant Cpl L Steyn, left feeling rather miserable for a grid reference somewhere in the eastern Free State.

The following day, I was to jump with (then) Major Anton van Graan’s HQ element while my sappers drove to a grid reference specified in the O Gp.

Being a well-trained sapper officer, I snivelled around for the rest of the day, fearful I would be given a task I was unable to do—that is, until a Major Grundling found me hiding in a deserted bungalow. After giving me a severe dressing down, he finally told me where to report to the next morning.  

Due to the nature of the exercise, we were not going to jump with Personal Weapons Containers (PWCs). Instead the parachutes would simply be strapped over our battle order equipment.

On the road to the airport, there was great excitement. On arrival, we kitted-up and waited…Soon we were all shuffling off to board the C-130s.

I was part of the second wave and was to jump second in Major van Graan’s stick on that fateful day of 7 September 1978.

After the usual “Stand up! Hook up!…” the door opened and out we went.

The green canopy billowed…Phew! But there was no time to admire the view.

I recall two things very vividly: (1) We were very low and (2) I saw a barbed wire fence and a large anthill next to it…I knew I was going to meet the one or the other.

And I did.

No amount of pulling on the risers or trying to climb up the canopy worked. It all happened too fast.  

After a very hard landing and what I thought was a broken foot, I limped off to find my company commander, Major van Graan. I was certainly not going to show the paratroopers that I had been hurt. Sapper pride took hold.

It was then that I came across Captain Blaauw (I think it was David but I am not too sure anymore!) looking rather forlorn and visibly upset. On asking if he was okay, he told me that Major Grundling had landed in a farm dam and drowned. I was shocked but also realised that had any of us landed in a dam, the weight of our equipment would have dragged us down. Plus, as it was still early morning, the water was freezing and those brave troops who tried to rescue him were simply unable to do so.

In addition, several other paratroopers had been hurt when they went off the edge of some high ground.

Needless to say, and despite the great loss to the battalion, objectives had to be assaulted, captured and consolidated before we could move on to the main objective which was a farm house some distance away.

And so I hobbled across the Wepener fields, humping my equipment and trying to keep my pose as best I could.

After a river crossing (I thought we were supposed to do that with the boats we brought from Bethlehem!), my sappers finally arrived later that afternoon to collect me and ferry me across to the water point where we spent the rest of the entire exercise—purifying water for the paratroopers.  

I had not broken my foot but instead, had very badly bruised the sole of my foot. To this day, I have an aversion to anthills.

After the exercise, we made the long trip back to Bethlehem.

We never did deploy for the great air assault operation that was rumoured to be in the offing…but we all went to war.

And now, almost 39 years later, I have become a member of the Rooiplaas Paratroopers’ Community—a long time to find a home amongst men who share common values. I am still a sapper at heart but also feel at home with the paratroopers of Rooiplaas.  

Thank you Nico, Chappies and all other members of ‘Rooiplaas’ for welcoming me into your community. .