When Portugal came under communist influence in 1974 the writing was on the wall for the Portugese 'overseas provinces' of Angola and Mozambique. Having virtually defeated them in battle, the mother country now handed Angola and Mozambique over to the communist Mpla and Frelimo respectively. The remaining anti-communist Southern African states [Rhodesia, South West Africa and South Africa,] continued to resist the wave of terrorism and communist subversion threatening to engulf the whole of the continent in the wake of the headlong flight of the colonial powers. For this resistance the Western powers 'rewarded' them with a vicious propaganda war, increasing sanctions and unrelenting pressure to hand over power to the so-called black majority. It needs to be said, loud and clear, that these states then had growing, prosperous economies, efficient and relatively corruption-free government and administration, a free press, high standards in education and health care, a safe environment, and a growth rate which was the envy of the rest of Africa, - as the millions of wanna-be immigrants to the north will testify. Contrary to left-wing media propaganda, the much-maligned 'apartheid' system had led to the upliftment of ALL the different peoples and ethnic groupings in South Africa to levels of economic prosperity unsurpassed by any of their counterparts anywhere in Africa. This steady improvement of day to day living conditions of blacks, whites, Indians and Coloureds slowed down, however, during the years of compromise and half-hearted defence in the latter days of white rule. It eventually came to a grinding halt in each country after the hand-over to so-called 'democratic' socialist rule. Incidently, the myth of the 'inevitability' of surrender is best illustrated by the example of santions. Far from destroying the economy, sanctions in fact brought the establishment of weapons- and other industries, which, in present-day ANC/Communist-ruled South Africa, are still the biggest foreign currency earners. The constant threat of terrorism and even invasion led to the development of a sophisticated war machine and practical, battle-tested hardware that is still much sought after in the world. Ridden and operated by the tough Rhodesian, South West African and South African soldier, there was no force in Africa which could stand up to it, - the surrender being, in each and every case, the political sell-out of a victorious army and air force. The following are a few examples of these machines and equipment, the men in uniform, and some related experiences :
Click on thumbnails for larger version.
1&2]The "Buffel" (Buffalo, back view), a South African designed
anti-landmine troop carrier. The driver's seat as well as the 10 rear seats are fitted in
V-shaped armoured cones. [An interesting fact is that the reconnaissance wing of 32
Batalion 'adjusted' the vehicle to suit its specialized needs [see image 3 ] Images1 and 2
were taken on the way to Elundu in Northern South West Africa. Landmines planted by Swapo
terrorists made the use of normal "soft-skin" vehicles a very dangerous
proposition for the local population, police and army people alike. Many innocent
tribes-people lost their lives, limbs, children, wives, friends and family in
landmine-incidents. This loss of life was shrugged off by the communist leadership of
Swapo as 'neccessary part of the struggle', - or blamed on the security forces...
[image 2] Operational area, Ovamboland. A Kwêvoël truck [front view] at the front of a convoy. Note the V-shape of the vehicle body and the armour around the driver's cab. If the driver and co-driver are properly strapped in when hitting a handmine, they have a very good chance of surviving the incident with only a hell-of-an ear ache. Similarly, they are well protected against small-arms fire and even projectiles, as numerous 'troopies', who survived, will testify. The Buffel and Kwevoel represented a vast improvement on earlier military vehicles. In an incident near Oshivelo, Ovamboland, a Swapo terrorist stepped into the road, aiming his Russian RPG 7 rocket launcher at an aproaching soft-skin SAMIL. The projectile entered the machine and went almost all the way through to the cab,... lucky for the driver, and thanks to God, it did not explode. In a similar incident in 1981 newly arrived medical doctors were killed when their unprotected vehicle was hit by an RPG 7.
A Russian T54/55 tank with a story. In 1983 the joint Cuban-Fapla forces had built up a massive military force in Cuvelai, southern Angola, acting as a shield behind which Swapo could safely rest, recuperate and re-stock in between terror attacks on the northern parts of South West Africa [now Namibia]. During Operation Askari it was decided to cut off their main supply route at Techamutete, a mining town north of Cuvelai. After a series of harrassing attacks, Techamutete was taken with no loss to own forces. A platoon-sized reconnaissance group, out on a night ambush, decided to lay their ambush right in the middle of the defending Fapla company's base, - without either of them being aware of each other. When a returning Fapla soldier literally stumbled onto the South Africans in the dark, all hell broke loose with mines being set off, mortars thrown around, and firing everywhere. The next morning, the surprised South Africans found themselves the undisputed owners of six Russian trucks, three 23mm guns, and all the ammunition and logistics of a dug-in company base abandoned by its fleet-footed owners. With the garrison gone, about three companies of 32 Bn moved into town and dug in, ready to stop either reinforcements coming down from the north or the beleaguered Cuvelai garrison 'gapping it' from the south. At this stage it might be useful for the reader to imagine Techamutete in his/her mind's eye. Overlooking the north-south road is a steep koppie (small mountain) with a road leading to the top. On the town's side there is a terrace jutting out and ending in a well-protected stair-case around funnels leading down to some disused mine buildings. An enterprising Staff-Sergeant soon had a crew trained, the 23mm guns operational and dragged up to the top of the koppie, from where they were aimed at the a road-bridge south of the town. The Battalion 81mm mortars were set up in town, back and away from the road, - also aimed at the bridge area. The HQ was set up on a platform inside the staircase. Now the apprehensive wait was on for whatever came up or down the road, - Cuvelai alone housing a whole Brigade with tanks and all sorts of nasty hardware... It was a pitch-black night. The gun-crew on top reported some horrible, clanking noise from the south. Then silence. Then that noise again. Then silence. 15 minutes or so of noise, followed by a slightly longer period of silence. So it carries on. But what are 'they' doing and how many are there? Compass bearings taken indicate whatever it is is moving north and coming closer. Order to the gun crews and the mortars : When the bearing roughly coincides with the bridge target area, fire! When the guns and mortars opened up onto the unseen and mysterious target, it looked, and sounded, like something out of Space Wars. As burst after burst, and bomb after bomb, thundered through the darkness, it looked like fire running down the mountain, and stars falling down the sky. The bombardment was frightening, - and then silence. Deathly silence. No noises coming from the target area and 'cease fire' on this side. Until the high-pitched, angry rev of an engine screams through the night. 'Fire!' - and again the bursts roll down the mountain and the mortars fall through the air, seemingly drowning out the enemy. And then silence again. Once or twice more the mysterious engine revs up to a screaming pitch, only to be silenced by another bombardment. Finally there is nothing more. No sound, nothing. The rest of the night is spent wondering what on earth it could have been and why this revving. Bearings taken indicate it remained in exactly the same spot. Why did whoever it was not drive on to the north to try and escape?
At first light, in drizzling rain, the company moving down the road found the solution, - but not without first running back a little at the shock of looking down the barrel of a real Russian tank. It had been the vanguard of the Cuvelai garrison, one T54/55 tank supported by infantry, which had been 'clearing' the road for any possible ambushes. The infantry moved ahead, followed by the tank after a certain distance had been covered. Start, stop, start, stop, and so on, - until the night suddenly erupted around them in an exploding, bursting nightmare. The tank crew panicked, drove off the road, flattened a hut (and the unfortunate local in it), got out the other side of the kraal, - and ended up in a little swamp. And there it sat. The soggy underground of the rainy season was too much even for the tank tracks. Having promptly been met with another nasty bombardment every time they tried to rev up and drive out, the crew decided discretion is the better part of valour, climbed out and fled.
Footnote : The fully equipped tank was recovered and driven into town by the same triumphant staff-sergeant who had figured out the 23mm guns. And the Cuvelai garrison quietly left all their other tanks and equipment behind and sneaked past Techamutete to the north. All except two : These two, during another pitch-dark night, walked through all the guards and troops straight into the Battalion HQ in the old mine, babbling excitedly in Portuguese, addressing the bearded officer on duty as 'Camerada', and obviously thinking they have met up with the Cuban reinforcements. Their faces, when told whose HQ this was, were a study to behold...
Sundown in Oshakati, the HQ of sector 10 in Ovamboland, South West Africa. In 1981 the town was attacked by Swapo using 122mm rockets. By the grace of God the missile which came closest landed a few hundred yards from the HQ in the adjacent civilian town ..... and failed to explode. All other missiles landed in various parts of the town, some causing minor damage, but no injuries. The place from were the SWAPO terrorists launched their attack was pinpointed by so-called echo-pointers. Judging by the many bottles found on the scene, the terrorists had to drown a lot of cowardice before getting into the brave act of firing the rockets.
Typical Ovambo landscape. The harsh desert sun and the sandy terrain was the scene for lots of sweating patrols, exploding landmines, prayers, blood, tears, jokes and camaraderie. The frustrations experienced by patrols following terrorist spoor for days on end, only to see it going right through kraals [a cluster of huts including a chieftancy and his followers] and disappearing, can easily be imagined. Especially when exasperated by surly-looking locals acting like the three baboons on a branch : Heard nothing, seen nothing, said nothing... Military court marshals convened to penalize junior leaders found guilty of slapping black civilians around under such circumstances did not always understand the impossible situation the troops on the ground found themselves in. On the other hand, most soldiers did not understand the position of the 'locals', either : When having to choose between the terrorists' wrath, who will kill him with no further ado, and some soldiers' slapping around, the choice was frighteningly simple...
A soldier's friend. Orphaned some way or
other, this piglet found a soldier as foster father. According to hearsay the poor little
pig became a "min dae vark" [few days pig] when his master's border duty came to
an end ,.... but the PIG'S "min dae" meant something totally different,
something to do with bacon...
[image 1]Distinct landmark at Ombalanto. The tree on the left is known in Afrikaans
as a "Kremetartboom", or Boabab tree. The fruit is rather nice and has a soury
taste.Being a slow grower this gaint must be hundreds of years old.
[image 2] Yearning for home .... The names of South African towns written crudely on this signboard gives one a glimpse into the life of the ordinary soldier on the border. In defence of their beloved country, ordinary people gave two years of their lives for active military duty in the remotest parts of Southern Africa, with regular yearly three month and month border duty camps thereafter. With ever-increasing successes against communist-backed Swapo terrorists it was only a matter of time before the enemy in the field would totally crumble, - that is, where there was any insurgent inside SWA left. But then, to the horror of many loyal South Africans (and South Westers) who had sacrificed so much : The flick of a pen, the so-called United Nations Resolution 435, and it was all over, bar the shouting.
The G6. Another achievement of the "old" South Africa.Never used under operational conditions in South Africa, but a highly mobile and effective amoured vehicle with the powerful 155mm gun mounted on top. The official and effective firing range is given as 42 km. The predecessor of the G6, known as the G5, was used in operations in Angola against the Cuban-backed Fapla forces in Angola. The G5 was also sold to Irak and successfully used against Big Daddy in their operation Desert Storm. These weapons were built when UN sanctions were in force against South Africa. Even though, or maybe because of them, South African military hardware was described as of the best in the world by the well known "Janes Defense Weekly". Saudi Arabia and India are known to be interested in these weapon systems.
. But, as with every institution and industry that used to earn South Africa its dearly needed foreign currency the manufacturers are scaling down their workforces, once counting more than three thousand, to about 250 at the last known cutback in 1999, - the result of the end of the war, discrimination against whites and the misplaced political correctness of the new establishment.
Peaceful scene on the Kavango river. For many soldiers and officials defending and serving the old South West Africa, this river evokes fond memories of swimming, boating, fishing, braais and laid-back relaxation in between bush trips and hard work.
Blowing a small, provisional bridge north of Cassinga to delay Fapla reinforcements coming down to try and re-take Techamutete in early 1984. According to a 32 Bn soldier, it was further north of this point, during an unscheduled attack on a Swapo base outside his circumscribed area of operation, that Swapo terrorists were caught literally in their sleeping bags, while the base inside the given area had been evacuated. This added fuel to the theory held on the border that somehow either there was a leak letting FFSwapo knew of our proscribed 'borders' beyond which we were not to go, or, worse, our borders were given according to some underhand political machination.
Range practice with the RPG VII, the feared and highly effective infantry anti-tank rocket-launcher.There might be more sophisticated, more accurate and more powerful hand-held anti-tank weapons now, but the Russian RPG VII remains the most robust, simple and reliable.
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[more to follow]