Johan, your remark about the increasing popularity of warinagola.com website got me to thinking about a phenomenon I at first thought might be unique tothe Catkillers - the men in my latest book. I'm beginning to realise, however, that it’s probably common to those who go through the life-changingexperience of war. In the immediate aftermath - particularly if they werespat on (metaphorically or actually as in the case of my brother when hereturned from Vietnam)- they try to put it all behind them and just get onwith their civvie lives. Then, somewhere between 20 and 25 years later, withkids grown up and gone, they have time to look back at the experiences of their own youth. And it comes as a bit of a shock to realise that they had been part of an important historical period, and that they weren't the bad guys the bunny-huggers made them out to be. And so they start to seek out those with whom they shared those times, to read more about it, to re-assess.
Many of your readers will remember it as a time most marked by the hypocrisy of the anti-apartheid movement: no Sub-Sahel country practised the democracy that was then demanded of South Africa. Half a year before arriving in Oshakati, I’d covered the overthrow of Milton Obote in Uganda. Under Obote and his equally monstrous predecessor Idi Amin, half-a-million people were butchered in that country, yet there had been no 'human rights' activists demonstrating in front of the Ugandan High Commission in London. The list goes on and on, a selective morality abetted by a deliberately myopic international media that saw political disenfranchisement by whites in South Africa as a greater crime that mass murder by black tyrants elsewhere on the Continent. Believe me, had I betrayed the trust given to me by those I spent time in the bush with, I could have been the darling of Fleet Street, but it was a politically correct game I refused to play. Nine months after returning from Ovamboland, I began sending the manuscript of my first book to publishers. Most of them were outraged by my take on the situation, their comments ranging from ‘unwholesome’ to ‘dangerously reactionary’. It had been rejected by 21 editors when the managing director at Hodder & Stoughton rang me. "Your submission has caused more dissension and shaking of fists in faces amongst our editorial staff than anything in years. Given the current political climate, “there's no way we can publish here,” he said apologetically, “but I'd like to pass it on to our South African imprint, Southern Books.” Six months later, Koevoet! was the fastest selling book in the RSA.
The opprobrium heaped on the SADF and Koevoet for their roles during the Border War misses a very salient point: they prevented a communist invasion of SWA/Namibia aimed at enslaving all of southern Africa. There’s no arguing the fact that every African country within Moscow’s sphere of influence had been kept in power by massive Soviet subventions and, true to Stalinist tradition, all oppressed their people with far greater brutality than the minority white government in Pretoria ever did. Had it not been for the collapse of a bankrupt USSR and the cutting off of financial and military aid to Angola, elections in Namibia and South Africa would have been delayed indefinitely. When Moscow’s support evaporated, leading to the withdrawal of the Cubans and other East-bloc advisors/trainers, the MPLA and Swapo had no choice but to discard their cherished Marxism if they were to benefit from Western aid. The SACP ideologues at the heart of the ANC had to do the same. That may not be a popular interpretation of recent history amongst the chattering class, but the logic is inescapable.
So Johan, your website not only celebrates the patriotism of its readers, but serves a very important role for those who served "up on the border". It provides a meeting place for veterans, a forum where they can share their experiences, a reminder that they were not evil oppressors but rather honorable men serving their country at a time of great danger. Well done to you and to them.