The good always come to stay while the badness and rot only come to haunt us and so it, too, stays. I must apologise that I have again produced an article which may be disturbing to some and to others a release from the past. We all know that the past will follow us to eternity, We cannot do much about it but we could sew it into the cloak of the past.
Today my step-son is 48yrs old; He started his military training in 1982 and completed it in 1984. After completing his boot-camp in Ladysmith he was sent to the border and joined A fighting infantry unit. These guys were on patrol for most of the time and the luxury of a tent was far fetched. There were always the tracks of the enemy and it had to be followed and eradicated. They, the men, saw it as their duty to kill the enemy at all lengths.
My son was satisfied with that and merely saw it as his duty and that was until he was forced to look deeper into the activities of his own unit. I spoke to him about 2 hours prior to writing this article and knew he was distraught: He told me what he dreaded most was when an enemy soldier was shot and the subsequent craziness of his mates. The corpses fingers were cut off and used as a good luck charm. In severe cases the scrotum was removed, too, and was supposed to serve as a “purse” in civvy life. He used the word Barbarians when referring to these atrocities. Captured prisoners were tied to a tree and received not much in the line of food and water or medical aid.
Prisoners caught and still alive were tied to the front of a military vehicle and served as a bumper for bundu-bashing. In some cases civilians were murdered by the SA troops but that claim may be invalidated due to the enemy murdering their own civilians and UN was informed as such. When the war moved on into Angola then it was a case of not taking prisoners so we know exactly what happened to prisoners. Civilians were also targeted when the planes flew over. A few years back we saw footage of this operation on TV. Despite international precepts smoke bombs and teargas bombs were still the order of the day.
Some months ago I was doing research relating to the Kill ratio and very little info was available and that which was available was inaccurate. I and many others have assumed and accepted that the kill ratio was 25 – to 1 in the favour of the SADF. What we do know is that most South Africans killed during that war was due to non-combatant events such as vehicle accidents and firearm accidents.
My boss’s son was killed when a tank collided with a truck from the rear. My son vehemently stated that the ratio was far higher than 25 – to 1. After an operation a body count was usually done and adding up all the bodies would give a much higher ratio.
South Africans were also killed by land mines and other means of warfare but did not come near to the enemy casualties and mortalities. During the dying years of the war, While the Turnhalle convention was doing its bit to sort out the political and social mess in South West Africa, Government departments were sending their engineers to Ovamboland to teach young children in a makeshift school. Ironic.
The war has ended and not much remains: other than wooden crosses painted white in the sunshine as a reminder that war is anathema but men never listen, they only listen if it suits their greed.
( My son is aware that his experiences have been notated.)