This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
MSc Program: African Studies, University of Edinburgh Year: 2011-12 Word Count: 9925
Stories, Shadows and Dust
A filmmaker’s experience of documenting the stories of SADF veterans of the Southern African Bush War.
The purpose of this dissertation is to ask questions on subjective experience and Constructed Memory. How do the two relate and in what way do they relate to social media spheres and especially for those of the filmmaker and the film documentary? Specifically, how do these dimensions play out when the subjective experience pertains to the experiences of former South African Defence Force (SADF) soldiers who fought in the Southern African Bush War (1966 – 1989)? The experiential narratives contained in Constructed Memory can provide a different explorative avenue for historical events, that is to say, different views of the same war in this case. The accompanying documentary Stories, Shadows and Dust showcases the experiences of five former SADF soldiers, allowing the audience to share in their experiences and draw their own conclusions. This dissertation then seeks to explore the concept of their memory constructions against the backdrop of emotional contextual experience with specific focus on film media representations of the Bush War.
1. Introduction 1.1. Research Question 1.2. Theoretical Approach/Model 1.3. Video Source 2. Historical Context of the Bush War 3. Literature and Film Review 4. Treatment 5. Veteran Social Networking 6. Constructed Memories 7. Conclusion
Pg 3 Pg 4 Pg 5 Pg 6 Pg 7 Pg 11 Pg 15 Pg 19 Pg 22 Pg 26
Appendix I – Stories, Shadows and Dust Documentary Link Appendix I – Interest Justification Appendix II – Stories, Shadows and Dust De Facto Script
Pg 28 Pg 29 Pg 31
Bibliography Further Reading
Pg 39 Pg 43
“The most dangerous moment comes with victory.” –Napoleon Bonaparte
1. Introduction They found his body washed up on the stony shores of Trondheim, Norway. He was dressed in the uniform of Her Majesty‟s Royal Air Force, Scottish regiment, but also had South African Air Force insignia on the tattered remains of his clothing. They found no other identifiers on his person, apart from the name stitched on to the chest of his shirt: G. B. Callaghan, and the stripes on his shoulder signifying the rank of lieutenant. Despite this, his death would remain a mystery, not only for those who chose to honour him by burying him in the frozen ground of a melancholy Norwegian graveyard, alongside other fallen World War II soldiers, but also for his family back in then Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe) for many years to come. Being 1943, it was not a simple matter of using the internet to seek out the relatives of the young pilot, and so it was not until the early 90s when a Norwegian civil engineer and his son decided to attempt to track down the family of the mysterious Lt. G. B. Callaghan, who had never been claimed and whose grave had never been visited except by the locals who had buried him. This is how my family learnt of the fate of our missing great grandfather, through the dedication to uncover the story of a complete stranger for the base purpose of curiosity, to be sure, but also for the far nobler cause of bringing peace to a suffering family and to honour someone who fought, and died, for what they believed in. It is with this story in my mind and in my heart, if an academic work would allow me such literary flourishes, that I perform this research, and I feel it is important that the reader understand that this work is equal parts academic interest and personal sentiment. A popular saying, of unknown origin, is that war is a “young man‟s game”, certainly this was true in World War II, and in most, if not all, wars, wherein many young men were sent to die for “God, King and Country”, or the “Fatherland”, depending on whose side you were on. Much like the young allies being sent to fight the evils of the Nazi regime, so too were young South Africans, South-West Africans, Rhodesians and Angolans sent to fight the terrorist and communist threat encroaching upon their homes; or, so too were young Namibians, Angolans, Zimbabweans, Cubans and Russians taking up arms to fight for
freedom and liberation (again, depending on which side you were on)1. This is not to say that older men and women did not fight as well, simply that one of the many tragedies of war is that the young who survive are left to live with scars that they are completely unprepared for. Harold Goddard once said: “The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in” and I have found, through my interactions with soldiers of the so-called “Unpopular War”2, that it is the stories, the people, that create the history, not the history which creates the stories.
1.1. Research Question “South Africa has a well-documented history, however the Southern African Bush War is not as well explored as it could be. The experiential narratives of the South African Defence Force (SADF) soldiers who fought in this war opens new avenues of understanding South Africa‟s turbulent past. In documenting their experiences, what does the filmmaker learn about Constructed Memories and the act of storytelling itself?”
When I created my first documentary and thesis in 2010, entitled Forged in Flames: The SADF experience of The Battles of Cuito Cuanavale 1987 – 1988; the entire research project was met with equal parts disdain and enthusiasm from the South African Defence Force (SADF) community at large. This disdain seemed to stem from the overall feeling many of the veterans expressed that over the years their stories, experiences and contributions had either been ignored utterly or warped into propagandist narratives with the “evil” Apartheid and its attack dog, the SADF, losing to the “good” ANC, SWAPO and their supporters, thus colouring their own experiences in the light of being an “evil, racist” military force, at least as far as the rest of the world was concerned. This entire process pushed me into the field of Constructed Memories (dealt with in the next section) and how the memories of these soldiers create the history they are so diligent in defending and exploring. This was especially reflected in the responses to the fact that I wanted to make a documentary film about one of the most controversial conflicts of the entire war, as per the above title. Luckily, the project was a success in that the resulting documentary was met with mostly positive responses from the SADF community as well as a few former Cuban and
Note: South-West Africa (SWA) is now Namibia, however the soldiers drafted from SWA identified themselves as young men from SWA at the time, as did liberation fighters identify themselves as Namibians. The same is true for Rhodesians and Zimbabweans. 2 Thompson, J.H. (2007) An Unpopular War.
Russian soldiers, and hopefully encouraged a few interested parties to seek out knowledge on the war of their own accord. I wished to replicate and build on that success with this new documentary, however this time I decided to analyse the actual story-telling process itself and determine why it is important and in what way does the relating of experience from the teller to the audience change when there is a camera involved, and in what way specifically does this affect veterans of the Southern African Bush War, who have had ill-dealings with the media, for the most part, in the past? How does this affect the filmmaker and what can be learnt from this? This would also involve analysing the eventual audience; trying to discern who they would be, how they would react and how one would interpret these reactions.
1.2. Theoretical Approach/Model The main approach to this research will be on the theme of Constructed Memories: specifically, how South African veterans of the Southern African Bush War deal with, construct and represent their experiences in the public domain and how they express their experiences to a perceived audience3 via the lens of a film camera and the medium of a documentary film. The fact that I, a mere historian whose only direct dealings with the military have been through research or interactions with the military base in my hometown, am the one filming and constructing the presented narratives based on the information they give me, also adds an element to this model which shall be addressed further on. The theme of Constructed memories also means one will have to delve into the differences between the constructions of personal experiences and what are regarded as historical accounts, and how these constructions conflict with, or support each other in the public knowledge sphere and personal dioramas4 constructed in their own lives and social networks.
See Chapter 6 I use the term “diorama” to illustrate the way in which these memory constructions are created and viewed. Much like how an area of staged military operations is referred to as a “theatre of battle” so too are memories constructed by these veterans displayed in a manner for others to see, where prior battles and events can be explored and probed, whether that be via an internet group or forum, a memorial wall or monument or a documentary film.
1.3. Video Source I have created my own 36 minute documentary film for this paper. This self-created source is my primary reference material for a significant portion of this paper and is also the subject of the research in question. In it, I interview former SADF war veterans whom I have contacted within the UK and South Africa, and have formed a documentary based on their personal, subjective experiences. I will use this to also explore how they relate those experiences to myself as the interviewer and their perceived audience. The video production will be explored in further detail in Chapter 4.
The documentary Stories, Shadows and Dust is available to view at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFQylqrQfDg
“A country without a memory is a country of madmen.” –George Santayana
2. Historical Context of the Bush War South Africa had humble beginnings as a refreshment station, founded by Jan van Riebeeck in 1652 in the Cape of Good Hope on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. The refreshment station would later grow to become Cape Town, the country‟s current legislative capital.5 In 1806, the Cape Colony was seized by Britain, causing the great Boer migration of the 1830s, as many wanted to escape British rule in the colony.6 The First Anglo-Boer War lasted from 1880 to 1881 and saw the Boer‟s successfully fending off encroaching British expansion and rule through early South Africa (which had yet to be founded officially). Yet The Second Anglo-Boer War, from 1899 to 1902, saw the Boer‟s defeated by an overwhelming British force and in 1909 saw the formation of the Union of South Africa, now a British domain.7 As a British colony, many South Africans were called up to serve under British command in World War I, 1914 to 1918, and after the German defeat, their colonies were subsequently divided amongst the victors. German South-West Africa (today Namibia) was founded in 1884, but was soon invaded and occupied by South Africa in 1915 as part of the war effort. In 1919, the German colony was officially mandated by the League of Nations (the precursor to the United Nations) to South Africa who proceeded to run it as a fifth province, despite it never officially becoming one.8 In 1931, the Union was officially granted independence from the United Kingdom and in 1939 the newly formed United Party, a political party formed to reconcile positions between white English and Afrikaans South Africans, split over the decision to join the UK in World War II against the Axis powers. The split saw most Afrikaners shifting their allegiance strongly towards the National Party (NP)9 whilst many South Africans went to fight regardless.10
Thompson, L. (2001) A History of South Africa. Pp 31 Fremont-Barnes, G. (2003) The Boer War 1899-1902. Pp 13 7 Ibid, pp 35 8 Thompson, L. (2001) A History of South Africa. Pp 128 9 th The NP was the preeminent Afrikaans/Boer political party of 20 century South Africa, eventually morphing into the preeminent party for white South Africans, and remained in power until the free elections of 1994 that saw the ANC elected to power for the first time. 10 Ibid, pp 177
In 1946, the League of Nations was succeeded by the United Nations who requested South Africa yield the mandate of control over South-West Africa (SWA) with the intention that the country would stay under South African stewardship, with UN supervision, for a short while longer with the eventual aim of actual independence after appropriate dialogue with and support of the local ethnic population. The Union refused and in1948 the NP came to power and with it the many legislations which gave birth to the infamous institutionalised racism known as Apartheid.11 The 1950s saw the Herero Chief‟s Council of Namibia petitioning the UN for Namibian independence12, the 1960s saw many European colonies in Africa being granted their own independence, which placed mounting pressure on South Africa to do likewise13, and in 1966 the International Court of Justice declared South Africa‟s continued occupation of SWA illegal. In the meantime, the Union of South Africa officially became a Republic in 1961 and left the UK Commonwealth. The newly formed republic found itself under immense pressure from the 60s onwards to rescind Apartheid and install a majority government, in SA and SWA, which meant that the ethnic populations would be given due democratic rights as well as access to land etc. However, South Africa stubbornly refused, even in the face of mounting international boycotts and protests.14 The South-West Africa People‟s Organisation (SWAPO) was founded in 1960 and in 1966 their military wing, the People‟s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), began armed operations against the occupying South African government, following their refusal to grant Namibian independence that same year.15 SWAPO had already established bases in neighbouring Zambia and began a guerrilla campaign in and on the border of SWA. Local units of the South African Police (SAP) were struggling to contain the guerrilla fighters and so the South African Defence Force (SADF) was called in to assist.16 On 26 August 1966, elements of the SAP, SADF and South African Air Force (SAAF) attacked a known PLAN training base in the settlement of Omugulugwombashe, near the northern border of Namibia. This was the first official exchange of fire between the two sides, and is considered simultaneously to be the official start of the South African
Thompson, L. (2001) A History of South Africa. Pp 178 Abbink, J., De Bruijn, M., Van Walraven, K. (2003) Rethinking Resistance: Revolt and Violence in African History. Pp 290 13 Chan, S. (2011) Southern Africa: Old Treacheries and New Deceits. Pp 7 14 Ibid, pp 8 15 Quaye, C. (1991) Liberation Struggles in International Law. Pp 313 16 Chan, S. (2011) Southern Africa: Old Treacheries and New Deceits. Pp 36
Border War as well as that of the Namibian War of Independence.17 To this day, it is celebrated in Namibia as Hero‟s Day and is recognised by the UN as Namibia Day. Attacks and skirmishes between South African and SWAPO forces began to escalate and across the border in Botswana the African National Congress‟ (ANC) military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) – The Spear of the Nation - began operations of their own against, thus ensuring the conflict remain regional.18 Across the northern border of Namibia, tension had been brewing in Angola where liberation movements were waging their own independence struggle against Portuguese colonial rule. The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) in the south, the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA) in the north and the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in the central regions, were locked in heated battles with Portuguese colonial authorities, who were refusing independence for their colony.19 In 1967, SAAF helicopters were sent in to Angola to assist the Portuguese against UNITA, it was not long before it became apparent that South Africa would become quite involved in this region for many years to come.20 Between 1966 and 1974, operations were mostly limited to counter-insurgency activities against SWAPO and MK in the northern regions of SWA and the southern regions of Angola, although clandestine operations also took place in various areas of Angola by early members of what would become South Africa‟s Special Forces.21 A military coup in Portugal in 1974 saw the ruling dictatorship overthrown and a new democracy installed. A year later, in November 1975, the new government granted Angola its independence and soon Angola descended into a bloody civil war as the MPLA, FNLA and UNITA all began vying for power.22 In August the same year, South Africa sent forces into Angola to secure the Ruacana-Calueque hydro-electric scheme, an important project being financed by South Africa that had been captured by UNITA soldiers who were holding the engineers captive. This was the first official military action into Angola and saw an armoured column recapture the pump station and also provided the SADF justification for a permanent protection force inside Angola.23
South Africa, Truth and Reconciliation Commission. (1998) Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa report, Volume 2. Pp 14 18 Dale, R. (1995) Botswana's Search for Autonomy in Southern Africa. Pp 182 19 Chan, S. (2011) Southern Africa: Old Treacheries and New Deceits. Pp 8 20 http://www.saairforce.co.za/the-airforce/history/saaf/the-border-war 21 Geldenhuys, J. (2009) At The Front: A General's Account of South Africa's Border War. Pp 122 22 Chan, S. (2011) Southern Africa: Old Treacheries and New Deceits. Pp 10 23 Geldenhuys, J. (2009) At The Front: A General's Account of South Africa's Border War. Pp 263
P a g e | 10
At this point, the MPLA began to ask for outside assistance in combatting its foes and it was not long before Cuba, and subsequently the USSR, became interested in helping the immerging nation. The price for their help was the spread of communist doctrine into Angola and the continued presence of Cuba and the USSR in the name of the freedom from the capitalist West and liberation for oppressed black Africans.24 As this was also the height of the Cold War, the USA became concerned with the communist support base forming in Africa. The Apartheid regime also found it was being backed into a corner, as it was slowly losing its buffer between itself and a hostile black Africa which could easily house the militant liberation movements already baying at their doorstep. The Apartheid regime soon found itself in bed with the USA‟s CIA in an attempt to prevent the “Red Danger” (Communism) from gaining a foothold in Africa, and also with the intention of preventing the “Swart Gevaar” (Afrikaans for Black Danger/Threat – referring to security threat of militant black Africans to the white governments) from reaching South Africa, by putting into power friendly or neutral parties.25 As South Africa was still under international pressure, embargoes and boycotts, the support from the US was done in the utmost secret, as they could not be seen to be openly supporting the Apartheid regime. Angola was set to become another proxy war in the overall snafu that was the Cold War.26 Support was immediately given to UNITA and the FNLA to combat the MPLA, who had also begun lending support to SWAPO, although the FNLA eventually became a nonentity in the overall conflict, thus leaving the two sides neatly divided into East and West blocs, with South Africa, the USA and UNITA representing the West, and the MPLA, Cuba, the USSR and SWAPO representing the East. Although this analogy may be simplifying the situation somewhat, many people at the time felt that this was indeed the case. The conflict continued for well over ten years, until 1988, when UN Resolution 435 was implemented, ten years after it was originally written up, granting Namibia independence and enforcing the withdrawal of South African troops from Namibia and Angola.27 These ten years of conflict are worthy of a dissertation in themselves, however space limitations forces this author to recommend further reading28 on the part of the reader if they feel so inclined to learn more.
Cock, J., Laurie, N., (1989) War and Society: The Militarisation of South Africa. Pp 123 Chan, S. (2011) Southern Africa: Old Treacheries and New Deceits. Pp 11 26 Cock, J., Laurie, N., (1989) War and Society: The Militarisation of South Africa. Pp 122 27 Saul, J. (2008) Namibia's liberation struggle: the two-edged sword. Pp 37 28 Further reading suggestions can be found on page 38
P a g e | 11
“You still think it's beautiful to die for your country. The first bombardment taught us better. When it comes to dying for country, it's better not to die at all.” – All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
3. Film and Literature Review South Africa has had a somewhat troubled past with literature and film for several decades now. During the Apartheid regime, the government exercised excessive control over newspapers and broadcasts, as well as strictly limiting what literature and film it deemed acceptable to enter or leave the country. Some South Africans decided to smuggle in bootlegged tapes of films or novels they had heard about overseas, but were denied within the borders of the country, however being discovered with contraband could lead to a fine or prison time, depending on how serious the contraband was considered. All information was the domain of the oppressive government and news of the Border War was suppressed in a similar manner. Much propaganda was toted about and many films or pieces of literature made in South Africa had to be approved by the government before being disseminated to the general public.29 Of course there were underground publications and films, but for the average person it was a very controlled existence. The past two decades have seen South Africa often hailed for its approach to allowing freedom of speech and expression, however, at the time of writing, a new bill, The Protection of State Information Bill (nicknamed the Secrecy Bill30) is threatening to return South Africa to those times of information oppression and punishment. The Border War has often been called “South Africa‟s Vietnam”31 and I often wonder if veterans of the Vietnam War, both the Americans and Vietnamese, have had to deal with similar issues regarding how their war is portrayed in the media and literature as Border War veterans have. For many years American soldiers were demonised in a manner similar to SADF veterans, however eventually the war itself was studied further and was better understood, which led to a better understanding and public acceptance of the soldiers themselves. This was assisted by the soldiers experiences becoming more accessible to the
Baines, G., Vale, P. (eds) (2008) Beyond the Border War: New Perspectives on Southern Africa’s Late-Cold War Conflicts. Pp 204 30 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-15822105 31 Baines, G. (2004) “South Africa’s Vietnam?” Safundi. 5:3, 1-21
P a g e | 12
public through films such as Francis Coppolas Apocalypse Now (1979), Stanley Kubrick‟s Full Metal Jacket (1987), Barry Leinson‟s Good Morning Vietnam (1987) and Michael Cimino‟s The Deer Hunter (1978), to name but a few. Some of these films were based on novels, some fictional and some fact, but the tale of the soldier and his experience is the common theme. Apocalypse Now was based on Joseph Conrad‟s 1899 novella Heart of Darkness, only the deep, dark jungles of Africa are replaced with the humid, enemy-filled Vietnamese jungle. Full Metal Jacket and Good Morning Vietnam were both based on semi-autobiographical novels or retellings of personal experiences of the main character of their respective films, both journalists of one kind (newspaper for Full Metal) or another (radio for Good Morning). Whereas the previous films mentioned are set in Vietnam itself, The Deer Hunter is set after the war, where a traumatised soldier attempts to reintegrate into civilian life. The film follows his slow descent to madness and highlights the plight of many soldiers who returned home and received no psychological support and who were often demonised by the very country that sent them to war in the first place. Many of the former SADF soldiers I have interviewed identify strongly with this film and have mentioned it on several separate occasions to me. South Africa‟s film industry is still young and so it will probably be some time before a Hollywoodesque film is made on war, if at all, and at the time of writing, there have been no major film productions on the Border War, however there is a film, student film and documentary series worth analysis. Regardt van der Bergh‟s Boetie Gaan Border Toe (translated directly from Afrikaans to “ Little Brother32 goes to the Border”) is a 1984 South African comedy that centres around the experiences of Sonny “Boetie” van Tonder, played by Arnold Vosloo of The Mummy (1999) fame, who joins the SADF, makes friends, falls in love, goes through his SADF training (called “basics”) and is eventually deployed on the border, where he experiences the horror of a battle with “terrorists” and learns valuable lessons that change him from a spoiled rich kid to a honourable man and decent leader. This film is mostly in Afrikaans, so foreign audiences may have trouble understanding the subtitles of it; however it is an interesting film to analyse. Some reviews online paint it as a propaganda film33, espousing the position that a film that shows such an event as the Border War in a comedic light must be supporting it, however, I found it to be the exact opposite, as we are witnesses to Boetie‟s inner struggle with himself over whether the war is just and if killing so-called “terrorists” is really his duty.
Although “Boetie” is considered a standard Afrikaans nickname rather than meaning an actual brother. http://ccms.ukzn.ac.za/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=412&Itemid=47
P a g e | 13
Clearly the Apartheid stranglehold on media must have been slipping when they allowed that film through as it certainly asks some very difficult questions on the psyche of the soldier, training indoctrination, the old adage of “one man‟s terrorist is another‟s freedom fighter” etc. The film was popular enough to warrant a sequel by the same director and with Vosloo once again in the lead in 1986: Boetie op Manoeuvres (Little Brother on Manoeuvres) was produced, which was more about Boetie attempting to win his girlfriend back than about the on-going war. It should also be noted that Boetie op Manoeuvres was dubbed in English with American voice actors and sold overseas as Wild Manoeuvres, apparently the storyline being general enough that a re-dubbing was all that was needed to provide international appeal. At Thy Call (2008), written and directed by Christopher-Lee dos Santos, is loosely based on Clive Holt‟s 2005 autobiography At Thy Call We Did Not Falter34, and follows a young conscript making his way through training and eventually leading to his questioning of the system that sent him there when he is almost forced to kill a captured enemy combatant. This film was very badly received by the veteran community, with the general complaints being that the film was inaccurate in many ways or simply went out of its way to demonstrate the SADF as monsters or Afrikaners as racist against non-whites and non-Afrikaners alike. At Thy Call won several international awards and is still being featured at many international film festivals, much to the ire of some veterans. When dealing with a community as volatile as war veterans, one must take into account how one‟s production will affect them. Of course you cannot please everybody, as the saying goes, but one can take effort to not distort the story for the sake of effect. This is not to say that we must treat the veteran community like emotional children, simply that this conflict was a very real aspect of their lives and to them a film is like holding up a mirror and asking them to look at themselves and what they have done in the past. It is an emotional issue and care must be taken, in research and execution. In 2009, a documentary series called Grensoorlog (Border War), produced by MNET (a local broadcaster) and “Kyknet” (Afrikaans for Just Watch), an Afrikaans television channel, was released in South Africa. Initially only broadcast in Afrikaans with no subtitles (other than Afrikaans ones during non-English or non-Afrikaans interviews) and only occasional English interview subjects. The series proved so popular, it was recently rereleased with new English narration, and subtitles during non-English interviews, after much
The title is a section from “Die Stem van Suid-Afrika” (The Call of South Africa), South Africa’s national anthem from 1957 to 1994. The full line reads: “At thy call we shall not falter, firm and steadfast we shall stand, at thy will, to live or perish, oh South Africa dear land.”
P a g e | 14
public demand, as Bush War. The series is mostly from a South African perspective, but makes an effort to include perspectives from former SWAPO, USSR and Cuban soldiers. Overall it is a decent series and makes the South African side, at least, available to the general and international public. The series fails to ask any really difficult questions though, rather choosing to allow the story to tell itself. This is not necessarily a criticism however, as my own documentaries follow the same line, it is simply an observation into the style with which they chose to create it. The fact that it was initially produced in Afrikaans for an Afrikaans public and channel also speaks of the cultural affinity that the Grensoorlog has for Afrikaans South Africans. It is possible that it is this affinity, and perhaps sympathy, that also stayed the hand of critical journalism entering the production and led to the option of telling the overall story with the soldier‟s experiences and opinions highlighting the events focused on during a particular episode. This also harkens to the constant stream of World War II documentaries created for American, and international, audiences wherein the stories of Allied soldiers are constantly told or celebrated and never criticised, nor are the Axis stories ever truly explored except from the perspective of their “evil-doing”. Perhaps there is an underlying fear of what such criticism would provoke from the World War II veterans and their supporters, such criticism could also have political implications? With the Border War having very heavy political implications, especially considering that the founding myths generated by the ruling ANC and the ruling parties in Namibia require that very little critical thinking be levelled at them, opening the door to such questions could easily open up a floodgate of tension which seems to still be bubbling over in South Africa, especially amongst veterans from all sides.35
In this section, I chose to highlight Border War film media in lieu of written accounts, as the written accounts have some work already done on them, but very little work has been done on the actual films. Further reading suggestions for the literature component of this section can be found on page 38
P a g e | 15
“No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” –Helmuth von Moltke the Elder
4. Treatment: No plan survives first contact with the enemy. This is a truth all filmmakers must embrace when embarking on their projects. The fact is that no matter how prepared one is, how researched or determined, ones plans will always be diverted in some manner. This is especially true for documentary makers, or at least those who document people (or animals) and their experiences, as there is rarely an adequate script, and even if there were one, this does not mean the subject you are filming will cooperate. Sun Tzu, father of modern warfare theory, once said “…just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions”, a good filmmaker knows to “go with the flow”, as it were, to make the best of an opportunity. In the most general of terms, a documentary is an attempt to document reality in a film medium. It is an attempt to provide an active portrait of a real event, or set of events, in a manner in which the audience can interpret it effectively without being required to have physically been there to experience it themselves. The idea is that the filmmaker wishes to impart knowledge to an audience in a framed manner, that is to say through the lens of the camera, which has a way of focusing one‟s concentration. In other words, the camera allows one to focus the audience‟s attention on certain key aspects that the filmmaker deems are important. As this is the second documentary I have created, the first being Forged in Flames: The SADF Experience of the Battles of Cuito Cuanavale 1987-1988 which focused on a specific and highly controversial series of battles centred around the Angolan town of Cuito Cuanavale, I applied the lessons I had learnt from the previous filmmaking experience to this new film. I had many similar problems with this process as I did with the previous one, although it was more compounded as I was filming in a foreign country I knew very little about and had to still accomplish my goals. There were many of the usual technical issues, but I shall leave those to the reader‟s imagination and instead focus on two areas that gave me the most pleasure and pain, namely the script and the research for the film. My first film had a basic script that I ran by in order to focus the interviews further and allow myself some breathing space for editing, however it soon became apparent during filming that my script could not hope to cope with or do justice to the information I was
P a g e | 16
receiving from my interview subjects. I ended up abandoning the script completely after all the interviews were completed and rather constructed a new script based on the information I had received. It is a lot simpler creating a documentary on a historical event with historically verified sources and information, however when creating a film on human experience one cannot quantify the results as easily. I first became interested in the qualitative experiences of war veterans thanks to a combination of my psychology and history lecturers presenting simultaneous lectures on war, experience and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with a South African focus. This led to research on the subject of PTSD in general and then to the South African focus. I asked the question: “why do we have soldiers who have PTSD?” I was vaguely aware at this point that my father had been in the Navy, but I had never really asked why, I assumed it was simply something young people did during his time. Even though I had grown up in a military town, the Border War was never spoken about. I only heard about it properly for the first time from my history lecturer in 2009, it had never been taught to us or even hinted at in school and it certainly was not explored in any journalistic sense on television or in print. There were some academic articles, but they were few and far between and would hardly fall into one‟s possession without actually seeking them out. When I first began developing an idea for exploring aspects of the Border War, I decided I wanted to create a video game based on it, but this idea fell apart as soon as I discovered how few resources I had to create such a thing, thus I turned to the idea of film. I had always enjoyed informative documentaries, and I find that they are the easiest way to impart information to a willing viewer, provided the visuals and information are interesting enough to warrant attention. I realised that most people, especially with regard to war documentaries, responded really well to veterans telling their tales. The emotion with which they spoke seemed to draw people in and gave them reason to stay invested. As a storytelling culture, humanity has ever enjoyed tales of valour and sorrow and naturally warstories are some of the most revered and sought after. It was not a hard leap to figure that my documentary would receive a better response if it was focused on individuals telling the story of their experiences with an overall narrative to tie it together. Prompting from my lecturer led me to focus on the Battles of Cuito Cuanavale, as they were events in the Border War that had been seldom explored in such a manner, and the focus on one battle would provide a better narrative. I wanted to expand my focus for this documentary to the entire Border War which turned out to be far more ambitious than I initially thought it would be. I had definite ideas on how I wanted the film to proceed and I
P a g e | 17
drew up a mock script for it, however after contacting and securing my interview subjects I ended up abandoning the script entirely, rather choosing to see where the interview would lead me as experience had taught me that what the interview subjects would say would most likely render my pre-conceived script moot. I still had a basic idea of how I wanted the documentary to proceed, but that was altered during editing quite drastically based on the footage I had acquired. There are many Bush War veteran groups on social forums scattered around the internet and not just of SADF veterans, although they are certainly the most prevalent within the grouping of Bush War veterans, but also of Cubans and Russians, however I have yet to find any Angolan groups. It was a simple matter of creating a post in a few chosen groups explaining what I was writing and filming about and asking for volunteers to email me. When I did this for my first documentary, I was met with veterans who were very supportive and interested, but also with many who were suspicious, uninterested or outright hostile. I received a few death threats, and some even believed I was a spy for the current government, and whereas this was a bit unexpected, I simply explained myself as sincerely and honestly as I could and hoped for the best. After the documentary was made, I did receive a few criticisms, but most were goodnatured and thanked me for my work. This time around I did not receive any death threats and the messages from suspicious or uninterested members were few and far between, however I found many who were very helpful and provided me with contact details for many others who assisted me in my research and eventually led me to my current interview subjects. I believe the hostility I have occasionally faced is a reaction to the notion, perceived or real, that they are being treated as embarrassing curiosities at best and as reminders of the Apartheid eras atrocities at worst, which has led to a general suspicion of any journalist or researcher they do not know or trust personally. Luckily, my prior work had left me in good stead with the veteran communities and I was able to work freely as needed. The interviews gained from the five veterans required that a certain part of the documentary be about Cuito, as the operations surrounding it seem to have been a coincidental narrative that most of the interviewees shared, however I believe I managed to use the footage in such a manner as to be general enough to give a general impression of the Border War, but focused enough that the stories still weave together. Before completing this written component I uploaded the documentary to the internet and presented it to the communities to gauge their reaction. The responses were overwhelmingly positive, and I did
P a g e | 18
receive critiques, such as one or two factual errors that I had overlooked, which I promptly took note of and used to alter the first version and create a final version with fewer errors. No work is ever error-free, however and I intend to create a longer version in the future which will allow me to correct a few issues as well as go more in-depth into the Border War. As it stands, the viewer would either already have to be familiar with the material or be willing to read up on the history of the Border War to gain context for the soldier‟s stories. That being said, feedback I have received from those unfamiliar with the history still feel they can connect with the interviewed former soldiers on a personal level that I believe all people can, regardless of culture or creed; that is to say, the basic need to connect with another human being and hear their story.
P a g e | 19
“I must follow them. I am their leader.” –Andrew Bonar Law
5. Veteran social networking: The origin of the internet can be traced back to the 1950s; however the internet that we understand and use today began in 1989.36 The first email was sent in 1971, but the first social networking sites only took root in 1994.37 From there many similar sites began to crop up until we reached the incredible power and versatility contained in today‟s social networking and media sites such as “YouTube”, “Twitter” and “facebook”. The power of these sites became readily apparent during the “Arab Spring” uprisings in the Middle East which began in December of 2010 and are still continuing at the time of writing. 38 Governments and various other institutions have begun taking these social networking sites seriously,39 as their power to amass group support and speed in coordinating events is fast becoming unparalleled. Never before have so many people from so many different areas of the world been able to communicate so efficiently and in such volume; the implications of which are only just beginning to be studied. How this new networking strata has been utilised by war veterans to communicate is worthy of a study in and of itself, and this small section will hardly do it justice, but I shall endeavour to impart my experiences of this collective. Veterans who have been fighting in the War in Afghanistan have, for the most part, grown up in a media-conscious world, where social networking sites were the norm, and even from within their deployment zones they would make an effort to stay connected with friends, family and the worlds events through such sites.40 Those who fought in the Southern African Bush War had no such luxuries; communication was primarily through written letters or the rare phone call. Sometimes it would take weeks, months or years for families to hear from their loved ones,41 or they would receive news from the dreaded military visit, wherein a uniformed officer would arrive to impart the worst news a family would hear: your son has died fighting on the front lines. In South Africa, often the families would not even know how or why their child died, many would only discover the truth years later once the conflict
http://www.lk.cs.ucla.edu/personal_history.html Ibid 38 Schattle, H. (2012) Globalization and Citizenship. Pp 38 39 http://socialcapital.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/twitter-facebook-and-youtubes-role-in-tunisia-uprising/ 40 http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/2010-11-22-vetsocialmedia22_ST_N.htm 41 http://www.archivalplatform.org/blog/entry/battle_scarred/
P a g e | 20
ended and documents were declassified or from testimonials during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings.42 The reason social networking sites are so successful is that they gather people from around the world with similar interests and experiences and provide them with a platform to share their information, connect with others, tell stories, organise meetings etc. It comes as no surprise that men and women who had some interest or experience in the Border War would gravitate towards such a platform, and the results are encouraging as well as cause for concern. On one hand, many of the former soldiers never received adequate psychological support after their experiences, and so use the forums to vent; the other veterans act as buffers and supports for those who wish to talk and share their experiences in a mutual group dynamic of “I was there too, I understand what you‟re going through” where they share their thoughts in a way that only those who went through the same event can relate. This is also a great resource for people wanting to get in touch with former comrades-in-arms that they lost touch with, or a place to lament fallen friends and family.43 However, on the other hand one has the double-edged sword of clandestine elitism. This is a danger with all groups, but it makes itself unfortunately far too apparent in such veteran groups as they feel very little need to hide their anger or true opinions. In South Africa especially, many of the veterans feel they were betrayed by their former government and now discriminated against by the current government, as with the US Vietnam War veterans receiving something of a mixed welcome of love and disgust upon their return to their native home, so too are the South Africans still feeling a similar atmosphere in their home country.44 This feeling of discrimination forces the group to close in on itself, which in turn ensures that they do not allow new information in, rather sticking to their group norm, retelling the same tales, arguing over the same arguments and creating a circular vacuum from which they dare not stray. This is not necessarily the case with every group, or indeed this is not to say this is always the case, simply that this is an observation I have noted on my occasional forays into these groups, especially when they are upset with a journalist for getting their facts wrong.45 Within the social media sphere, sites such as YouTube and facebook have become indispensable for veterans exploring aspects of their past experiences. The versatility and accessibility of these platforms means that anyone could upload images or videos and share
Baines, G. Breaking rank: Secrets, silences and stories of South Africa’s Border War. Pp 3 Baines, G. A Virtual Community? SADF veterans’ digital memories and dissenting discourses. 44 As per conversations and interviews held with veterans. 45 http://dailymaverick.co.za/article/2012-06-06-hatebook-sa-border-war-vets-outraged-by-soldiers-story
P a g e | 21
them with their peers. To this end, a documentary such as mine can be spread through the groups rather quickly and can invite discussion where it appears. In the documentary, Lyle Hancke says: “We never spoke about it… [T]his is probably, well, this is the first time I‟ve spoken about it since the end.” This sentiment was reflected by some of the interviewed veterans, but not all. Hancke does not make use of the Border War groups and so a project like this provided an outlet for his experience and hopefully will provide him with another perspective on the war. For Dennis Morton, it was an opportunity to share his feelings on the conflict, expressing his anti-war sentiment and his horror at what he was forced to participate in, the responses to his interview in some of the groups were especially strong, with some saying the film “could have done without the hippie” and similar sentiments. I recall warning Morton before the interview that there was a possibility he might receive some hate mail for his views and to his credit he decided to speak anyway, strong in his belief. Overall the people I interviewed were proud of their participation, even if it left some of them physically or emotionally scarred. It was refreshing to interview someone of a dissenting opinion, however, dissenting opinions are something of a taboo in the military social sphere. This is evident in the many arguments that break out in the comments section of some YouTube videos that hold anti-war, or specifically anti-SADF, content. However, to be fair, sometimes the content is belligerent on purpose in an effort to incite anger in the military communities, and especially given the politically charged nature of the Border War‟s history. The interviews with Danie Crowther, Johann Lehman and Roderick van der Westhuizen left me in awe to a degree. Even though I could not fit it all into the documentary, especially in Crowther‟s case, each man had shown extreme bravery in the face of danger and I could not help but feel the desire to make the entire documentary simply about their deeds. However, I could not fall into the trap of turning this film from a documentary into a SADF-tribute, something it could easily have become had I gotten too involved in their stories. In the military social media sphere, these tributes are commonplace, especially as social networks have become a big influence in South Africa over the recent years with the most obvious example being that of the Remembrance Wall and Freedom Park debacles which will be discussed in the next chapter on Constructed Memory.
P a g e | 22
“I fought for three reasons. I can't remember what they were. The first reason gets you in, and the reason when you are in is staying alive. I won’t know the reason they find afterwards, but it will be a very good one for why it was fought. I'm sure I’ll be glad.” –How I Won the War (1967)
6. Constructed Memory Freedom Park was constructed in 2009 in Salvokop, Pretoria, South Africa. It is a monument dedicated to “struggle heroes” and features a “name wall” which lists the names of people who died fighting in the Anglo-Boer War, World War I and II as well as during the struggle against apartheid. However, it specifically leaves out members of the SADF who died in service but rather chooses to name Cubans, Angolans, Russians and MK members who fought against the SADF. This decision elicited an outcry from many groups, most notably the Veterans Association, but seeing as the park was privately owned, there was not much that could be done. Partly in retaliation for the dishonour they felt they had been done, a consortium of concerned veterans and interest groups decided to erect a wall of names at the nearby Voortrekker Monument46 that features the names of fallen SADF, Navy and Air force soldiers and civilians who had been fatally involved. Yet again race and cultural politics had been sparked with this sudden polar positioning of monuments, and it did not help the situation that the Voortrekker Monument had for years been seen as a monument to oppression of the ethnic African population by the invading Boers. For a while, this issue made the news, however it has calmed down in recent years, with both sides respecting a truce, especially when either is hosting a memorial day. The term “Constructed Memory” (also called Cultural Memory47) can be interpreted in a myriad of ways, for example it could be argued that the actual memorial walls and monuments themselves are literal memory constructions, designed to be physical representations of the memories they hold; a physical place in (relatively48) neutral territory where others can pay their respects or share memories. Constructed Memories can also come in the form of photographs, video footage, such as documentaries, songs, war diaries, letters
The Voortrekker Monument was erected just outside of Pretoria, South Africa, to commemorate the Boers who left the Cape Colony to colonise the rest of the country between 1835 and 1854. 47 Baines, G. (2004) “South Africa’s Vietnam?” Safundi. 5:3, 1-21 48 I say relatively as there is no true neutral territory for something such as this.
P a g e | 23
from soldiers etc. In the case of this work‟s accompanying documentary, the documentary itself became a constructed memory and this is a point to dissect itself. I, as the filmmaker, choose to show specific parts of their stories to you as the audience in order to illicit specific responses or share specific knowledge. I did not seek out the most emotive of stories, rather letting whomever volunteered for the interview tell their story, however in constructing my film narrative I ended up choosing the most emotive of stories, or stories which would support prior emotive cues, for example a piece of text which might have a heartfelt quote with equally poignant music playing in the background. The intention of the film was to impart knowledge of the Bush War to the audience in the hopes that relating to the soldier‟s stories and emotions would encourage them to learn more about the history behind their stories. The film opens with a dramatic and violent scene of soldiers yelling and firing weapons whilst running through the bush in order to catch the audience‟s attention which would form the foundation of the construction of the film. By securing interest with something shocking and out of the norm, the scene and emotion would be set for the stories from the five veterans. Stringing together their experiences into a coherent narrative proved a challenge, however their link was their shared experience of the Battle of Lomba River, as well as their experiences of becoming civilians once again. The stock footage was used to contextualise and highlight certain sections of their story, for example Johann Lehman speaks of the SAM SA-8, something which most people have never even heard of, let alone seen, and thus the provided image allows the audience to understand and relate further. The interviewed veterans constructed their memories in specific ways, relating them to the interviewer (myself) and the camera in such a way as to allow the film to contextualise their experiences and thus construct a social memory platform from which others may access these memories and extrapolate collected experience in a way that only story-telling can: through emotional context. The audience is often an important factor in considering the creation of the film. When demonstrating these constructed memories to the audience I have to ask: “who am I showing them to? Who shall watch and do I account for that in what I am making?” Thanks to the internet, my film can reach almost everyone who has a connection, should they be so inclined to watch it. Already at the time of writing this, the film has around 500 views in the week since it was uploaded. Most of the views come from South Africa, the UK and the US, where most of the former SADF soldiers seem to be scattered if information from the forums are to be believed. I do know that for my previous film, even former Cuban soldiers and some
P a g e | 24
Russians managed a viewing, although they had to get an English-speaking friend to translate for them. Even though the film was from the SADF perspective, they still related and contacted me thanking me for my work. Thus, the audience became an agglomeration, in my mind, of anyone who would be willing to watch. If I attempted to make it specifically for one audience, for example only SADF, I believe it would lose some of its impact and human appeal. Thus, this film is a constructed memory which combines other memories to create a universal narrative; a diorama of subjective experience which cuts across objective reality and provides it with emotional context. When creating something like this the issue of objective and subjective knowledge is often raised and worked with. True objectivity obviously cannot exist, as every person has their own life experiences which colour their perceptions of reality. It is also a fact that historical accounts are not only more often than not written by the victor (or those in power), and thus already coloured, but also that the only source of history is that of the person providing the information, and thus the actual source of the information is always secondary and subjective no matter the situation. A documentary shows a certain version of events, in this case the qualitative experience of SADF veterans, which only correlates with written historical accounts in some cases. For example, Cuba made all efforts to enact a propaganda campaign against South Africa during the war.49 Their campaign was incredibly effective and to this day much of what they purported to have happened has made it into historical accounts as, at the time, the Apartheid government was still attempting to prevent the information from leaking out to the general populace of South Africa, and as much as possible to the rest of the world.50 This left them vulnerable to such propaganda campaigns, and once they were ordered to pull out of Angola, following UN Resolution 435, the propaganda claims were only strengthened. SADF veterans and their supporters still contend many historical “facts” they have encountered over the years, and this is in part why they have such an intense distrust of the media. This brings to light the question of subjective experiences reliability as the veterans were no doubt indoctrinated to some degree to fight their enemy without fear or hesitation. From personal interaction with veterans it would appear that they do not like being told that they were indoctrinated; however my experience is that during their training they were constantly told what they were fighting for and who they were fighting and thus it became a form of indoctrination. This is not to say that the soldiers were blank slates who had all their
Turner, J. W. (1998) Continent Ablaze: The Insurgency Wars in Africa 1960 to the Present. Pp 124 Ibid, pp 125
P a g e | 25
beliefs and feelings overridden with some monstrous urge to become killing machines, simply that a military has a vested interest in ensuring its soldiers believe in what they are fighting for and thus they are taught to believe in what their superiors tell them to believe. Objective information can also be questioned thusly as the author of the information, for example a Wikipedia article on the Border War, will have their own agenda and the information they impart might appear factually correct, however it will still have certain elements omitted or highlighted according to what the author believes is important. Thus, constructed memories exist as a result of and according to the conflict that exist between subjective and objective reality, relying on the individual to process and decide on what reality to accept and impart to the world. A documentary film is this conflict given form and altered in a way that the audience, that is to say any interested party, can access the memory constructions of another person through the construction of the film itself and in the visual space it provides.
P a g e | 26
“If we don't end war, war will end us.” –H.G. Wells
7. Conclusion This work did not attempt to answer any questions, that is not what it or the documentary set out to achieve. Like the documentary, this dissertation was an attempt to not only ask questions about the nature of qualitative experience and subjective reality, but also to highlight how subjective roles shape historical accounts. Shortly after the production of the documentary, a colleague commented on how the film inspired him to learn more about the war that the veterans had spoken of. He was intrigued by their experience and sought to understand further by researching historical accounts. This is precisely the reaction I hoped to illicit the most, as the more something is understood in its historical context, the more the subjective experiences can be accepted and explored. The Southern African Bush War, The South African Border War, Die Grensoorlog; all names for the same conflict, but each a representation of its own context. A documentary such as Stories, Shadows and Dust can only provide access to a limited scope of experience, much like a photograph of an event can only show what the camera‟s field of vision can encompass. The emotional context of this film was created from the constructed memories of the men who chose to be interviewed for it, allowing their experiences to enter into the social media consciousness of the online veteran communities. The clandestine elitism of such social groups would not be accessible to outsiders without such a platform. In short, films such as these allow not only the audience to experience an event that they could not otherwise, but also allowed the interviewer and the veterans being interviewed the opportunity to explore the contextualised spaces of the constructed memory that is their experience of the Border War. The accessibility of social media spheres will also allow parties from other camps, such as former Soviet and Angolan soldiers etc. the opportunity of engaging with contexts they could not previously, the mind of the former enemy, as it were. In the closing minutes of the documentary, Roderick van der Westhuizen says: “[I]t was important and it needed to happen...[T]he guys that died you can live with that, you know, because that‟s final. But the guys that‟s wounded, you know, we were eighteen, nineteen years old at that stage. Um, that used to stick with us, you know, that…it took your mind….” It is with those words in mind that a documentary such as this enters the social media spheres and works to shed light on why not only telling stories is important, but why
P a g e | 27
their emotional context provides the human element; the element which allows one to connect and understand, the element which constructs the memory and relives the story, passing it on to the next group or generation until it becomes a part of the collected social consciousness of the story-telling world that is human society.
P a g e | 28
Stories, Shadows and Dust
Experiences of the SADF Soldier in the Southern African Bush War
Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFQylqrQfDg
P a g e | 29
Interest Justification Not a lot of work is being done on the Southern African Bush War, but for at least three generations of South Africans, Namibians, Zimbabweans, Angolans, Cubans and Russians, it is still a very real and relevant topic in their lives. It was a conflict that spanned over 30 years, 1966-1989, and has only had true academic work started on it in the last ten or so years. I believe this sudden upsurge in interest is mostly driven by the former veterans themselves deciding to publish their stories and analyse former operations and such themselves.51 This also encourages academics, journalists and the like to begin their own research into this suddenly popular topic. Its direct links to the height and decline of the Cold War, and all that that implies, cannot be overstated and are thoroughly relevant to the understanding of present-day Africa as well as our understanding of the Cold War itself. One must note that there was much interest in the war when it was actually occurring, and quite a few films, documentaries, news broadcasts, books, novels, academic and journalistic articles can still be accessed today, if one knows where to look. Some of these writers and film makers were foreign, however many were actively serving, having been conscripted or volunteered, or were involved in the End Conscription Campaign (ECC) or had their lives affected in other ways, such as being forced to leave the country to avoid jail time, or having had family members who served or who were injured or killed. The reasoning behind doing research in this conflict for the individual is about as varied and multi-faceted as the issues in the conflict itself. However, the recent interest is moving in a different stream and thus deserves work of its own accord. 1994 was the year in South Africa when the first free, democratic elections were held and South Africa received its first black President: Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, thus putting the ANC into official power for the first time. With this regime change, not to mention the ending of the war a few years earlier, the tension in South Africa was palpable, and open discussion of anything that could flare the tensions were considered taboo in polite company. Apartheid South Africa also saw a heavily censored media, and so publishing critical journals and the like was particularly difficult, if not outright impossible, not to mention one might have gotten a visit from the Secret Police, which rarely ended well. Thus,
This belief is supported by G. Baines in his 2007 work: Breaking Rank: Secrets, Silences and Stories of South Africa’s Border War
P a g e | 30
with South Africa‟s recent emphasis on freedom of speech, the path has never been clearer for former soldiers and the like to express themselves and tell their stories or analyse their past, or for others to do likewise. Much like with many traumatic events, it takes time for people to process them before they can deal with them in whatever manner they are predisposed to. We have examples of storytelling being the process whereby some deal with war trauma from many eras of human history, for example: Homer‟s Iliad, poems and stories from World War I and II, films and documentaries on the terrorist attacks of 9/11, etc. The trauma of Apartheid is still being dealt with, as is the trauma of the Bush War, therefore it is only natural that the gap in between the actual war and the upsurge in interest would be accounted for by taking into cognisance the idea that people need time to deal with trauma, especially one as politically charged as this war. Another interesting aspect of dealing with this research is the language and cultural barriers. Even though I grew up in an Afrikaans town, I spoke English and had a Scottish/English heritage. Those familiar with South African history know that, culturally and historically speaking, some Afrikaners have a dislike of the English, or indeed Englishspeakers, and it was often the case that English-speakers were targeted for abuse during training for the SADF.52 However, this was not always the case, and I often found that people spoke to me regardless of what my home language was, although I have no doubt that more doors would have opened up to me had I approached these veterans speaking Afrikaans. Although likewise if I had approached veterans on the other side of the conflict speaking Afrikaans, I may have had a tougher time finding anyone to speak to me, as Afrikaans was definitely seen as the “language of the SADF”, Apartheid and thus oppression, much like how German is still often associated with Nazi‟s.
This dislike can be traced back to the Anglo-Boer Wars wherein the original Afrikaans settlers, the Boers (old Dutch/Afrikaans for Farmers), fought the English for control of their newly conquered territories. The Second Anglo-Boer War saw the English forces interring many woman and children in concentration camps, with the intention of using this tactic to force the Boers to surrender. This atrocity is often cited as one of the reasons why some Afrikaans people today still harbour a dislike, or even outright hatred, of the English and English speakers.
P a g e | 31
Stories, Shadows and Dust
Experiences of the SADF Soldier in the Southern African Bush War
De Facto Script
17 August 2012
P a g e | 32
Black screen, silent.
00:02: Rushing sound quickly builds up to sudden cut of first-person clip of soldiers running through Angolan bush.
Soldiers are shouting and shooting whilst running to position, all the while radio chatter is overlaid, making the scene chaotic and noisy.
00:34: Clip suddenly blacks out, sound still continues. Soldiers yelling fades away and only radio chatter is left whilst text flashes. 00:40: White text centred on black background53 fades in and out between each slide54 as sound of soldiers yelling fades:]
The Southern African Bush War raged from 1966 to 1989
Many young men were conscripted into the South African Defence Force to defend South African and South-West Africa (today Namibia) from the threat of terrorists and communists
Angola was considered the staging area for these threats And so, the young conscripts were sent to perform their duty in the Bush of Angola
What follows are selected stories of five former South African Defence Force soldiers on their time at The Border
[Text fades to black and radio chatter fades to silence.
01:25: Cut to clip of soldiers jumping from a helicopter onto the ground below. Sound is helicopter noise and general noise of soldiers leaving helicopter.
All text will be white centred on black background This text is for exposition purposes
P a g e | 33
Sound cross-fades after a few seconds to “Iggy Pop: Passenger”.
01:40: Clip cuts to black and white text on black appears:]
Stories, Shadows and Dust Experiences of the SADF Soldier in the Southern African Bush War [“Passenger” plays for next minute as clips of the Border War from various archives play through. Clips fade to black as “Passenger” fades to “Saving Private Ryan: The Last Battle” (TLB).
03:11: White text on black background fades in and out between slides:]
From 1987 to 1988 an obscure Angolan town named Cuito Cuanavale became the focus of a series of heated conflicts between SADF/UNITA and FAPLA/Cuban forces
The SADF responded to a call for support from UNITA, who were under attack by FAPLA troops advancing towards nearby Mavinga (UNITA’s HQ), with the intent to destroy it
The SADF, acting upon intercepted intelligence, proceeded to lay an ambush for FAPLA’s advancing 47th armoured brigade in a manoeuvre that would come to be known as The Battle of Lomba River 47th was all but destroyed. The remaining forces fled, abandoning much of their equipment and vehicles, including the SAM SA-8 missile system; a highly coveted piece of Soviet technology which had never before been seen outside of Russia
[Text fades to black and music fades out as first interview clip fades in.
03:51: Interview with Johann Lehman talking of capture of SA-8 in Angola after destruction of 47th brigade.
P a g e | 34
Identifying text fades in and out:]
Lt. Col. Johann Lehman SAAF Intelligence Liaison Offcier (Ret.)
[At 05:06, 05:30, 06:05 and 07:41 mark, clips are played / pictures shown to emphasise Lehman‟s words.
Lehman interview fades out and second interview clip fades in.
09:32: Interview with Roderick van der Westhuizen talking of his experiences with a Mig bombing run on 61 Mech.
Identifying text fades in and out:]
Cpl. Roderick van der Westhuizen SADF 61 Mechanised Battalion (Ret.)
[At 10:19 and 13:07 mark, clips are played / pictures shown to emphasise van der Westhuizen‟s words.
Van der Westhuizen interview fades out as text fades in and TLB music begins to play again.
15:38: White text on black background fades in and out between slides:]
Gallows Humour: “Comedy that still manages to be funny in the face of, and in response to, a horrible, deathly, tragic, dramatic, perfectly hopeless situation.” “You see, a laugh and a smile, and all of a sudden the job doesn’t seem quite so bad after all, does it sir?” ~Edmund Blackadder’s firing squad.
P a g e | 35
[Text fades to black and music fades out as third interview clip fades in.
15:58: Interview with Lyle Hancke talking of comedic incidents during battle and of how they viewed “the enemy”.
Identifying text fades in and out:]
AMN. Lyle Hancke SAAF (Ret.)
[Hancke interview fades out and fourth interview clip fades in.
17:43: Interview with Danie Crowther talking of comedic experience of outwitting enemy tank manoeuvres.
Identifying text fades in and out:]
Lt. Col. Danie Crowther SADF Military Intelligence Offcier (Ret.)
[Crowther interview fades out as text fades in and TLB music begins to play again.
19:45: White text on black background fades in and out between slides:]
After their tours of duty, also called Camps, many soldiers returned home and attempted to reintegrate into civilian life
However, due to the tight hold the Apartheid government had on information flow in South Africa, many people simply did not know why or where their men had been fighting
[Text fades to black and music fades out as fifth interview clip fades in.
P a g e | 36
20:04: Interview with Lyle Hancke talking of experiences as a civilian in SA after returning from active duty.
Hancke interview fades out as text fades in and TLB music begins to play again.
22:26: White text on black background fades in and out between slides:]
In July 1985, a State of Emergency was declared in South Africa and many soldiers were called in to assist police in combating the new enemy: the black population of South Africa
[Text fades to black and music fades out as sixth interview clip fades in.
22:35: Interview with Dennis Morton talking of experiences as deployed soldier in South Africa and atrocity he witnessed.
Identifying text fades in and out:]
LCpl. Dennis Morton Fire Command Controller (Ret.)
[Morton interview fades out and seventh interview clip fades in.
27:09: Interview with Roderick van der Westhuizen talking of general soldiers feeling regarding the war, training, politics etc.
Van der Westhuizen interview fades out as text fades in and TLB music begins to play again.
29:02: White text on black background fades in and out between slides:]
The Southern African Bush War claimed many lives; Cuban, Angolan, Russian, Namibian and South African, leaving scars in the landscape of the conflict zones and the hearts and minds of those involved
P a g e | 37
Regardless of what was fought for, stories are what have been left behind It is our duty to know these stories, lest our actions become nothing more than shadows and dust
[Text fades to black and music fades out as ending music video fades in. 29:22: Subtitled “Bok van Blerk: Die Kaplyn” music video fades in and begins playing.
Muisc video fades to black and end credits and music begin playing. 34:23: “Bastion: The Pantheon” begins playing and credits scroll across screen:]
Stories, Shadows and Dust Experiences of the SADF Soldier in the Southern African Bush War
Directed, filmed and edited by: Garrett Eriksen
Special Thanks to: Lyle Hancke Dennis Morton Danie Crowther Johann Leham Roderick van der Westhuizen Cameron Kinnear My supervisors: Dr L Bisschoff Prof P Nugent Edinburgh University Centre of African Studies Andrew & Glenn Eriksen MNET & SABC All those serving in the armed forces (serving and retired) who assisted me in my research
P a g e | 38
All those who assisted me on my journey and provided me with open homes, hearts and minds
Stock footage courtesy of MNET and the SABC
Music Used: Iggy Pop “The Passenger” Bok van Blerk “Die Kaplyn” Bastion OST “The Pantheon” Saving Private Ryan OST “The Last Battle”
All video footage and audio data included in this film are the licence and property of their respective owners. This is purely a non-profit, academic work. “War stories aren’t always about war, per se. They aren’t about bombs and bullets and military manoeuvres. They aren’t about tactics, they aren’t about foxholes and canteens. A war story, like any good story, is finally about the human heart.” ~Tim O’Brien [Credits roll off. Music fades. Black screen. End of film.]
P a g e | 39
Abbink, J., De Bruijn, M., Van Walraven, K. (2003) Rethinking Resistance: Revolt and Violence in African History. BRILL. Baines, G. (2004) “South Africa‟s Vietnam?” Safundi. 5:3, 1-21
Baines, G., Vale, P. (eds) (2008) Beyond the Border War: New Perspectives on Southern Africa‟s Late-Cold War Conflicts. Unisa Press.
Chan, S. (2011) Southern Africa: Old Treacheries and New Deceits. Yale University Press
Cock, J., Laurie, N., (1989) War and Society: The Militarisation of South Africa. New Africa Books
Dale, R. (1995) Botswana's Search for Autonomy in Southern Africa. Greenwood Publishing Group
Fremont-Barnes, G. (2003) The Boer War 1899-1902. Osprey Publishing
Geldenhuys, J. (2009) At The Front: A General's Account of South Africa's Border War. Jonathan Ball
Holt, C. (2005) At Thy Call We Did Not Falter. Zebra
Quaye, C. (1991) Liberation Struggles in International Law. Temple University Press
Thompson, J.H. (2007) An Unpopular War. Struik Publishers
Thompson, L. (2001) A History of South Africa. Yale University Press Turner, J. W. (1998) Continent Ablaze: The Insurgency Wars in Africa 1960 to the Present. Arms and Armour Press
P a g e | 40
Saul, J. (2008) Namibia's liberation struggle: the two-edged sword. J. Curry
Schattle, H. (2012) Globalization and Citizenship. Rowman & Littlefield
South Africa, Truth and Reconciliation Commission. (1998) Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa report, Volume 2. The Commission.
Online Sources: Baines, G. (2007) Breaking rank: Secrets, silences and stories of South Africa‟s Border War. http://www.inter-disciplinary.net/ptb/wvw/wvw4/baines%20paper.pdf Last accessed 31 August 2012 Baines, G. (2012) A Virtual Community? SADF veterans‟ digital memories and dissenting discourses. http://rhodesza.academia.edu/GaryBaines/Papers/1537319/A_Virtual_Community_SADF_Veterans_Digit al_Memories_and_Dissenting_Discourses Last accessed 31 August 2012 Review of “Battle Scarred: The Hidden Costs of The Border War” at: http://www.archivalplatform.org/blog/entry/battle_scarred/ Last accessed 31 August 2012 BBC News article on “Secrecy Bill” at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-15822105 Last accessed 31 August 2012 Article on propaganda elements of “Boetie Gaan Border Toe” at: http://ccms.ukzn.ac.za/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=412&Itemid=47 Last accessed 31 August 2012
P a g e | 41
Daily Maverick news article on Border War veteran facebook group reaction at: http://dailymaverick.co.za/article/2012-06-06-hatebook-sa-border-war-vets-outraged-bysoldiers-story Last accessed 31 August 2012
Article on History of the Internet at: http://www.lk.cs.ucla.edu/personal_history.html Last accessed 31 August 2012
Article on South African Air Force (SAAF) involvement in Border War at: http://www.saairforce.co.za/the-airforce/history/saaf/the-border-war Last accessed 31 August 2012 Blog article on “Arab Sping” protests and social netowrkign media at: http://socialcapital.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/twitter-facebook-and-youtubes-role-in-tunisiauprising/ Last accessed 31 August 2012
USA Today news article on US Afghanistan War veterans and social networking media at: http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/2010-11-22-vetsocialmedia22_ST_N.htm Last accessed 31 August 2012
Apocalypse Now, directed by Francis Coppola, Zoetrope Studios, 1979.
At Thy Call, directed by Christopher-Lee dos Santos, DS Studios, 2008.
Boetie Gaan Border Toe, directed by Regardt van den Bergh, 1984.
Boetie op Manoeuvres / Wild Manoeuvres, directed by Regardt van den Bergh, 1985.
Bush War / Grensoorlog, directed by Linda de Jager, M-NET, 2011 / 2009.
P a g e | 42
The Deer Hunter, directed by Michael Cimino, Universal Pictures, 1978.
Forged in Flames: The SADF Experience of the Battles of Cuito Cuanavale 1987-1988, directed by Garrett Eriksen, 2009.
Full Metal Jacket, directed by Stanley Kubrick, Warner Brothers, 1987.
Good Morning Vietnam, directed by Barry Leinson, Touchstone Pictures, 1987.
P a g e | 43
Further Reading Suggestions Alker, H. Gurr, T. Rupesinghe, K. (eds) (2001) Journeys through conflict: narratives and lessons. Rowman & Littlefield. Baines, G. (2008) „Blame, Shame or Reaffirmation? White Conscripts Reassess the Meaning of the “Border War” in Post-Apartheid South Africa.‟, InterCulture 5.3.
Bandeira, M. (2008) Restoring Dignity. Current Psychosocial Interventions with Excombatants in South Africa: A Review, Discussion and Policy Dialogue Project. Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation: Johannesburg
Burton, J. (2007) Film, History and Cultural Memory: Cinematic Representations of Vietnam-Era America During the Culture Wars, 1987-1995. University of Nottingham
Escandon, J. (2009) Bush War: The Use of Surrogates in Southern Africa (1975-1989). School of Advanced Military Studies.
George, E. (2005) The Cuban Intervention In Angola, 1965-1991: From Che Guevara To Cuito Cuanavale. Routledge. Matthew, G., (2010) „Cold War in Southern Africa‟, Africa Spectrum, vol. 45, no. 1, pp 131139 Metsola, L. (2006) „Reintegration‟ of Ex-combatants and Former Fighters: a lens into state formation and citizenship in Namibia. Routledge
Morillo, S., Pavkovic, M. (2006) What is military history? Polity Press. Steenkamp, W. (1989) South Africa‟s Border War – 1966-1989. Ashanti Publishing.
Williams, D. (2008) On the Border: The White South African Military Experience, 19651990. Tafelberg
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.