Contact with PLAN by Sgt Classie Classens's Zulu
November and other teams on 1 April.
35 insurgents were killed.
The police lost three dead and ten wounded.
command Ratel of Major Oberholzer of
63-Mechanised Battalion's brews.
then revolutionary mine protected Casspir.
Some operators did not like it at first, but they all
came to love it.
TOP READER REVIEW:
My name is Hendrik Ehlers. I have been managing large-scale civilian humanitarian mine-clearance operations in Angola, Namibia and Mozambique for over 25 years.
The survey number one level is to get hold of as much information regarding mine-suspect areas as you can get. And that has a lot to do with locating battlefields.
Peter Stiff’s books have been of immense value, especially thanks to the sometimes painstakingly described detail of events and locations.
Indirectly, through our work on his tales, Peter has saved the lives of many people. For our work also we needed special equipment and again through Peter’s meticulous work we were able to access otherwise forgotten technical information.This especially in the field of landmine-resistant vehicles. "Taming the Landmine" was a true inspiration. And that again saved many lives.Telling the truth never hurts.
Fortunately my children are still too young for bloody war stories. But I promise, one day I will have them read “The Covert War – which includes – The Nine Day War”. The true story of how Namibia became independent.
Thank you Peter, R.I.P. your work keeps on to be unprecidented and very important.
100% I can't stop. Read and Read again. So many memories to my men.
Col. Nico Koch
I’m Cst Kees Barnard as mentioned in the book and Peter took me back to exactly what we went through. I remembered sights, sounds and old friends in ways that I personally thought was already forgotten. I served during 1981 to the end 1983.
We are proud men and we are proud to be associated with Koevoet. Peter captured the essence of what the war was like from our side as well as engaging the reader in a war that for a long time no-one wanted to admit to.
Thank you Peter for helping to keep our memories alive as well as memories of some of our dear friends who did not make it with us.
This book brought tears to my eyes but most of all made me PROUD of who I am and what I fought for. My sincerest thanks for keeping our memories alive. The book is fantastic.
JJ (Kees) Barnard - South Africa
Note: A wall of remembrance was opened at the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria on 6 April 2013 for the fallen Koevoet members and finally those of us that made it home are remember through the Veterans Koevoet Bond.
The Covert War is Peter Stiff’s account of the “Operation Koevoet” counter-insurgency unit that operated in northern Namibia between 1979 and 1989. Now almost always reviled and described as notorious – or worse, Koevoet was in many ways an equal to Rhodesia’s Selous Scouts.
Stiff, himself a former Rhodesian policeman has previously written about both – he authored Top Secret War on the Selous Scouts and Nine Days of War about the South African reaction to the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia’s (PLAN) April 1989 incursion from Angola. Koevoet’s successor, the Southwest African Police Counter-insurgency Unit (SWAPOL COIN) featured prominently in that account, and indeed this latest work draws heavily on the former for that period.
Koevoet was without doubt the most successful insurgent killer of that conflict, chalking up 3225 kills or captures in 1615 contacts. The about battalion-strength unit accomplished this feat at a cost of 160 killed and 949 wounded in the decade it operated in Ovambo, Kavango and the Kaokoland The Army, by comparison, fared poorly. Most soldiers serving in Sector 10, using conventional COIN tactics, techniques and procedures, never saw a PLAN insurgent during their three month stint there – and seldom managed to kill the few they may – almost accidentally – have seen. 101 Battalion, an Army Koevoet clone where the reviewer served for 18 months was the most successful Army unit south of the Angolan border while the famous – but now also often defamed 32 Battalion – was likely the “top scoring” unit in Angola.
Koevoet was made up of a dangerous combination of regular South African police, locally recruited “specials” and Casspir mine-protected armoured personnel carriers. As was the case with 101Bn’s Veghulpdiens (Combat Auxiliaries), many of them were former guerrillas who changed sides after capture – a better alternative than standing trial for whatever crimes the authorities could pin on them. Because these turncoats were intimately familiar with PLAN’s latest tactics, techniques and procedures, they were especially loathed by guerrillas in the field and have suffered the consequences since. Koevoet and 101Bn’s Kwanyama, Ndonga, Kwambi, Kavango, Herero and Himba-speakers were not only excellent trackers in own right – they could often identify individuals by their footprints alone – but they could question locals bout the movement, clothing and intentions of passers-by. Most of the war zone was rural, agrarian and communal, meaning everyone knew everyone else’s business – and were often willing to inform on strangers moving through.
Much of Koevoet’s success was likely due to its throwing overboard of convention. Teams – four Casspirs and a Blesbok supply vehicle – were not normally restricted to within allocated boundaries but could range wherever information or experience suggested insurgents might be encountered. Tracks were then followed until contact was made, no matter ho long it took. Several guerrillas were followed for many days and hundreds of kilometres before they were run down. The Army was more inclined to observe boundaries and hand over the tracks when insurgents crossed lines on the map. The commander of the pursuit was the commander of the first team on the tracks – whether constable, captain or colonel. Team commanders in Koevoet were always the most experienced and proven available – merit and acceptance by the troops, not rank, mattered. Even at 101Bn the highest rank was in charge – even if inexperienced – and military protocol was observed. This sometimes made its Reaction Teams (Platoons) and companies less effective than they could have been…
The last part of Stiff’s book is a lament for what he considers the disgraceful abandonment of Koevoet’s specials to their fate under a SWAPO government by FW de Klerk – perhaps the fist of his many betrayals of those who believed in the National Party’s promises.
All told, regardless of what the reader thinks or believes of Koevoet, The Covert War is a book well worth having in the book shelf. It records the experience of one of the finest counter-guerrilla units the world has ever seen and provides many pointers to the future. As a bonus it is an interesting and arresting read.
Leon Engelbrecht - DefenceWeb
Stiff focusses on campaigns and the exploits of the men in the field. The result is an engrossing read — a remarkable feat of scholarship and research.
Excellent research was conducted by Peter Stiff. He unravels almost everything and relates an almost impossibly complicated story correctly and clearly for the reader. He writes about the courage, heroism and the rush of adrenaline on the part of both Koevoet operators and their enemies. Readers of this review should make sure they buy a copy of this book
Die Son (Col Eugene de Kock)
The Covert War is an excellent documentation and oral history told by those who served in what was once the honoured, unique but often hated and reviled police counter-insurgency unit, Koevoet.
No one interested in such things should be without a copy on their bookshelf.
Beeld – Johannesburg
This book sketches the formation of Koevoet — the police’s feared counter-insurgency unit — commanded by General Sterk (Strong) Hans Dreyer from its beginning until the unit was disbanded after Namibian independence in 1989.
The value of The Covert War, as well as the other two books in Peter Stiff’s trilogy on South Africa’s secret warfare, is that it is important South African history which would otherwise have been lost to history.
Volksblad — Bloemfontein
The Covert War is the story of Koevoet — a South African counter-insurgency unit that operated in South West Africa from 1978 to 1989.
Koevoet is Afrikaans for crowbar and pretty much sums up the mission of the unit — they were formed to winkle out SWAPO guerrillas infiltrating across the Angola border into South West Africa. In 1978 the South African Defence Force was managing to control the insurgency in Angola and along the border fairly well. However, SWAPO was starting to operate with a fair amount of success in SWA itself. To counter this threat the Commissioner of the SAP brought in Col ‘Sterk’ Hans Dreyer to come up with a solution.
Initially his men followed fairly routine police practice — cultivating informants and using basic detective work to counter SWAPO operations. However, as the situation in the country intensified, with increasingly large armed groups infiltrating across the border into SWA, they were forced to adopt a more martial approach. Dreyer and his men adopted some of the tactics they had picked up in the Rhodesian bush war and began to use local trackers and mounted platoons, using Hippo and later, Casspir armoured personnel carriers, to literally run down the armed groups crossing the border.
This book is very factual and follows an almost situational report format of the efforts of the unit — detailing an almost blow-by-blow account of what happened during the conflict. This will appeal to people either interested in the history of the conflict in South West or those who served in the area and who want to know more about what went on.
The Mercury — Durban
This prompted a Pierre Barker of Cape Townto take up his pen and write an indignant letter to the editor of the Mercury:
I read with considerable dismay Gavin Crutchley’s review of Peter Stiff’s latest book, The Covert War, describing the activities of the notorious Koevoet police unit . . . The reviewer blithely takes his cue from Peter Stiff’s revisionist view and describes this despicable state-sanctioned lynch party as a routine police operation using ‘basic detective work’ that was ‘forced to adopt a more martial approach’ as the insurgency heated up.
There is no attempt to place the book in the context of the widely reported excesses of this unit and the destabilising role that the unit played in
after 1989. In my scan of the book (I will not reward him with my R250 contribution to but it) I saw no reference to some of the testimonies presented at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission or the admissions of atrocities by unit members. South Africa
What I did come across was a page in which Stiff was apparently amused with a tactic used by Casspir armoured car drivers who would predict and then execute the running down and squashing to death of guerrillas who were fleeing in the bush.
This dispassionate review further contributes to an increasing trend to sanitise a shameful chapter of
’s history. South Africa
Reviewer Gavin Crutchley replied:
The essence of this review was to deliver a short, concise description of what the book is about. There was no space for analysis or opinion on the rights and wrong of the situation described by the author.
Peter Stiff exercising his right of reply wrote to The Mercury:
Is this the start of the long and slippery slope? I refer to Gavin Crutchley’s review of my book, The Covert War: Koevoet Operations 1979-1989 (The Mercury, January 27) and to the ‘dismay’ expressed by letter-writer Pierre Barker over the review.
Books are reviewed so that readers can get a broad spectrum of opinions. Obviously, those opinions differ. Sometimes reviewers like a book and sometimes they don’t; that is the way of the world. It is what is known as ‘freedom of expression’ which thankfully is guaranteed by the constitution. Regrettably, some people, like Barker, are engaged in a campaign of political correctness and are determined to undermine this right.
It is alarming that someone like Barker can blithely write what amounts to an intimidatory letter to a newspaper criticising it for not slamming a book. A book which by his own admission he has not even read! The underlying message is that if it is about Koevoet it must be criticised, and how dare a reviewer do otherwise.
It’s clear that Barker is another of those who believes that South African history began only after the 1994 election. This was exactly what Rober Mugabe said about
after the 1980 election. This turned out to be the watershed for freedom of expression in Zimbabwe , and the beginning of a long and slippery slope to where that country is now. Zimbabwe
Do Barker and his politically correct mates want this to be the beginning of the same long and slippery slope for freedom of expression in
South Africa?— Author — Johannesburg
Whether by design or chance, the author has provided compelling proof of the futility of war between opposing ideologies.
This is a meticulously researched account of the formation and operations of the controversial Koevoet police unit in Namibia between 1979 and 1989. In its 10-year existence Koevoet fought in 1 615 contacts and killed or captured 3 225 People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) soldiers — the equivalent of almost six battalions of troops. But it paid a high price in blood and lost almost 160 policemen killed in action with another 949 wounded — more grievous casualties than any other South African fighting unit since World War II.
The Herald — Port Elizabeth
During the 1987 counter-insurgency war on the Angolan/SWA (Namibian) border the SA Police Commissioner and the SA Defence Force Chief met and decided to form a joint 5-Recce Commando/Security Branch organisation under Top Secret Project Koevoet (crowbar). This included among others, the building of an informer network. A single arrest led to the smashing of SWAPO’s sabotage network throughout the country.
The landmine threat was a serious problem for Koevoet but was gradually overcome with the use of the amazing Owambo trackers, the use of the remarkable mine-protected Casspir and the support of SAAF helicopter gunships.
In more than 500 pages Peter Stiff describes in the minutest detail the breathtaking events of Koevoet operations in Namibia between 1979 and 1989. This is a must for anyone interested in what went on during the Border War and particularly for those who participated.
Pretoria News — Pretoria
The Covert War is Peter Stiff’s account of the Operation Koevoet counter-insurgency unit that operated in northern Namibia between 1979 and 1989. Now almost always reviled and described as notorious — or worse, Koevoet was in many ways an equal to Rhodesia’s Selous Scouts. Stiff, himself a former Rhodesian policeman has previously written about both — he authored Top Secret War on the Selous Scouts and Nine Days of War about the South African reaction to PLAN’s April 1989 incursion from Angola, in which Koevoet featured prominently.
Koevoet was without doubt the most successful insurgent killer of that conflict, chalking up 3,225 kills or captures in 1,615 contacts. The about battalion strength unit accomplished this feat at a cost of 160 killed and 949 wounded in the decade it operated in Owambo, Kavango and Kaokoland. The army, by comparison, fared poorly. Most soldiers serving in Owambo, using conventional COIN tactics, techniques and procedures, never saw a PLAN insurgent during their three month stints there — and seldom managed to kill the few they may — almost accidentally — have seen.
Koevoet was made up of a dangerous combination of regular South African police, locally recruited ‘specials’ and Casspir mine-protected armoured personnel carriers. Many of the specials were former guerrillas who had changed sides after capture — a better alternative that standing trial for whatever crimes the authorities could pin on them. Koevoet’s Kwanyama, Ndonga, Kwambi, Kavango, Herero and Himbas were not only excellent trackers in their own right — they could often identify individuals by their footprints alone — but they could question locals about the movement, clothing and intentions of passers-by.
All told, regardless of what the reader thinks or believes of Koevoet, The Covert War is a book well worth having on one’s bookshelf. It records the experiences of one of the world’s finest counter-guerrilla units the world has ever seen. As a bonus, it is an interesting and arresting read.
Armed Forces Journal — Johannesburg
Close to 16 years after the last clashes, and bloody they were, there was much speculation and the arrival at unqualified inferences which had no base in reality. It took an Englishman, London born South African citizen, Peter Stiff, to produce a 491-page richly illustrated history of Koevoet to get to the objective truth.
Stiff has produced a fascinating book, rivetting in the extreme, and to the novice who has no knowledge of the time, the era and the forces and counter-forces it spewed forth, will greatly benefit from his work. Done in his typical style he confines himself to lucidity and the reader will grasp with the greatest of ease even the most complicated issues of the time.
The introductory chapters are as spellbinding as the last pages. It is a narration which is a pleasure to read because it does not attempt to belittle any of the parties in that great and successful bid to hand over Namibia to its rightful owners — the people of the country. It is a stunning testimony that the Namibian Bush War was never won by SWAPO, nor by the South African military forces. It also provides compelling evidence that SWAPO failed to occupy any territory whatsoever during those years of conflict. This book is a very healthy infusion that serves to restore balance in the minds of all, no matter whether they were adversaries or whether they were comrades. While it does not say so directly, it brings home the message that war is but a stopgap and negotiation and settlement are the only lasting course to take.
Windhoek Observer — Windhoek, Namibia
A book which brings the truth of actions during the bush war. I was also there during this period although assigned to an SAP COIN unit and experienced a base attack, one patrol contact and two landmine incidents.
This was soft in comparison to what KOEVOET challenged and endured. All in all, this book brings reality and history to those who were involved in this era.
A pity about the reviews from those who criticise and were even not there.
Congratulations on a superb special book The Covert War: Koevoet Operations, 1979-1989.
I bought the book at Centurion Mall on 18 November 2004. The book offers a clear and serious account of the war in Namibia. Now I understand why the release of the third book in the trilogy was postponed from October 2002 to November 2004. It is a good book.
Adolph Rasengane: Centurion, RSA
I served in KOEVOET from mid 1985 till disbandment and must compliment the author in capturing the essence of what Koevoet and its operators stood for. It is impossible for an author to capture the comradeship between operators in any fighting unit accurately, the author has come close. The sad part of being a member of such a elite unit was the discrimination suffered by the operators after disbandment, many were forced to take severance packages, their only crime was doing there taskings well and being so successfull.
Chris Ronne - Durban, South Africa
A well researched, historical account from a distinct viewpoint that makes for an interesting read, covering an extremely interesting part of South African's recent history. No doubt this book will encourage a degree of outrage from elements within contemporary South African society however, having read the book, some of the more infamous legend about this unit has been dispelled.
I am reading the third part of your great trilogy, and I congratulate you to such an outstanding book of a war, which is greatly misunderstood worldwide because of the shameless but professional communist propaganda and the severe underestimation by your people in charge of political warfare and the intellectuals in the West.
I believe Peter Stiff's trilogy is one of the best accounts of the border war.
Prof Hans - Heinz Seyfarth, Germany
To Peter Stiff,
I recently read “ Uit Nood Gebore “ by a good friend and former colleague of mine, Pierre Wessels about the SAP’s role in the Border War (Bush War) from Rhodesia up to and after Namibian Independence. Though it is in Afrikaans I am sure that you are aware of its existence.
Recently I also read “ Die Buffel Struikel “ (The Buffalo Stumbles) by Louis Bothma, a lecturer at the University of the Free State on his and others experiences during his two year basic service with the SADF and especially with 32 Battalion. His book is really like a breath of fresh air and gives a totally new perspective to many of the occurrences that have been written about by other well-known ex-military authors.
Though I have a number of your books in my collection, including The Rain Goddess, Taming the Landmine etc. I have just finished reading “ The Covert War “ which includes the names of numerous of my former police colleagues. The one that brings the fondest memories to mind is that of Sergeant Doepie du Plessis who I mentored while we were both stationed in Pretoria Police College and who is mentioned in a number of “contacts”.
As long as 40 years ago I did border duty at numerous bases in the Caprivi as a very young policeman and I am refreshing my memory and reliving many events through reading books such as yours. It is imperative that we do not forget those who paid the ultimate price, while there are numerous others who are still carrying emotional and physical scars. What people also do not realize is that a lot of young people of today who lost their fathers in the SAP and / or SADF are confused and want to know who their fathers were and what happened to them. For this reason when I meet these families I recommend that they read the above-mentioned books to better understand what happened to their loved ones. For the SAP relatives your Covert War is very comprehensive but also I believe a true reflection of what happened in SWA/Namibia. For those whose husbands or fathers were in the SADF, SWA/Namibia, Angola, Ratels, Recces etc I recommend The Silent War.
I am thankful to say I am part of a growing awareness for our still “recent” military history and the present situation where there is an attempt to ignore or remove the names of our war dead from all the Services on our monuments. Partly because I have a long history of police and military ancestors starting with my English grandfather who took part in the Boer War and who perished at sea during the First World War, My father and mother (Navy) who both saw service in The Second World War and myself who saw 36 years service in the SAP and SAPS and took early retirement with the rank of Assistant-Commissioner (Major-General) and my youngest son who is still in the SAPS with the rank of Captain.
At present I am the Manager of a Large children’s home in Middelburg, Mpumalanga, a far cry from the career I spent so many fulfilling years in, but also one that emotionally and physically I believe has equipped me for this equally challenging calling. I think the object of this correspondence is to request that you keep up with what you have achieved up to now, though every day books by unknown authors appear on the shelves with stories on their recollections of their border stints while during national service, people need to see the bigger picture.
Colin Hasses, South Africa
I believe Peter Stiff's trilogy is one of the best accounts of the border war
Professor Ockie Geyser, (Retired) Professor of History - University of the Free State. (Volksblad 14 Sept.'09)
I have read the book twice over, the book is very informative and gives an excellent account of the history and the politics of the time. I had the privilege of accompanying one of the Koevoet Teams during the Nine Day War in April '89', we were tasked to act as fire support for Koevoet in case they came up against any medium fire power.
I was a crew commander on a Ratel 90mm ARV and I can still remember to this day how quickly Koevoet could pick up a spoor and track it until the insurgents were captured or neutralised.
As the book explains in accurate detail, the Koevoet were the best trackers and anti-terrorist unit by far during their time in SWA.
I worked with 101BN as well, they who operated in a similar manner to Koevoet, but Koevoet to me will always stand out as a truly multi-cultural band of men who despite coming from very different backgrounds fought bravely together and formed a bond that went beyond the political tables in the SADF HQ.
A great read for all those ex-SADF members who only heard of and caught an occasional glimpse of the ''spook's'' when they came past or disappeared into the bush.
Gary Smith, Durban
Review on Amazon.com by Seth J. Frantzman - Jerusalem, Israel
Review on Amazon.co.uk by Seth J. Frantzman - Jerusalem, Israel
I just want you to know how proud I am to say: ‘my father [Chris Nell] was a member of Koevoet. Peter Stiff wrote about him in The Covert War and he is still just as hardheaded as Peter described him. It’s a great book, but only the real soldiers, ex-Koevoet members and their families will fully understand what it was all about.
I’m Claasie Claassen, Zulu November, as indicated in your book The Covert War. This is only a short note to thank you for a great book that captures history. Thank you for helping to finalise a chapter in my life, which I celebrate every 1st of April. I still firmly believe that we were the best counter insurgency unit in the world.
Classie Claasen — Cape Town
I have recently read your book The Covert War and could hardly put it down until I had finished reading it. Thank you for your work in writing such a wonderful book.
Johannes Weitz — Pretoria
Many congratulations on your Trilogy of amazing books. The research that you have done into some amazing, tough subject matter and put together in such a readable format is amazing. They really are all magnificent works.
John Dobson —
Universityof Cape Town
I am ex-Koevoet and I really like the book.
What a great read your Covert War book was.
Peter Stiff writes: In December 2005 controversy arose about the so-called discovery of mass graves in
’s former war zones. The allegation was that these were yet further ‘murders’ by the apartheid regime, in particular Koevoet. The RSA government offered to send forensic teams to Namibia to investigate these ‘atrocities’. I was interviewed by numerous newspapers, on radio and on TV in which I pointed out that the so-called mass graves were actually communal graves of guerrillas killed during the Nine Day War after they had been examined by pathologists approved by UNTAG. The suggestion in 1989 that many of these guerrillas had been shot execution style had originated from unsubstantiated reports by two Namibia UKjournalists, supported by Tony Weaver of the , that ‘many had neat bullet holes in the backs of their heads’. This was completely untrue and this is supported by the autopsy reports filed in Cape Times which confirm that none of the guerrillas had been so-killed. In addition I saw many of the bodies myself and most had the kind of grotesque wounds one would expect from them having been shot with modern weaponry. The neat bullet hole scenario went out with the .38 revolver! Windhoek
The editor of the Afrikaans tabloid, Die Son, Ingo Capraro, wrote an article for Die Burger which contained a similar version to what I had said about the mass graves. This prompted Weaver to write to the letters page of that newspaper to rebut ‘Capraro’s defamatory comments’. Their letter’s page editor replied: ‘Die Burger stands by the article that Ingo Capraro wrote’ and ‘we are not going to run the letter’. Weaver indignantly referred the matter to Die Burger’s ombudsman, who finally ruled that ‘I think what Peter Stiff has written in his book about those days actually confirms the veracity of Capraro’s article’. Weaver adds that the ombudsman continued that ‘your request for a right of reply in Die Burger’s letter’s page is ‘dubious in my view as you were not identified in Capraro’s report’.
I’ve just finished reading your book The Covert War. This was the first book of yours that I’ve ever read and also my first on the border war. I just wanted to let you know that I thought this book was an unbelievably brilliant piece of work. I never had the opportunity to go to the border myself, but your account has made it real in my mind and my heart. As a patriotic South African I treasure our history — both the good and the bad — and I try to educate my two young sons on it as much as I can. This book will fulfill an important role in educating my sons as much as it did me. Thank you for bringing this vital material to the eyes of the world, and for honouring our unsung heroes. I look forward to reading more of your books.
Dr. George Oosthuizen,
Auckland, New Zealand
I have just finished reading The Covert War. Thanks for another fantastic and thoroughly researched work. Having recently read Jan Breytenbach’s The Buffalo Soldiers and seen how they were largely abandoned at the end of the war, I was even more dismayed to see that the black troops of Koevoet were totally abandoned to their fate by their political masters. A complete disgrace.
Graham Smith, Poole
Thanks for a great book on Koevoet. I enjoyed all the stories and a lot of fond memories of my time up on the border. I was attached to 101 Battalion from mid ‘88 to mid ‘89 and was there during the Nine Day War (also a great book). Thanks again for great reading material.
Andre Swanepoel —
Just finished your excellent book. One of the most interesting stories I’ve read for long time. I was one of those UNTAG guys in Ruacana those days. Arrived the mission in mid March 1989 and was supposed to be assigned to Ruacana straight away. SWAPO's "misunderstanding" delayed my deployment for few days. I was also responsible for administration in Opuwo, Okangwati and all those areas in Kaokoland. My Regional HQ was in Oshakati.
I’m presently working in
and I got your book from one of the former Koevoet guys who after I got to know him, felt comfortable about giving it to me. I have actually also read some of your other books including Taming the Landmine. Sierra Leone
Lipo Mikkola — United Nations
I wish to thank you for your book The Covert War. Having recently received a copy from my parents, I found it extremely rivetting and really enjoyed it.
My small role during the border conflict was as a Medic in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at 1-Military Hospital during 1986 to 1988. During this time, we saw many patients come and go – some left well treated and at the point of recovery, but many others left only on journeys to the mortuary.
If my memory serves me correctly, I treated Captain Koch during my tenure (pg 286 & 287). I only remember that he was a big man who had been shot down in a helicopter and he came to us with leg wounds. The rest is lost in the mists of time. Your book has added depth and colour to my memories.
I also treated a black soldier – Andreas – if my memory can be trusted – who had been injured by an anti-personnel mine. He lost a leg below the knee and his abdomen was shredded by shrapnel, resulting in a horrendous road to recovery. He spent 18 months in our unit suffering from the most terrible wounds without a single complaint during the whole time I treated him. Under great protest from the powers-that-be, I persuaded them that we should get him out into the good wholesome fresh air and sunlight. I scrounged some civvies and under strict orders and with a personal responsibility for his safekeeping, we managed to take him to Pretoria Zoo in a wheelchair with drip-stand and medication in-situ. What a day that was! I don’t know who was more exhausted. I remember that he told us his unit was Zulu Juliet, which has made me speculate (after reading your book) that he was a Koevet operator.
Of course, I knew of the conflict raging in Angola/SWA, but not until reading your book some 17 years later, did I get a glimpse of what these brave men had offered up and laid on the line for us.
The shocking treatment of Koevoet and its abandonment must rank as one of the lowest points in our country’s history. Even as I write I have a haunting ache in the pit of my stomach. Who would have thought such a thing was possible? You have confirmed my low esteem of all politicians and their murky agendas and schemes. I think your summation of the National Party’s political leaders on page 486 is spot-on, albeit far too lenient!
Besides your literary testament to these men, I truly wish that there was a greater and more public way through which they could be remembered as the true heroes they are. Thank you again for telling us their story – we shall remember and remain grateful to them.
Donovan Henri — Standerton
I finished reading the last book of your trilogy yesterday. I have read 'Silent War' three times (and I look forward to the fourth time), 'Covert War' twice (with a third read of many sections) and got through the dark content of 'Warfare by Other Means' as one might take a castor-oil supplement -knowing that somehow it'll be good for you to do so in the end. My lasting impression comes from 'Silent War'.
How did the SA government manage to screw up so comprehensively on keeping all this fascinating stuff from us?
Why couldn't we know about the great battles of the Lomba River?
How could they have so skillfully contrived to lose the propaganda war?
Without your books all this history would have been blown away by a couple of Channel 4 and BBC documentaries that are well passed their sell by date and had no grasp of the Cold War in Africa, or Africa for that matter. Thanks for all your hard work!
Richard Washington - Oxford University, UK
Thanks for a really good trip down memory lane. I was at JHB International Airport and saw your book and decided to buy it to read while in the UK and subsequently never put it down. I used to live in Opuwa from 1984 till 1990, my husband was in the army for his national service and then we stayed on. My 19-year-old daughter was born in the hospital at Opuwa. Thanks for a good book and for depicting the Koevoet as the heroes they were.
Thank you for seeing the worth and value in the sacrifices we [Koevoet] made during the time of your story. Politics aside, it was an exceptional unit that I feel great pride in having been part of.
Phillip Frank Young — ex-Koevoet writing from Iraq
Peter, I met you at a rest camp in Rundu. I was working there because I became a little disabled after being ambushed by SWAPO. My Casspir was hit by an RPG7 rocket and a rifle grenade. I think your book will help me close that chapter in my life. Reading about my contact brought back many emotions, but it’s good to know what actually happened.
Allan Whitfield — ex-Koevoet, South Africa
I want to tell you how impressed I am with The Covert War. It has fantastic text and the paper and binding is of great quality. Your packaging was solid and I received it in the USA safely via surface mail.
Eric Sundell — USA
Great job on your current titles. I especially enjoyed The Covert War but was sad to learn it was the last in the series.
Troy A Lettieri — US Special Forces
My husband absolutely loved The Road to Armageddon. He thinks that Peter Stiff should write at least two books a year to cater for his Christmas and birthday presents. He believes that Peter Stiff and special occasions go hand-in-hand. He is getting The Covert War for Christmas.
Michelle Venter - Polokwane