Warfare by Other Means
South Africa in the 1980's
by Peter Stiff
This wide ranging title deals with everything you didn't know about the total onslaught of the last years of the apartheid era. It tells of assassinations inside and outside of South Africa sanctioned by the State Security Council. It deals with the ruthless killings of friend and foe alike. It deals with the untold story of how South Africa nearly toppled over the brink into civil war in April 1994, and much more. "Warfare By Other Means" is not an apologia - it is a history, much of it oral and straight from the mouths of those involved. It tells of the actions of the SADF, performed within South Africa with the authority of the National Party Government through the State Security Council, during the "total onslaught" years. It tells how it joined a disastrous attempt by Colonel Mike Hoare's mercenaries to overthrow the Renee regime in the Seychelles because it was "an anti-communist coup going begging" and "it was a shame to waste it". How it secretly paid millions of rands in ransom to secure the release of captured mercenaries who had been sentenced to death. How it deliberately foiled future coups attempts because, to the envy of the CIA and MI6 and the chagrin of the Soviets, it had amazingly managed to take over the Seychelles intelligence services through an SADF front company, Longreach. Having failed to convert General Holomisa's Transkei into its Eastern Cape bastion, it turned next to the Ciskei. How it seized the opportunity to introduce a front company IR-CIS to take over its intelligence functions when Brigadier "Oupa" Gqozo overthrew President Lennox Sebe in a coup. How IR-CIS played a pivotal role in several violent attempts to overthrow General Holomisa in Transkei. How it inveigled the discharge of all the black senior officers in the Ciskei Defence Force on trumped up charges of disloyalty. How it organised their replacement with white serving SADF officers. It explains the roles played by surrogates like the Witdoekes in the Cape Flats, the Ama-Afrika in the Eastern Cape, the Iliso Lomzi in Transkei, the African Democratic Movement in Ciskei, Inkhata in KwaZulu-Natal and more, in combatting the "total onslaught". It tells of a great variety of Military Intelligence front organisations. Dynamic Teaching CC was used to inculcate blacks with an anti-communist attitude and to portray the ANC and its associates as the anti-Christ. "Veterans for Victory" was formed to infiltrate and "destroy" the End Conscription Campaign seen as a serious threat to the SADF. Right-wing churches were cultivated and covertly funded when it suited the SADF's purpose. It tells how Project Barnacle, an adjunct to Special Forces, destroyed the strike jets of the Air Force of Zimbabwe. How it assassinated perceived enemies of the State. It deals with the establishment of the infamous Project Coast as a biological/chemical warfare unit. It tells how the Civil Cooperation Bureau (CCB) succeeded Project Barnacle. How personnel of both used Project Coast's toxins to ruthlessly poison prisoners and even its own black operators if they were suspected of disloyalty. How they disposed of the bodies by dumping them from an aircraft out at sea. It deals with a swathe of assassinations, destruction and mayhem committed at home and abroad. How anthrax letters were mailed to enemies of the State. It explains how the CCB itself was uncovered after the media began to explore the drive-by shootings of Dr. David Webster in South Africa and Advocate Anton Lubowski in Namibia. It details the murderous subversive activities of a diversity of right-wing organisations, like Eugene Terre'blance's AWB and General Constand Viljoen's Afrikaner Volksfront, who with the probable early backing of the SADF, almost toppled South Africa over the brink into Civil War before the first democratic election in April 1994.
Seth J. Frantzman
The second book in Peter Stiffs trilogy (The Covert WarThe Silent War) about South Africa's covert wars is perhaps the most controversial. It covers a large variety of material and operations spanning the period 1977 to 1994. Some of the material came to light during the Truth and Reconciliation hearings but much more of it comes from Mr. Stiff's own digging and interviews. This is harrowing stuff including many lethal injections of captured guerillas who could not be turned into double agents and numerous assassinations and murders of others.
While Stiff's other writing has focused on special forces this focuses on the role of undercover agents, government support of coup attempts, the policy of supporting the homelands and their rulers, the recruitment of anti-ANC local activists in those homelands and the dismantling of the ANC during the period of `Total onslaught'. Some of the most harrowing and diabolical material involves Operation Barnacle in which captured SWAPO guerillas were drugged, killed and thrown out of airplanes. The story of the 1989 attempt to place a baboon foetus outside Desmond Tutu's house borders on the ludicrous or something from Hollywood.
Peter Stiff is at his best describing the conversations and minute by minute details of operations, some that went wrong and some that didn't, as in one case where an injection that was supposed to prove fatal had no affect and the operator had to strangle the victim instead. Maps, drawing and pictures adorn the material so the reader is never lost and is always on the edge of his seat waiting for more. Each story is self contained to some extent and although the cast of character is immense, many of them can be read by themselves so the reader is not forced to absorb a gargantuan amount of material without enjoying and savoring each chapter. What is most interesting is to see the number of times that Recce and other SADF officers refused to cooperate with the less than legal methods of the CCB and others, saying they preferred to fight an enemy that shoots back, not inject people with poison in the back of vans and then blow them up.
This book is not merely about the skullduggery of the Apartheid Nationalist government, it is also about the very real and horrendous activities of MK terrorists, such as the bomb attack carried out under operation Vula.
The book is essential reading historically because it reveals a great amount of material about the ongoings in Ciskei, Transkei and KwaZulu, including figures such as General Holomisa and Oupa Gqozo and George Matansima. The story of the AWB and Eugene Terre Blanche is told in full as is the story of the `white terrorist' Dries Kriel. Stiff has done it again with this masterful, wonderful to read, account of South Africa. Another must read for anyone interested in the period.
G. P. Dodds
Peter Stiff is a gripping writer but sadly with this book he has descended into the realms of gutter journalism.
His account of Operation Direksie, which appears on pages 353 to 367 describes an operation which was launched to try to rescue former Rhodesian SAS operators, and persons from related organisations, from Chikurubi prison in Zimbabwe in 1988. This account has been shown to be outrageously defamatory to the highly experienced and skilled special forces operators involved. Essentially a true story has been embellished to make it seem that the operators were bungling drunken idiots.
The story would have been gripping enough if the writer had just stuck to the facts. To sink to such depths in a supposed history book is shocking.