Posts Tagged ‘Executive Outcomes’

Soldier of Fortune

November 13, 2017

 

It was in another lifetime many years ago……

We flew under the radar for a couple of years, then Soldier of Fortune published an article and the cat was out of the bag. Two years later the South African magazine, YOU, started publishing their articles.

You can read a first had view of these events in The Chronicles of the Mexican Horse Thief I – The Angolan Mission.

 

Purchase a copy of The Chronicles of the Mexican Horse Thief Series:

Email wvbisset@gmail.com which copies you would like to purchase and we will send you an invoice and banking details. As soon as the bank reflects your payment we will sent the copies via your email. Price: R50. 00 each

RESIZED The Angolan Mission Cover

A short, rather amusing tale about the start of the world’s very first Private Military Company, Executive Outcomes. Told from an insider’s point of view. The country, Angola at the height of its three-decade long state of war.

The Chronicles of the Mexican Horse Thief Series

November 8, 2017

 

Chronicles I

A short, rather amusing tale about the start of the world’s very first Private Military Company, Executive Outcomes. Told from an insider’s point of view. The country, Angola at the height of its three-decade long state of war.

 

Chronicles II

A story about falling into an abyss, and what it took to climb out that deep pit. It is story of hope, for the seemingly hopeless and more importantly, of how to break the chains that hold you. The chains come in many forms, the thickest being the one called addiction. Drugs and alcohol are the most obvious forms of addiction but addiction comes in many, many forms, and everyone has at least one.

 

Chronicles III

Falling back into the abyss, and finding a whole lot of new deeper black holes, not the least ugly and deceiving were the ones that had the label, “Christian” on them. Surviving those, only to be thrown in another snake pit that goes by the names of phycology. Becoming a Gypsy and beginning of the Gypsy lifestyle. Traveling from Johannesburg to the Cape, narrowly avoiding falling into yet another pit, the Cape Flats gangs after befriending one in the Government Rehabilitation center.

 

The Palala Mission

A true story about the frustrations, the lies and the corruption that surrounds the Rhino Anti-Poaching business. Written before the real crisis began, South Africa was losing only just over a 100 rhino a year at that stage. You will get some insights of why the poachers have been so successful over the years and why they can kill more than a thousand a year now. It is not a happy story, certain people in this tale are now infamous and had charges brought against them; for others, it is just business as usual.

 

Purchase a copy of The Chronicles of the Mexican Horse Thief Series:

Email wvbisset@gmail.com which copies you would like to purchase and we will send you an invoice and banking details. As soon as the bank reflects your payment we will sent the copies via your email. Price: R50. 00 each

Lost in Luanda – Angola

July 23, 2017

EO with Johan

About not fitting in, here is an example. Sitting with a bunch of people telling their “horror” stories about been lost in a strange city, I also have one to tell, but because it is not in Paris, London, New York or Rome, it is not that exciting as their stories. But here is my lost in a foreign city story.

A surprise awaited me upon my return. After going through the normal rigmarole, finding out my combat boots had been stolen, and dodging the psychotic Angolan, I arrived at Longa to find most of the camp broken down. The canteen guys were still around and I asked them where the hell my guys were. After the change I was now part of a Rapid Deployment Team. They said that the guys had left to go fight, but did not know where. I got a ride back to Caba Ledo to ask the Ops guys where everyone was. They were so vague so as to be of no help whatsoever, so it was back to Longa, as I dared not hang around Caba Ledo with no protection from the Angolan.

Finally an Ops type that was passing through told me I had to go to Luanda.

Off I went with the first truck I could find; some mechanics were going into town and I hitched a ride with them. This was the first time I had seen the capital, and to describe it to someone who has never seen an African country at war is virtually impossible. A few years later I tried to describe it to some Belgian people I was working for, and they would not believe me until they saw it for themselves.

As one neared the city there was a huge market which spread for kilometres on either side of the road. One could, for a price, purchase almost anything there. It was more expensive than the village markets. An example is that an African Grey parrot cost a couple of hundred Dollars, and we had bought one for five cigarettes near Longa … Angola. Coca Cola was twice the price of any other soft drink, and chimpanzees in chains were sold openly.

Once inside the city itself, the amount of rubbish I saw piled in the streets was incredible: as much as two or three stories high. Luanda did not smell too good. All of the buildings had bullet holes in them; most had no window panes. Shops with very little for sale had a wooden board across the doorway and business was conducted over this makeshift counter.

The variety of vehicles was stupendous: from cars that must’ve dated back to the 50s, to vehicles that were so new on the market they were not even available in Johannesburg yet. Everyone just drove as they saw fit; the traffic cops stood on metre-high concrete blocks, presumably because they would just have been run over otherwise, and blew whistles while waving their hands all over the place. As I was on the back of a huge Russian six-wheeler truck, I had a grandstand view of all of this. More than half of the civilian population were missing limbs: it was a city of war-injured people. The first hour in that city was too much for my senses to handle all at once. I believe, but have never seen, that a battalion of soldiers had cordoned off a section of Luanda and that was the only area foreign visitors were allowed into.

We drove through this mess and came to the airport. The military and civilian airports shared the same runway. While I was stuck waiting for a lift to join my mates I saw even more incredible things at the airbase. Hundreds of broken down helicopters; a helicopter graveyard like the legendary elephants’ one surrounded the base. I did not go into the building itself but slept under one of these helicopters for a few days.

On one occasion a MIG was attempting to deploy. There was a small, semi-tarred road between the base and the runway. As the MIG was taxiing toward the runway a truck entered from the opposite side. They met up somewhere near the middle; the truck driver did not want to give way and began blowing his hooter, the MIG, I don’t think, can reverse, so a stalemate ensued. This went on for quite some time. Finally they both conceded to put one wheel over onto the grass and they squeezed past each other. The MIG roared off, presumably to fight in the war somewhere. While all this was going on, there, on the main runway of a recognized international airport, was a chap on a bicycle, a couple of donkeys, and the inevitable cows and goats. Normal airports have trouble with birds, for God’s sake!

By some strange coincidence Charmaine had caught a flight with Air Portugal to London and was sitting on that tarmac at the very same time as I was. They had collected all the passports and would not allow the passengers to leave the plane. She got a small glimpse of that country before the passengers were instructed to draw the window shutters. We only found out months later that we had been mere metres from each other.

While all this was happening, another chap that had been on leave found me; at least now I had company. So far, all we had found out was that the Rapid Deployment Team was in Durban. Now, Durban is a big, coastal, holiday city in South Africa, and we believed this to be highly unlikely, although in Angola anything was possible. We speculated that perhaps they had all been given leave together, and that maybe it was true. Our other piece of information was that a bunch of Russian pilots were going to be going to Durban soon. We started searching for the Russians. Any white people we came across were greeted with: ‘África do Sul, Durban?’ All we got was stares and a whole lot of jabbering in Portuguese.

Then we bumped in to one of the “talks” who was based in Luanda. He had some food for us, for which, by now, we were exceedingly grateful. As he had transport, he asked if we would like to go up to the Old Portuguese Fort with him. We jumped at the chance; it gets boring sitting next to a runway. The drive up to the Fort was exceptionally beautiful, typical of this country where everything jumps from one extreme to another. The lagoon at Luanda it the second biggest in the world. In the lagoon are small islands where the Portuguese had built mansions. Because of their inaccessibility they had remained intact despite the war. In the sea itself one could see the oil rigs that were a big cause of all the strife in this beautiful country. The Fort itself is very old, dating back to the 17th century, with the some of the original cannons still in place, but being Angola, some had tumbled off their stands and the soldiers had found them to be convenient toilet seats. They were full of shit – the cannons, I mean.

Part of the courtyard served as a Military Museum and I was surprised to see a captured Ratel there. The South African government had never admitted to losing any of these armoured vehicles, to my knowledge. There were also a few of the troop carriers known as Buffels; all the armoured glass was cracked from rifle fire but as far as I could tell no shots had penetrated the interior. Talk about “Proudly South African!”  The view from the walls of the Old Fort was unbelievably beautiful, and from a distance the city of Luanda looked wonderful.

We had to return to the airport and try to find these mythological Russians. The “talk” gave us a lift and bade us good luck and goodbye. There we were, sticking out like a sore thumb in so-called friendly territory, with no idea what would happen next.

We were sitting around contemplating life when we heard a big noise above all the normal comings and goings of the planes. A huge, and I mean huge, silver plane had landed and was taxiing toward us. This was the first time we had seen an Illusion: a Russian cargo plane. We had no idea of its origin so didn’t get excited about it being Russian; only when the doors opened and white guys stepped out, did we pick up interest. We approached them with the now-standard greeting for all the people we thought could help us: ‘África do Sul, Durban?’  Much to our delight, in a mixture of many languages, including Russian, I think, they confirmed that they were off to “Durban”. The plane was there to pick up troops and some armoured vehicles to ferry to “Durban”.

Now, we knew it was highly unlikely that it was the same Durban that we were thinking about; it would cause endless shit, on an international scale, if we landed all this stuff in “our” Durban. While the troops and vehicles were being loaded we had time to look at this amazing craft. Firstly, and I repeat myself, it was huge. In front it had a bulletproof glass bubble just under the cockpit; I learned that this is where the navigator sat. The rear opened up, as all cargo planes do, with a ramp that vehicles could drive up. Because the armoured vehicles were so heavy, the Russian crew attached cables and used a winch to pull them on board. The other door was right up in the air, about two metres high – I had the opportunity to verify that height later.

Once all the kit was loaded, a large group of Angolan soldiers boarded, and we climbed up the ramp with our kit and rifles after them. The Russian crew got busy up front and the plane’s engines started to whine. We were very excited to be going somewhere. We did not know where, but it felt good just to be going. This gypsy is always happy when traveling. Then we sat around, and sat around. I needed a smoke and found out what ‘no smoking on the plane’ sounds like in Russian! No problem; the ramp was still down, and I strolled down it to have a smoke.

There I was, minding my own business and having a smoke, when the ramp suddenly went up! Now I panicked. My meagre little bit of kit and my AK were on that bloody plane; alone in Luanda was bad enough, but with no weapon, was too scary to even contemplate. I ran round the front and shouted at the pilot and navigator. The flyboys did not even notice me. I heard my mate shouting above the now terrible din of the engines. He was standing in the doorway high up in the air. I ran up to him and tried to jump and catch hold of the bottom of the doorframe. It was just too high, and I missed a few times. My mate used his brain and somehow hooked his feet so he could hang half-way out the plane, which was now moving! In one last, desperate attempt I jumped; spurred on by adrenaline, it was a good one, and he managed to grab me by the wrists and haul me aboard.

As I have mentioned, I am pretty small: a whopping 58 kilograms, boots and all, on a good day: This is sometimes a problem in a military situation, where everyone tends to be twice my size, but in this instance … was I thankful! The Russian crew found this all very amusing and I swore at them in all the languages I could think of, at which they just laughed some more.  I eventually forgave them when they produced some breakfast for us. It was powdered eggs and some strange-tasting sausage, but after not eating much at all in the last few days we were grateful.

It seemed we had just taken off, in the usual Angolan style: almost straight up to +- 32 000 feet, when we started going straight down again. It was useless to ask what was happening so I went to the navigator’s bubble to have a look. The Russian gestured that I should sit in the spare chair. It was amazing, sitting surrounded by glass, even under my feet. I saw a small runway in the bush beneath us; I don’t know how that pilot aimed for such a tiny thing. As we came close to the ground my feet involuntarily lifted up and the ground rushed past in a blur.

Looking around, I knew exactly where we had landed. Caba Ledo. Now what? Talk about from the sublime to the ridiculous. We had made no progress in our mission to find our team at all; worse, we seemed to be going backwards, and I really didn’t want to be near that psycho Angolan.

Again, I experienced the frustration of being in a country where I couldn’t understand anyone. It didn’t turn out too bad though, as we learned we had just stopped to pick up a few more vehicles. That plane could carry an amazing amount.

Then we were off again, to “Durban”. After the Angolan lift-off I climbed under one of the tanks and, using my kit as a pillow, pulled my bush hat over my face and fell asleep.”

From The Chronicles of the Mexican Horse Thief – Angola

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THE MEXICAN HORSE THIEF I – ANGOLA

 

 

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The Insurance Guy

January 3, 2017

Things were changing in Longa. As in any army, rumours were rife. One was that Savimbi had hired his own mercenaries to “come and get us”. This led to long discussions of what we would do if we came up against fellow South Africans, which we might even have known personally. Some of the chaps were already going “Ops”, which wasn’t in our contract; we were hired as military advisors (anyone with half a brain knew that was bullshit; even back at the house I knew that they were not going to pay me that much money just to chase troops up and down!)

This led to even more discussions about what would happen if we got killed. I couldn’t believe these guys hadn’t put that into the equation when they were deciding to sign up. They all had dreams of a year “in” and then easy street. None of them believed me when I told them I wasn’t in it for the money. The money was a bonus; right then I really didn’t need it, as I had inherited enough to operate for quite a while. I was looking for adventure (I still seem to have this character defect).

Anyway, this led to discussions about life insurance. In the SADF if we were killed, our family would have got a pay-out of ten thousand Rand. My school friend Philippe got that amount when his brother was killed on the border, so I knew it was true. Executive Outcomes had no such agreement in our contract. More meetings and goings-on led to “The House” organizing an insurance broker to come out to see us. I can just imagine this twit being told: ‘There are a few hundred men that need insurance, but they are not in the country right now, would you mind meeting us at Lanseria and speaking with them?’ He must surely have been worried when he took a flight out in the wee hours, without the normal rigmarole of passport control and the like!

There we were, all in our mess, in cammos and heavily armed, and Kippie arrives in his collar and tie. Being a disciplined bunch, we listened to what he had to say about benefits and all that crap, and then asked a few pertinent questions of our own. Like, what happens if there is no body or death certificate? No payment, which is fair. Benefits if killed in combat? No benefits. What happens if we blow ourselves up like Wayne Ross-Smith? No benefits. By now, discipline is one thing, but this asshole was pushing his luck, and a few guys were getting a bit aggressive. The insurance guy, straight out of a posh suburb in Sandton, was shitting himself. Not the quick deal-of-a-lifetime he’d probably imagined. He very nervously told us what he could do for us. Basically he could cover us for a car accident! Did that piss the guys off?! We didn’t even have a car!

The Ops guys helped the poor bugger beat a hasty retreat all the way to Caba Ledo, and from there presumably back to Sandton. We never heard anything from him or his reputable company again.

Taken from the Short Story;

The Chronicles of the Mexican Horse Thief I – Angola

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Snakes & High Explosives

December 16, 2016

Mexican Horse Thief

 

Another funny incident was at the battalion’s ammo dump. They kept a 40 ft container filled with all sorts of toys: grenades, mines, RPG rockets, Claymores and the like. The soldiers that guarded the container had a lean-to attached to the thing, and inside was a shebeen-come-harem. Most of the time the soldiers were smoked- or drugged-up. One fine morning we went to collect ammo for the day’s training. The ammo dump was off to one side of the training ground and about two kilometers from our camp. As we approached the dump we saw black smoke but did not think much about it as there were always fires burning round the FAA camp……..

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Bimbi and the Mortar

November 20, 2016

We did 82 mm mortar drills and generally this was a fun time for most of us, learning and firing new weapons from different countries, and then putting our knowledge to the test by teaching others. We were learning from all the different branches of the army. If I taught someone to fire mortars, they would teach me the ins and outs of a 12.7 mm and so on. We were getting fit by running to and from the training ground twice a day, and the hot sun was burning us white boys as brown as our troops.

One morning we decided to hold a refresher course on stripping and assembling the AKs, as we had not practiced that for quite some time. Shit, we may as well have never done it at all, for most of the troops had forgotten the first move: how to get the hoofdeksel off! No fun for anyone the next few weeks. They had to get this right or they would literally die the first week in combat. We hadn’t even begun practicing with live ammo yet, that promised to be fun.

Finally some stock that arrived was some 82 mm mortar ammo. We were sick of dry runs so we should have been happy. The problem was that the wooden crates fell apart when we touched them. The actual bombs were also covered in rust. I have a piece of paper at home with Russian writing on it from those boxes; the date is 1952 and the last time they were inspected was in the early 70s. (We opened that lot in the 1990s!) Well, we cleaned that lot up and practiced for quite some time with them. Very few miss-fires, till one day one of my mates, Bimbi and myself were letting Sergeant Ze get on with it while we chatted on the back line. We all heard this half fart, half-spitting sound come out the one tube. From then on, everything seemed to move in slow motion. The bomb had left the tube and was already coming down; it landed as we all were diving to the ground, bounced exactly three times and lay still, 20-odd metres from us.

Obviously it never went off, or I could not be writing this. The killing range of a bomb that size on open ground is huge. The weight of the HE bomb is 3.05 kg and HE stands for “high explosive”. When we had recovered from the shock we called in a couple of sappers to blow the bitch. Every time we had live practice after that, it was a nerve-racking experience.

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Religion in Angola 1992

October 21, 2016

eo-with-johan

In order to keep us all fine, moral, upstanding men, a priest was hired as well. He got paid more than we did and didn’t really have to work too hard. The irony of some of the chaps going to “Nagmal” before leaving on an op was incredible. Here were a bunch of guys praying to their Calvinistic God to look after them and make their mission a success. They were, to be blunt, nothing but a bunch of hired killers, and last time I looked in the Bible it still said: ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ Sort of black and white, that one. Also, being Calvinistic, they were supposed to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, and he clearly stated by word and example that one should love thy neighbour, not go out and shoot them. The song of Bob Dylan, “God on their Side,” came to mind. These thoughts were not new to me, as, having grown up as a Jehovah’s Witness then getting kicked out of home when I was conscripted, I used to amuse myself often, picking on the SADF’s dominees. They were bad enough but actually believed they were doing the right thing. This preacher could not warrant his title in any way; his only excuse was that even the wicked needed guidance and that was why he was there. The lying bum; it was all about the money, and according to his own doctrine as laid out in his Bible, “the love of money is the root of all evil.” Hah! I shall see that preacher, and most likely a few more, in hell!

Exert from The Chronicles of the Mexican Horse Thief I – Angola

 

Spiders, Scorpions and Things

September 17, 2016

 

 

the-mexican-horse-thief-scorpions-7

On the whole we saw very little wildlife of the larger variety, mainly insects of the extremely large variety. A few guys had to be casevaced because of spider-bites and scorpion stings.

One morning, very badly hung over, I was too lazy to put my boots on and stumbled barefoot along the path to the mess for coffee. I suddenly felt an excruciating pain in my little toe, as if someone was putting out a cigarette on it. My first thought was that I had stepped on someone’s cigarette butt, then I saw a whitish, small scorpion scuttling off. Strangely enough my scorpion sting, while painful, did not upset my nervous system as it did the other guys who got stung; they all got seriously ill. I waited for the inevitable, but, apart from minor swelling where my little toe became my big toe, nothing really happened. It must have been all the vodka acting like a serum! On a scale of pain it was high up: much worse than a bee sting, about three times worse than a wasp, but Mickey Mouse when compared to an adder bite. So far those are the only references I have managed to collect, but I am still working on it…….

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Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill.

September 2, 2016

Gotto love these little fellows. While staying at Bushbuck I had a family of them living near me. The chicks had just left the nest so I had five of them hopping around. After a few weeks mom, dad and one chick left the area. The two that stayed use to bang on my glass patio door, just after first light, and collect all the dead insects on the patio. The most interesting thing about Hornbills is the way they breed.

Wikipedia says:

The nests are placed in natural cavities in trees, cliffs or earth banks between 1 and 12 meters from the ground. The male then proceeds to bring bark, leaves and grass which will be put on the bottom of the nest. During this time, the female will seal herself inside the nest by blocking the entry with a wall made from her droppings and food remains The male will help by bringing mud for her to work with.

The only opening left is a vertical slit from the top to the bottom. The male passes the food through the slit with his beak. The female and chick droppings are forcibly expelled through the slit as well. The vertical slit provides good air circulation through convection and when coupled with the wooden walls, it provides a good insulation.

Nests usually contain 2-6 eggs and take about 24 days to hatch. The eggs are white, oval and have finely pitted shells.[2] The chicks are born naked and with pink skin. They and the female are fed by the male who brings back food and drops it through the slit. Most nests will also have a long escape tunnel in case a predator breaks in the nest to eat them.

Taking advantage of the fact that she is imprisoned; the female will shed all of her flight and tail feathers simultaneously and regrow them in during the time she stays with the chicks. Once the chicks are half-grown, the female will break out of the nest in order to help the male. The chicks will rebuild the wall themselves and continue to be fed through the slits by the parents. Once the chicks are fully grown, they will break out of the nest and start flying.

 

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Bimbi’s Letters

August 22, 2016

 

From the Chronicles of The Mexican Horse Thief – I. Angola. You can read the whole story, follow the link: Chronicles I 

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Bimbi’s Letters

EO with Johan

In any military situation the Brass knows that letters from home are important for morale, so Executive Outcomes set up a similar system to what most of us had known in the SADF. Obviously without all the bullshit, like having to do push-ups if your letter smelt of perfume. Every plane that came in had some mail for us. We could get stamps at the canteen and our letters would be posted from “The House” in Pretoria. My mail was mainly from Charmaine; she even sent some drawings based on what I wrote about camp life.
We had been in Angola for a few months when I noticed that Bimbi never received any mail. So I watched to see if he ever sent any out; he did not. I knew he had a wife and kids living in Phalaborwa, although he was Congolese. At this stage the South African news was full of stories, some actually true, of a bunch of South African mercenaries in Angola. A few guys had been killed already and the newspapers were having a field day. Charmaine kept a photo of three bodies; dead and half-naked, that Savimbi had sent to the South African news services as a warning to keep South African soldiers out of his country. I’m sure all the wives and girlfriends were eagerly waiting for mail.
One day I asked Bimbi why he did not write, would his wife not be worrying about him? Now, Bimbi was a really black man, not some shade of brown. If he could have, he would have blushed. The story was, he and his wife had no common written language. Although he could speak five or six languages, he could only write in French. His wife, being from Venda, probably had never even heard French before she met Bimbi.
I offered to write on his behalf, and, after much cajoling, Bimbi arrived in my tent late one night. It was touching to see how embarrassed this hard-assed ex-5 Recce soldier was; so shy about his personal life. He told me to write that he was well and to ask how are the kids. That was it! When I asked if I should write that he missed his wife, he nearly crawled under the bed. I then teased him further. I asked if I should tell her how much he loved her, too. We eventually sent a letter off. His next embarrassment came when Goodness, his wife, replied. The poor bugger couldn’t read English either. So he snuck into my tent late one night again and very shamefacedly asked me if I would mind reading his letter. The cost to him must have been enormous. He was pleased that his family were all well. Bimbi was a truly brave man, in every respect, and I liked him all the more for it.

 

 


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