Monday, June 6, 2011
CARTE BLANCHE 5 June 2011
Date: 05 June 2011 07:00
Producer: Jan Lampen
Presenter: Derek Watts
Show: Carte Blanche
These visuals from the Border War in Namibia and Angola evoke powerful emotions for soldiers who fought on both sides of the conflict. 20 Years later Freedom Park in Pretoria symbolises the end of hostilities and the birth of our new democracy. As it says in the brochure: it is the heart and soul of our nation captured in one breathtaking space. Walls bearing the names of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the freedom struggle encircle the amphitheater.
Derek Watts (Carte Blanche presenter): "Etched onto the wall of names are the names of those who dies during slavery pre-colonial times, the Anglo Boer War, two World Wars, both black and white, but the names of soldiers who served on the border have been excluded."
Acting CEO of Freedom Park, Peggy Photolo, explains why.
Peggy Photolo (Acting CEO: Freedom Park): "United Nations actually declared apartheid as a crime against humanity, so it is on those basis that we do not have the names of the SADF soldiers on the wall of names at Freedom Park."
Following this judgment, the Border War, be extension, became criminalised. Outraged, the old generals, including the CEO of the Voortrekker Monument, Gert Opperman, decided to build their own Wall of Remembrance.
Last Sunday the old South African defense force commemorated their fallen soldiers.
Gert Opperman (CEO: Voortrekker Monument): "We would not have built this wall in the first instance, if the members of the security forces had not been omitted from the wall at Freedom Park. We have tried our level best with the previous CEO of Freedom Park, but he never wanted to budge and instead he used the opportunity to criminalise the defense force and their memory and that was bad."
Members of the MK find the controversy around the two walls perplexing. Kebby Maphatsoe is the national chairperson of the Mokhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association.
Kebby Maphatsoe (National Cair, MK Vets): "You cannot equate the former freedom fighters, who were fighting for freedom of the people of South Africa, with the former soldiers of SADF who were fighting an unjust war."
Some old SADF members are upset that the wall at Freedom Park includes names of non-South Africans.
Derek: "You are recognising Cubans, Koreans, Russians, but not South Africans?"
Peggy: "We are recognising people who have contributed to the freedom you and I are enjoying today."
Like many soldiers General Gert Opperman says that you cannot rewrite history.
Gert: "I'm proud that I've served in the South African Defense Force and also generally in the South African National Defense Force. And I'm not ashamed about the fact that I'm a soldier and I was a member of the defense force."
After more than two decades, since the last intake, some of the soldiers from the old defense force find it difficult to adapt to a new reality. Their sense of alienation is acute and the memory of the war, still defines their identity.
Nico Kirsten and some of his border buddies started a bike club called the Silent Soldiers earlier this year.
Derek: "Silent soldiers, where's that name from?"
Nico Kirsten (Silent Soldiers Bikers Club): "We decided to start the club to ride for the troops who dies on our borders, the guys who paid the ultimate price and now don't have a say anymore."
Derek: "Now should the names of your colleagues who lost their lives there, be inscribed in the Wall of Names at Freedom Park?"
Nico: "No, it mustn't be there."
Derek: "You don't want it there?"
Nico: "No, I don't want it."
Derek: "Why not?"
Nico: "It wasn't 'their' war, it was 'ours'. That's 'their' wall, it's not 'our' wall."
Derek: "The Voortrekker Monument and Freedom Park are probably the two most visual symbols of a nation struggling to come to terms with its past. Two monuments, two histories, two walls, and the gap between them seem to be widening."
Dramatist and play writer, Deon Opperman, understands this growing disillusionment.
Deon Opperman (Dramatist): "It makes me feel angry. 'Victors' write the history books and I know that the Afrikaners history is systematically being criminalised in this country. And systematically because of that, justifiably, wiped out with a little rubber."
In protest, Deon has now written a play that honors the SADF soldiers who served in Angola and Namibia. In some quarters there's concern that the play could stir up racial tension.
Deon: "This is a war that we white boys fought and it's our story and it hasn't been told. And stir what up? They're going to weep their eyes out for where they were. They don't want to run and find themselves a rifle to start a revolution. They're going to mourn."
Derek: "Not so long ago virtually every white male in South Africa shared a common experience. It was targeted at boys of 18 or even younger and it arrived in a brown envelope: call up for National Service."
Man 1: "I was looking forward to go serve my country."
Man 2: "As a boy of 16 you get your call up papers and you would run to school the next day and say: 'Look boys, here's my call up papers.'"
Deon: "You get a call up, you sit on a train, you don't know anybody on the train and off you go and then people start shouting at you and your hair gets cut and you're given brown and you get taught to march, to drill, to shoot... and I could shoot someone before I was old enough to buy a beer."
Derek: "In your mind, what were you fighting for?"
Deon: "I was fighting to stop Russia from taking over South Africa and doing to it what it had done to the rest, or most of, the other states of Africa. That was what was in my mind. Stop the communists from taking over our country."
Kebby Maphatsoe: "They invaded a foreign country and said they are fighting communism. Angola was never a communist state."
Deon: "There was actually a war going on between America and Russia there, as in many other countries, as in Vietnam. We were part of that war too."
But according to Kebby the threat of communism was pure propaganda. He claims that the real reason the SADF invaded Angola was to sabotage the military wing of the ANC.
Kebby: "That country Angola, it was only hosting us for training. It was giving us assistance. So it was wrong for the South African government or the defense force then to invade a foreign country."
Derek: "Soldiers who made it back safely from the border were told that people in Civvy Street knew very little about a war that, for the most part, unfolded in secrecy. They didn't come back to a heroes welcome."
Defiled by the new government and forgotten by the old. That's how Anton Franken feels. Anton was severely injured on the border while doing his national service and now struggles to survive."
Anton Franken (Ex-SADF soldier): "We didn't get the recognition we deserved. If I look at the American war vets, how they get treated and our guys, it's a huge difference. I went because I believed in that, what I was going to do, but it feels like I've been stabbed in the back, afterwards."
Anton drifted for many years until he met ex-soldier Yster Small, who started a Buddy Care system for war veterans in need.
Yster Small (Buddycare): "The basic doctrine of any good soldier is, your buddy are dead and you honor them and you look after your wounded."
According to Yster there are hundreds of soldiers like Anton, who found no support when the old defense force disbanded in 1994.
Yster: "They've been hiding in cracks. They just want to hide from the world, because they're different. They're pushed to the side. We said, 'B***** man' - sorry - 'come, come into the light.'"
Ironically this is the very same predicament that MK veterans find themselves in. Two erstwhile enemies now share common ground in post war hardship.
Kebby Maphatsoe: "We did not even get pensions. Some of our comrades are sleeping in the shacks. Some of them are sleeping in Park Station, there, you will see them. Some of them are very sick."
Godfrey Giles, President of the SA Legion has been instrumental in lobbying government for funding to support these veterans. The Military Veterans Bill, with a budget of over a billion, was finally tabled in January this year, but who is the money for?
Godfrey Giles (President, SA Legion): "A lot of people seem to think that a lot of people have been excluded, so this brings in the First World War, Second World War, Korea, all of the guys from the liberation struggle and all the ex-SADF guys as well. So it is actually for everybody and it includes the SANDF guys, the new guys that are coming out now."
After this interview a few days ago, it has now emerged that there has been an about-turn by the Defense Ministry on who qualifies for veteran benefits. This controversial decision will be challenged.
Despite the ongoing negotiations and the two walls reconciliation is still on the agenda, as demonstrated by the fact that delegates from Russia and Angola attended the wreath laying ceremony at the Voortrekker Monument.
Gert: "There's a new sense of realism and a new sense on constructive reconciliation and if that persists then we might get somewhere. Personally, I feel that there is a place for Freedom Park. They represent certain parts of our history, just as the Voortrekker Monument also represents other parts of the history and the two of us must cooperate."
Kebby: "All countries in the world, they know for a fact that if you don't take care of your forces, who happened to be in war, you will create an unstable country."
Godfrey: "South Africa needs to get a positive slot. We need to get together, we need to move forward. Veterans have stopped fighting, we're not fighting each other anymore. We've got to build South Africa together."
While every attempt has been made to ensure this transcript or summary is accurate, Carte Blanche or its agents cannot be held liable for any claims arising out of inaccuracies caused by human error or electronic fault. This transcript was typed from a transcription recording unit and not from an original script, so due to the possibility of mishearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, errors cannot be ruled out.
Comments by Sonny
.....And these Terrorists want reconciliation?........
They must be fucking crazy!!
No wonder we were at WAR!!
No wonder they did not participate in one campaign or win any battles!
Why did they excluded the South African Police from being "SA WAR VETERANS?"
THE TRUTH WILL OUT.
No wonder the USA has a black list on SA Terrorists!
No wonder the TRC was a National/International FRAUD!!