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Dear commander-in-chief Ramaphosa, getting rid of skill...

Defend Truth


Dear commander-in-chief Ramaphosa, getting rid of skilled generals is no way to win a war


Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular. He completed his PhD and Masters studies at the University of Cambridge (UK). His undergraduate studies were at Turfloop and Wits. He is currently a Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Fort Hare University and writes in his personal capacity.

In his 2019 election campaign, Cyril Ramaphosa declared war on corruption. The most important element of any war is the foot soldiers – but they need to be guided by skilled generals, and these generals are being felled because of factionalism in the ANC and the SA Police Service.

According to the military theorist Carl von Clausewitz, military leaders must be capable of making decisions under time pressure with incomplete information, since, in his opinion, “three-quarters of the things on which action is built in war” are concealed and distorted by the fog of war. 

The fog being in the case of fired Major-General Jeremy Vearey supposedly a post on social media that stated, “time longer than rope”. The National Commissioner of Police, Khehla Sitole, felt intimidated and undermined by this and now he has thrown his toys out of the cot and wants to see Vearey’s back. 

I have no doubt that Sitole’s thinking went along the lines of: “How dare a mere general have freedom of expression and how dare he criticise the top brass of the police and in fact me. I want his head on a platter if it’s the last thing I do.” 

And it might very well be the very last thing he’s done, because rumours abound that he is on his way out. Good riddance, I say. 

To come back to Von Clausewitz. According to Wikipedia, “He stressed the dialectical interaction of diverse factors, noting how unexpected developments unfolding under the ‘fog of war’ (i.e., in the face of incomplete, dubious, and often completely erroneous information and high levels of fear, doubt, and excitement) call for rapid decisions by alert commanders.” Are you taking note, commander-in-chief?

In his book On War, Von Clausewitz said: “A prince or general who knows exactly how to organise his war according to his object and means, who does neither too little nor too much, gives by that the greatest proof of his genius. But the effects of this talent are exhibited not so much by the invention of new modes of action, which might strike the eye immediately, as in the successful final result of the whole. It is the exact fulfilment of silent suppositions, it is the noiseless harmony of the whole action which we should admire, and which only makes itself known in the total result.” 

So you see, the generals do support your overall efforts, even though it takes place in silent suppositions and noiseless harmony.

The unfortunate new lingua franca in the ANC is that of minorities, referring to “so-called coloureds, Indian and whites” in its ranks. Before, it was that all of us were part of the black majority – but who am I to reminisce about our glorious past?

In keeping, then, with this new racist language, am I to assume that the so-called coloureds in the SAPS are being targeted and persecuted? These are former MK cadres, who left the country during apartheid and faced possible death at the hands of the security police and the SA Defence Force. They lived away from their families, in some cases for years and received military training in far-flung countries, all for the SA liberation struggle, all for their ANC. 

They were ordered to infiltrate back into South Africa at great peril, as we have observed with Ashley Kriel and Anton Frans and so many others who were murdered by apartheid security forces soon after returning from exile. 

Some served time on Robben Island and other maximum security prisons. These are the men and women I’m referring to. They are not being protected by MK structures, not by the ANC, nor, it seems, by their commander-in-chief, Cyril Ramaphosa. Instead, their contributions to the liberation struggle are being questioned by the ANC. 

These are cadres that are being accused of falsehoods and allegations. Vearey and former Crime Intelligence head Peter Jacobs have spent time in the labour court and with arbitration proceedings, winning at every turn and coming back to their jobs. 

Former Hawks boss Anwa Dramat was falsely accused of an illegal extradition order and is now on early retirement. Anti-Gang Unit head André Lincoln has been fighting his battles since the 1990s, and they just do not stop. Robert McBride was shunted out of the police watchdog body, IPID, when it was clear he was beginning to clean house and deal with the rot in the SAPS. 

They are now also killing our comrades, like Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear, and still there is no decisive intervention from our commanders. 

All of this retribution and these persecutions are being meted out against these progressive comrades by apartheid-era police officers – persons that opted to collaborate with the apartheid enemy and who made no sacrifices as outlined above. Shameful.

These are not comrades that have been involved with illegal “Grabber” equipment, nor are they SAPS officers involved in selling arms to gangs on the Cape Flats, and they are not involved in the selling of narcotics to the highest bidder – and yet they are the ones being persecuted. What’s going on, Mr President?

I’m sure you would agree that you need generals on multiple fronts to fight a war. In the SOEs, the new corporate leaders are your generals, Sir. The new leaders at the National Prosecuting Authority, with all the cases on their desks, are your generals, Sir. Similarly, journalists (investigative) are also generals in your army, Sir. They are all engaged in your war against corruption. They want what you want, good governance at all levels. So too, you need generals in the SAPS to fight crime and corruption in this war.

I don’t have to remind you that this apparent purge of key police officials is another example of factional politics within the ANC. The Radical Economic Transformation group wants nothing more than to control the entire security cluster. We have already been privy to how they looted the State Security Agency (SSA) and the secret funds of both the SAPS Crime Intelligence and SSA. In order to fight a successful war money is key and these culprits are desperate to get their hands on some.

The assessment of criminologist Professor Elrena van der Spuy that key police officers like Vearey have links to the liberation movement and many others like him have found themselves in opposition to, and a deep irritation for another power bloc within the South African Police Service is spot-on. An article by David Africa also brings these matters into stark focus.

As commander-in-chief, you must value all your generals. Liaise constantly with them and strategise to ensure the overall victory in this war. Neglecting them would be at your and our own peril, Sir. DM


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All Comments 9

  • Well written poignant article, when will CR act decisively and clean his management structure out of all the deadwood, probably never, why ? Simple, because the ANC doctrine is party before country.
    To all the journalists out there, thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • “They are not being protected by MK structures, not by the ANC”. WOW and clown Carl is NOWHERE to be found in support of his comrades?? Amazing. Perhaps too busy kissing JZ’s ring?
    I can’t help thinking that persons of integrity as mentioned here would not want to be associated with Carl and the other RET claimants!
    And Cyril? What have you to say?

  • I would venture that he includes the SANDF, especially the Army, into this exercise.
    A shadow of its former self by a country mile. it takes a 70 year old Colonel to get involved and rescue SA citizens in the Cabo Delgado insurgency drama.

  • Memories of the 50’s onwards include many student (university) opposition protests against unpopular government actions. Other than the fees issue in this milieu they appear to be relatively rather quiet.
    Dick Cullingworth, George.

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