Saturday, March 30, 2013

Opening Pandora’s Apartheid Box – Part 36 – Sport as a weapon in Communist hands

OK. I know I said I won’t write anymore Pandora chapters, but I have been inundated with requests to write some more. So, because of public demand, I will write a few more as I get time to do the research. I will eventually readjust the chapters accordingly. Here goes... 

By Mike Smith
29th of June 2012

The Saudi Arabia and Arab hipocracy as a case study

Since Baron Pierre de Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on the 23rd June 1894 and the first Modern Olympic Games held in Athens 1896, Saudi Arabia has never sent a single female athlete to the games. Until now (2012), Saudi women were forbidden from participating in any public sporting events.

But it changed this year after King Abdullah announced that Saudi women will for the first time take part in the London Olympics. But three days ago the only female Saudi Arabian athlete to have qualified for the upcoming Olympic Games in London, show jumper Dalma Malhas, has had to pull out due to “an injury to her horse”. This followed after the fanatical Wahhabi school of Islam who run Saudi Arabia strongly resisted the participation of their women in the Olympics.

The oppression of women in Saudi Arabia is legendary as much as it is shocking. They have a “Gender Apartheid” called “Purdah” or a curtain between the male world and the female world that is so fanatical that private homes have separate entrances for males and females. One woman took 60 Minutes on a tour of her house, and showed a separate entrance and living room for men. 

Saudi women make up only 5% of the workforce. The lowest in the world. Sports events like football are strictly for men only.

Most offices, banks, and universities have separate entrances for men and women. According to law, there should be physically and visually separate sections for the sexes at all meetings including weddings and funerals. Companies traditionally have been expected to create all-female areas if they hire women. Public transportation is segregated. Public places such as beaches and amusement parks are also segregated, sometimes by time, so that men and women attend at different hours. Violation of the principles of sex segregation is known as khalwa.

Policy in Saudi Arabia is decided by King Abdullah who decides everything from what kind of clothes women may wear to whether they are allowed to drive cars, which is incidentally also forbidden although nowhere in the Koran does it state that a woman is not allowed to drive a car. 

Political parties are banned and only men can vote, and then for only half of the seats. Any public criticism of the government is met with a sentencing of public lashings.

Women can be charged with prostitution for socializing with a man who is not a relative or husband.

In 2008 Khamisa Mohammad Sawadi, a 75-year-old woman, was sentenced to 40 lashes and imprisonment for allowing a man to deliver bread to her directly in her home. Sawadi, a non-citizen, was deported.

60 Minutes: Women speak out in Saudi Arabia
Gender Apartheid in Saudi Arabia
Saudis order 40 lashes for elderly woman for mingling

The regime in Saudi Arabia is every bit as oppressive as the Taliban, but because they own a vast deposit of that magical black liquid called Crude Oil, they are the allies and darlings of the West and the West turns a blind eye to the human rights abuses in that country. The MSM is almost completely silent about it and never has the world threatened to ban Saudi Arabia from participating in the Olympics due to discrimination and their human rights abuses. Neither have they banned Qatar or Brunei who also decided to let women partake in the Olympics for the first time in 2012.

But with South Africa it was a different story…

During the Apartheid era in South Africa, Saudi Arabia was one of our biggest critics, along with other champions of democracy and human rights such as Iraq, Syria, Kuwait and caste ridden India.

But how was it in other countries in 1960?

At the time of 1960 when South Africa was castigated for “racism in Sport”… Richard D. Mandell wrote in The Nazi Olympics about the treatment of blacks in sport in the USA:

“Negro athletes who were winning sometimes had to defend themselves against interference on the part of resentful spectators…When the negro amateur boxer travelled with his team, local mores in the United States usually required that he eat apart from his mates and, if he was allowed to use the same hotel as they, to use the back entrance established for cleaning women and garbage men. There were of course, no Negroes on any major league baseball team…the happy situation described above existed in the enlightened far North. Things were worse in the South.”

South Africa and the IOC

Due to the great climate, South Africans have always been outdoors people, fond of sports not only as spectators but as active participants.

South Africans of all races and backgrounds play everything from soccer, tennis, badminton to touch Rugby on the beach. School sports are big events and National sports such as Rugby, Football and Cricket have a following bordering on the fanatical.

South Africa became a member of the IOC in 1908. In that year she also won her first gold medal at the London Olympiad when Reginald Walker streaked across the finish line in the 100 meters ahead of James Rector of the USA and Robert Kerr of Canada.

Four years later in Stockholm, South Africa’s Kenneth McArthur and Christopher Gitsham finished first and second in a grueling marathon race.

Until 1960, when South Africa last participated before her ban, this would be the pattern. At every event, she would win a few golds, some silvers and some bronzes. Modest compared to the USA and Russia, but for such a tiny nation respectable when compared to her peers.

The Olympic Charter

What we need to remember is that it is not countries and their governments who belong to the IOC, but National Olympic Committees. 

The Charter of the Olympics states in Chapter 1, Article 6, page 19 that, “The Olympic Games are competitions between athletes in individual or team events and not between countries.”

And under fundamental principle 6 (page 10)…

“Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.“

Yet South Africa’s sports administrators were expelled because of a vendetta against their government.

A history of political interference in the Olympics

Politics in the Olympics is not new and neither is the hypocrisy of the IOC to uphold their own moral standards.

In 1920, just after WWI, Germany and Austria were not invited. In 1936 some countries threatened to boycott the Berlin Olympics in view of Hitler’s exploitation of the event and his discrimination against Jews and Negroes.

In 1948, the vanquished Axis powers were snubbed again and at the same time the state of Israel could not participate because it was not yet a member and averted a walk out by the Arab states…those champions of democracy and human rights who supported the Black September Organization who killed 11 Israeli athletes and a West German policeman at the Munich Games in 1972. 

In 1952 in Helsinki several Western countries threatened with withdrawal if the Communist bloc countries were invited. 

The games of 1956 in Australia was a particularly good one. Communist Red China withdrew from the Melbourne Games when the flag of Nationalist China (Taiwan) was raised. At the same time Spain, The Netherlands and Switzerland withdrew in protest to Russia’s savage quelling of the Hungarian anti Communist uprising. Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq walked out in protest to the Israeli attack on Egypt and the British and French occupation of the Suez Canal area.

At the time, the fifth president of the IOC, Avery Brundage complained: “In ancient days nations stopped wars to compete in the Olympic Games. Nowadays we stop the Olympics to continue our wars.”

South African sports would soon become just another battle ground in the Communist onslaught against South Africa.

Isolating South African sports by bullying and blackmail

Membership of the Football Association of South Africa (FASA),was suspended by FIFA in 1961. White South Africans especially, were not too upset, because to them, Rugby and Cricket were National sports, not soccer, but it did make them think about the possibility of South Africa being barred from the Olympics and possibly International Rugby and Cricket games as well.

In 1962 South Africa had an officially recognized South African Olympic and National Games Association (Saonga)

Then came a Rhodesian born coloured teacher by the name of Dennis Brutus and launched the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee (Sanroc) in opposition to Saonga.

Brutus was a radical Trotskyist Communist educated at Fort Hare University and the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). He intended for South Africa a People’s Revolution and a Communist backed Socialist state at the height of a global Cold War that saw severe human rights abuses and mass murders in Communist run countries such as the USSR, China, Cuba, etc. 

Under the suppression of Communism Act he was imprisoned for 18 months in a cell next to Mandela on Robben Island. Upon his release he fled to the UK where he continued his campaign against South Africa and tried to get her booted out of the Olympics and international sports.

He left behind his deputy John Harris in Sanroc. Harris was a keen man who added his contribution by planting a bomb on the Johannesburg train station that killed a woman and maimed 23 innocent passengers.

Harris was tried, convicted and sentenced to death. His wife drew up a petition for clemency, but only about 300 people signed it and Harris was hanged at 5.30 am on 1 April 1965. His body was taken to the Pretoria West cemetery and cremated.

Harris was a family friend of the Liberal Hain family a bunch of leftist radicals who were imprisoned in 1961. Peter Hain’s mother, Adelaine, took food to the convicted terrorist, young Nelson Mandela in prison.

At the time, Peter Hain was a schoolboy of 15 years. Dressed in a school blazer and grey flannel trousers the pimply teenaged Hain spoke in a quivering voice at Harris’ funeral, saying farewell to the terrorist by quoting John Donne and Matthew 5, “blessed are they who are persecuted for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”

The liberally brainwashed Peter Hain failed to see that the innocent victims of John Harris’ bomb were the real persecuted ones. The Hains and their four children left for England in March 1966.

Nevertheless, due to Dennis Brutus’ activities…South Africa was barred from taking part in the Tokyo Olympics. The charge was led in 1963 by Sanroc and its Afro-Asian Communist allies. 

South Africa’s Saonga was put to an ultimatum: Integrate or be banned. If the IOC’s demands were not met by 16th of August 1963, SA athletes would be banned from Tokyo. Saonga responded by including at least 7 non white athletes in its team of 62 Olympic hopefuls. But the IOC was not satisfied. It then insisted that Saonga publicly denounced the South African government before they could qualify for the Olympics. This was one demand Saonga could not comply with.

That is the problem with giving in to coercion, blackmail and paying Danegeld. Once you have paid the tribute, the Dane does not go away.

Can you imagine what would have happened if they asked the Russian sports ministry or the East German Dynamo Club to publicly denounce their governments? Yet these were the ones shouting the loudest for South Africa’s expulsion.

South Africa banned by IOC in 1964

In 1967 Saonga assured the IOC in Rome that it accepted the Olympic charter unconditionally and the IOC sent a fact finding mission to South Africa under Lord Killanin to investigate sports facilities available to blacks.

Remember that this was the time that the government of Verwoerd won an international court case in the Hague that South Africa was oppressing blacks. The world was upset that SA won.

How bad was the situation in SA at the time?

The mission to SA was critical on a few points but they noted for the greatest part that they were impressed with the steps the SA government took to ensure fully representative Olympic teams were selected. One thing they specifically noted was that most black sportsmen and administrators did NOT want South Africa to be banned.

When the IOC convened at Grenoble, France in February 1968, three representative of Saonga and four from Sanroc turned up. Saonga undertook to have mixed trials and select teams purely on merit and to have them travel, march and compete under one flag.

The IOC voted 38 to 27 for South Africa’s re-admission. The votes against came from the Afro-Asian Communist Bloc.

As we have seen so many times in the UN, the blacks simply refused to accept a vote that went against their wishes. So they applied their favourite trick that rarely failed at such international gatherings: Blackmail. They were backed by the Communists and many Western countries followed suit.

One after the other they announced that they would boycott the 1968 Mexico City games if South Africa Participated. Needless to say, come 1968, South Africa was not invited to the games. 

Instead the IOC decided to launch another vote to invite South Africa and with 46 votes to 14 and 2 abstentions decided to kick South Africa out.

As Les de Villiers said in his book “South Africa. A skunk amongst nations” (page 121)…about the kicking out of South Africa: ”Metaphorically speaking, it was a question of the church choir being led by the town harlot – and no one daring to protest for fear of being roughed up by the local mafia.”

In South Africa there was big disappointment especially amongst black athletes.

In Amsterdam on Friday, 15 May 1970, South Africa was finally expelled from the IOC. The charge sheet was drawn up by the Supreme Council for Sport in Africa and cited racial discrimination in sport and failing to provide adequate facilities for black athletes.

Most of these black countries had cruel and despotic regimes with one party states and atrocious human rights records. In their countries millions of dissenters were simply murdered en masse or citizens deported like the Indians in Uganda, and Kenya and their relatives murdered in Nigeria. 

As I have mentioned in Part 9 of Opening Pandora’s Apartheid Box, At the height of Apartheid the city of Soweto, the biggest black city on the continent next to Lagos in Nigeria, had 115 Football fields, 3 Rugby fields, 4 athletic tracks, 11 Cricket fields, 2 Golf courses, 47 Tennis courts, 7 swimming pools built to Olympic standards, 5 Bowling alleys, 81 Netball fields, 39 children play parks, and countless civic halls, movie houses and clubhouses…(source: Verrat an Südafrika, Klaus D. Vaque page 40)

…How adequate is adequate?

Still believe the liberal lies?

…If you still believe that the mass media, countless multinational church organizations and the anti-apartheid movements presented an objective view of Apartheid South Africa and that South African whites exploited blacks, then read further…

Let us look at the humanitarian aid from South Africa to black African countries during this period of time.

• In 1964 A South African Air Force Hercules C-130 landed in the Congo with urgently needed medicine and food parcels at the request of Prime Minister Tsombe.
• In 1965 at the request of Prime Minister Jonathan South Africa sent 100,000 bags of maize to Lesotho to fight the famine there.
• In 1966, when a famine was threatening Botswana, South Africa donated $50,000 to them. At the time enough to buy 50,000 bags of maize.
• At the time of the Biafra war in Nigeria, SA donated $3,000 to the International Red Cross to help victims there.
• In 1968, 12 South African farmers made 230 tractors available to plough the fields of nine black Lesotho border towns for the coming maize planting.
• In 1969 South African Airways Dakotas flew emergency supplies to 30,000 people facing starvation in the Kwagga’s Nek area of Lesotho.
• In 1976 South Africa sent highly qualified doctors and specialists to Zaire to help fight the feared Marburg disease.
• In 1977 South Africa sent a team of specialist to Moatize in Mozambique when the coal bunker suffered severe methane gas explosions.
• In 1979 South African firefighters were sent to Beira in Mozambique and Salisbury in Rhodesia to put out petrol fires at their depots.
• In 1976 after the civil war broke out in Angola, South Africa established 4 refugee camps in SWA and SA for 11,000 refugees who fled to the Apartheid country, at a cost of more than two million dollars. A further two camps were erected and maintained by the SA army in the south of Angola.
• In 1980 South Africa supported the Transkei with a donation of $3,5 million in drought relief and created jobs for thousands of families by letting them improve roads and dams.
• In 1987 South Africa was supporting 200,000 Mozambiquen refugees who fled the civil war there. Many of them Communist Frelimo soldiers who were supported by the World Council of Churches who hated Apartheid South Africa. About 2,000 refugees, most carrying malaria, were fleeing through our electrified border with the Kruger Park, facing wild animals and risking landmines to make it INTO the hated “evil” Apartheid country.
• In 1983 the total amount of aid to SA’s neighbouring countries was in excess of $200 million per year. The development programs were running to $300 million a year.

Source: Verrat an Südafrika, Klaus Vaque page 27,28

Spreading the liberal lies

But this is not what people like Dennis Brutus and Peter Hain told the world. They travelled the globe to tell their myths and fairytales to gullible uninformed liberal listeners who have never been to South Africa.

During the 1970’s South African golfer Gary Player invited many deserving black golfers like Lee Elder to come and play in South Africa while assisting black South African golfers like Vincent Tshabalala to participate overseas. In the South African PGA there were more black golfers to be seen than any comparable US tournament. Until 1974 the Augusta Masters in the USA was an all white tournament.

In 1969 Peter Hain and some supporters disrupted a cricket match between an English side and a visiting South African side. Later that same month he stopped play when he ran onto the tennis courts at Bristol between SA and England in a Davis Cup match. He obviously had no problem to trample on other people’s rights to push his fanatical leftist anti-South African agenda.

Peter Hain was also the father of the slogan “Kill the Boers!”

That is right. At Twickenham during the 1969 Springbok Rugby tour of Britain he and his hippie supporters, who have never been to South Africa, carried placards and shouted, “Get out”…”Go Home”…”Sack Vorster”…and “Kill the Boers”. Later they broke through a police cordon and harassed the Springboks.

In Swansea they managed to provoke violence between policemen and spectators in their “Bash a Boer” campaign. They blackmailed the UK government of Harold Wilson with threats of violence and disruption to call off the 1970’s cricket tour in public interest. 

They then set their eyes on banks, airlines, businesses and hotels that were dealing with South Africa, flying or accommodating her athletes…and threatened them with violence. Such were the tactics of these fanatical liberals…Mob Law rules and violence is justified when THEY use it. But when it comes to anybody else, they use clichés like, "Violence doesn't solve anything..."

Hipocracy Down Under

The next goal would be to disrupt the 1971 Rugby tour to Australia with the same threats and acts of violence. So bad were the demonstrations against the Springboks in Australia that Queensland declared a State of Emergency. The cricket tour the following year was cancelled.

Next was the 1973 Rugby tour of New Zealand. Threats of violence and even dynamite explosions forced Prime Minister Norman Kirk to ban the Springboks. In addition he also banned the women’s bowls team calling them “racists” for being all white. When it was pointed out to him that in South Africa and other African countries blacks simply do not play bowls and that Kenya and Zambia also fielded only white bowls teams, he refused to listen. Besides, New Zealand fielded no Maori, and Australia no Aborigines, in their line ups.

Kirk further had no problem to sanction a Maori Rugby team selected on racial grounds to tour Fidji. If a black Maori team was not racist how could a white Springbok team be?

It was pointed out to him that South Africa had a coloured Rugby team called the Proteas and a Black team called the Black Leopards. He was asked if such teams would be welcome in New Zealand. He said yes, because they would be the same as the Maori team.

It was clear that Prime Minister Norman Kirk considered a team only racist when they were white. A black team and a coloured team were non-racist, because racism is a white phenomenon.

At the same time in Australia (1974), Aboriginal football and cricket teams, selected purely on race, where sent to Papua New Guinea. 

Such was the hipocracy Down Under. Whilst being opposed to any non-integrated sports in South Africa, the leaders of Australia and New Zealand fully encouraged separate sports for different races in their own countries.

The rest of the world

Despite extreme protests by Peter Hain and company, the British Lions tour of South Africa went ahead. They played four matches against the Springboks, one against Rhodesia, one against the Coloured Protea Team and one against the Black Leopard team.

Willy John McBride’s rugby team was the first in almost a century to return undefeated from South Africa. Back in Britain they were heroes and when they returned they were met on the airport by Opposition Leader Edward Heath. Also waiting at the Airport Hotel was Hain and a few of his ultra radical liberal followers. His sister stepped forward and threw a flour bomb at Heath.

In the late sixties, American Negro tennis player, Arthur Ashe applied for a visa to play in South Africa. It was refused, because Ashe told his supporters he wanted to come to South Africa to “put a crack in the Apartheid Wall”. He added that “I would like to drop an H-bomb on Johannesburg”.

His visa refusal was milked by the anti-Apartheid lobby for every drop of propaganda to show how blatantly racist the South Africans were. It went on for months.

Colour had nothing to do with it. Can you imagine what would have happened if a South African tennis player made such a threat about Washington DC or New York?

In 1973 Arthur Ashe applied again. This time he was allowed in. He played, passed criticism and lost in the finals against fellow American Jimmy Connors. He quickly toured SA, loved it and then left. The next year he wanted to come back.

At the time South Africa had 60,000 registered white tennis players and 22,000 black, coloured and Indian players, 20,000 of which were affiliated to the White union. The famous Sugar Circuit and other major tournaments were open to all races. Davis Cup selection was strictly on merit.

At the same time that Ashe played in SA, the American black boxer Bob Foster came to defend his light-heavyweight title against Pierre Fourie whom he narrowly defeated. He enjoyed the hospitality amongst whites and blacks alike. When asked about South Africa he said: “Before I came here I was cold towards South Africans. I thought in a different way. Now I love this place. It’s great! I’ll be glad to come back.”

The Pakistani cricketer Billy Ibadulla said: “I have read much about the country in newspapers and magazines, but I don’t think you can get true impressions until you come here.”

He further said that foreign black visitors should be encouraged to come to South Africa. 

Nevertheless…The true impressions are what I think they were scared of.

There were many more violent demonstrations against South African sportsmen and women. In Australia at a surf-lifesaving contest a South African flag was ripped to shreds. In Stockholm demonstrators invaded the tennis courts at the Davis Cup tournament and in 1981 the Springbok rugby players who included a coloured player called Errol Tobias, were flour-bombed from airplanes in New Zealand and had to train in horse stables.

What were their true intentions?

Neither Brutus nor Hain were sportsmen deprived of participation in South Africa. They were leftist radicals backed by fanatical Communists who used sport to attack, isolate and bleed South Africa to death. They knew full well how fanatical South Africans were about sport and they would do anything to compete internationally.

As Abdul Minty of the Anti-Apartheid Movement summed up their true intentions: “Even when South Africa has integrated Sport, we would not be satisfied. What we want is a Black Government.”

Now I ask you…Who are the real racists here?

Nevertheless, the decision by whites to vote "yes" in the 1992 referendum to hand power over to the ANC was greatly influenced by their hopes to partake or see their teams partake in international sports again.

Their true characters

But in the end their true characters comes out. In 1975 Hain was arrested for a bank robbery and the Old Bailey later acquitted him after he claimed he was framed by the South African Bureau of State Security (BOSS). He said that they used a look-alike to pull off the job. 

Yeah right…

In 2008 as a politician he was charged for not declaring campaign funds to the tune of £103,000. After ten months his file was handed to the Crown Prosecution Services, who decided not to prosecute him after Gordon Brown personally intervened. Hain called his failure to declare donated funds an innocent mistake.

Hain’s past saved his job
Hain not charged over donations

I just wonder how Peter Hain can sleep at night,…now that his darlings the corrupt ANC government is in charge of South Africa and stealing the country into bankruptcy. Is he proud of their racist policies of racial quotas in sport and university entry? Is he proud of their racist policies such as Affirmative Action and Black Economic Empowerment?

Or how about the 50,000 whites including more than 3,000 white farmers who have been murdered since 1994? Hain was the one who chanted "Kill the Boers", remember...?

Today the Springboks and other sports teams are permanently playing with a handicap. They can never put a full team together on pure merit. Racial representation is the first concideration, not merit. That the Springboks actually still win games is a miracle.

People like Peter Hain, Abdul Minty and Dennis Brutus were directly responsible for the situation in South Africa today. 

If Hain is so proud of his Rainbow Utopia that he helped to create why does he not come back to South Africa and live here? Why does he not buy himself a nice shack in the middle of Khayalitsha?

Main Sources: 
South Africa, A skunk amongst nations, Les de Villiers, 1975.
Verrat an Südafrika, Klaus Vaque, 1988.

Peacekeeping In A Country Where It Pays To Be At War

19th August 2011

Mmanaledi Mataboge accompanied South African soldiers on a recent mission to the DRC and left with more questions than answers.

As we touch down in Goma in a hulking military Hercules C-130 aircraft it feels as though we are landing in the middle of nowhere. It is a late on Wednesday afternoon in July and it is extremely hot and dry, so much so that it is hard to breathe. We had left a cold Waterkloof Air Force Base that morning in our winter coats for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They were quickly shed.

The airport is poorly maintained. There is nothing more than bare ground, cordoned off by a high wire fence, and small brick buildings that are now used by the South African Air Force, which has taken over the management of Goma International Airport as part of the United Nations peacekeeping mission there.

The poverty smacks you in the face as soon as Goma comes into focus. You see it in the small wooden houses cramped together just a few metres from the airport fence, built right on top of the dark-grey hardened lava left over from the Nyiragongo volcano that hit the eastern DRC in 2002. The eruption destroyed a good portion of Goma, including part of the airport and the business centre and killed about 147 people, according to UN figures.

In Goma no roads separate the houses and all that is visible from the sky is smoke from cooking fires and the lava rocks that have been used to build fences, or even small homes, many of them with tiny wooden windows.

There is no airport building to walk into, no luggage control section, just bags off-loaded by the uniformed South African National Defence Force soldiers who are my travelling partners. They haul the gear from the back of the plane and line it up on the ground as we—the media visitors of the South African contingent of the UN peacekeeping force—wait to be told where we’re headed. The only other people inside the cordoned-off area that serves as the airport are members of the Congolese army, the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo, known by the acronym FARDC. They stand to attention in their military fatigues, their intimidating long rifles slung over their shoulders and pointed halfway to the ground.

Welcome to Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, one of the still volatile regions of the DRC.

Many of the origins of the recent conflict in the DRC lie in the 1994 Rwandan genocide that led to the refugee crisis across the Great Lakes region. Some of the largest refugee camps were in Goma and housed Rwandan Hutu fighters who repeatedly attacked Rwanda.

The presidents

The toppling of DRC presidents also created a civil war that never seemed to end. Laurent-Désiré Kabila, the late father of current president Joseph Kabila, toppled Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997. Laurent Kabila himself was shot and killed four years later by his bodyguard and was succeeded by his son eight days later.

The government of the DRC has since struggled to assert its authority and has sought assistance from the UN to help it stabilise the country. But the eastern part of the DRC remains a challenge, with soldiers supported by UN peacekeepers trying to fend off factions threatening to overthrow the government.

We are dropped at Goma’s Ihusi Hotel, one of the best in town, we are told. Inside the hotel grounds it feels as if we could be in a modern city, but outside are untarred, rocky streets lined with tuck shops. Locals walk up and down or ride on piki pikis (motorbike taxis). There is not a ­traffic light in sight.

One of the first words I hear from the locals is rafiki, to which members of the SANDF deployed here respond with a smile. Rafiki means friend in kiSwahili and South African soldiers say the locals like them best because they regard them as the friendliest in the UN’s 18000-strong peacekeeping force stationed throughout the DRC, including the capital Kinshasa.

The day after we arrive we head out of the city to the South African Mushake army base, about an hour-and-a-half’s drive on bumpy, gravel roads over rocky, green mountains.

We had been warned that things might get out of hand. There had been protests in the area recently, with community members blocking roads and throwing stones because they were unhappy about the non-registration of scores of eligible voters in the coming November presidential elections. Kabila is fighting for a second term. He succeeded his father in 2001 and led the transitional government until the country’s first democratic elections were held in 2006.

Because of the potential for violence we are escorted by the military’s Mamba armoured vehicle, with troops clad in full battle gear: helmets and bulletproof vests, rifles at the ready. An ambulance is part of the convoy, just in case.

I realise that it’s normal for DRC soldiers to walk around in public heavily armed, even while in civilian clothes or wearing military uniform mixed with street wear.

As we drive past in our UN-marked vehicles, the children playing on the side of the road scream “monique” or “biscuit”, happy to see the vehicles known for transporting the good guys.

Monique is a bastardised version of Monuc, the acronym of the UN mission in the DRC. 

“Biscuit”, comes from the health biscuits that aid agencies such as Oxfam and the World Food Programme hand out to the poor.

Children run after any UN-branded cars in the hope of getting something: your half-eaten chocolate, a bottle of water or, for those who know better, just one US dollar will do. Poverty oozes out of every corner. Women are dressed in traditional long dresses, with a cloth wrapped around the waist, or old Western-style dresses. Children are barefoot or wear thin rubber sandals and they beg in Goma and the surrounding villages.

A living tragedy

After a few days and several interviews with soldiers in different army bases in the region, as well as a few locals who agreed to speak to us for free—we are told most of them demand payment for interviews and photographs—it became abundantly clear why the DRC is referred to by the UN and aid agencies as one of the world’s largest living tragedies.

The seeming lack of progress in implementing peace among several armed groups in the country—including the Mai Mai, the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the Lord’s Resistance Army—is exacerbated by repeated attacks on villages, abductions and mass rapes. But it is also partly a result of the failure to integrate the rebel forces into one official government army and, in some cases, to give rebel leaders high positions in Kabila’s government.

Rebel leaders continually break away from participation with the FARDC, the Congolese army. Meanwhile, it’s difficult for UN peacekeepers to know who is a genuine government soldier and who is a member of the opposition armed forces, because even government soldiers regularly defect to rebel groups.

Major Richard Mhlanga, a company commander of the South African-run Kichanga and Kalembe army bases, both in North Kivu, says those who repeatedly defect from the FARDC are “very manipulative”. Mhlanga describes how the rebels surrender several times in different places, get the compensation packages the government offers to surrendering rebels and then defect after a few months. Later they move on to another area to surrender again and get the same compensation.

A young Congolese man—who works as a kiSwahili interpreter for the South African soldiers - tells me that the country’s military is one of its biggest employers because surrendering rebels, as is the case with most in the region, don’t have any other options for work. Even in the military, he says, salaries are sometimes not paid for months.

The majority of former rebels, meanwhile, are unskilled young men whose only experience was obtained in warfare at the height of the conflict in the 1990s. And things are getting worse for the next generation. Young children aren’t able to attend school because their parents cannot afford the $5 annual school fee.

A 2009 report commissioned by the UN Security Council found that military operations intended to dismantle one of the strongest rebel groups still active in the eastern DRC, the FDLR, had been unsuccessful and the rebels had regrouped in several locations around North Kivu province.

The report found that the FDLR continued to recruit new fighters in parts of the country’s Kivu region in spite of military efforts to disband it. While most of the DRC is at peace, the three provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Orientale are racked by attacks that include looting, the abduction of men and boys, and rape by the FDLR and the Lord’s Resistance Army from Uganda, which crossed into the DRC in 2005 after the Ugandan government launched a massive military offensive against the rebels.

Presence of soldiers

The presence of 1 200 South African soldiers has, however, made some difference. Of the 1.3-million people who were displaced in North Kivu since 2008, 700 000 have returned to their homes in the past year, according to UN statistics. The mission has the second-largest budget of all 13 UN peacekeeping missions around the globe, topped only by that in Darfur. It used up $8.73-billion between August 1999 and June 2010. The current budget is $1.42-billion, which keeps just over 18 000 soldiers on the ground.

Part of the UN’s budget pays for South African personnel. This cost R819.6-million for the period between 2003 and 2006. It was estimated that the mission would need an additional R620-million between 2007 and 2009.

The UN reimburses all deploying countries, including India and Bangladesh, for each soldier and all equipment used on the mission. South African military spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya says it is money well spent.

“You can’t quantify help by the amount of money spent, you need to quantify it by the benefits that come with it,” he says.
“When Burundi was unstable, its citizens migrated to neighbouring countries and that destabilised the whole region.”

In spite of the uncertainty and lack of progress in infrastructure development in the region, South Africa’s contingent commander in the DRC, Colonel Albert Makgae, is optimistic about attaining stability. Speaking from the headquarters of the South African contingent, which overlooks the peaceful Lake Kivu, his tall frame towering over a desk between the flags of South Africa and the UN, Makgae says that the DRC will prosper eventually. His contingent’s motto, “we are giving our today for their tomorrow”, was chosen, he says, because the defence force knew it would take time to stabilise the country.

“We are here as peacekeepers now, but we know that absolute peace might come only after 10 or 15 years - long after we’ve left,” says Makgae.

But air force flight sergeant Benjamin Pearce, who has been deployed six times to the DRC in the past six years, is sceptical. He sits across from me in a minibus at Goma airport, our makeshift interview room, where he tells me about his deployments and what he’s learned.

Pearce then turns his head towards the poor villages surrounding the Goma air strip. “My personal opinion?” he tells me, is that “there is no progress at all.”

‘I love the Congo,’ says veteran of six deployments to war zone

Every time Flight Sergeant Benjamin Pearce leaves the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) tears run down his cheek he says. “I love the Congo,” Pearce told the Mail & Guardian in a recent interview at the South African air force base in Goma.

“The people are respectful and honourable. Here they don’t see the colour of your skin, they see a rafiki (a friend) or a msauza (a South African). They appreciate the little that you do for them.” 

This is the sixth deployment to the DRC for the 37-year-old in the past six years. He has learned a bit of kiSwahili, which helps him understand what locals—and rebels—are saying.

He also knows how to spot the rebels, defining them by their trademarks: weapons with red tags and in the case of the Mai Mai groups—the Mai Mai Kifuafua and Mai Mai Yakutumba—necklaces with two water bottles. Mai mai refers to maji, the kiSwahili word for water. “These groups believe that if they go through certain rituals with special potions, including holy water, they won’t be defeated. They wear gumboots, rags and leaf headdresses,” Pearce said.

“You don’t get into arguments, because some of these guys take drugs. To avoid conflict with the rebels, you just listen when they talk and when they finish you walk away or you let them walk away first.”

But the trauma of soldiers sent to war zones often remains with them long after their deployment.

“I get involuntary twitches and spasms whenever someone claps unexpectedly or if a balloon explodes, I jump because I’m always ready for anything.

“The rebels in Burundi (where he was deployed in 2004) used to fire over our heads just to let us know they didn’t want us there. The sound from that time is still with me,” said Pearce.

One of his most traumatic experiences occurred in 2004, when he had to face a teenage rebel.
“He was 16 years old and carrying about seven machine guns. His tongue was cut out because the rebel leaders didn’t want him to divulge any information. When I opened a Coke can, he aimed at me, preparing to shoot. He thought it was a hand grenade. He had never seen a Coke can in his life.”

It is the child rebels that affect him the most. “When you see them you think of your children at home, but as a soldier you know that this 10-year-old is a rebel. The first thing that comes to your mind is ‘this could be my kid’. Then something in your mind says ‘cut it out, he is in combat, he can kill you first’ if it comes to that.”

South African National Defence Force members returning home from deployment are required to fill in assessment forms containing questions such as whether they have witnessed any killings or abuse during their deployment. The questionnaires are used by the military’s social workers to determine whether a soldier needs counselling.

“Normally I sort myself out on my own. I’ve got a strong personality so I can find ways to get myself back into normal life,” Pearce said.
He keeps his mind off things with crossword books, reading and talking about his experiences. “If you don’t talk about these things, one day you’re going to explode,” he said.

Monkey business among SA soldiers

The South African National Defence Force has been rocked by a racism scandal involving a senior officer, Lieutenant Colonel Kim Moorcroft, and one of his subordinates, Lieutenant Katleho Maleke.

Moorcroft called Maleke and three of his colleagues, all black or coloured, “fucking monkeys” in an angry tiff about two weeks ago. He was unhappy that a trip from the headquarters of the South African contingent in Goma to a hotel where a team of media visitors—including this reporter—were staying had started at a military base outside town, making the working day longer than it was supposed to be. “This is what happens when you work with fucking monkeys,” Moorcroft said, standing at the door of a minibus full of civilian visitors at South Africa’s Munigi base outside Goma.

Moorcroft apologised to the media team on the day of the incident. “They’re not monkeys, but hey, there’s a lot of monkeying around here. There was absolutely no reason why we had to go there.”

Maleke pressed charges against Moorcroft, including charges of crimen injuria.

Four defence force sources told the M&G that it was common for white senior military officers to call their black subordinates degrading names.

Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s spokesperson, Ndivhuwo Mabaya, said the ministry’s office was “alerted” about the case and was awaiting a report from the national contingency commander in the DRC.

Corporate communication director Brigadier-General Marthie Visser said the SANDF viewed the matter in a “very serious light”, but would not respond to questions from the M&G because the matter was “still under investigation”.

Mmanaledi Mataboge was the guest of the South African National Defence Force, which covered the cost of her travel and accommodation on her trip to the DRC