Warfare by Other Means
South Africa in the 1980s and 1990s
Second in a trilogy on South Africa’s secret warfare.
Author: Peter Stiff
600pp; size 242 X 168-mm; b/w and colour illustrations.
Hardback; ISBN 1-919854-01-0 ; non fiction.
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 Renéé 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 combating 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 Blanche’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.
This book is essential reading for all South Africans.
Stiff has managed to produce 600 pages of fact in a format which is an enjoyable read — all in less than a year. In this period he also had to contend with the completion of a book on Zimbabwe. He clearly does not suffer from writer's block.
Stiff has the ability to interpret documents written in the language of Securocrats, picking his way through military jargon and double speak. He explains the contents of documents and their hidden meaning in readable format. This is something that has seldom been achieved by others who have tried to convey South Africa's dark past.
Peter Stiff's key to success lies in his no nonsense approach to the lies of politicians and senior officials, who like to use the smokescreen of deniable plausibility. He does not allow them to get away with the standard response of 'I was not in the know'. He really gets to the truth.
. . . This is history! It is sometimes humorous, mostly horrifying (because of the subject matter) but always riveting. It goes a long way towards explaining the mindset of the defenders of apartheid and the impunity with which they wielded absolute power . . . This book is recommended for anyone interested in the facts surrounding the 'total onslaught' approach used by the apartheid apparatus. I for one look forward to the last book in this trilogy.
Daily Dispatch - East London
The covert killing machine of the Nationalist government has already been laid bare in the media and in the proceedings of the TRC. Peter Stiff manages, nevertheless, through access to military and government sources, to cast new light on many of the events that defined South African politics in the eighties and nineties . . .
The government's war on the people of South Africa created tragedy and suffering on a large scale and it is illuminating and satisfying to discover the details of people and events that twisted history. Stiff is indefatigable in exposing rhe sinister workings of apartheid security forces and right-wing politics and Warfare by other Means is an invaluable addition to any library on South African history.
Natal Witness - Durban
Famous names plus facts and allegations make this book important to history. Many well-known names are mentioned like Eugene de Kock, Colonel Laurens du Plessis, AWB member Dries Kriel and Dr Wouter Basson, to name just a few . . . The pages are filled with secret operations against 'the enemy'. Against a background of the 'Total Onslaught' assassinations, the overthrow of governments in the Ciskei, the CCB, Operation Katzen and many more . . . The real importance of this book, however, lies in the historical value of happenings in South African history that should not be forgotten. Stiff's research is meticulous and the index and end notes make for easy reference. This is a must for anyone interested in secret warfare.
Beeld - Johannesburg
Stiff made his name by recording the history of the bush wars in the old Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Namibia and now South Africa . . . The book deals with all aspects in such detail that if it wasn't for Stiff's writing abilities to handle such issues so effectively, it would have been impossible to read . . . The book deals objectively with the Seychelles, the ANC uprising, National Intelligence etc. It answers all the questions on the CCB, the AWB's involvement in Bophuthatswana and much more . . . This book is definitely worth owning. It enriches our knowledge on the subject and is a useful reference work.
Die Burger - Cape Town
The coverage of Warfare by Other Means is colossal . . . it contains a fantastic wealth of information on events in the 1980s . . . particularly regarding happenings in the lead up to South Africa's 1994 elections.
Marches Tropicaux - Paris, France
Warfare by Other Means is the most comprehensive documentation on the subject [of South African secret warfare]
Volksblad - Bloemfontein
Stiff looks at the white right wing in the run-up to the 1994 elections. He gives due credit to the important role finally played by the SADF, and its then commander Georg Meiring, in preserving the constitutional order and resisting the temptation to join the collection of Security Force has-beens calling for Afrikaner rebellion.
Along the way some important reputations are trashed. Stiff has little time for the protestations of politicians and generals that they knew nothing of hit squads. He cites one document of the State Security Council that survived the shredding machines. The first heading was: 'List of politically sensitive people.' The minutes noted that the list 'had to be shortened' and that methods other than detention should be considered. 'One wonders,' Stiff asks, 'what they had in mind to shorten the list other than murder?'
Sunday Weekend Argus - Cape Town
Stiff tells, inter alia, of the disastrous attempt by Col Mike Hoare and his mercenaries to overthrow the regime of Albert René in the Seychelles. He alleges that the South African authorities secretly paid a ransom to secure the release release of captured mercenaries under sentences of death. And in an even more fascinating twist the writer says that South African agents took over the Seychelles intelligence services through a front company of the SADF, thus foiling future coup attempts from whatever source.
Warfare by Other Means is a worthwhile addition to Africana and to the history of the turbulent period of the last decade of apartheid rule.
Mercury - Durban
'The organisation [Project Barnacle, later the CCB] also became responsible for the elimination of any members of "own forces" who had become a threat to clandestine operations,' Stiff writes. Is that what happened to Col Alwyn 'Corrie' Meerholz who died in what Stiff calls 'questionable circumstances' in November 1989? As Officer Commanding 5-Recce Regiment (and a former CCB regional manager), Meerholz was a brave and highly decorated soldier noted for his loyalty to his subordinates. Conversely, he clashed with certain superiors.
A most unlikely road accident, on a straight, normally safe road, following a phone call at two in the morning, was the cause of Meerholz's death. His car completely burned out, which as Stiff notes, is extremely unusual, whatever the impression given in the movies.
The Star - Johannesburg
Warfare by Other Means contains some important lessons. One is the folly of allowing soldiers to play politics. Another is the culture of independent institutions and the rule of law.
Sunday Tribune - Durban
I am reading the third part of your great trilogy, and I congratulate you to such an outstanding book of a war, which is greatly misunderstood worldwide because of the shameless but professional communist propaganda and the severe underestimation by your people in charge of political warfare and the intellectuals in the West.
I believe Peter Stiff's trilogy is one of the best accounts of the border war.
Prof Hans - Heinz Seyfarth, Germany
I believe Peter Stiff's trilogy is one of the best accounts of the border war.
Professor Ockie Geyser, (Retired) Professor of History - University of the Free State. (Volksblad 14 Sept.'09)
Review on Amazon.com by Seth J. Franzthman - Jerusalem, Israel
Review on Amazon.co.uk by Seth J. Franzthman - Jerusalem, Israel
Many congratulations on your Trilogy of amazing books. The research that you have done into some amazing, tough subject matter and put together in such a readable format is amazing. They really are all magnificent works. Warfare by Other Means is a staggering work — I’m not sure how you managed to research all that. I almost feel it should be prescribed reading for us to realise what was done (or attempted, rather) in our names.
John Dobson —
Universityof Cape Town
I finished reading the last book of your trilogy yesterday. I have read 'Silent War' three times (and I look forward to the fourth time), 'Covert War' twice (with a third read of many sections) and got through the dark content of 'Warfare by Other Means' as one might take a castor-oil supplement -knowing that somehow it'll be good for you to do so in the end. My lasting impression comes from 'Silent War'.
How did the SA government manage to screw up so comprehensively on keeping all this fascinating stuff from us?
Why couldn't we know about the great battles of the Lomba River?
How could they have so skillfully contrived to lose the propaganda war?
Without your books all this history would have been blown away by a couple of Channel 4 and BBC documentaries that are well passed their sell by date and had no grasp of the Cold War in Africa, or Africa for that matter. Thanks for all your hard work!
Richard Washington - Oxford University, UK
The volumes of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report are without an index. A good short cut is the account by Peter Stiff [in] Warfare by Other Means . . .
Hermann Giliomee – in his The Afrikaners: Biography of a People
Extraordinary Professor of History at the University of Stellenbosch. Formerly Professor of Political Studies at the University of Cape Town and a fellow in 1992-93 of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, DC.
I have read your books Selous Scouts:Top Secret War and The Silent War: SA Recce Operations 1969-1994 and I am currently reading Warfare by Other Means. I have found your books superlative. Your research/knowledge is of great depth.
Ken Thompson - Isando, RSA
I vaguely remember the TV news coverage in Ireland at the time, but it was hard for an outsider to get a real handle on what was actually going on there [South Africa] and in particular understand the proper context of events. Thanks again. Warfare by other Means is a real historical gem of a document, which will no doubt become increasingly valued by historians as the years go by.
Niall McCabe - Republic of Ireland