Von Paleske challenges Recce soldier’s deal

News from South Africa of Dr Alexander Von Paleske:

Ngcuka in ‘apartheid soldiers’ row

By Leon Bekker Garden Route Correspondent

BULELANI Ngcuka, former head of the National Prosecutions Authority and husband of Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, has been slammed by a top Botswana doctor for going into business with two men who served as senior officers in elite units of the SA Defence Force during the apartheid era.

Ngcuka’s Amabubesi Investments recently bought a controlling interest in Sedgefield’s controversial Lakes Eco Golf Estate project. Working with him on the project are former soldiers Jan Breytenbach, a founder of the crack Recce Commandos, and Willy Ward, a Recce officer. (The Herald)






3 responses to “Von Paleske challenges Recce soldier’s deal”

  1. Richard avatar

    Von Paleske purports to ‘do research’, and uses words such as ‘both men have been involved in appalling atrocities’ in open letters to newspapers such as The Herald. In personally circulated emails, he states that ‘Breytenbach can rightfully be called one of the worst apartheid officers’.
    He would do well to understand the following:
    1.He is being defamatory. Since he does not specify what the ‘atrocities’ were, one assumes that he has simply applied a label to military action that probably occurred within generally accepted rules of engagement under which most special forces and infantry tactical action takes place in time of war (as far as such ‘rules’ can be accepted, of course). This does not serve any purpose other than to deliberately create a misperception, in those who have little or no military or legal training, that a particluar action was an atrocity when, indeed, it is simply an ‘act of war’. This is a disservice to the truth, and is a direct attack on Breytenbach and Ward’s characters. It is a typical ‘propoganda’ tactic, and we all know that propganda and truth do not share much in common.
    2.There are people (such as myself) who know many of the facts and know that Paleske’s so-called research (into this matter at least) is very far off the mark. In fact, should this matter ever go to court, he will look like an utter fool.
    3.I guess, however, that he will continue to hide in Botswana (?), while he further abuses the truth and does his best to cause gratuitous harm….
    4.Unfortunately, however, the words of a dilettante such as Paleske spread widely and gain a power which is out of all proportion to their worth. In this instance, it is unlikely that the victims will defend themselves directly, and it is likely that many will take this to mean that there is some factuality in Paleske’s nonense.
    5.Let’s briefly help him direct his research (if he really DOES wish to do some) a little better:
    5.1 Breytenbach never committed anything that the Geneva Convention, South African law (then or now) or the SADF Military Disciplinary Code (then or now) would classify as an atrocity.
    5.2 There was no such think as ‘Recce GANGS’ – 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 Recconnaisance Regiments operated as special forces soldiers in properly planned missions. You can debate the mission outcomes as much as you like, but then you have to debate all special forces missions across the globe – South Africa at the time WAS at war, undeclared though it was.
    5.3 Breytenbach’s formation of the mostly black 32 Battalion was a major problem for the SADF at the time, as it was not done to have black soldiers actually fighting, and FOR the RSA ‘nogal’!! – from this Paleske might deduce that, far from being a ‘trusted, inner-circle ‘apartheid officer’ (such as he would have to be in order to BE entrusted with carrying out real atrocities), he was something of a maverick and an outsider – he was (and remains) a soldier’s soldier, and highly moral and ethical.
    5.4 Use of the word ‘terrorist’ by Breytenbach when referring to SWAPO/PLAN etc. seems to upset Paleske (in his circulated email, rather than in the article). This is, however, entirely justified by the countless real and documented atrocities carried out by these people – those of us that ‘were there’ saw these facts on the ground as it were, and it directly calls into question Paleskes credentials as a so-called researcher and truthful, objective reporter.
    6. With respect to the Golf Eco Estate – well, he really needs to check his (so-called) facts, as they differ substantially from reality – perhaps he would care to visit the site and look at the current situation for himself. Regarding the shareholding, he should most definitely go back to the drawing board, since what he states is nonsense.
    7. Generally, since his current diatribe is so light on truth and heavy with bias, I begin to question both the content and interpretation of his other writings.
    Pass this on to the fellow – ….. lets see what he says!

  2. Tom Griffin avatar

    Richard, I have passed on your post to Dr Von Paleske as you suggested. The following is his reply:
    Dear Tom,
    thanks for forwarding the letter of a Richard to me.
    He asks the question, what the atrocities of the Recce men were, who are now in business with the former boss of the National Prosection Authority, Bulelani Ngcuka.
    It is sad, that after all the hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission some people are still standing up and asking these questions after all the filth and dirt, the killings and murder the of the Apartheid South Africa have come to light including the trail of killings and destruction by the Reconnaissance Commando Gangs (Recce) in neighboring states
    Let’s focus first on Willy Ward, honored with a Crux Honoris in Silver by the Apartheid South African Government for what he did.
    Accoding to Peter Stiff “Silent war”,( Stiff is a good friend of Jan Breytenbach), Ward was sent with his Recce Gang to Mozambique, a country, that was not at war with South Africa. He killed Government Soldiers in Mozambique, used the dead bodies as a trap, hung them up at a fence and put explosives on the way to them, so that the people, who wanted to collect the dead to bury them were blown up.
    Jan Breytenbach was the founder of the 32 Buffalo Battalion, comprising the remnants of Holden Roberto’s FNLA movement, a mercenary group, that was fiercely loyal to their white officers, however had no loyalty to any country or government, thus showing all the characteristics of mercenaries.
    South Africa illegally invaded the newly independent African State of Angola, a country that was not at war with South Africa in an operation called “Savannah”.
    In the course of the invasion Government Soldiers and civilians were killed, the infrastructure of Southern Angola was largely destroyed.
    Breytenbach went even further. Disregarding the orders of the Apartheid South African Government, he stayed on in Angola with his mercenaries, continuing the killings and destruction.
    When asked by the regional SADF commander Viljoen, whether he did not reciecve the order to withdraw, he told him, that he did not receive the Telex. When asked for his war diary, he told him, that he does not have one. In other words, he was committing atrocities on his own behalf with his mercenaries.
    The same in Zambia, where he carried out raids against SWAPO into the Lekker Hoekie without Pretoria’s knowledge.
    The same applied to the destruction of a vital bridge, that Pretoria disapproved, Breytenbach ordered it anyway.
    The Recce Commandos, this is really common knowledge now, were nothing else than murder and destruction gangs. Their trail of killings and destruction in Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania Lesotho, and especially in Mozambique is beyond belief. They came in 1985 and 1986 to Gaborone/Botswana, a country, that was not at war with South Africa at all, on a killing spree.
    I have spoken to many people inside and outside the hospital, who very well remember the attacks by RECCE terrorists on Gaborone in 1985 and 1986 including the former Foreign Minister of Botswana, Archibald Mogwe.
    It was awful, to say the least. All the attacked houses were blown up, after the people inside were killed, many of them Botswanas with no link to the ANC.
    On my initiative the dockets have been reopened now by the Attorney General and the Government will certainly in due course ask the South African Government for the extradition of the culprits, who could be identified.
    And to justify this terror, the South African Army “uncovered” an arms cache, which they had put up themselves with weapons, captured from FAPLA in Angola.
    Breytenbach, unlike other officers, i.e. CCB (Civil Cooperation Bureau) and former RECCE commandant Charl Naude who expressed his personal regrets and how awful he felt after killing about 190 SWAPO guerillas at the base Shatowa in Zambia (Peter Stiff, Warfare by Other Means, 2001, p. 305) Breytenbach shows absolutely no regrets and talks about having been “privileged” to be the commander in the raid on Cassinga, killing close to 1000 freedom fighters and refugees (Buffalo Soldiers, 2002, p. 209). With him all the way, Staff Sergeant Willy Ward.
    South Africa’s Dr. Mengele by the name of Dr. Wouter Basson, who was involved in the murder of hundeds of SWAPO freedom fighters was another member of the South African Special forces, the killings were organized from Fort Rev, a forward basis of Recce Commando 5, the same gang. who came to Botswana. The freedom fighters were injected with drugs and thrown out of an aircraft over the Atlantic Ocean.
    Lastly, my position is Head of the Department of Oncology at the Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone/Botswana. His claim, that I am hiding here, is just utter nonsense.
    It is sad to notice, that obviously still a number of people are around, who glorify South Africa’ horrific past, and Richard seems to be one of them.
    Best wishes
    Dr. Alexander von Paleske
    Head, Department of Oncology
    Princess Marina Hospital
    Ex Barrister-at-Law, High Court Frankfurt (M), Germany

  3. Alex avatar

    Hmm. Dr. von Paleske has tripped up on a point of international humanitarian law here. “Illegally invading” another country is presumably meant to mean the crime of aggression in international law, pursuant to Articles 2(4) and 51 of the UN Charter and before that to the Kellogg-Briand Pact. But the crime of aggression is not a war crime, but has its own separate category to itself as an “international crime”, because only a State can commit it. That is to say, the individual soldiers who take part in an aggression cannot be put on trial for “aggression” and are not war criminals, unless they commit a war crime or crime against humanity in the process.
    The Republic of South Africa could be guilty of waging aggressive war, and its President and perhaps ministers or the general staff might be held personally responsible. (However I would predict that they would probably argue that they were acting in self-defence as per Article 51 – the law does not exclude either counter-offensive or even pre-emptive action against a genuinely “immediate and overwhelming threat leaving no choice of means nor moment for reflection” in Webster’s formulation.)
    That Angolan or Mozambican soldiers were killed is not sufficient to support an accusation of war crimes, unless they were (for example) killed having first surrendered, or having been under the protection of the Red Cross or whilst taking part in a protected humanitarian activity. Even the dead civilians would require proof that their killing was intentional and either not undertaken in pursuit of a military objective, or disproportionate to the military objective intended to be achieved, insufficient effort to protect them having been made.
    The booby-trap story might be a violation of the laws of war; I’m not sure if there is a specific protection of those burying the dead or whether it’s a matter of customary international law, but there could be a case there. The terrorist attacks on Gaborone might be considered disproportionate to their aim (although I don’t know enough about them to form a coherent view), but two possible charges arise – the first would be a violation of the Hague Regulations on the Conduct of Land Warfare 1907 as amended by the Fourth Geneva Convention in the event that the attackers did not show a suitable sign that they were combatants at the moment of the attack (this can be as little as donning an armband or beret, as the Fourth Convention specifically made provision for guerrillas) and were hence illegal combatants (to borrow a phrase).
    The second would be a violation of the customary prohibition on the assassination of individuals, probably dependent on whether the prosecution could prove that the attacks were specifically intended to assassinate named persons.
    Breytenbach’s disobedience of orders raises difficult questions. Traditionally, states bear the responsibility for the actions of their agents even if the agents act outside their authority (ultra vires – there is a world of case law about this based on various ugly and colourful incidents involving Americans getting diced up like pineapple meat in the Mexican revolution). I’m not sure, however, whether Breytenbach’s state immunity (remember, he can’t be guilty of invading Angola himself) would follow the same principle. If yes, his ultra vires continuation of the invasion would be rolled up in the charges against the RSA (and his disobedience of orders would be a matter for the South African courts martial).
    If no, he could be charged with murder under the ordinary criminal law of either Angola or South Africa. I’m sure he’s a bastard, but I think it would be difficult to frame charges of war crimes against him.

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