An interesting topic that I came to by way of my African Studies professor. In a meeting of the Michigan Action Network on Africa (MANA), he was listing off a number of woes for Africa and among that list was a quick comment about many South Africans working in the controversial security firm Blackwater USA. I could hardly believe it. Could the US security firms really be recruiting from South Africa? I then caught an article in glancing and noticed that foreign diplomats believed that the best security personnel were the South Africans. I had to look into it further. While I could not find the article again I have found a few others that were just as helpful in my knowledge search.
Being involved in the private military or security business is not something to let everyone know. When Mrs. Durant’s husband was kidnapped in an ambush in Iraq she had no support group of weeping war wives to turn to. All she had was her silence. What the Chicago Times called South Africa’s silent war in Iraq has been a very vocal war in the US especially with the controversy over Blackwater’s killing of Iraqi civilians. However, former military and police in South Africa are not new to harsh conflict. In the 1990s thousands of white military personnel left with the apartheid transition. Many of those unemployed officers and soldiers join private security firms and became involved in wars all across Africa, including Sierra Leone and Angola. So it is not surprising that working in a private security firm is something that is not talked about in South Africa. I am sure it holds a very sore spot in the country’s history.
It seems that Blackwater will search every inch of the earth to find good mecenaries. From Chile to Brazil and now South Africa. The UN recently reported that South Africa is one of the
top three suppliers for security personnel in Iraq. One South African security company received a multi-million dollar contract to train military recruits in Iraq. There are almost 43,000 South African private security personnel working in Iraq. The Institute for Security Studies wrote and article and in it mentioned the story of a doctoral student heading to Iraq to do research and a friend told him to make sure he was placed with the South African security because they were the best.
This may not mean much for South Africa because this is a practice that is not publicized. If you are involved in private security then it is best not to let that be known. You will not be welcomed home as a hero. Many note that after the ‘troop’ surge (or private security surge?) that South Africans will be again be out of security jobs, but maybe the Iraqi government will sign them on after to continue helping at oil stations. At any rate this becomes a larger issue for the US. How can the US government, using private security firms, allow security and war to be outsourced even more? How can there be any more accountability if they are signing on former, white army officers who supported apartheid? It can’t be long before people get fed up with outsourcing in the war-industry, especially the lesser paid and trained soldiers on the ground. It is a very worrisome topic for both the US and South Africa. South Africa seems to have an influx of military personnel, who gained no further skills after apartheid. The US looks to have an issue of controlling said security firms in their actions.