A shady life of dirty tricks and 'funnies'

Click to follow
The Independent Online
DIRTY tricks used to be Colonel Gert Hugo's bread and butter. He joined the South African Defence Force (SADF) in 1974 and Military Intelligence (MI) in 1979, when he was moved to Namibia to join the war against the Swapo freedom fighters.

Functioning in a special unit which infiltrated Swapo, he was involved in cross-border operations into Angola. He ran agents and established covert networks on both sides of the border.

Between 1983 and 1985 he went underground, posing as a water affairs official in Oshakati in northern Namibia where, pony-tailed and heavily bearded, he lived in a large house with a black woman as cover for cross-border infiltration.

In 1986 he moved to Port Elizabeth, under the command of General van der Westhuizen, whom he described as charming, handsome, brilliant and adored by women.

Here he met and worked with the army's covert 'Hammer' unit and engaged in what he called 'funnies' - political operations, often with the police, involving, for example, breaking down doors, kidnapping and interrogating activists. In 1989 he was appointed chief intelligence officer in the SADF's East London unit. By this stage his disillusionment with the SADF was almost complete.

'When I was stationed in Namibia, the enemy had a uniform and a gun - a gun pointed at you. It was war. It was clean. Now I had become involved in party politics, in shady operations against an enemy I could not clearly define.' He felt abused, he said - a feeling shared by some, if not a majority, of SADF officers.

In August 1990 he moved to one of the SADF's more thinly disguised surrogate outfits, the Ciskei Defence Force. In July last year he himself fell victim to dirty tricks, he said, when he was convicted on charges of stealing 18,000 rand ( pounds 3,500) after exposing an MI plan to manipulate the Ciskei leader Oupa Gqozo into becoming an instrument of the secret nationwide war against the ANC. He resigned his commission and since then he has been unemployed.

A bitter man with powerful enemies whom he would like to see fall, he plans, if he can, to leave the country soon.

(Photograph omitted)