Mandela last hope for dogs of war in Angola

THE FOUR South African mercenaries Jonas Savimbi's Unita rebel movement has threatened to execute are among at least 500 soldiers of fortune employed to bolster the Angolan government army.

Unita says the mercenaries were flying in a Pilatus 7 aircraft which they shot down in Lunda Norte, the northeastern province where five days before government forces, backed by up to 100 mercenaries, had driven Unita troops from the diamond producing areas of Cafunfo and Catoca.

Ironically, the fate of the four men, who like the majority of the other mercenaries once fought for the security forces of South Africa's white minority government, could depend on the diplomatic skills of the man once considered Pretoria's number one enemy: Nelson Mandela.

Earlier this month, Mr Mandela began a mediation effort to end Angola's 19-year-old civil war by hosting a meeting in Pretoria of Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Zairean President Mobuto sese Seko - Mr Savimbi's main backer - and Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, who originally proposed Mr Mandela's involvement. Mr Mandela is expected to meet Mr Savimbi later this week.

'We would like to stop this execution in the context of the intervention of the President (Mandela) was requested to make in the Angolan issue,' Deputy President Thabo Mbeki told reporters at the weekend. 'But we would not want to deal with this in a piecemeal way. The problem is greater than four mercenaries. The estimations are that there are something in the order of 500 of these mercenaries in Angola. Those people ought not to be there.'

Many of the mercenaries previously served with 32 Battalion, a notorious unit of Angolans, South African officers and foreign non- commissioned officers, who routinely fought on behalf of Mr Savimbi's National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita).

As the South African Defence Force began to withdraw from Angola in 1988 and its covert operations units were disbanded, unemployment forced the soldiers to look elsewhere. Salaries of between pounds 1,300 and pounds 6,300 a month have attracted them back to Angola, this time on the side of the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). At least four of South Africa's best helicopter pilots, and up to ten Israelis, are flying in Angola.

The main South African company recruiting former South African and Namibian soldiers for work in Angola is Executive Outcomes, a Pretoria-based security firm.

Executive Outcomes has confirmed that it employed two of the four men captured by Unita, including Daniel Scheurkogel, a former staff sergeant in the South African Defence Force.

Executive Outcomes officials have repeatedly maintained that their employees were not directly involved in fighting but were in Angola to train the government army, a claim dismissed by Western military analysts in Luanda and by Angolan officials. One senior Angolan official said up to 100 mercenaries fought alongside elite Angolan commandos in the April capture of the provincial capital of Ndalatando.

At least 11 South African mercenaries have either died or disappeared in Angola in the past 18 months. The first known casualty was Phillip Smith, a Briton resident in South Africa, who was killed early last year when Unita captured the northwestern oil-producing town of Soyo.

Suggested Topics
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star