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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

South Africa: Apartheid-era battalion no longer a threat

JOHANNESBURG, 25 July 2003 (IRIN) - News reports linking some of the military officers involved in the attempted overthrow of the Sao Tome and Principe government to South Africa's infamous 32 Battalion have sparked memories of what was arguably one of the most feared apartheid-era units.

The 32 Battalion was originally formed from members of the Angolan National Liberation Front (FNLA) following their defeat in the 1970s by the now ruling MPLA. They fought on behalf of white-ruled South Africa in Angola against the African National Congress (ANC) and the Namibian liberation movement SWAPO.

The unit was disbanded in 1993 as part of a political deal with the ANC ahead of the country's first multiracial elections.

A senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, Henry Boshoff, told IRIN that after the battalion disbanded its members returned to their countries of origin.

"Most of the men who fought with the battalion stayed in South Africa but the rest dispersed and went off to Namibia and Angola. About half a dozen went back to Sao Tome [and Principe]," Boshoff said.

It was unlikley that the battalion would regroup.

"The link to South Africa at present is very tenuous indeed. These men [who participated in the abortive Sao Tome coup this month] were part of the 32 Battalion but it is far fetched to say that there is connection with the present [South African] government, or that its former members pose any threat to regional stability," Boshoff said.

Theme(s): (IRIN) Governance


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