IOL in South Africa has an interesting follow-up piece on the N4610 story and its unfolding in the courts, Government determined to put down dogs of war. The main thrust is whether South Africa, furstrated by the ineffectiveness of its anti-mercenary laws, is making an example of the merecenaries by being unwilling to help them get out of the jails of Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea. But they also have an intresting historical summary which made me nearly snort the coffee I was sipping:
South Africa's history as a seedbed for mercenaries dates back to the 1960s when its men fought in the Belgian Congo but it took off in the early 1990s when the end of apartheid put many highly-trained soldiers on the market for lucrative work.
Of the myriad of security firms and "private armies" that emerged from South Africa, the most well-known is Executive Outcomes, set up by Simon Mann who is accused of being the leader of the group of 70 suspected mercenaries going on trial in Harare on Wednesday.
In the early 1990s, Executive Outcomes helped the Angolan government protect oil installations from rebels during the civil war but it went out of business when the government adopted its 1998 Foreign Military Assistance Act barring mercenary work.
Mann was later involved in setting up British-based Sandline International that helped the government in Sierra Leone obtain arms in 1995 in violation of a United Nations embargo.
Sandline closed shop in April of this year due to what it described as a "the general lack of government support for private military companies."
"Without such support the ability of Sandline to make a positive difference in countries where there is widespread brutality and genocidal behaviour is materially diminished," said a Sandline statement posted on its website.
They should have quoted the entire Sandline exit line. The bit crucial to IOL's insinuation that that Sandline is in some way involved with N4610 is in the absence of effective international intervention. (For example?)
The trial of the mercenaries in Zimbabwe, which was to have opened today, has been delayed until tomorrow.