UPS: NICK – people told me Savera Morton is the guy that is going to…the plan that is what Simon told me and Greg. The plan was that half an hour before the people landed with the force from SA, they will fly in Savera with the new government.
Its been two months now since the images that alerted the world to an alleged coup in EG. Suddenly the spotlight has was on this tiny west African country. A country that has seen its share of coups before this alleged attempt of violent overthrow. The current president in fact came to power through a coup in 1979, but whereas the upheavals of the past where about internal political struggles. The latest most agree had international fingerprints all over it and an explosive new ingredient oil. Lets take a closer look at this country that has been called the Kuweit of Africa.
This is Equatorial Guinea today…once Africa’s only Spanish colony. Until ten years ago it was poverty-stricken… with most of its income coming from cacao and coffee. Then, in 1995, it hit the big time when massive oil reserves were discovered.
Today it is the third largest producer of crude oil in Africa. Yet the average person remains very poor.
In 1968 EG gained independence - after 190 years of Spanish rule. Its first president was Messias Ngeuma.

UPS: JOHANN Smith, political advisor – Messias was by far the cruellest, worst dictators that the African continent has ever seen. He has murdered and placed into exile almost the third of the country. So the country is burdened by a very violent history.
This is President Obiang Ngeuma. He came to power by overthrowing his uncle Messias Ngeuma in a coup. He’s been president for the past 25 years. Although Equatorial Guinea has officially been a democracy since 1991, every election to date has been marred by widespread allegations of vote rigging.

UPS: JOHANN – Messias destroyed the country, he destroyed the economy to the extend that when the president took over in 79, the EG was the 158th poorest country in the world. And at this stage EG has the fastest growing economy in the world. It’s got one of the highest GDps’ in Africa and all the key indicators are going through the roof. The situation no matter what is improving.

Everyone agrees that Obiang’s presidency is a great improvement on the wild excesses of his uncle. But it is notorious internationally for human rights abuses and interference in the judicial system.

UPS: IBA Extremely worried – When we went there we were equally worried about the situation for the justice system and for the people in EG, the levels of human rights abuses, the level of torture and the interference by the executive and the justice system. There is no accountability at the moment. There is none of the usual checks and balances, there is no free press and no media, no civil society. That is a very worrying situation.

It’s against this backdrop that the first news of a foiled coup swept the world. These men were paraded on Equatorial Guinean TV. It was claimed they were planning a coup to overthrow President Obiang… to install a government led by exiled opposition leader Severo Moto. The leader of the group made what seemed to be an extensive confession:

UPS: DU TOIT – If you just show them where is the military basis and show them where the entrance to the president’s palace. And then we stand back and let them do what they want to do.

A day earlier a plane load of men had been arrested in Harare for complicity in the same coup. The aeroplane they were on had left the USA four days earlier. From there it had flown to Soa Tome and from there on to SA.

In South Africa a local crew and the 70 alleged mercenaries had boarded the plane at Wonderboom airport. They flew on to Polokwane International where they cleared customs… and then on to Harare. There they were to refuel and load weapons, but were arrested while doing so. The Zimbabwean government said they had been tipped off by South African intelligence.

The Zimbabwe group insisted they were on their way to guard a mine in the DRC. Du Toit in his confession said this was a smokescreen… they were in fact on their way to EG.

UPS: NICK – There is no quiet concrete evidence that I think everybody can see that the people form the DRC were actually meant to come here. It was just a smoke screen to get the people out of South Africa.

UPS: JOHANN – As far as I knew it was one of the worst kept secrets because everyone knew about it beforehand.


If ultimately proved to be true the coup attempt in EG is a story line out of a thriller. So true are the characters implicated? In EG NIC DU TOIT was a former Special Forces operator and leader of the alleged advance group. In Zimbabwe SIMON MANN is a former British Special Forces soldier and the leader of the alleged back up group. Together the men have a common history in the now defunct mercenary outfit executive outcomes. The bulk of the other 80 men come the majority were once members of the so-called Buffalo Unit, or 32 Battalion, of the former SADF. Now are these men the dream team for a coup of this nature or are they as some insist innocent men with legitimate business interests falsely accused.
South African Nick du toit was a former Special Forces operator and also worked for Executives Outcomes. In his latest venture he’d closed a number of lucrative business deals with none other than the brother of the President of EG. It’s alleged du Toit was to have provided transport and guides for the coup. In return, it’s said, he was to have been paid around R7 million and allowed to continue his business in EG.

SIMON MANN is a former British SAS soldier. He was a founder of Executive Outcomes and later headed up the British mercenary outfit Sandline International. He’s a long time associate of Nic du Toit and is now based in Cape Town. It’s alleged he was the ringleader of the coup.

GREG WALES is a London-based accountant, an associate of Simon Mann and a former financial advisor to Executive Outcomes. It’s alleged he brokered the financial backing for the coup. He admits to having close ties with Severo Moto, but denies involvement in the coup.

ELY CALIL is a shadowy international oil broker based in London. He’s admitted to being a friend of Severo Moto and it alleged he was the financial backer of the coup. Having made his fortune from oil, the pay-off for a regime change in EG is obvious. He denies any involvement.

But the foot soldiers of this alleged coup have none of the vested interests that the ringleaders and financial backers seem to have had. They are the cannon-fodder of this venture. It’s unclear whether any of them knew the true aim of the mission.

It was apartheid South Africa’s first black fighting unit. Made up of former Angolan soldiers and mainly white South African officers, it was hugely controversial but a greatly feared fighting force.
UPS: BREY – The thing is that they are foreigners obviously, and that is why they are unique and from Angola. And secondly they are career soldiers and that is the only work they know. And thirdly they are just bloody good. I took them over form FNLA because they could not train them properly like we did. And all the leaders disappeared and we were stuck with these chaps. We turned them into the best unit this country has ever had.

In 1992 32 Battalion was disbanded. It was a seen as a concession in the negotiations with the ANC. Few of the men had the qualifications to be incorporated into the new Defence Force. Most were given small once-off pensions and demobilised. Suddenly thousands of well-trained, combat-hardened soldiers were without jobs - and without a future.

UPS: BREY – The structure collapsed that is why they were sitting there disoriented in the asbestos heaps. So emotionally speaking and psychologically speaking, they are scattered. Although they are physically there they are scattered in that way. There is nothing no coherence there anymore. Which is very sad and unfortunately because they had been disbanded in 94 by De Klerk. There was no cohering a path forward up to retirement time. That disappeared so they were just left there cut off in a litch. They are not deployable except in security firms so that is why many of them try and find jobs in security firms and that is why they end up in security firms in Africa.
In the years since, former 32 Battalion members have been eagerly recruited by those who can use their skills. Many have found work with private companies working inside and outside SA. Many worked for Executive Outcomes in its heyday. With their training and combat experience the former 32 Battalion soldiers are obvious targets for military recruiters offering good money – and by all accounts Simon Mann’s outfit was offering just that…

UPS: JOHANN – When they were demobilised from the SANDF they only received a payment of R20000. And there were no structures to deal with them. Fortunately for them executive outcomes made use of their services both in Angola and Sierra Leone.
UPS: BREY – Most of those organisations are there firstly for the money. They were basically there for the money and they are doing something which they know how to do better than anybody else you see.
UPS: JOHANN – there is no structure in which these very well trained some of the world are well trained are accommodated. So it will always be a problem until such structure exists to accommodate these former soldiers.
UPS: KEITH Campbell, political advisor – 32 Battalion people here is SA in a specific time in history there wasn’t such a programme. I think that is a lesson that has been learned for the future. That you let people out of the armies you got to give them something else to do otherwise they only have one skill left.
It’s precisely these skills that have now got these men into all this trouble. Whether any of the ordinary members of this group knew what they were getting themselves into, is questionable. The same cannot be said of the old hands like Simon Mann and some of the others? Apart from Nic du Toit, everyone denies their role in this alleged coup. The Zimbabwean group insist they were on their way to Burundi. From there they were to take up a contract to guard a mine in the DRC. Yet to date the identity of the mine remains a mystery… nobody has come forward to back-up their alibi.

Du Toit has made a confession. Yet interestingly, he has the most to lose by overthrowing the very government with whom he has lucrative multi-million dollar business deals.

UPS: JOHANN – Well he just wrapped brilliant contracts with the government which they would have made a lot of money. And it has aged out other companies. Fishing…fishing contracts. So there is all contracts and I mean its unthinkable that they would have got involved in something like this.
UPS: KEITH – That is one of the confusing aspects. He was in a business with one very familiar and senior genuine politicians why he would then choose a different course I don’t know.

Much has also been made of du Toit’s speedy television-confessions. This has led to speculation that might have been tortured -- or that authorities might have had so much evidence that not confessing was pointless. (Others have suggested that he might have informed on the coup…. and could turn state witness in a coming trial.)


It is widely expected that the Zimbabwean prisoners will be extradited to Equatorial Guinea… that the whole group will stand trial there. Last week family members and friends of the men gathered at the Union Buildings in Pretoria to ask the government to intervene: They want the men to be extradited to SA to stand trial here.


These teary sentiments have found little sympathy. The government has said they will intervene, but only if the men are condemned to death – a possibility in both EG & Zimbabwe. If the men were extradited to SA, they could be charged only with contravening the Foreign Military Assistance Act – known here as the FMA. It’s a largely untested law. That’s why, some speculate, the men were deliberately allowed to leave the country.

UPS: JOHANN – In terms of the fact that the SA government allowed them to leave I think it was a deliberate effort by the government to prevent any such future action. And that the guys stand trial in their countries.
UPS: KEITH – This current case of the people in Zim and EG is probably the best deterrent for future actions of this sort. In the past mercenary act and private military companies in Africa have generally either made a whole lot of money or generally got of if they were not caught. They have overthrown governments in the Comoros and Seychelles. If you want to stop them one of the ways is to put them in one of those horrible jails in Africa. So that the next guys take it a bit more seriously.
UPS: JOHANN – Its going to be difficult to prosecute these guys within the SA legal system.
UPS: KEITH – Our FMA act is untested, because the only prosecutions that have been plea bargained. So nobody knows how constitutional the law is, nobody knows what the limits are because it goes beyond common law and it will be applied strictly in the favour of the defendants rather than in favour of the states. So it is much easier to take your chances with a well established and good legal system you have in SA with a unsure law. Which may have constitutional problems rather than go to a place like EG where justice system virtually doesn’t exist and your chances of conviction are about 99%.
This horrifies Marge Pain. Her husband has no military background…he’s been a commercial flight engineer for 27 years. Two days before the ill-fated flight to Harare, he was contacted by one of the pilots. They wanted him for a freelance job aboard what he was told was a charter flight to Burundi. Now he’s in a Harare jail. Marge does not share the same military background as many of the family members here. The world into which she has now been drawn is completely foreign to her.
UPS: KEITH – I am almost certain that the people on that plane did not know the details or they were assuming that they were going to do a security job or was a real security job or a coup. That is what they knew that they were going to do a security job in Africa, get a large salary and over and above what they would earn in SA and tip it.
REUTERS at the end for file footage of NG and for the Simon Man clip you should credit "Bloody Sunday" footage courtesy Paramount Classics/UIP.
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