I was unlucky enough to have been born at a time when all young white males were forced to serve in the armed services or go to jail. Moral issues aside, my time in the army taught me many things.

One of the most endearing lessons that I learnt was that people who told the most army stories invariably did the least. I know a guy who only did one year of military service, never went any further north than Pretoria, slept at home and the worst injury he ever suffered was a paper cut, but my word can he tell you some rough stories about his time in the army!

My memory has recently been jogged by the fantastic story of Kebby Maphatsoe. In case you don’t follow the news, he recently got his fifteen minutes of fame when he told a mourning crowd at a funeral that our Public Prosecutor, Thuli Madonsela is a CIA spy and that the Americans are trying to install their own “CEO” in South Africa.

That in itself is reason enough to call him an idiot as the DA did in parliament, but what really got me interested was that not only is this genius the head of the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) he also happens to be our Deputy Minister of Defence. What I found most fascinating was the exposure of his military record. In most countries, a Minister or Deputy Minister would have some kind of track record within that discipline. A Minister of Agriculture would have been a farmer, or a Minister of Finance would be familiar with finance. It should follow that a Deputy Minister of Defence would have been a decorated soldier. But this is South Africa.

Our Kebby is missing an arm, and you would be forgiven for concluding that this was some kind of war wound suffered during a moment of great bravery. The injury was indeed sustained while he was a soldier. In fact his arm got shot off when he was in the process of deserting. He was running away from his uMkhonto we Sizwe military base in Uganda! His reason was that it was “unbearable”. The mind boggles. What was Kebby expecting the army to be like? A tea party? A matric dance?

In the scheme of things, desertion is the worst thing that you can do in the military. In World War One and before, you faced the firing squad for desertion. In any other army in the world, you would be court martialled and jailed. Well army life can be tough, but this is where things get surreal, our Kebby wasn’t even on the front lines, he was a cook.

Let me explain to you how things work in every army in the world. New recruits are sent to a fighting corps like the infantry, artillery, air force or navy. You then endure a period of basic training. This is the period when life is made extremely difficult and this trying time is used to weed out the mental and physical weaklings. Not everyone is cut out for battle, and depending on just how useless or cowardly you are; you become a medic, or a driver, or a store man or a clerk.

If you are a real coward or totally useless you become a cook.

I have no doubt that our Kebby is the very first cook in world-wide military history to become a Deputy Minister of Defence.

Heaven help us, I hope that Zimbabwe never attacks!


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