Operation Awake/ Carrot (1979)

Operational Years

Objective of the Operation

The objective of Operation Carrot in 1979 was to find and destroy the SWAPO soldiers that infiltrated the farming area.

Composition of 61 Mechanised Battalion Group

To be completed

Personal Impressions of the Commander

Infiltration South of the cutline

The cutline was the animal disease fence that separated the farming communities in South West Africa from Ovamboland and it ran in an eastern direction from Oshivello gate up to Rundu.

The cutline consisted of two fences, approximately 2,6 metres high with a sand road running approximately 10 metres wide in between these 2 fences.

On 8 May 1979 a group of approximately 30 SWAPO cadres passed through Ovamboland and infiltrated into the area inhabited by the farming community near Tsumeb by crossing the cutline between Ovamboland and the farming area.

Attacks on farmers of the farming community

On 8 May the infiltrators attacked and killed the grandfather of Reinhardt Frederich on the farm Dorland.

The children of the Roodt family from the farm Wildernis, just adjacent to the cutline, were also killed while their grandmother had to look on.

These were the first instances where brutal force was used against members of the farming community and it shocked al the people in South West Africa. It was clear that no further atrocities could be allowed and these infiltrations had to be stopped at all costs.

Issuing of orders

Major General Willie Meyer, Officer Commanding of South West Africa Command requested that I come to Tsumeb where I met Commandant Lucas Nel of the Tsumeb Commando on 9 May 1979.

My orders were to find and destroy the SWAPO intruders who had infiltrated to the farming area, in order to stop and prevent the further killing of farmers.

Operation Carrot Headquarters

The 3 commandos of Etosha, namely Tsumeb, Otavi and Grootfontein, were placed under command of the Operation Carrot Tactical Headquarters. There were about 250 soldiers immediately deployed under this command, but 3 days later the number of soldiers under command rose to 2 000.

The farmers who were exposed to the threat of the SWAPO soldiers operating in the farming area were anxious for this danger to be addressed and resolved as soon as possible. They frequented the headquarters and demanded protection and immediate patrols, which put a lot of pressure on the capacity of own forces and commanders.

Commando Headquarters

The establishment of the commando headquarters was of great support because it took the pressure applied by the farmers away from the tactical headquarters.

The intimate knowledge of the local area that was needed to track down the infiltrators was supplemented by the appointment of a farmer from the area, Captain Alex Brits to the Tactical Headquarters.

Major Ockert Britz and other officers from the commando also assisted and the help from the commandos contributed greatly to the effectiveness of the operation.

Bases for the soldiers

Temporary bases for the soldiers from the RSA scheduled for duty were established at the Tsumeb airfield, Tsumeb shooting range (later called Casmania base after a Buffel from platoon 2 from Charlie company that detonated a land mine approximately 54 km north from the 61 Mech base on the road to Oshifito) Otavi, Grootfontein, Tsinsabis and 3 bases in the Etosha game park.

The soldiers were deployed as far west as Kamanjab and as far east as the Manyeti strip north of Abenjab.

Unconventional warfare

The infiltration by the SWAPO fighters to the farming community was a totally different type of warfare as the conventional type of warfare for which the South African national servicemen were trained for.

The soldiers of 61 Mech were well trained and were able to adapt to the new demands that they were up against in a very short period of time, making use of conventional equipment in an unconventional way in order to eliminate the enemy.

Success against the infiltrators

On 20 May it was possible to report that all 30 of the initial SWAPO infaltrators that penetrated the farming area, were either killed in follow-up operations, or had fled back across the cutline.

It was also reported on 8 June that a further 12 SWAPO intruders crossed the cutline, but they were immediately pursued. That night, four hours later and 20 km away from the cutline, contact was made with the enemy.

Corporal Swart, a dog handler, was killed during this contact. The SWAPO intruders scattered but the last one of this group was killed 2 weeks later at Combat mine barracks during a cordon and search operation.

Tragic death of my gunner

On 7 July, despite all the pressures of the infiltration that had to be endured, a very sad incident occurred at the Omuthiya base of 61 Mech.

At that time of the year the National Service Leader group from the Infantry School at Oudshoorn was deployed just outside Omuthiya for their annual operational training and border stint, and 61 Mech was alerted to the presence of these soldiers from the Infantry School.

The troops from 61 Mech were expected to be on fire ready when the emergency alarm was given. On that fateful night, my crew was cracking jokes in their tent when the emergency alarm was sounded.

My driver grabbed his rifle and fell down on his bed facing the foot end, his rifle in the fire ready position. My gunner, Rifleman van Brakel followed suit and took up the same position on his bed. My driver, who did not know that his rifle was on fire pulled the trigger and killed his friend, Rifleman Van Brakel, instantaneously.

The investigation and prosecution was a painful process and had a remorse effect on everybody and took months to be finalized.

Tactics used by our soldiers during this infiltration

The tactics of soldiers operating in the farming area had to be developed and implemented as and when the pursuit of the infiltrators demanded new approaches and ideas.

There were basically three categories of operations happening at the same time, namely:

Intelligence gathering

All headquarters were tasked to have “snuffel pakke” ready. Such a study would include detail of roads, fences and more specifically marking of and updating 1:50 000 maps with details from farm documentation and numbering of homesteads, painting that number physically on the roof, numbering water points, gates and all infrastructure and identification of possible infiltration routes. These “snuffel pakke” were kept (per area) in a trunk at the operation room and the operational maps at the deployed units, marked accordingly. This enhanced the reporting and prompt identification of activities to be followed-up during specific infiltration actions.

Commando Protection Operations

All farmers were mobilized to be responsible for protection of home and heart by patrolling their farm perimeters daily and to develop farm home protection measures. A standard of how this was to be done was laid down. Later this concept was presented to a group of farmers from South Africa. The emphasis was on detection and prompt reporting of suspicious activities using the marked reference of the infrastructure.

Tactical operations

The following tactical moves and drills were implemented by all forces:

  • Sweep and search operation on the cutline and farm roads. This entailed that all roads had to be swept physically with apparatus towed behind Buffels on a daily basis, to enable the detection of the possible crossing thereof by insurgents.
  • “Voorsny operasies” or pre-emptive tracking actions, to cut off or identify and confirm the movement of infiltrators. While the main party followed the tracks, small groups would be deployed 1 to 3 km in front of the main party with the intention of identifying the tracks of the specific infiltrators. Upon such positive identification, the main party was shifted to the fresh tracks and a confirmation tracking detail kept on the existing tracks until they caught up with the place where the last fresh tracks were found. This technique was very efficient when used in conjunction with the sweeping of cutlines and roads, and the time of a follow-up was almost halved. This technique worked so well against the group of infiltrators at Kamanjab that they were virtually running on drugs to stay in front of our own forces who were hot on their heels
  • Follow up of infiltrators by foot, using dogs, vehicles (mainly Bedfords, Unimogs and later mine protected vehicles like Buffels), horses, and motor cycles. Each approach had its own advantages and disadvantages and possible complaints by the farmers as to how it affected their farms. Unique drills were developed and co-operation procedures between integrated forces were established.
  • Long distance observation with telescopes and night sight equipment that could be used up to a distance of 15 km.

The different force components of 61 Mech were deployed in different roles like active patrols, static observation post, stopper-lines, home protection, escort duties, follow-up operations and guard duty.

Compensation to Citizens

One of the other duties of the Commander of the Tactical Headquarters was to compensate the citizens who had killed infiltrators.

One farmer, Kallie du Preez who protected his home while he was attacked by a group of infiltrators, killed three of the attackers. He first observed them when they crossed the cattle fence a few hundred meters from his home. He then took up a firing position in his garden and alerted his wife to be ready and prepared inside the house and to watch the opposite side. When he thought the enemy was close enough, he opened fire and killed two attackers from a short distance; the third attacker was killed while running away at approximately 200 meters.

The other event was the payment of R10, 000.00 to a fifteen year old school girl, Sonja Dressel, from the Rietfontein area, approximately 35 km south of Grootfontein. She defended her parents during a farm attack and managed to kill an attacker while firing from the homestead.

Ant Pompie van der Westhuizen

The voice of Ant Pompie van der Westhuizen was one of the outstanding features of the command and control during Operation Carrot (1979) and she manned radios on almost all the different radio communication networks.

Her call sign was “Ant Pompie” and she was a very reliable radio operator who manned her radios for what seemed to be on a 24 hour basis. Anyway, that was what it felt like because she was always available on the network.

She and her husband, Daan van der Westhuizen, lived on the farm Koedoesvlei, about 15 kilometers from the cutline between Tsintsabis and Oshivello gate. Her husband and son in law were killed during Operation Yahoo in 1983, when a large force of SWAPO infiltrators crossed the cutline between Ovambaland and the farming area.

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