"Two things are said to be infinite- the universe and human stupidity, but I am not certain about the former" Albert Einstein.
It is 1975 - Africa is being invaded by communists who take her money and give her weapons of destruction, tractors that do not work, debt and drugs. The African peoples are subjected to a communist belief that leaves leaders wealthy and countries impoverished. America is in the middle of the cold war. Japan is between her and the communist threat,-both Russian and Chinese. Emotions are high about the Red Danger all over the world. The Cubans are on South Africa’s doorstep. Angola, rich in diamonds and other minerals, with her fertile land is invaded by both Cuban and Russian troops. Angola is the last frontier of Southern Africa. The Republic of South Africa governed Namibia (South West Africa). The Nationalist Government is in power.
America, is worried about the communistic threat to the shipping routes and the mineral wealth of Southern Africa enters into an agreement with South Africa. South Africa agrees in order to protect it’s large expanse of border, it needs a few friendly neighbors and the American help was welcome. South Africa provides the armaments and troops albeit anonymously.
Mandatory conscription for South Africans is a year, followed by annual camps. Refusal was punishable by a prison sentence and a fine. In order to get employment or leave the country, South African males needed to have clearance from the government that the army duties were done. Non South Africans were not eligible for call up and neither were people of colour.
The boys have spent twelve years in school to write the final exam, which will determine their future- University, college, work place, but first they are conscripted into this mans’ army, little knowing what the are fighting for. They have had their heads filled with the war films prevalent of the time of the glories of the first and Second World War. Television is still to come. Male sensitivity is along the lines of “Cowboys don’t cry” and they have all played cops and robbers. Scared but excited they await their ritual of manhood. Filled with the illusion that it is for volk en land- for people and country, they go to Bloemfontein to undertake training.
Nine weeks are allowed to turn these boys into fighting machines doing basic training. After this the boys specialized in a particular field, depending where the army needed them, individual taste is not taken into account. The boys finished this training in June.
Then it was up to South West Africa now Namibia. The 1st trip deals with the men going up to the border area. Second trip is the real event that culminates in Operation Savannah .
The boys are given three options
1. Do the year and have three month annual camps afterward for most of your life, these camps caused great disruption to civilian life and also meant financial loss. Most companies at this stage did not pay employees for army time, and army pay was less than many of them would earn in the work place. Companies also did not like hiring staff who were off three months out of twelve.
2. 18 months and no annual camps and a once off payment of R900.00
3. Join for two years and become permanent force with all the privileges attached to this, have no more annual camps plus a once off payment of R3000.00. This was later refuted and the men had to do reservist duties of 14 days per year. Failure to do conscription was subject to a prison sentence.
Papatroop was composed of boys who decided to do the two years.