Series Shows Swapo’s Side of Bush War

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A Namibian TV producer decided that the SWAPO side of the Bush War needs to be addressed. Linda de Jager and well-known previous announcer Ruda Landman (Cart Blanche) were on SABC Kwela about the Namibian series. Linda is a Namibian TV producer living in RSA.

A new series titled Grensoorlog starts screening on DStv’s Kyknet on July 6 at 8.30pm. The original idea came from radio personality Derrich Gardner who was given South African Defence Force archive access which he brought to driving-force Linda de Jager who was responsible for the making of the series. She tells Diane de Beer more about this potentially controversial series:

Producer Linda de Jager grew up in the wind-washed harbour town of Walvis Bay, the last enclave of the South African mandate over that country – then South West Africa, now Namibia.

As a child, she often heard old men arguing, sometimes until late at night about South African politics and even though she was small, she knew that these were heated discussions and that the participants were angry with one another.

Later – much later, as the producer of Grensoorlog – it was these fiery emotions that she wanted to capture in her first 26-part series.

The mandate she gave herself was to understand the conflict, where this battle that lasted more than two decades originated and how two such different points of view would end up slugging it out.

Importantly though, she knew she had to get all the historical facts correct and that she would need all the participants to tell their stories. “Emotions often result in ‘bad memories’, so I often had to double-check details in history books,” she notes. History books in itself, also often one-sided. The series is unique in that it tells both sides for the first time.

But it was the culture of secrecy that she grew up around – what was really behind those fences (surrounding the army base) in her hometown? – that she wanted to unravel as adult producer. “And what for example lurked behind the words Rooi Gevaar (red danger) and communism?” she says.

“It was an extremely satisfying moment to hear the Russian perspective of veterans who had fought in Angola during the border war,” she adds. It was as if she had realised one of her life’s ambitions to break down the limiting barriers of her childhood which didn’t encourage her to see beyond the sand dunes.

And this is what she hopes she can give the viewer who watches the series, a feeling of release. So many people participating in those wars or simply being on the sidelines, were familiar with some of the facts but never the full story. De Jager believes that the series brings us closer to the who, why and where of the border war.

She introduces the different political players of the time including people like Chester Crocker (the American face), Pik Botha as well as the current Namibian Minister of Defence Charles Namoloh. And then juxtaposes that with the perceptions and experiences of the foot soldiers.

When she finally tracked down the first Swapo cadre who ever crossed the Namibian border with a gun and subsequently trained many others, it was a huge relief. “It was extremely tough to find the people (on all sides) and then convince them to talk,” she explains.

And one of her proudest moments was when she managed to get the SA Defence Force’s General Jannie Geldenhuys and then SADF’s war veteran Eddie Viljoen as well as Swapo’s Charles Namoloh (Minister of Defence)?

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