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Ageing mercenaries: What work for ‘paramilitary leftovers’ of the apartheid regime?

by on April 15, 2015

Never let it be said that we don’t cover a wide range of age at work issues. Today we look at this piece in The Guardian which examines what has happened to the ageing white ‘paramilitary leftovers’ of South Africa’s apartheid regime.

It reports that once South Africa no longer needed these battle-hardened soldiers, they were unable to pursue the only role they were trained for and were unable to find alternative work. Feeling apparently alienated under a black government and in need of an income, they pursued private wars as mercenaries (military contractors is the polite term) to put bread on the table. (As a footnote, about 1,500 South African mercenaries were employed at its peak by Executive Outcomes, a mercenary outfit set up by Simon Mann in 1993 which made a fortune protecting oil installations from rebels in Angola’s civil war). Jakkie Cilliers, executive director of the Institute for Security Studies is quoted as saying: ‘This is the only skill these guys have. Most of them are in their late 50s or early 60s and trying to make a late bit of income before they’re past it. In five years’ time it won’t be an issue’.

The article also highlights the sense of grievance and resentment felt by these men who see South Africa as loaded against them, even though statistics consistently show that the white minority still enjoys disproportionate access to education, jobs and wealth. From an age at work perspective, it’s interesting to note the observation by a pilot who used to work for Mann that ‘These guys are in their 50s, but for a pilot or tank driver it doesn’t really matter‘. This contrasts with other stories about age at work that we’ve reported involving civilian airlines and the regular armed forces, suggesting mercenary outfits may operate as a kind of black market for some ageing paramilitaries.

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