Original Research

The militarisation of the Platfontein San (!Xun and Khwe): The initial years 1966–1974

A S van Wyk
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 10, No 4 | a93 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v10i4.93 | © 2014 A S van Wyk | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 February 2016 | Published: 30 December 2014

About the author(s)

A S van Wyk,, South Africa

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The resettlement of 372 San (Bushmen) soldiers with dependents from 31/201 and 203 Battalions in Namibia to Schmidtsdrift in the Northern Cape during March 1990 was the last chapter in the process of militarisation of the !Xun and Khwe communities. However, there is a popular perception that the South African Defence Force (SADF) was primarily responsible for the militarisation of this particular San community, with the founding of 31 Battalion during 1974. This ignores the fact that the !Xun and Khwe originated in Angola, where they were actively involved with the Portuguese security forces. With one exception, only superficial mention is made in the literature about the role of the San soldiers in Angola before independence in November 1975. This article shows that the militarisation of the San actually started in 1966, when members of the !Xun were recruited by the Portuguese Security Police (PIDE) and successfully used against the Angolan liberation movements MPLA, FNLA and UNITA. The lifestyle of the San before the PIDE era is discussed, as is the period in which they were raised to a superior status as flecha fighters. This period of military prowess ended with the independence of Angola and resulted in the !Xun and Khwe seeking refuge with the SADF. These geo-political events led to the founding of 31 Battalion, situated in the Western Caprivi, where former flecha soldiers were retrained and incorporated into SADF structures. In closing, brief mention is made of the resettlement of the !Xun and Khwe to Schmidtsdrift in South Africa.


!Xun; Khwe; San; Platfontein; Border War; Namibia; Angola; Portuguese; Caprivi; South African Defence Force (SADF); 31 Batallion


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Crossref Citations

1. Challenges to the integration of the Platfontein San in South Africa between 1990 and 2003
Eldar Salakhetdinov
Anthropology Southern Africa  vol: 45  issue: 2  first page: 105  year: 2022  
doi: 10.1080/23323256.2022.2117712