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The Mandela Revolution (Hardback)

A British Soldier's Inside View of His Rise to Power


By Huw Lawford
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 216
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399009058
Published: 30th April 2022


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On 27 April 1994 South Africa went to the polls and delivered the first black government in the country’s history. This was the Mandela Revolution. This is not the story of how the Rainbow Nation was formed, but it tells a story of one part of the revolution; a vital part, that had to occur to give legitimacy to the new South Africa both at home and abroad. It highlights the political necessity that drove a process and the seemingly inevitable failure that it became. Not a failure of the process itself, but a failure that had to occur to permit acceptability; it resulted in the end of South Africa as a hegemony.

This account focusses on how the military forces supporting the Apartheid regime and those committed to its overthrow came together to form a new national force, reflecting the new multi-racial, multi-faith democracy. The process appeared unacceptable in some measure to all sides, but the political instruction in 1994 was that there was to be the integration of the South African Defence Force and the armed wings of the African National Congress and the Pan Africanist Congress to form the South African National Defence Force.

Within this revolution, there was a small detachment from the British armed forces that were charged with assisting this transition. They were required to oversee and assist a process that had never been done before and often had to operate alone. It is a story of highs and lows, of sudden death, breakdowns and ultimately of hope.

This is a personal account of three years spent in the middle of this staggering transitional experiment. It was Security Sector Reform and Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) before such processes were coined by the United Nations and arguably it was considerably more successful than any such venture attempted by the United Nations. It is a book that demonstrates how success and failure can occur simultaneously.

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About Huw Lawford

Huw Lawford joined the Army in 1978 as a university cadetship officer reading Economics and Politics at Hatfield College, Durham University from where he graduated in 1981. He was commissioned into the Royal Regiment of Artillery the following year. He served in Germany and the United Kingdom before attending the Army Staff College in Camberley. After commanding his battery, for the most part in the infantry role in Northern Ireland, he was selected to join the team being formed to deploy to South Africa on the election of President Mandela in 1994. Following his time in South Africa, he was an instructor at Sandhurst and then selected for promotion and command of his Regiment. He was fortunate to have further promotion, operational tours to Bosnia and Afghanistan, and staff and command postings to Istanbul, Accra, Rome and London before leaving the Army to set up his own consultancy company. He lives in Somerset with his wife Trisha and they have two daughters, Emma and Harriet.

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