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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: 10th December 2021



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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.

Review as featured in:

Highlight: 'For anyone who
is involved in training or working with international military the book must form
part of their reading repertoire.'

RA Journal Spring 2022

I found this a very honest book on the problems of dealing with South Africa during his three years based there, and the Country's gradual evolution. There are bound to be a few readers who took part in this fine effort, but for any one interested in the changes made in South Africa, this book is an excellent and informative read, and the Author's love for Africa is self evident. It is a thoroughly enjoyable read, and an a fine commendation for all the hard work put in by the British Military.

5 stars

Read the full review here

ARRSE (Army Rumour Service)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Colonel Huw Lawford RA. Ret tells the story of a small British advisory mission to South Africa tasked with uniting the multiple anti-apartheid military groups some of which were violently opposed not just to the Apartheid government but to each other. Lawford provides a fascinating look into a hopeful outcome of one of the last Western Empires that through hard work, persistence, and good will has managed to transition from a one-party race-based system of government to one of the possibilities. South Africa still remains the most dynamic country in Southern Africa as well as a potential force for good on the world stage. Lawford and his small band of brothers helped to prevent a fractious civil war filled with anarchy in 1994 by integrating the South African military forces.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
In response to a short notice request by the Mandela Government of National Unity, a tri-Service British Military Advisory Training Team was formed and deployed to South Africa to assist in the formation of the new South African Defence Force. This is Huw Lawford’s story of the most difficult and highly sensitive task involving integrating 7 armed forces comprising the ex-South African Defence Force, together with 4 former homeland armies and 2 liberation guerrilla armies of the African National Congress and Pan African Congress. There was no blueprint as nothing like this had ever been tried before. Huw expertly shows how this small team defused tensions and volatile situations which enabled the integration process to progress peacefully at a very politically sensitive time. He describes how blatant obstruction, provocation and resistance, from some quarters, was overcome. If this small team had failed then there would have been appalling consequences and a return to armed insurrection. It is a great success story and a great read.
Paul Davis CBE


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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