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Stand at Ease

Min Dae

by Craig Jarvis / 11.11.2009

Being conscripted into the apartheid era SADF was a kak deal. The legacy of National Service is one of pain, hardship, suffering under the hands of tyrannical sergeants, lieutenants, bombardiers and RSM’s, border skirmishes, contacts, suicides and horrific stories of torture and inhuman behaviour, conducted on behalf of a corrupt government. Many young white boys came out of the army scarred for life, twisted and mentally disfigured form what they had seen and experienced.

Although Private Green ended up doing his service in and around the red sands of Lohatlha, in the Kalahari Desert at the Army Battle School, he managed to keep his sense of humour firmly intact, and his book is pretty damn funny.

Private Green, being the product of a liberal middle-class family and a graduate of one of the country’s first multi-racial schools, is not sold on the philosophies of the apartheid system and the need to fight for the cause. In fact all Private Green wants to do is surf, and so is determined to be stationed at Natal Command, a stone’s throw away from his beloved waves.

Through gross ill advice, Privaat Groen and some of his Durban cohorts find themselves heading for the red sands of Lohatlha, Kalahari Desert for a long stint in the Army Battle School. Still determined to do as little as possible for the military machine, they embark on a hilarious 2-year journey of failures, hi-jinks and dodging responsibility at every turn, while continually getting caught, getting kakked and yet living to see another day.

His descriptions of every day life in the army his fellow soldiers as well as the Permanent Force fools he had to deal with on a daily basis will have you laughing out loud. From crazy guard duty scares, to going unofficially AWOL for a few weeks, supposedly searching for missing army vehicles but instead surfing in Durban for the whole time, to the absurdity of his Citizen Force duty, Green sees the whole two-year episode for what it really was, a time to lay low and learn how to dodge responsibilities of any sort.

Now a 47-year-old Durban-based entrepreneur, Gary Green has an easy and unaffected writing style, delivering a mellow page-turner. And for anyone who actually had to do their national service there will be some wry, knowing smiles as well as a few outbursts of laughter.

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  1. Pam Green says:

    Clearly Gary looks at life through comical “Green” goggles. Every situation demands a humourous response. Can this man ever be serious? Absolutely not! –
    Pam Green and Fiona from Plantations

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  2. Karen says:

    I think conscription should be brought back for everyone leaving school, but not miltary conscription general public service: teachers aids, nursing, policing etc.
    The government needs all the help it can get and it teachers people to respect their country!

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  3. lemur says:

    no thanks karen

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  4. Phalafala says:

    There’s a great need in this country for a national civil service. Compulsory non-military training, just skills training so that our youth can build roads, sewage facilities, build houses, plant vegetable gardens, infrastructural development, uproot alien trees, etc etc. And what could be better nationbuilding than thrusting all the youth of our nation, no matter where they come from, together for a year to build and develop South Africa… this would solve many of our problems quickly. But it would have to be very, very well organised and this government has not shown any capability to do so. Alas…

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  5. Jason says:

    well, what’s the ANC Youth League doing, aside from enriching itself and pandering to that fat little grub they worship?

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  6. the capitalist pig says:

    You silly people, we’re already doing community service! Well, at least those of us with jobs who pay taxes. The harder we work, the more we contribute to the fiscus, the more that our government can afford to provide for everyone (well, in theory at least, this is the South African government after all).

    South Africa has already tried community service in one profession by forcing graduate doctors to work for the state immediately after they qualified. That was an unmitigated disaster because many of those graduates emigrated immediately and deprived the country of essential skills which we are still struggling to replenish.

    Anyone have any other smart ideas?

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  7. Andy says:

    Make them all work, either before or after university. The doctors only left because they were victimised unfairly. I mean why should doctors have to do a year’s community service when everyone else doesn’t have to?

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