Book Review – Koevoet – by Jim Hooper

Koevoet by Jim Hooper

Koevoet by Jim Hooper first published Jan 1988 – Southern Book Publishers

Mention the word “Koevoet” to most people who have heard of The Angolan War (1966 to 1989) and you will hear answers ranging from awed whispers, to howls of outrage about the so-called savage white oppressors who mercilessly defended the hated South African apartheid regime…. and so on… depending upon their media source of choice. Mindful of the dearth of balanced reportage from inside South Africa, Jim Hooper set about getting some first hand experience.

The word Koevoet is the Afrikaans word for “crowbar”, which describes, with classic understatement, this maligned, but unique counterinsurgency unit of the South African Police . Koevoet was one of the most effective forces in the Operational Area during the war. Their unconventional but devastatingly successful tactics caused sufficient upheaval within SWAPO’s hierarchy, that they and their Communist backers were forced to embark upon disgracefully fabricated media campaigns to bolster flagging internal morale and garner international support.

When I first picked up the book, I sceptically expected it to be yet another damning diatribe from yet another arrogantly asinine individual, regurgitating fashionable vitriol against South Africa. What I found was patently, refreshingly and captivatingly different. Hooper’s book, ‘Koevoet’, is a totally compelling, eminently readable, on-the-ground document of his experiences with the unit as well as encounters with various luminaries and worthies on both sides in southern Africa.

The book is mercifully not a self-absorbed military analysis of the conflict, but his succinct, self-deprecating, almost easy-going style, liberally laced with humour, portrays a very human side of the members of this august group of men. Using his position as the ‘first foreign journalist ever to have been granted unrestricted access to Operation Area’ in general and Koevoet in particular, Hooper’s penetrative accounts debunk myth after myth concerning racial segregation, oppression and the South African Nationalist Cause; but at the same time it does not pull punches on the faults of the Nationalist government. It also provides an illuminating exposé of the savagery of the multitude of Communist-backed SWAPO and FAPLA atrocities – the elephant in the room which the world is so desperately keen to ignore.

When it was first published in 1988, Hooper’s courageous viewpoints ran contrary to the opinions of many prominent news people and editorial staff – people who had had their opinions formed for them by incomplete or oversimplified reporting, and the lure of increased circulations. However, this reviewer is of the opinion that Jim Hooper’s ‘Koevoet’ has helped to provide motivation to the ever growing number of authors to add their own stories of the Angolan Conflict, hopefully letting another, most pertinent, side of the truth be known.

After reading over 40 books on African conflicts, I rate Jim Hooper’s ‘Koevoet’ among the easiest of reads and definitely one of the most difficult to put down. I highly recommend it.

Oh yes – if you’re interested, you can buy it here from Amazon or here from Kalahari

[Addendum: 30th April 2015. Here is a link to a radio interview with Jim Hooper that took place on 24th April 2015 with Willem Ratte. The beginning of the clip is Afrikaans, but Willem switches to English for the actual interview.]

About Freud Fission Chips

Despite the banality of the name, FFC has led an intensely varied life. Grateful for surviving almost three years as a 'troepie' (soldier for non-South African Readers) in the Angolan war, he determined to wring as much out of life as possible. Currently providing Business Analysis services, trading on the stock market and developing web pages to pay the bills, FFC also dabbles in wildlife, landscape and people photography, writing, and far too many interests for his own good. He has also travelled extensively in southern Africa (working on the sound theory that a moving target is more dificult to hit). These peregrinations also include over 1500kms on foot through some of the worlds most spectacular scenery. It hasn't all been plain sailing, beer and skittles, and endless beds of roses... Chief amongst the prerequisites for surviving Africa, with its mind-bending characteristics, is an appropriate sense of humour.... So, for now, he will be recounting the amusing among the annoying, the frustrating wrapped in the funny and extracting the mirth from the melancholy... Oh yes, there might be some alliteration too.
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6 Responses to Book Review – Koevoet – by Jim Hooper

  1. Jim Hooper says:


    A Google Alert directed me to your site and the very kind comments on my book “Koevoet.” Might I have your permission to include it in the list of reviews on my own website?


    • Jim,
      Thank you for visiting my blog sir. You may use the review freely and without restriction. Thank you for including my review on your site.

      Best wishes

      • says:

        Many thanks, Alan– I’m attaching the list – updated with your review – to show where I’ve placed it. May I ask how long ago you wrote it? Between recipes, Old Masters and a healthy dose of iconoclasm, you come across as something of a Renaissance Man. Very best, Jim

      • Thanks Jim; the review was written on 1 August 2014 and if it’s okay with you, I’ll put a link on my blog to your website?

        Re the blog content; I guess I’m a wannabe wordsmith – the travels and memoirs haven’t been inflicted on the unsuspecting public yet 🙂


      • says:

        Alan– Given the fluency and flow of your writing, there’s nothing “wannabe” about your wordsmithing. Time you got stuck into your memoirs. Who did you soldier with during the Border War? Please feel free to include the link. Jim

      • Thank you Jim, your kind comments mean more than I can say and you’ve made my year.

        I did basic training with 4SA Infantry Bn (81mm mortars), then was seconded to 35 Owambo Bn. Spent 19 months in total in the Operational Area (comprising a few weeks in Rhodesia, and the rest in Namibia) – and a further 3 months back in Namibia with a citizen force regiment called the Kaffrarian Rifles Regiment.

        You’ve renewed my determination to finish the scribblings and get it onto the shelves. If it ever sees the light of day, I shall be sure to send you a copy 🙂

        Many thanks

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