How to Fight on the Right Side

April 15, 2024 Bradley Steyn Season 1 Episode 3
How to Fight on the Right Side
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How to Fight on the Right Side
Apr 15, 2024 Season 1 Episode 3
Bradley Steyn

Bradley Steyn and Janet Smith talk to Neil de Beer, former spy and now political party leader. This frank and stirring conversation examines how hard it is to find your peace after you’ve seen the worst of other people and been violent yourself.

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Bradley Steyn and Janet Smith talk to Neil de Beer, former spy and now political party leader. This frank and stirring conversation examines how hard it is to find your peace after you’ve seen the worst of other people and been violent yourself.

Support the Show.

Thank You to our Sponsors :

  • FNB
  • BiB Africa's Library (My Bib)

End Music Provided by :

Contact Information :

Let's work together :

Grab a copy of the Book :

Undercover with Mandela’s Spies (audiobook version) available at BiB Africa's Library :

Download - App search for Mandela’s Spies

[Bradley Steyn]

My name is Bradley Steyn. I was born in Pretoria, South Africa. Growing up, I witnessed firsthand the brutality of hate and apartheid.

And as a teenager in 1988, I survived a massacre that would change the course of my life forever. And that's why I decided to take a stand and join the intelligence unit of Nelson Mandela's spy network. In the course of our dedicated efforts during that time, we successfully unearthed a sinister plot to assassinate Nelson Mandela at his 1994 inauguration.

This was a pivotal moment in South African history. Would we go into civil war? Would there be peace?

But it also marked a significant stride towards advancing human rights for all South Africans. Little did I know, a hit was placed on us. And I just managed to escape South Africa and find refuge abroad.

I used my experiences and my expertise and teamed up with leading security professionals, where I was fortunate enough to work with some of the most fascinating people in the world. Now I'm back in South Africa, ready to take on the rising tide of crime, murder, and corruption that has tainted South Africa's journey towards liberation and our democracy. Join me, Bradley Steyn, your co-host, along with journalist and author Janet Smith, and our special lineup of guests as we go undercover.

In this series, we will be declassifying our past, while we bring you the untold stories of our silent warriors, activists, and patriots. We'll also get a different perspective from our youth, where our democracy is today, 30 years later. Through these conversations together, we can shape the future we aspire to.

[Janet Smith]

Barend Strydom's racist massacre on a public square in Pretoria was one of the defining events of the last years of apartheid. It was November 1988. Global condemnation and international boycotts were finally grinding the world's supremacist outpost to a halt.

But even as expectations grew that there could be a peaceful transition to democracy, some, like Strydom, believed whites were being betrayed. The former policeman and army conscript set out to make his statement in the most horrifying way possible. In total, eight black people were the victims of his rage.

The blood that covered the piazza outside the state theatre also came to mark the boundary between freedom and a form of captivity for Bradley Steyn, who was a teenager when he walked into the mass shooting. Bradley's life was spared by the killer because he was white. Yet that bloodied boundary was so destructive to his mental health that Bradley eventually put down those experiences and the astonishing true-life events which followed into a non-fiction thriller undercover with Mandela's spies.

This podcast takes you on a journey with Bradley and a number of extraordinary guests to examine the toll South Africa's battlefields has taken on our minds and how we can continue to work on our shared recovery. I am Janet Smith and in this episode we welcome Neil de Beer, the leader of the United Independent Movement and a Cape Town local government councillor. A former MK operative, he is Bradley's one-time boss and partner at Project Group, the mother city's nightclub and contracting forces of the early 1990s.

Please join us for How to Fight on the Right Side, which is created in honour of Strydom's third victim, 33-year-old Moshadi Katharina Mokwena. Strydom shot Moshadi in the chest. She was sitting in a hospital gown on the corner of Church and Princelow streets, waiting to be transported to Hendrik Verwoerdt Hospital when the killer took aim at her.

Thank you for joining us. I'll hand over to Bradley now to welcome Neil.

[Bradley Steyn]

Well Neil, thank you so much for being here and what an extraordinary journey our lives have taken us. One thing that is so incredibly remarkable about you is your empathy and your love for the citizens of this country and for the people of the country and your constant passion and fire to do right with our people. I know you stepped away from the ANC years ago and you're on this new journey, this inspiring journey and I just wanted to have this opportunity so that we can just open up and look behind the scenes of what it was like and our journeys that we've taken.

So could you just explain where you went to school, where you went to the army and just give us a little bit of your background and your comfort zone.

[Neil de Beer]

I think when a person reflects on your life, one of the most critical things is to remember what great people said. And Nelson Mandela once said that the higher you grow in society, the lower you must kneel. And that's one thing I've never forgotten in my life.

You are nobody. You are part of seven billion people on earth. But the people that have inspired you, the people that have moved you and the people that have mentored you shapes your life.

So as a young boy, I went to Villiersdorp. I was going to be a farmer because my family comes from farming in Stellenbosch, was very much involved in wine farming at Vlottenburg in Leindok. So I went to a school in Villiersdorp that gave agriculture as a subject, but it was also a form of reformatory.

So in those days, in the late 80s, if you were a naughty boy in Cape Town, you went to Williesdorp. And I was definitely, I was a naughty boy. I think I left my other school because I blew up the science lab.

I put up all the gas and wanted to see the boom. So they asked me to leave. So I already started a relationship with explosives and destruction in standard seven.

And it was lekker. I ended up going to the army. Two years national service.

I ended up at 4 Reconnaissance Regiment as a communications officer, NCO. 

[Bradley Steyn]

Just off the road, yeah, in Langebaan. 

[Neil de Beer]

So I spent most of my adult life at the age of 18 and 19 in combat.

Where we went to Angola and did Operation Hooper, Packer and Modular. For those that know, those were the last operations to fight Swapu and the Cubans. And I did Ops Hooper, which was that famous fight about the bridge called Cuito Cuanavale.

And I was there. And then obviously history tells us a couple of years later, in actual fact, the year after Resolution 465 that returned Southwest Africa to Namibia happened and South Africa totally withdrew from the Angola border back to South Africa. And I was part of that.

Yeah. So when people tell you. What what youth did you have?

Well, well, Neil had no youth. I went to the army at 17, was in combat at 18, was a hardened soldier at 19. And when I was 19, I left the Defense Force.

And at that stage, I did not know which way my life would go. And one day a guy knocked on my door at my mom's house because I left the army and moved into mom's house. And startling, there was a man that I met while I was in Langebaan called Andy Miller.

And Andy Miller was part of the security police. He was actually one of the heads of operations of the security police in Cape Town. I hosted him and 30 of his cohorts one day at Langebaan on the island, Donkergat, without knowing who they were because they had long hair, beards and civilian clothing.

I only found out later who he was. And then I left the army and he's at my front door with a brown file. You can imagine my shock.

And he entered and at that stage I was 19 years old, but already two years past in the army. And he sat me down and he said to me, you must come work for me. And Andy had brownish dark black hair and grey eyes.

I'll never forget that. And Andy said to me, you've got a talent. And I'd like to use your talent.

And I was quite amused. And I said to him, what do you think is my talent? And he said, you have no conscience.

And I've picked up in you, you can kill. I said, well, I don't know how you know that. He said, trust me, I run them.

And that's when I entered, I entered being a part of the security police. My mission was to infiltrate the nightlife. You know, in the army, in the Second World War, they used to say loose lips sink ships.

So waar daar dronk is, is jou bek oop. So it was only obvious.

[Bradley Steyn]

So what he's saying is when when you're drunk and when you consume liquor at these night spots, you get loose lips.

[Neil de Beer]

Yeah, you speak and obviously you boast. And when there's women around, you tell your war stories. And at that stage, I thought that was one of the most clever moves by the apartheid government, was to infiltrate the nightlife.

Because in the nightlife, you get the scumbags and the terrorists and the gangsters and the operatives. And at that stage, the army guys, because most of the army guys went to clubs and pubs and they went there not as military guys, but as a normal human in there. They would speak after getting drunk because they would go out 10, 20, 30 at a time.

Naval Base Simonstown, Wingfield, Youngsfield, Castle Intelligence. And that was my mission. So they funded me to open a company.

That stage called Project Group. No one knew I started it as a nightclub bouncer security group and started recruiting people from the streets that wanted to earn, yeah, 35 rand a night at that stage. 1988, that was your pay.

It was a lot of money. And I became the operative, the MD that ran Project Group. We were about 92 venues in Cape Town, 136 bouncers.

Went so well, I went to Jo'burg and there I opened another company. And before I knew it, we had about 300 bouncers and 112 venues in Jo'burg. 

[Bradley Steyn]

Tri-falcon, right?

[Neil de Beer]

Tri-falcon, yeah. So I basically ran between 1988, 89 and 90. I ran Jo'burg and Cape Town's nightlife, all the bouncers.

And at that stage, I hooked out, you know, I call it the God syndrome. Because at that stage, Brad, as you know, our operative ways and I recruited Brad. This young, strapping, big, blonde-haired guy, he could then fit into a speedo at that stage.

Ons is nou anders ne? The time has moved on. 

[Bradley Steyn]

Yeah, gravity has set in. 

[Neil de Beer]

Yes, but Brad at that stage had a reputation in Cape Town because he ran one of the most difficult doors, you know, the most difficult clubs.

And it was the biggest nightclub in Cape Town. And it was obviously the high-end market that went to this club. And Brad was the head bouncer at Arena.

And it was not a project group contract, because at that stage, unfortunately, they started seeing us as thugs and started seeing me as a person who was part of racketeering and forcing people to take our services and organizing a bit of a fight the previous night and then going the next day and say, we can help you. And in actual fact, that was true. We used the Lebanese breakdown guys because they were good with tyres.

[Bradley Steyn]

And tyre rise. And yeah, at that stage, Cyril was was your was part of.

[Neil de Beer]

Yeah, he was my partner. Cyril Beaker was my partner. In actual fact, Cyril did dogs.

[Bradley Steyn]
Yeah, did the dogs for our venues. 

[Neil de Beer]

He did the dogs for our venues. Yeah, he was a specialist in canine.

[Bradley Steyn]

Especially around the harbors, and the Chinese sailor clubs. Yeah.

[Neil de Beer]

And at that stage, you had idols, you had Arena, you had Cafe Comic Strip. 

[Bradley Steyn]


[Neil de Beer]


[Bradley Steyn]


[Neil de Beer]

All that stuff. Yeah, the George's Club, so many.

And at that stage, I got a reputation in Cape Town. And you started kind of acting like the mafia. You started becoming this big family and you were untouchable.

You know, if you were friends with me, you don't stand in the queue. You know, and not standing in a queue at those clubs was a big thing, you know. Today, the era has changed in nightlife.

It's no longer what it was. But Cyril was my partner. We stayed together in a house.

[Bradley Steyn]

No, I remember we all stayed together in a Fish Hoek. I remember we used to live on KFC cheese and pineapple burgers.

[Neil de Beer]


[Bradley Steyn]


[Neil de Beer]

And we started getting rounder.

[Bradley Steyn]


[Neil de Beer]

And we nearly died there. You know, later on, one night, as you know, we were in a restaurant. And at that stage, we were still fully fledged operatives of the security police.

So the only two people in that whole company that were operatives in this undercover agency was Brad and myself, because I started to trust Brad more and more and I needed someone to work with me. And I'll never forget, we were sitting in the Hard Rock Cafe, Seapoint. It's no longer there anymore.

[Bradley Steyn]

No, it was the Wimpy. 

[Neil de Beer]

It was the Wimpy. 

[Bradley Steyn]


[Neil de Beer]

But there was a Hard Rock as well. And I told Brad.

Needless to say, he was young. He was impressionable. I didn't know about his incident when he was 16 years old, but I saw talent and I trusted Brad.

And I said to him, Brad, I've got something to tell you, and he said to me, anything. Because at that stage, Brad was in the management, you know, he was already watching venues for me, etc. And I told him, I'm not who you think I am.

And that's a weird sentence because it started everything. And then we became agencies and our boss was Andy Miller. We got our instructions from Andy.

And our mission was not just to gather intelligence in the venues, but it started becoming desperate. So the modus operandi of project groups started to change to subtle sabotage. But there was one rule, no woman, no children.

Now, you will remember at that stage, the mayor of Cape Town was a woman and very liberal. She was leftist and totally against the agenda of the then Apartheid government, which meant she was against the agenda of the security police, which means she was against our agenda. And then we got an instruction to blow her car up.

[Bradley Steyn]

Her 7 Series Right?

[Neil de Beer]

Her 7 Series BM.

The problem was we could not blow it up with a chauffeur in it. We could, but there was the rule of no loss of life, where possible. So I remember Brad and myself staking out, she went to this restaurant frequently.

And the drill was she would park, the driver would park outside. He was a chain smoker, lucky for us. So the minute she walked in and he settled there, he used to come out and then walk away from the car and smoke chain because he wasn't allowed to smoke in front of her.

It was apparent because he only waited until he was outside and then he would smoke. And when she would come out, he'd kill the cigarettes. So he couldn't smoke near the car.

So that means he had to walk around the corner. And that's when we took the opportunity to detonate the vehicle. We didn't cause much damage, but it was a sign, a signal.

[Bradley Steyn]

It was a warning sign.

[Neil de Beer]

That, you know, people weren't happy with her politics. And that kind of operations started to become more than just the normal modus operandi. And that changed my life.

It changed my brief, because being an agent of the security police, but not being a police officer, gave us minimal cover. So there was always an understanding that if we were caught, there was deniability because I didn't carry a warrant card of the police. I was never in police college.

I was an appointed undercover operative for the security police. And I brought Brad into it. And yeah, so a couple of days ago, I had time to reminisce about the book.

And someone asked me a question no one ever asked. And that question was, don't you feel responsible for Brad? And the weakening of Brad's psychosis, doubling up on the Strydom Square Massacre, and then pulling him into this and the life that followed, did I not feel responsible?

Because he's now also got PSD. And I said, yes, I do, totally, because I took a man into death without ever knowing what happened to him when he was a young boy. And that's hard, because I could face it.

I am strong. I already volunteered. Brad didn't volunteer.

I made him do it in the sense of selling it to him.

[Bradley Steyn]

And you're a great salesman.

[Neil de Beer]

Oh, yeah. No, I can sell. And when you look back now, we are 53.

We are 50. We're half a century. And someone would ask me, because of so many interviews, they asked me, would I do anything different?

My answer is no, except for one thing, and that is to recognize people's lives and the after effects of such. And that's why I entered politics last year. Because at one moment we were fighting for the apartheid government, and then we were recruited by the undercover agents and also MK spies to join them.

So people say, whoa, from right to left, from an apartheid spy and agent to MK. That's madness. How?

Why? So I said, because it wasn't moving from right to left. It was moving from wrong to right.

What they did was wrong. What we were doing to defend a system was wrong. But we never knew.

[Bradley Steyn]

Yeah, a system of white power.

[Neil de Beer]

You know, we never knew. We didn't know when we went to Angola. I'll tell you that.

That there was someone like Mandela, the Freedom Charter. We were told communist, black, Swart Gevaar, stop them. Because if we let them in, Christianity, the NG Kerk, would no longer exist and this country would collapse.

And it was propaganda every day put into the young white boys of this country. Remember, you went from school desk to gun, where they put you in camps, where they put you in military bases, where they put you in a singular uniform, gun, training, breaking you down, rebuilding you as a soldier of the apartheid state. So I can sit here today and say I wasn't not guilty.

I can't plead not guilty. I was part of a system where three-quarters of the people that are white today of the age of 50 gave two years. Anybody over 48 years old today served in the military until it was disbanded in 94 for being conscripted.

So look at us. We all have trauma. I have trauma now.

How many other white South African men over the age of 50 who hit their wives, start drinking alcohol, get out of a car and hit someone because he hooted at him? Go deeper. Where was he?

Did he not see someone die? Because remember in those days, you were weak if you went to go seek a psychologist. He was a moffie.

He was swak.. You were really not a man.

If you went to see someone and say, I need to talk. So can you imagine a generation of men in this country that are still alive today? Suffered severe trauma and that cannot be excused.

So when I looked at this, we Brad and myself were in the ANC for 32 years. We joined 88 basically. So for 32 years, we served a government.

My last position officially was senior advisor to the Ministry of Defense and Intelligence. That was my last job. That was three years ago.

Also, senior advisor to the president of Mkonte Wesizwe at that stage, KB Mapatso who is now past. It shows my dedication. Even up till three, four years ago.

What changed? Why this change again? Well, I had to because it's going from wrong to right again.

Here we go, Brad.

[Bradley Steyn]

Yeah. And I remember that time when you decided to leave the ANC and, you know, to break away and start. You know, trying to put morality and ethics back into politics.

And, you know, and it's remarkable this journey that you find yourself on now today is quite extraordinary. And, you know, and the fact that you have councilor members in a few different cities. Just shows, you know, your resolve in wanting to make a difference.

Yeah. I'm very grateful for that. Janet.

[Janet Smith]

Yes. You know, when I was listening to you speaking now, Neil, I realized there is still so much to know. So although one has spent quite a lot of time having a look at the histories of the early 90s and how that impacted on South Africans.

There is still a range of other history. 

[Neil de Beer]

[Janet Smith]

That we haven't, you used a very important phrase.

We need to go deeper. And we need to be able to track reasons for violence, reasons of violence. I want to return to Bradley's book and the moment at which Bradley introduces you.

And Bradley has a different take on it to what you've just described now. And that is articulated so well in your interaction. Bradley saw you as quite a mighty force, quite a mentor.

And I want to thank you also for showing the vulnerability that you just did with Bradley around the responsibility that you feel for Bradley today. But he did see you as a mentor. I think he still sees you as a mentor.

And I want to understand how it felt when you read a description of yourself in this book and when you had to see yourself from the outside described in this book.

[Neil de Beer]
It took long. I only read my book, The Pieces of Myself, at the beginning of this year. I didn't want to.

Another person that didn't want to read this book is my mom. You know, mom. Because my mom could find nothing wrong with me.

Jy weet ek was Neiltjie.

So that, you know, being so public and being in court cases because, you know, I was embroiled in court cases where there was murder. I put my family through a hell of a lot. When people meet me, they go, no way.

You can't be that. Assassin, that murderous, that security bully. And then I would go, well, my character is exactly what it should be.

Because what people don't realize is amongst you humans. They are wolves. En ons gaan jou byt.

It just depends on how much you pull our tail. So there was a long time in my life, and Bradley must depict how he felt. I had really, I had no conscience.

It didn't matter what I did. It didn't matter what I did to anybody. I would commit an absolute violent act and I would have breakfast.

So it didn't matter. The problem is when you get it when you finally get a conscience. And it's harsh.

It's like being hit by a bus. And what has happened to Neil is, I don't know what the description would be, but I'm now, would the right phrase be over conscience? I've now become a person with an exaggerated conscience.

[Bradley Steyn]

That wants to do good.

[Neil de Beer]

Oh, absolutely.

So if you look at our constitution, that constitution was written as a knee-jerk reaction to a massive human tragedy that happened in this country.

But 30 years later, the question must now be, now that you've got hindsight, is our constitution still relevant? Isn't it time for a review? 

[Bradley Steyn]


[Neil de Beer]

Isn't it time to sit down and say that certain human liberties that are given in a country where, sorry, certain human liberties are not discussed?  Where murder, rape, GBV is every day, 77 people die a day, of them eight women. Is the constitution not maybe backdated?

Must we not become an entity that's harsher? But what happened to Neil? I woke up with people who were my comrades.

I woke up with people that were my colleagues. And I'll tell you, some of them, my mentors.

And they became wolves. So five years ago, I took a conscious decision that I would run for National Executive Council position of the ANC. That same conference that Cyril Ramaphosa became president.

I was a candidate for NEC of the ANC. Because my decision was, I'm going to change you. And I'm going to change you in an executive position.

I made it to cutoff point number 231. The cutoff for National Executive Council in the country out of 47,000 was 250. In the Western Cape, I was candidate number seven out of 2000 to become an NEC member.

And I didn't make it, I lost the vote. Four years later, someone walked up to me and said to me, do you know why you never made it? An ex-minister.

And I said, why? And they said, because you're too honest. Well guilty as charged.

So when I lost that vote, when I could not become an NEC member, I knew my time in the ANC, this party that I fought for, Brad will tell you, because he's in the same position, defended with everything we had, got lost to me. It was no longer the ANC of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, O.R Tambo, Chris Hani, Walter Sisulu, Governor Becky, Ahmed Katrada. It wasn't my mentors.

We lost the ANC. So when I battled to get part of the say, where out of every 10 decisions we could change two, I knew the only way that I could now fight was to leave the ANC. Will I ever leave the flag in my heart?

No. It's my, it's my, my home. Like many people have not given up the apartheid flag.

They will never get past the National Party. Again, you better go and dig deep. Because they've got a story.

Strydom, Witwolf has a story. And that's one of the things in the book, in the future. I don't know if you're there yet.

That was the most dramatic part of my life with Brad. Was that scene. And it was a deadly day.

I was very, I can't describe the emotion. I went through that day. When he finally faced him.

So that's the enactment of a setup. But to us, it was death defying. Because I knew his mindset.

My brother would kill him. In actual fact, I said to him, you do not take a firearm with you. Take your knife.

But not a gun.

[Bradley Steyn]

Yeah, I did take my shank. He did tell me not to take my 9mm. 

[Neil de Beer]

Don't take your gun. And that was eight hours. Can you imagine your brother facing, sorry, one of his biggest nemesis, prime evil in his life, that has a big bearing on him. And him sitting in the lounge, looking at him.

And I did, I couldn't be there. I was in Cape Town sitting in my flat. You, and then he called.

And he said I'm alive. So our journey has been a hectic one. We've been fired upon, we fired, we've nearly had death.

And I've cheated death again. I'm now cancer-free after six months. You can't correlate the two.

Same trauma? Absolutely.

[Janet Smith]

Neil, I am in awe really of a completely different aspect of this, which is that you and Bradley, just as is the case with you and Jeremy Veary, Bradley and Jeremy Veary, Andre Lincoln, the four of you who are pictured on the cover of Bradley's book, you have remained friends on different levels.

[Neil de Beer]


[Janet Smith]

Some friendships are more intense. At times they are, they are, let's say, more colorful than at other times. 

[Neil de Beer]


[Janet Smith]

And I wanted to ask you in terms of your mental health in general, and we will get to your cancer journey too, because that is very important. In terms of your mental health, what has it meant to you that those violent days had a higher purpose, which was to offer you these friendships, which was to offer you, as men, the support?

[Neil de Beer]

I'm still a very, very violent man. I make no mistake. I'm still that guy.

But I've matured. So I don't think a wolf can become a lion. And I don't want to be one because I don't act in a circus.

What has happened is I have now got older, wiser, and greyer, and I count my calories. When you're young, you want to do everything. I remember Brad saying one day, let's kick down this door.

And I said to him, Brad, let's first check if it's unlocked. Brad was a door kicker. If he wasn't, I wouldn't be alive today.

Because he actually one day saved my life. Because I was under gunfire. Problem is the guy fired a shot and the gun didn't go off.

And Brad came behind him at that moment because the guy pulled a shotgun. And I was sitting with a box of stuff we just stole out of a security police warehouse at the industrial airport estate. And no one was supposed to be there.

So I got the box. Brad did perimeter cover. I hit the door.

And then the guard came out the secondary door with a shotgun. And he pulled the trigger on me. And it didn't go off.

And Brad hit him from behind. Brad didn't hit him. He would have been able to recycle.

So what the idiot did, he got such a fright. He cocked the pumping shotgun twice and the bullet turned in the slot. And it was Brad's calm demeanor, being at the right time, trained by the right moment, that saved my life.

So the first time Brad called me from the US and said, I'm writing a book. I told him, to go to hell. Then he called the next afternoon and he went, no, I'm writing a book.

I need you to be in the book. And I said, double go to hell. And I stayed on the beach.

And I walked on the beach that night and my wife said to me, take a walk. And I came back and I said, you know what? I'm alive today because of this man.

What's a book? Giving my brother the lifetime. See, Brad was in America.

I'm in South Africa. I can go talk to any ANC member, any MK member to get relief. So when I say Chris Hani, Alfred Nzor, Jacob Zuma, when I say those names, everybody I spoke to in South Africa that is in my circle, they knew and they could answer me.

Brad was in America. If Brad had to go to California and go to his friends that he used to play rugby with and say, you know, I remember the days of Chris Haney and Cordessa and MK, they would go, what the hell are you talking about, son? Brad never had relief.

This is important. 18 years, he sat in a country where he bubbled up. He couldn't tell his story.

He couldn't get it off his chest. And I said to myself, if this book of his life is going to be my brother's savior, mentally and physically, then who the hell am I? Because I've had my relief.

Andre's had his relief. Jeremy has lived his relief. Brad never had it.

And we did the book. 

[Bradley Steyn]

Yeah. And I'm glad you bring that up, because, you know, just because of the role that we play, the tradecraft that we had taken in the life of being in the clandestine service, we don't, you know, that's not something you talk about.

So I always knew that there was a story about witnessing the massacre, etc. And then, you know, I didn't necessarily want to talk about these things because of, you know, Neil's reaction and Andre's reaction. And Andres is a very private man and Jeremy's, you know, potential reaction.

But I felt it was so incredibly important that I told the story of these brave men that were around me and the story of Andre Lincoln and his selfless service and, you know, how he's been tackling corruption and how Jeremy's been tackling corruption at the highest level of leadership, for instance, in the South African Belief Force in, you know, helping bring down the National Police Commissioner Sotole. You know, it's incredible and remarkable to me that, you know, they're still on this journey.

They're still in this war because this war has continued, you know. 

[Neil de Beer]

A luta continua. 

[Bradley Steyn]

A luta continua.

[Neil de Beer]

You know, these guys didn't go into exile. These guys were responsible for the tear gas wafting from the Cape Flats. From the Cape Flats into Claremont and into Newlands, you know, with the help of, you know, Bonteheuwe military wing.

And, you know, it was a revolutionary war going on on the Cape Flats. And, you know, when everybody came back, you know, it seems to me that, you know, these guys were just pushed aside. And, you know, the guys that were drinking champagne and caviar in London, you know, automatically took these leadership positions.

And, you know, these true revolutionaries, these people that actually care for the people, care for the masses, because that's what happened. You know, once Neil and I swapped sides and started working with MK, you know, we were inspired by the spirit of, and the message of Chris Harni that, you know, we need to take care of our people in this country. And it's remarkable to me that, you know, 20 whatever years later, you and Andre and Jeremy are still fighting this fight.

So thank you. Thank you. And, you know, again, for those listening, we're speaking to Neil de Beer, who's a very crucial part of my history in my book, alongside Jeremy Vearey and Andre Lincoln.

[Janet Smith]

Neil, I am honestly moved as the, you know, the third person in this discussion by this interaction between Brad and yourself. And I believe Brad has put this very, very well, that you are still in the trenches. You are still a revolutionary in the sense that it took quite a burst of courage to step out of a role inside the ruling party and one of Africa's greatest liberation movements only three years ago and establish a political party of your own.

And I am curious as to how you even begin that process because that is advice to others who are wondering, how do you do that?

[Neil de Beer]

You change the message. In this country, it's easy, because we are surrounded with lies. So it's easy for me.

I just speak the truth. It's a revolution. It's a concept.

Well, no, it's not. You know what I found out in life? When you speak the truth to people, they  get offended.

May I borrow your pen? No. You actually get insulted.

But why did you ask me? May I bother you? No.

So we've become a society where you rather want to hear the lie. You don't like the truth anymore. It's like when you're married and your wife says, do I look fat in this dress?

Well, you don't look fat in the dress, but it's the two donuts you had last night. Then you suffer, because you spoke the truth. That's an anecdote.

It didn't happen to me, but we live a lie. The people of this country must understand, the king is naked. Die koning is kaal.  And you're not saying it.

Now, in the story of the king is naked, It took a child to say to his mom, the king's naked. The king's naked. We're in a failed state.

What is the depiction of the normality of five points that depict a failed state? Well, number one, is joblessness. How far are we?

The stats aren't right. I will tell you that half the people in this country of a 60,000 populace, I'll tell you is unemployed. Looking for employment or temporary employment.

I'll tell you that now. So it's half the populace. 

Secondly, what is the economy?

The economy of this country has collapsed. We have lost all state enterprises. There's no more infrastructure.

Potholes are at the end of the day. There is no forward planning. This absolute idiot called the president went and said in his state presidential speech in February, give me 100 days, and I'll come up with a revolutionary plan to change South Africa.

It took Thabo Mbeki four weeks ago in a public gala dinner where Cyril was present to say, you've done nothing. A hundred days have come. So an ex-president of my movement tells the current president, you've failed.

And I saw him sit on TV and fold his head in his hands. So the economy's gone. There is no forward planning of keeping the people in the job.

Number three, crime. We are running out of control. The crime stats of this country are shocking.

Saps have lost it. There's no more control. 

[Bradley Steyn]

Rampant with corruption.

[Neil de Beer]

And then the fourth one is, what is your corruption meter? And the fifth one is the judiciary. So there you have it.

On all five points, failed state, failed state, failed state, failed state, failed state. Therefore, failed state. You can just go look at Zondo.

These people must be in jail. They've now got a committee to oversee the recommendations of what Zondo found after 1.3 billion. He's now the chief justice.

So I'm painting a picture that is so contrary to the Rainbow Nation ideology that we queued for in 1994. Me and you were outside Seapoint, Seapoint Library. That's where we went to vote.

Can you imagine how we felt having worked 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, and 96 years in operation and being able to cast our vote for our organization freely and fairly. One man, one vote. The queue ran up to Giovanni's.

[Bradley Steyn]

Yeah, no, I remember.

[Neil de Beer]

 And we stood there.

[Bradley Steyn]


[Neil de Beer]
It was a sunny day in Seapoint. 

[Bradley Steyn]

Yeah. No, I remember because, no, I technically only joined in 1990. But yeah, those, yeah, and we were, you know, I remember how nervous we were because, Jesus, if people knew that. 

[Neil de Beer]

And you wanted to tell them.

[Bradley Steyn]

Yeah, because we wanted to tell them because we were so excited because the energy was incredible. But the fact that, you know, the likes of Andy Miller were in our lives and it would take nothing for that man just to step up behind us and pull the trigger.

[Neil de Beer]
And funny, he never did. You know, he drank himself to death. They found him in a hotel room dead.

I think the ghosts came. So I'm 54 this year. I skipped ghosts for 53 years.

Mine has come.

[Janet Smith]

Let's talk about that.

[Neil de Beer]

It's now come.

[Janet Smith]


[Bradley Steyn]

Yeah. Let's talk about mental health. 

[Neil de Beer]


[Janet Smith]

And let's talk about, you know, at the beginning when we were sitting around this table preparing, putting on our headphones and so on, you were saying that you can now face anything.

[Neil de Beer]

[Janet Smith]

Having faced death, you have survived cancer.

[Neil de Beer]

Yes. And that four months on my back to think, I think one of the greatest enemies I have is my own mind. It's not the enemies outside.

Your mind. When you've had four months and of the four months, 87 days in ICU, five operations, two of them where they told me I wasn't going to make it. When you come out of that, and I don't know if you know it, but today is day two.

It's actually my second day out. I started yesterday. I had four months to think, to ponder, overthink, oversteer, interrogate, and came to the point where I had to forgive myself.

You see, when you shave, I'm not that wealthy. I still shave myself. You look yourself in the mirror.

Who are you? And then you get flashbacks. You get, I wouldn't say I'm at the level of post-traumatic stress, but I'm starting to realize I don't sleep anymore.

I'm now hooked on sleeping tablets because I can't sleep because of memory. So I've now found out at last because I used to say Brad went through too much trauma. I've skipped it.

He got it. I missed it. So since a year ago, it's there.

Is it getting worse? Yeah. Is it trauma?

Yeah. You can't wipe it. So if I, that thought I was so strong, am now cracking, and in the middle of this cancer, I've decided I need help.

You know, Brad? Because I denied it. 

[Bradley Steyn]


[Neil de Beer]

And I actually called for someone professional I need to talk to because I psychologically nearly cracked. In one week, in between all of this, I had a major relapse. And that was the vulnerability.

Now, who did you do this for? For yourself? Well, look at the characters of Brad.

The characters of a legend, Andre Lincoln, Jeremy Vearey. Look, I can't include myself. I stand judged by others.

But look at them. Humble, quiet, soft-spoken people. When you meet Andre, when you meet Jeremy, you've already now met Brad.

When I pass you in a Woolworth's store, you won't give me a second blink. And that's worrying. Because you are also doing the same to a Robben Island survivor who's cleaning checkers' floors, and you walk past him, you don't realize this was a political prisoner.

This is a guy that has ADD. This is a guy that has over-emotional stress. So we didn't do it for ourselves.

We did this for the country. Wow. So when I started my political party, I had dreams.

But the dreams are also nightmares. I am not going to let my children, Brad's daughter, my sons and daughter, I'm not surrendering this country in the way it is today. I'm going to say that awful sentence over my dead body.

I've got one tattoo and then I did a second one. I couldn't help myself. It took me 42 years to do a tattoo.

And one of the most impressive parts of my tattoo is a Latin sentence that says very clearly, and it's our motto, Si vis pacem, para bellum. If you want peace, prepare for war.Si vis pacem, para bellum. War does not mean guns, necessarily. War means fight.

Fight verbally. Fight constitutionally. Fight with your vote.

That is what I've decided. I'm in a different Si vis pacem, para bellum, than what this book has told us. It's a new war.

94, we voted to change a country. 2024, we are voting to save this country.

[Bradley Steyn]

So when we were tasked by commanders, Andre Lincoln and Jeremy Vearey, to go into Major Miller's office and steal the files that did steal and photocopy them and get them out of the building, that highly intelligent, that highly classified document that we had access to and that we saw, who the SCARIs were, who the MPPs were, who was on the National Party's payroll in the ANC, that very damaging piece of paper that we handed over to our commanders. Do you think that has anything to do with how they've been treated? Because the name that we saw on that paper was a very powerful person in the ANC, and the ANC didn't want that exposed.

[Neil de Beer]

You know, I've always looked at Andre and Jeremy, and both of them are highly decorated officers, loyal to the cause, and both of them, funny enough, are out now. Both are in retirement. Jeremy has gone the way of writing books.

He's a publisher. He's now a renowned author, and Andre has gone into his vibe of always being the people's general. So, when you look at info and intel that we had...

[Bradley Steyn]

Because STRATCOM, sorry, STRATCOM was very active back then.

[Neil de Beer]

Very strong and powerful. I mean, I made a comment the other day, I think they're still alive. And funny enough, I don't know if you know it, one of my Gmail accounts was stratcomsa@gmail.com.

There must be some interesting emails there. And I've always wondered, when you get intelligence, the decision to use it or not use it remains yours.

And I think the powers that may be, they made a decision on intelligence. And I'm not talking about IQ. I'm talking about information.

[Bradley Steyn]

Actionable intelligence.

[Neil de Beer]

And, and who knows? That's why it's called karma. It's a circle.

One never knows when info comes out. And that's where I think we are.

[Bradley Steyn]

Yeah. I just believe that they were sabotaged, that their careers have been sabotaged, that they can't go any further because of what they knew.

[Neil de Beer]

Well, there was always a fight. I mean, I mean, if you just take Andre, Andre was head of SIU under Mandela. He started uncovering certain stuff, but it's in public knowledge.

And he was, he was sabotaged. So sometimes the enemy comes within, not only without. And I think our nightmares have come in within.

And that's where we are.

[Janet Smith]

Bradley, your feelings about surviving mental health as a result of the input of men like this as examples to you. It feels like part of your, of your recovery process has been that relief that you have finally had in being around these inspiring individuals.

[Bradley Steyn]
Absolutely. And, you know, I just, I can't stop saying it enough, you know, but how proud I am of Neil, but, but even more so now that I've just heard this story about, because we've spoken about mental health over the years. You know, Neil and I lost contact for many years when I went, when we both went into exile.

We came back for a little bit and then I had to leave. I had to leave. And for many years, we've spoken about mental health and not being so hard on ourselves because our minds are incredibly powerful.

The mind is the most powerful thing. And, you know, we can't let our mind beat us up. But what I've, I'm just so incredibly proud of you that, that, you know, you, you talk publicly about it because there's no shame and there should be no stigma around getting help with regards to your mental health.

And, you know, I'm just so glad that you've opened up about it because I know that, you know, over the years you said no, but I'll be fine. I'm, I'm strong. I'm good.

I'll be fine. You know, I think that a lot of people listening to this might be able to relate to this, that, you know, even the strongest of us, you know, need a little help sometimes. And there's the, there's no shame in it whatsoever.

You know, we've progressed tremendously as society. So, you know, for me, hearing your story, hearing Jeremy was in, in earlier, he's a features in one of our other episodes and just hearing how he's embraced writing to help him with, with mental health as well. And I, you know, I'm just really concerned about Andre, whose, whose life has been turned upside down.

And, you know, these, these guys have been railroaded and sabotaged because they're fighting for the people. They're still fighting for the people. They're fighting against corruption.

They're fighting against state capture. The same thing that you're doing, you know, they're just doing it within a sector of our government, and it happens to be the South African police. So, you know, it's, it's just the remarkable resilience of you all that, you know, that keeps me going on and keeps me wanting to do these things so that, you know, we can hopefully inspire some other people that are listening out there.

[Janet Smith]

Neil, your political party, you did it for the country. In the beginning, it was not.

[Neil de Beer]

I think, in the beginning, it was excitement. You know, you've got to question yourself if every single German in 1942 joined the Nazi party because they believe in Adolf Hitler, or was it just a cool uniform? Because I can't believe that a trained doctor, teacher, or psychologist in 1942 believed in the rhetoric of Adolf Hitler.

Not everybody did, but they put the uniform on. And if you ask them today, those that survived, do they regret it? Yes, they do.

And they will tell you if we did not, they would kill us. That wasn't my resolve. My resolve was I liked the excitement.

I love the way that Andy described me, because Andy, in his own way, was a psychologist and a brilliant salesman. So to have an opportunity, can you imagine, you are 20 years old, you are getting Carte Blanche, you are getting this honor of an agent, you are going to fight for the police service, for your country. That was it.

I went for the me. And as I got deeper into me and found me, I enjoyed it. It became my life.

And now you are sitting and you're going, was that me? Was dit ek? And you've got to face up.

You've got to own up. So a lot of the ANC work, a lot of being associated with the ANC, can I tell you in a way was redemption? In a way, I could make things right.

The stuff I did there, if I now do this, I think I will be freed. But you actually got into it. It didn't become me anymore.

Because now you met Sipo, Ayanda, and Tando, and you found out these are humans. These are people, people with stories. And you can't help yourself.

And you know, Thabo Mbeki came up with a theory called the African Renaissance. You know, he made a speech in parliament saying, I'm an African. Now, Neil de Beer, there was a time of more than 18 years when I disappeared.

Because people speak about my military time. They speak about my police. They speak about MK.

And then Neil de Beer's story disappears. And then suddenly he's the president of a political party. Where have I been?

No one knows. Well, I've been in Africa. I was the secretary general of the first organization for African business development at the African Union.

I then moved to Dubai and became an African specialist in the economy. And my last job, I was president of an African investment bank. I've been busy.

I physically decided company, country, continent. It's now in reverse. I've come back to country.

Because my country needs me. But for 18 years, I've been in Africa. And it's been an honor to serve my continent.

But Mandela said a strong South Africa is a strong Africa. And a strong Africa is a strong South Africa. And that's why I'm back.

I'm back to say, remember the days when we were a rainbow nation. That World Cup. Those days.

I want it back. Because it's weird. When you win a World Cup, no one cares that you are Sipo.

That minute, that moment, you hug whoever. And if an All Black supporter says to Sipo next to Jan, I'm going to Moer you, then Jan will get him and say, raak aan Sipo dan donner ek vir jou. That moment we are South Africans. I wrote an article where I said to independent media, that South Africa deserves a World Cup a day.

Because it seems only at World Cups, do we forget race. We actually do have a World Cup a day. Sipo gets a job.

Ayanda gets a degree. Jan gets a crop of millies. Sean gets a degree and goes and works as a lawyer.

These are the people that have a World Cup a day. So we have got a bright future as a country. So from a defender of a state to a freedom fighter and a terrorist convicted, by the way, to a politician.

And you asked me a very pertinent question, and I'll stop by making this statement. I find politics easy. Because I'm not one.

I'm a normal citizen that decided to get up. And people like my message. They like the United Independent Movement's message.

Why? Because I get up in council and I tell you, you are lying. Jy lieg. I get up in public and I say to a guy, you stole.

Stop using the word corruption. It's too high for certain of our populace. He's not committing corruption.

I steal. To do that, you need two big things, two massive cricket balls, rugby balls. It could get me killed.

Because that's politics today. I don't care. If I in 2024, like I did in the local government elections, go to elections and no one gave the UIM a minute.

I didn't even have a budget of 200,000 rand. We contested local government elections on the ticket of Christ, corruption, constitution, crime and capital. The five Cs.

And we won three seats in three of the largest metros in South Africa. Durban, Joburg, Cape Town. This could not be done.

So in 2024, I am running for president of the Republic of South Africa, undoubtedly. Now, if I don't make it and there's a lot of odds and sods, I'm going to walk into Parliament on the 15th of August 2024. I'm going to enter that building and I'm going to push a button.

So that truth be told. So I'm telling you today, one man can make a difference. One speech, one voice, one seat.

You don't need a thousand. You need one to make a difference. So that's the future.

While I had cancer, I said to myself, I'm giving up. I'm surrendering. And I gave my life to God.

Whomever you believe in, it doesn't matter. I chose God. And let me tell you, I decided to stay in politics.

I've decided to recommit. The country deserves it. Brad deserves it.

Jeremy deserves it. Andre Lincoln deserves it. So those four people on that cover, we have one motto.

Never surrender. And it will remain. And that's the story.

From Apartheid Spy to Political Activist
The Evolution of Personal Conscience
Failed State
Resilience and Growth in Adversity