Anarchy is brewing – be prepared!: General Roland de Vries

South Africa is a tinderbox waiting for a trigger to explode into violence and destruction. That is the warning from retired General Roland de Vries, the former Deputy Chief of the South African Army. In this interview with BizNews, he shares his in-depth assessment of the threat environment –  and lists the possible trigger events for anarchy in election year. The general warns that the ruling African National Congress  (ANC) government does not have the capability to protect its citizens adequately – and that it is up to the broader community to protect itself. He also gives his take on coalitions – and expresses concern that “we are going to see political infighting happening as never before and this will cause major political instability in our country”. Meanwhile, General De Vries has, over the past seven years, helped over 80 communities develop their own community safety plans to empower themselves.

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Summary of the interview with General Roland de Vries

Retired General Roland de Vries, the former Deputy Chief of the South African Army, discusses the potential for anarchy in South Africa with Chris Steyn. De Vries highlights several concerning factors contributing to this possibility, such as the long-standing ineptitude of the ANC government, pervasive levels of crime and corruption, and the looming elections. He emphasizes the precarious situation leading up to and following the elections, citing historical events like the Coligny unrest and the 2021 incidents involving former President Zuma’s incarceration.

De Vries paints a grim picture of poverty and hunger, exemplified by encounters with hungry individuals scavenging for food, signaling a potential trigger for widespread unrest. He discusses the concept of community safety plans and his efforts to empower communities to protect themselves amid rising crime levels and political instability.

Reflecting on the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) in July 2021, De Vries highlights both the vulnerabilities and resilience of communities. He praises the efforts of ordinary citizens in defending their towns against looting and violence, illustrating moments of hope amidst chaos.

De Vries expresses skepticism about the government’s ability to contain a serious threat to internal security, particularly given the potential for political infighting and the formation of unstable coalitions. He emphasizes the importance of community cohesion and self-preservation in the face of looming dangers.

Regarding the upcoming elections, De Vries expresses concern about the prospect of the ANC retaining power, suggesting a lack of trust in political processes and coalitions.

Throughout the interview, De Vries draws on his military background and experiences working with communities to underscore the gravity of the situation and the need for proactive measures to mitigate the risk of anarchy.

*Read General De Vries’ papers below:

The Threat Environment – Possible Trigger Events for Anarchy in South Africa

On Revolutionary Style Conflict and Contemporary South Africa

Transcript of the interview ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Chris Steyn (00:05.83)

Is South Africa heading for Anarchy? We ask retired General Roland de Vries, the former Deputy Chief of the South African Army, welcome Sir.

ROLAND DE VRIES (00:16.272)

Thank you so much, Chris. It’s wonderful to participate in this extremely important interview. And I’m happy to answer your questions. And the first one with regards to referring to Anarchy, I would like to ask the viewers and even yourself if you should measure what is happening in our country at this stage. Taking the ineptness of the ANC government into consideration for almost three decades and the levels of crime, the high levels of crime, probably the most infused crime country in the world and the levels of corruption and what’s happening in our cities and our countryside. I would like to ask the viewers on a nine-point scale, what’s the possibility of things running askew in our country with the run-up to the elections on the 29th of May, whether this could happen before the election, if the ANC government feels that they’re not going to win this election, or in the aftermath of the election when we find political turmoil and political infighting? What could happen? Because any trigger event could in actual fact cause major havoc, as we saw happening in Coligny in May 2017 and then especially with the incarceration of Zuma in July 2021 and what happened in KZN and the danger of anarchy in that sense spilling over to our other provinces as well. Fortunately that did not happen. Now I would…we’re probably going to have a quick view with regards to possible trigger events that we identified, me and my little small team, when we did a proper intelligence appreciation, looking at things that could possibly run askew, and what the danger signs are for various levels of insurrection or anarchy, where the state loses control over the stability of this country. 

And thinking about all of this, Henriette and myself, my wife, we live in Plettenberg Bay and only this morning…Tuesdays in Plettenberg Bay is the day that they remove the refuge. And as I was leaving the home to start up our car, I was waiting for her, I saw that there were three people, they literally surrounded our dustbin and they were groveling around for food. And I started speaking to them, friendly, friendly people. They were quite friendly in responding to me. And I said, hey guys, please don’t leave a mess. And they said, thanks master, but we’re extremely hungry. And as Henriette came out of our home, I shouted to her and said, listen, we’ve got a loaf of bread in our bread bin. Could you bring…please bring it with, I would like to give it to these guys. And we just started discussing this issue with them. And to me, what was heart-rending, they were kilometers away from Kranshoek where they live. And they were traveling each morning through our village, searching for food. They didn’t have food. And as we drove down Robert Road towards our town, I said to her, just look what’s happening around us. Almost in each bin, as we travel towards the central part of our town, people were groveling in dustbins. And I said, this is an extremely dangerous sign. Because if people are not safe and they don’t have food and access to bare commodities, this is an extremely dangerous sign. Because I think one of the major trigger events that could hit our country like an avalanche, is the question about young people not having jobs, poverty, and then of course, basically being hungry. And this is something that I see all over our country, where I do workshops with communities, with regards to community safety everywhere. And I said to myself, as I was driving down the road, that if the financial systems of this government of ours, our state should collapse, and they could not pay the social grants anymore, there will be havoc and we will see anarchy dawning over South Africa in no uncanny manner. And this to me is one of the major, major signs. 

Now, with regards to possible trigger events, I realise that there are, you know, that the situation in our country is extremely fluid. I’m not a political analyst, I’m a soldier. And for the last seven years, I have been involved with communities all over our country. I’ve probably helped more than 81 communities all over our country develop their community safety plans, analysing the threats and setting up community safety plans to protect themselves against the rampant crime levels that we face in our country. And it is interesting to listen to our people and to hear them say that we’re sitting on a powder keg and that things can blow up at any stage in this country. 

And I would like to pass over to you for a moment to hear if there’s anything that you would like to say. But I have studied during my military career and as we become more and more involved in the community safety situation that we are facing in our country, have studied books and also had first-hand experience with regards to the revolutionary warfare here in our own country, in Africa and abroad. And that is how do youcounter the revolutionary onslaught that we face every day in our country? I can refer to books that was written in this regard as well, referring to people like Jeffrey Anthea who wrote People’s War. And there are many articles and publications seeing the light with regards to corruption in our country and the fact that we are involved in a Slow War. In a very simple form, I speak of fourth generation warfare, unconventional warfare, asymmetric warfare, where a brick in hand is also a weapon. 

And perhaps when we have the time, I would like to share with you the experience that I had in Marikana recently, where I walked through the villages and spoke to people on the ground to find out firsthand how our people were feeling about the crime situation, the fact that they are not governed properly, that we don’t have proper service delivery in our country and that they live in dire straits and in danger every day of their life.

I can remember recently with a workshop when the war in Ukraine broke out, we were talking about the deaths occurring in that country, of approximately 4,000 people who perished over a three-month period. That at that same time, more than 6,000 people died in our own country. So it’s an extremely dangerous situation. And every person I’d listened to, Frans Cronjé and R .W. Johnson today on the TV talking about, on YouTube, talking about the situation in our country and what’s going to happen with the run-up to the election and immediately after that.

And the whole situation is fluid. If we look at the influence of the Wagner Group in South Africa, ISIS, the situation in Israel presently, who are your friends and who is your foe? Who do you trust? I mean, America is in a mess. London, England is in a mess. Europe is in a mess. And what’s happening in the Middle East is extremely perturbing.

And where does that leave us? Are we friends with the USA? Where will our external support come from? What about Putin and the Russians? Who are they supporting? Is it Ramaphosa or Zuma? Or what is in actual fact happening in our ground? And I would, in military terms I would like to say that the intelligence picture is extremely vague. And within a sort of difficult circumstances to determine exactly who your foe and who your friend is, it is not easy to make plans with regards to your own survival. So I’m going to pass over to you for a moment and then perhaps would like to share you some thoughts about the concepts that I studied from the book that was written by John J. McEwan, The Art of Counter-Revolutionary Warfare, referring shortly to the four phases of revolutionary warfare and vis -a -vis counter -revolutionary warfare.

Chris Steyn (10:29.35)

Absolutely. I just want to ask if anarchy breaks out in South Africa and it is not contained, if the authorities fail to contain it, what then?


I was thinking about that last night and I was imagining what I would say when you asked that question. Because it’s going to be a total mess. Who’s going to take control of the situation if the state, the government loses control? And you find rampant anarchy and gang-related warfare and militias and tribal fighting happening all over our country and what’s going to happen with our minority groups? 

In a sense, I would like to relate that to what happened in KZN in July 2021, the 11th and the 12th of July, if I can remember correctly, after Zuma was incarcerated. KZN started burning overnight and brand new Range Rovers and BMWs without number plates and people dressed in red t-shirts and caps were just driving into the rural areas and to the cities and the plundering started overnight. And it was to my mind a well-orchestrated revolutionary threat that materialised as if by signal, as if by magic. And one of the greatest dangers with regards to that is that that anarchy could erupt in minor villages and infighting could happen. And this could be an extremely dangerous situation if it’s not contained by the state. 

Now, my question is, what is the capability of the present government to contain a serious threat where the internal security and stability of this country is threatened?

I’m not happy about the situation with regards to their means of preventing or preempting such a threat and then containing it and in a very short period of time to stabilise and then normalise that situation, especially if that spills over to other provinces. It will be total chaos. 

ROLAND DE VRIES (13:08.592)

Now, I always refer to what happened in KZN as the miracles of KZN and perhaps it was a good thing that the KZN insurrection happened. And I relate that to a short YouTube clip that I looked at the other day which referred to the miracles of the Six Day War. What I saw in KZN – and I travel throughout KZN helping our communities, developing the community safety plans, setting up community safety structures all over, not only in the southern part of the southern Drakensberg part of KZN, but later on in the northern Natal area as well. And with a few friends, I travel throughout KZN. I know exactly where every burn mark on Tarmac Adam is. And what was amazing to me is how quickly the main thoroughfares, the national roads were closed down at places. If I think of roads being closed down, I immediately think about Mooi River and the Van Reenen Pass area where this happened immediately. And these were situations that the police could not contain, not even the Public Order Policing units. And…this was a major threat. Now one of the major threats which happened overnight during the KZN insurrection with the closing down, the illegal closure of roads, was that the supply trucks could not go through and we sat with a food security situation overnight. Food couldn’t go through to the Spaza shops, which is the final point, and the family living in your rural villages for food to get through. The problem in our country is not that there is not sufficient food. The problem is if the main arterias are closed down and the food cannot reach our people. And I always say that the healing of our land cannot happen, political restoration in this country cannot happen if our people are not safe, if they don’t have food, if they are not secure.

ROLAND DE VRIES (15:32.112)

It’s a basic Maslow principle of security. If that doesn’t happen and the people are reliant on social grants, I see that all over our country, is that this country will burn. 

Now, what gives me hope, and I saw that all over where I worked with law-abiding, peace-loving citizens in our country, is that people are friendly.

If you take the politics away, the relationships on Mother Earth, if you walk through a Super Spar or through Shoprite or Woolworths, the people are friendly with each other and they would like to see peace happening over our country and to have a reliable government. 

Now, the miracles of KZN that I’m talking about relating that to the Six Day War and what happened with Israel and when our Heavenly Father protected them in an uncanny manner – It’s just amazing to see – was through the days and the nights where places like Underberg and Bulwer were infested by criminals and the looting and the plundering happened, was that a little town like Underberg where we did proper preparation long before the insurrection happened in actual fact, looking at time and distance. Brett and Debbie Devon of Underberg asked me to come and help them with their community safety planning in March of 2021. And we got the community leaders together, including the police, all the most important interest groups, the agricultural organisations, community leaders, and we did a proper planning in strict military style, terrain appreciation, the threat analysis, capability analysis. We developed the plan and the contingency plans and we determined what the danger signs would be for such a possibility. And then it happened when the buses started arriving Bulwer, a few kilometers away from Underberg, and they started looting the liquor shops and torching the homes, the Underberg   community stood up. They organised themselves. Old ladies and men manned the community halls. The police in actual fact placed themselves under command of the community safety environment. They chased the mayor away, they said they’re taking control over our town and they saved their town. I can remember still, I think it was about on the 14th or 15th of July, I was traveling through the night via Bulwer, Pietermaritzberg-Bulwer towards Underberg to go and help the community that I came across roadblocks that was manned by all kinds of people, members of the local community, being supported by taxi owners and manning these roadblocks right through the night and saving, physically saving their little town, taking into consideration that heavy firefights were taking place all around. 

One of the major lessons that I learned, from this experience was traveling back towards Pietermaritzberg and again moving through was meeting one of my ex veterans who was living very close to the town and he heard I was in the area and invited me for breakfast. He was staying in a little farming area which was a homestead from, if I remember correctly, 1836. It was sort of a pioneer post. We had breakfast together, and then I asked what happened on the night when the insurrection started on the 11th and 12th of July. He said there was a large group of black people that came to his home, and they told him that they were looting Bulwer and they were there to protect him and his family. To my mind, these were the pieces of magic which happened sort of overnight in that period where we had major insurrection in KwaZulu-Natal. And as I was traveling from him, and I’ll end with my story now, through Bulwer again, my friend Jacques Swanepoel was sitting next to me, and a few nights ago we took photographs when we drove through that same village at one o ‘clock in the morning, and it was still smoldering. And a few days after that, I looked at, through the window, across him, and I saw a white guy in a front-end loader with a little team of black guys and there was a few Indian guys and a Pakistani gentleman and a Chinese gentleman together cleaning up their town. And I said to myself, there’s hope for this country, because this was the miracle of KZN, where ordinary people stood up and they saved their families, they saved their people and they kept their villages intact. And there are beautiful stories to be told about the insurrection that took place, which I think never get told. The magic which happened in places like Louwsburg, where small groups of people saved their country, their towns from marauding gangs, and places like Pongola where the community just stood together and they said, plundering is not going to happen here, we’re going to save our country. Over to you, Chris.

Chris Steyn (21:59.654)

General, you’ve got your ear on the ground in KwaZulu-Natal. Now with the entry of former President Jacob Zuma’s MK Party, how volatile is the situation likely to become there? What are you picking up?

ROLAND DE VRIES (22:14.32)

What I’m picking up is that there’s a major political infighting, there’s a major power struggle, and these parties are not talking to each other. I hear every political analyst talking about forming coalitions. For a military man, I know that coalitions cannot work. You need proper strategic planning and not only for the current situation but medium and long-term planning as well. I’m afraid that we are going to see political infighting happening as never before and this will cause major political instability in our country and that is one of the reasons why I sat down with my small group of guys to the proper appreciation said what are the possible trigger events which could make things run askew in our country and even cause high levels of anarchy, the vertical escalation of crime and the political threats in terms of intensity, more people dying, and then also the geographical spread intensification of the threat, with other words the spill-over effect. And you can only look at the demographics of this country by population densities. Where will roads be closed down and where are we going to have trouble all over our country? I don’t even have to mention those places. You only need to drive through our country and to see where all the burn marks are onTarmac Adam. Whether it’s Uitenhage, the road between Kirkwood and Uitenhage, whether it’s N17, the N2 or the N3 or the N4, the N40, places like Delareyville, that is…Those are the places where we will see pockets of fire erupting. And that’s why it’s important for me to indicate the possible threats which may occur in our country, what these threat indications are, and to support my communities to safeguard themselves. Because one of the first principles with regard to the safety of our people is self-preservation. 

And then also…I mean, the government and the police don’t have control over the security situation in our country. And it’s time that all the people come together, all cultures and creeds and colors, and stand together to develop the community safety plan so that they can protect themselves until proper political restoration can happen. 

To me, there are two sides of a strategy. It’s almost like the two arms of the boxer. On the one side you have the whole situation with regards to political reform, political restoration in our country, which is not an easy solution to find, and it’s more medium to long-term oriented. And then you sit with a situation that if things should run askew in our country, people need to keep themselves safe. So these were some of the main driving forces that caused me the last seven years to help communities to establish their community safety zones, community safety organisations. And we see that as sort of the empowerment of our people for self-protection. But it’s also about coping and control, helping people to become more confident, to become more resilient, and to trust the Heavenly Father, because I believe that there is a solution for our country. We have good people in this country that are all striving for for peace and I hope that the politicians can sort out the mess and let’s see what happens when we run up to the 29th May election and what is going to happen after that. Let’s hope for the best.

Chris Steyn (26:19.142)

Do you have any thoughts on the possible outcome of the election?

ROLAND DE VRIES (26:23.728)

I think I’m not the right person to ask, but I must say from my heart, I hope that ANC does not win or muster sufficient voices for them to remain in power, because I don’t have trust in coalitions being formed. I don’t have a lot of trust in politics.

Chris Steyn (26:56.23)

Thank you. That was retired General Roland de Vries, the former Deputy Chief of the South African Army, speaking to BizNews about the likelihood of anarchy in this election year. I’m Chris Steyn. Thank you, General.

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