32 Battalion (South Africa)

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32 Battalion
SADF 32 Battalion SSI.svg
32 Battalion emblem
Active1975 – 26 March 1993
Country South Africa
Branch South African Army
TypeLight infantry
RoleClose-quarters combat
Desert warfare
Jungle warfare
Urban warfare
Part ofSouth African Defence Force
Nickname(s)Os Terríveis (English: The Terrible Ones")
Motto(s)Proelio Procusi (English: "Forged in Battle")
EngagementsSouth African Border War
FounderColonel Jan Breytenbach
Subsequent commanders
Battalion flagSADF 32 Battalion Flag.svg

32 Battalion (sometimes nicknamed Buffalo Battalion or Portuguese: Os Terríveis for The Terrible Ones) was a light infantry battalion of the South African Army founded in 1975, composed of black and white commissioned and enlisted personnel. It was disbanded on 26 March 1993.[1]:280


Military refugees[edit]

After the victory of the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA) in the Angolan War of Independence in 1975, many troops of its main rival, the Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola (National Liberation Front of Angola, FNLA), found refuge in the then South African-controlled South West Africa.[2]

32 Battalion uniforms. Members of the unit often impersonated Angolan security forces.

Formation of Bravo Group[edit]

From these troops, Colonel Jan Breytenbach together with Commandant Sybie van der Spuy formed a unit that was initially known as Bravo Group but later renamed 32 Battalion. Initially, Bravo Group consisted of two infantry companies, a mortar platoon, an anti-tank section and a machine gun platoon, but 32 Battalion was finally expanded to seven infantry companies, a reconnaissance wing, and a support company consisting of 81 mm mortar, anti-tank and machine gun sections.

32 Battalion Structure

Redeployed as the SADF[edit]

Unlike other South African Defence Forces (SADF) units, 32 Battalion was mainly deployed in southern Angola, acting as a buffer between the SADF's regular forces and its socialist enemies. The unit was also used to assist the anti-communist movement of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). Although it was mainly used as a counter-insurgency force it was eventually also used as a semi-conventional force, especially during the later phases of the war – particularly at the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale.

The battalion consisted of around 700 riflemen and NCOs (non-commissioned officers) (mostly Angolan nationals associated with the former FNLA or the Portuguese Army) and mainly South African officers, although commissioned military personnel from countries such as Australia, Rhodesia, Portugal and the United States were active with the battalion, especially in its early stages. As time progressed a number of SNCOs (senior non-commissioned officers – sergeants and above), distinguished themselves and were commissioned.[3]

At the end of its era in Namibia, the unit had developed into a conventional battle group. Apart from the infantry companies and the recce company, the battalion was strengthened by a battery of 120 mm (4.7 in) mortars, a squadron of Ratel ZT-3 and 90 mm (3.5 in) tank destroyers and a troop of 20 mm (0.79 in) anti-aircraft guns mounted on Buffel infantry vehicles. Although the main bulk of the battalion was based at Buffalo on the banks of the Okavango River, the HQ was in Rundu, 200 km (120 mi) to the west[citation needed].

Namibian independence[edit]

After Namibian independence in 1989-1990, the unit was withdrawn to South Africa where it was further used in a counter-insurgency role on South Africa's borders and later also in townships.

Phola Park Incident[edit]

On 8 April 1992 members of 32 Battalion were involved in an incident in Phola Park, Gauteng where members of the public were shot and killed.[4] The incident drew widespread criticism, specifically from the African National Congress (ANC)[5] and prompted the Minister of Defence to request an investigation by the Goldstone Commission.


As one of the results of the negotiations between the National Party and the ANC, the unit was disbanded in March 1993. After the battalion was disbanded, the remaining members of the unit were transferred to other SADF-units such as the Parachute and Mechanised Battalions as well as the Recces. It was also decided to reactivate 2-SAI at Pomfret which enabled about a quarter of the troops to return to Pomfret as members of the new 2-SAI. However, when 2-SAI was moved to Zeerust in 1999, many of them decided to rather stay behind at Pomfret and handed in their resignations. In 2008 there still remained about a quarter of the original 1,000 three-two families at Pomfret, eking out mainly a hand-to-mouth existence.

Many members of the unit later helped to found or joined private military companies such as Executive Outcomes and Sandline International, which fought on the side of the Angolan government against UNITA.

SADF 32 Battalion commemorative medallion

Equatorial Guinea coup[edit]

Some of the participants in the alleged 2004 Equatorial Guinea coup d'état attempt were former members of 32 Battalion.[6][7] Because they were arrested in Zimbabwe, it is not clear whether any of those arrested had full knowledge of their final destination or the alleged plan to carry out a coup d'état.[8]


The battalion was one of the most decorated units during the South African Border War, with a total of 13 Honoris Crux medals for bravery awarded to its members, second only to the South African Special Forces Brigade, whose members were awarded 46 Honoris Crux medals during the same period.

Ribbon - Honoris Crux (1975).gif HC2lint.gif List of 32 Battalion recipients of the Honoris Crux[1]:85–88
  • Lieutenant Connie van Wyk
  • Sergeant Danny Roxo
  • Warrant Officer 2 Willy Ward
  • Major Eddie Viljoen
  • Lance Corporal Feliciano Costa
  • Corporal Eduardo João
  • Second Lieutenant Petrus Nel
  • Corporal Victor Dracula
  • Rifleman Bernardo Domingos
  • Major Hannes Nortmann
  • Sergeant Rihan Rupping
  • Captain Petrus van Zyl – Operation Modular
  • Lieutenant Tobias de Vos – Operation Modular

In fiction[edit]

In the film Blood Diamond, Leonardo DiCaprio's Rhodesian character "Danny Archer" was a former member of 32 Battalion.

In the film Elysium, Sharlto Copley's character "Kruger" was a ex-member of 32 Battalion.

Roll of Honour[edit]

32 Battalion Tree of Honour
  • 1980: Alberto,R., Rfn[9]:1763[a]
  • 1980: Albino,B., Rfn [9]:1767[a]
  • 1980: Almeido,P., Rfn [9]:1764
  • 1987: Alves,J.R., 2Lt [9]:10[a]
  • 1980: Angelo,S., Rfn [9]:1765[a]
  • 1984: Antonio,D., Rfn [9]:15
  • 1987: Antonio,G., Rfn [9]:16[a]
  • 1985: Antonio,P., Rfn [9]:18[a]
  • 1984: Antonio,D., Rfn [9]:36058
  • 1983: Augusto,J., Rfn [9]:30
  • 1980: Augusto,M., Rfn [9]:1766[a]
  • 1984: Aurelio,A., Cpl [9]:31[a]
  • 1982: Bambi,M., Rfn [9]:41[a]
  • 1982: Baptist,J., Rfn [9]:32
  • 1987: Batisda,A.N.D., Cpl [9]:56[a]
  • 1980: Braz,S.D., Sgt [9]:1713[a]
  • 1978: Britz,R.N., 2Lt [9]:162
  • 1987: Cassela,D., Rfn [9]:200[a]
  • 1985: Chihamba,J.C., Rfn [9]:206[a]
  • 1980: Chipa ,A.F., Rfn [9]:36617
  • 1985: Chipoya,Z., Rfn [9]:208[a]
  • 1980: Coetzee,M.C., Cpl [9]:1722[a]
  • 1979: Coetzee,S.W., 2Lt [9]:237[a]
  • 1982: Conroy,J., Sgt [9]:248
  • 1983: Da Silva,G.P., Rfn [9]:274[a]
  • 1984: Da Silva,L.A., Rfn [9]:275
  • 1982: Dala,F., Rfn [9]:276
  • 1987: Dala,G., Rfn [9]:277[a]
  • 1984: Dala,J., Rfn [9]:278[a]
  • 1985: De Almeida,A., Rfn [9]:289[a]
  • 1987: De Klerk,M.M., L-Cpl [9]:310[a]
  • 1979: De Vos,W.A., 2Lt [9]:332[a]
  • 1982: Denge,D.D., Rfn [9]:345[a]
  • 1983: Du Randt,G.H., Sgt [9]:388[a]
  • 1985: Dumbe,L., L-Cpl [9]:404[a]
  • 1980: Engelbrecht,E.C., Cpl [9]:1724[a]
  • 1980: Erasmus,A., Capt [9]:1698[a]
  • 1980: Falkus,A.J., L-Cpl [9]:1735[a]
  • 1985: Fernando,J., Rfn [9]:450[a]
  • 1980: Francisco,J., Cpl [9]:1726[a]
  • 1991: Geldenhuys,H.M., Maj [9]:491
  • 1980: Gericke,B.Z., Sgt [9]:1714[a]
  • 1980: Grobler,D.H., Cpl [9]:1727[a]
  • 1985: Jamba,J.E., Rfn [9]:629[a]
  • 1987: Joao,E., L-Cpl [9]:642[a]
  • 1982: Joao,Y., Cpl [9]:643[a]
  • 1985: Joaquim,M., Rfn [9]:644[a]
  • 1981: Jose,A., Wrn [9]:1892
  • 1982: Jose,M., Cpl [9]:659[a]
  • 1985: Kahete,P.K., Rfn [9]:669[a]
  • 1985: Kalonga,K., Rfn [9]:486[a]
  • 1987: Kapepura,E.N., Rfn [9]:673[a]
  • 1987: Kapinga,P., Rfn [9]:674[a]
  • 1983: Kasera,E., Rfn [9]:677[a]
  • 1983: Kativa,J.D., Rfn [9]:679
  • 1977: Keulder,G., 2Lt [9]:688[a]
  • 1988: Kibanguka ,N., Sgt [9]:36618
  • 1985: Kinguelele,M.A., L-Cpl [9]:703[a]
  • 1987: Kuyler,M.J., Tpr [9]:762[a]
  • 1981: Lahner,D.F., 2Lt [9]:2088
  • 1985: Light,D.G., Lt [9]:815[a]
  • 1984: Malongo,I., Rfn [9]:877[a]
  • 1987: Mananza,J.R., L-Cpl [9]:878[a]
  • 1983: Mande,A., Cpl [9]:879[a]
  • 1982: Manuel,A.P., Rfn [9]:884
  • 1977: Maquinda,J.M., Rfn [9]:36619
  • 1987: McCallum,A.D., Capt [9]:934[a]
  • 1987: Meyer,J.R., Tpr [9]:956[a]
  • 1985: Muema,M., Rfn [9]:1004[a]
  • 1980: Muller,C. de J., Lt [9]:1702[a]
  • 1983: Nambi,J., Rfn [9]:1026[a]
  • 1988: Ndinu,A., Rfn [9]:1032[a]
  • 1982: Nel,P.J.S., 2Lt [9]:1046[a]
  • 1978: Opperman,A.L., 2Lt [9]:1097[a]
  • 1980: Patrick,T.S., 2Lt [9]:1708[a]
  • 1984: Paulo,C., Cpl [9]:36643
  • 1977: Pedro,R., Rfn [9]:36620
  • 1986: Pedro,V.R., Cpl [9]:1125
  • 1985: Sachilombo,J.A., L-Cpl [9]:1246[a]
  • 1980: Sophia,E., L-Cpl [9]:1744
  • 1982: Stewart,P.T., Cpl [9]:1346[a]
  • 1988: Stoop,S.P., Gnr [9]:1357
  • 1976: Swart,C.J., 2Lt [9]:1380[a]
  • 1987: Tchipango,W., L-Cpl [9]:1400[a]
  • 1978: Theron,C.J., Sgt [9]:1410[a]
  • 1987: Tolosi,K., Rfn [9]:1430[a]
  • 1985: Van der Vyver,J.A., Maj [9]:1566
  • 1980: Van Der Walt,P., 2Lt [9]:1710[a]
  • 1975: Van Der Walt,P.J., Rfn [9]:1459
  • 1980: Van Wyk,M., Cpl [9]:1732[a]
  • 1979: Victor,D.J., Rfn [9]:1598[a]
  • 1980: Yenga,M., Rfn [9]:1857[a]



32 Battalion Leadership
From Commanding Officers To
1975 Colonel Jan Breytenbach 1977
1977 Col Gert Nel 1978
1978 Col Deon Ferreira (Falcon) 1983
1984 Col Eddie Viljoen (Big Daddy) 1988
11 May 2021 Col Jock Harris 11 May 2021
1988 Col Mucho Delport 1993
From Regimental Sergeants Major To
1978 WO1 Pep Van Zyl 1980
1980 WO1 Ickes Uekermann 1982
1983 WO1 PW van Heerden 1983
1984 WO1 Fanie Joubert 1985
1985 WO1 Piet Nortje 1987
1988 WO1 Tallies Botha 1991
1992 WO1 Tienie Geldenhuys 1993


Dress Insignia[edit]

SADF era 32 Battalion insignia

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp This person is marked on the Fort Klapperkop Memorial wall with an * as having died during operations or in combat.


  1. ^ a b Nortje, Piet (2003). 32 Battalion. Zebra Press. ISBN 978-1-86872-914-2.
  2. ^ De Lancey, Blaine (November 1992). "…meanwhile, in South Africa, the bloody capitalist-apartheid regime remains…". Syracuse University. Archived from the original on February 1, 2008. Retrieved 2015-12-10.
  3. ^ International Defence and Aid Fund, January 1982
  4. ^ "An interim report on the conduct of members of 32 Battalion at Phola Park on 8 April 1992" (PDF). Goldstone Commission of Inquiry Regarding the prevention of Public Violence and Intimidation. Human Rights Institute of South Africa. 1992-06-10. Retrieved 2008-11-27.
  5. ^ "Statement on Battalion 32's rampage through Phola Park". Department of Information and Publicity. 1992-04-10. Archived from the original on July 8, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-27.
  6. ^ Terblanche, Christelle; Peter Fabricus (2004-03-14). "Koevoet, 32 battalion and the coup plot..." Independent Online. Retrieved 2008-10-25.
  7. ^ Timberg, Craig (2004-09-25). "African Coup Plot Leaves Kin Bereft". Washington Post Foreign Service. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
  8. ^ Once Upon a Coup, PBS Documentary, August 2009, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/wideangle/episodes/once-upon-a-coup/full-episode/?p=5496
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu bv bw bx by bz ca cb cc cd ce cf cg ch ci cj ck cl cm cn Dovey, John. "SA Roll of Honour: 32 (Buffalo) Battalion". justdone.co.za. Just Done Productions Publishing. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  10. ^ "TRC Final Report". SABC. Archived from the original on 24 December 2014. Retrieved 10 March 2015.

External links[edit]