Roelf du Plooy, SA Special Forces, ex-SAP Special Task Force via Jonathan Pittaway


Anecdotal history of the SAP Special Task Force and 4 Recce Keywords: Maleoskop, SAP Special Task Force, Langebaan, 4 Recce, Saviac free fall parachute Johan was a co-member with me (photo: Lt-Col Roelf du Plooy) of the SAP Special Task Force who caused mischief wherever he went. His seniors unerringly always wanted to ‘murder’ him, not without extremely good reason. Anyway, Johan or ‘Slatto’, a nickname he very well earned was not your usual court jester, he was a stirrer of a very extra ordinary kind. Slatto passed the second SA Police Special Task Force selection course during 1977 and completed his basic parachuting course of ten static line and five freefall jumps at the end of the course at Maleoskop training centre. After successfully completing this grueling process, he proudly announced that he was going to visit his family during our period of rest and recreation in Port Elizabeth. We instructors were none the wiser and wished him well during the well-deserved break. What we were not aware of was that he had lifted one of the Saviac free fall parachutes and took it with him on leave to go and impress his friends at home. After arriving home in Port Elizabeth, he proudly displayed the Saviac to all and sundry and especially his former school colleagues with hairy tales of being a sky god free fall parachutist. He impressed his former teachers and school pals to such an extent that they invited him to a school festival day to do a display freefall jump on the school grounds. One of his school pals was a private pilot and agreed to drop Slatto on an altitude of 10 000 feet above the school stadium. Slatto was undeterred and strapped a yellow smoke grenade onto his right leg, and exited the aircraft at the correct spot and altitude, pulled the smoke grenade and opened his parachute above the school stadium and executed a stand-up landing on the sports field. Slatto made everyone’s day. This is an unheard-of showmanship and a transgression of the complete parachute rule book, but nobody was the wiser that Slatto could only be permitted to participate in a show jump at at least another 50 freefall jumps under the strict supervision of a qualified ‘D’ licence instructor. Unnecessary to say was everyone’s hero in his home town for the day. Back in Pretoria the story somehow leaked out and Slatto was summarily paraded before our Commanding Officer, Colonel Dries Verwey, and threatened with a court martial, but somehow Slatto pulled this one off with a final reprimand and that a repetition of any parachute-related misdeed would result in his immediate discharge from the Police Force. Come June 1979 and Slatto announced that he was going to join us three other members who were going to attempt the Army’s Recce selection. I had my serious misgivings about his plans and told him in no uncertain terms that he should not, but he insisted. During the second week of July 1979, we were undergoing the sea orientation course at 4 Recce at Langebaan. Our chief instructor was a very imposing man, Warren Brewin a huge sailor with a frightening demeanor that dared no challenge from anyone, least of all the students on selection. The daily routine in mid-winter started at five o clock in the morning with an overland run of approximately 10 km followed by a swim in the ice-cold water of 14 degrees Celsius followed by small boat orientation and capsize drills lasting the whole day until your body was near freezing point. One morning after a swim of approximately 400 meters around a moored yacht in the Langebaan lagoon it was teatime for the instructors who was standing on the jetty eating biscuits and drinking steaming cups of tea while us students were gawking with shivering bodies at them praying for anything warm. This was too much for Slatto and he walked up to Warrant Brewin, tapped him on the elbow and said ‘Warren, you can now make yourself famous and offer us students some of your tea and biscuits’. Warren Brewin’s reaction was to be expected, with a snarl he ordered Slatto to run the length of the jetty and into the icy sea without his diving suit. With a slow grin on his face Slatto took off his diving suit and jogged to the end of the jetty and took a swallow dive into the sea and threw a brown eye to all us onlookers followed by a wide crawl and back onto the jetty. Unnecessary to say, Slatto was despatched out of 4 Recce and out of the unit with maximum speed.