White Afrikaner Neil de Beer, 51, this week announced that after 32 years in the ANC he is leaving the party where he served as a military commander in the struggle and as an intelligence chief to head up an organisation called the United Independent Movement of South Africa (UIM SA) that will educate citizens about their rights to stand as independent parliamentary candidates and to elect independents
In an interview with Gateway News yesterday the ANC veteran and international business leader said that his decision was the culmination of a 4-year political struggle, an 8-year spiritual struggle and a wrestling match with his conscience which went way back to 1988 when as a young South African Security Police spy he walked across to the ANC and entered the Umkhonto We Sizwe recruitment system.
De Beer said that now, 32 years later, his current new life course was set was just over a month ago “on the 29th of August at 42 minutes to 7 in the evening” when he accepted Jesus as his Saviour and Lord.
We were speaking in a telephone conversation a day before De Beer was scheduled to appear with Mmusi Maimane chief activist of One South Africa (OSA) at a press conference in Cape Town to announce his resignation from the ANC and his launch of UIM SA and collaboration with OSA in seeking to change the political landscape in SA along non-partisan lines.
Sharing some of his life story which is documented in a best-selling book Undercover With Mandela’s Spies he spoke of joining the army after he left school, fighting in Angola, being recruited by the Security Police and “walking over to the ANC” after his conscience told him that he was fighting for a cause that was “not right”.
“I was only 21 but already a hardened soldier,” he said of the time he concluded that he was not defending the liberty of his country as he had once believed but was fighting an enemy created by apartheid government propaganda.
“One day, as I was interrogating a terrorist, he looked at me and said: ‘You can kill me, you can murder me but after me comes a million and after that another million. Because this is not about race, this is about dignity.’
“I then realised that something fundamentally is wrong. Why are we killing them? Why are we murdering them? And that was my journey to change.”
De Beer said his recent political struggle began in 2016 when he saw that the ANC was no longer the party of former president Nelson Mandela whose vision and leadership had inspired him greatly.
“I saw that we [the ANC] were going in the wrong direction. There was no doubt. And then I began my journey of beginning to try and fight internally in the ANC to become leadership so that I could effect change,” he said.
Three years before that, at a time when he was manager of the Under 21 Springbok rugby team, his soul struggle began, when his first team captain, Luke Watson, invited him to attend a service at Hillsong Church in Cape Town.
“I lasted 30 minutes and then I walked out. It overwhelmed me, the noise the songs. I burst into tears and walked out that church never to return again.
“Going outside and trying to breathe — you know, I fear no-one. I’m scared of nobody. But I feared this thing. You know, I’m a trained spy by the KGB. But this thing — this overwhelming power that came over me [in the church], it was unacceptable. It was rejected by me and it was never, ever thought about again,” he said.
Unknown to De Beer, a key relationship in his spiritual journey, had begun earlier, when at the age of 28 when he headed up a company, Rhino Rugby, which was an equipment supplier to the Springbok team, he met businessman and marketplace Christian leader Graham Power, who at the time was on the board of Western Cape Rugby.
He said Power had a fatherlike influence on his life.
“Since then [their meeting] Graham and I met every year. Graham prayed for me and I ignored those prayers because I did not want to go to that side,” he said.
“And then, on the 29th August, Graham and Mike Louis [a businessman and marketplace Christian leader who pioneered a campaign which led to this year’s Constitutional Court ruling which opened the way for new legislation in the pipeline that will allow independents to stand for parliament] called me and they brought me to Graham’s house. They sat me down and they said:’We have a feeling that you are ready.’
“And I said: ‘Ready for what?’ And they said: ‘Well, we hear you are going to lead the country. You are going to run for president. You are going to leave the ANC. And you are going to fight for what is right.’
“I said: ‘Yes, that is true.’
“But they said to me: ‘There is one thing that you need to sort out.’
“I said to them: ‘That is why I am here.’
“I [had] stood at the gate of Graham and I did not want to go in. And I put on a song that has now bugged me for three months: It’s a song called ‘Raise a Hallelujah’, and I have played it 163 times to myself. And the minute I put on that song I knew that I would drive through these electric gates and I would not leave as the same human being again.
“And it [giving his life to Jesus] was one of the most anointing, wonderful moments at 51 years old in my life. And the thing now about living in the light, you can see the dark clearly now. So I am great. I am blessed. I am in the hands of a president who never goes for reelection, funnily. My president doesn’t go to a ballot box. My president doesn’t ask for votes. My president is the almighty God — and that’s who I serve.”
Referring to his joint press conference with Mmusi Maimane the next day, he said they would announce through their organisations, for the next three years “that it will be our solemn job to educate 50 million people in South Africa about the strength of God, the strength of light, and the power that every person in this country has to make a change.
“And if God is willing, and if it is necessary, then we will stand for leadership in this country.”
De Beer, who is president of the Investment Fund Africa, was a panellist in the business track of last week’s inaugural School of Governance online September Elective.
“We, the people, need people in this country who can lead. There is no more time for politicians; there is only time for business people,” he said in our interview.
“We are 51% cut on economy and 53% unconfirmed unemployment in this republic. So, what do we need? We need God’s light and money to give our people bread again. We must stop stealing, we must stop corruption, we must fight capital flight.”
He said his onslaught is against corruption, crime and to bring capital back — all under the guidance of Christ.
On the planned collaboration between OSA and his new UIM movement, he said: “Its critical that we stand together now because we have different demographic groups we can speak to and in that way we are covering 50 million South Africans.”
Describing himself as passionate about South Africa and about Africa he said: “People don’t know their power. Nine million people of 50 million in the country have kept a certain organisation in power for 27 years.”
He said godly men and women must arise now and make themselves available for office “because the only way we can defeat the present is by conquering the past so that we can create a united future”.