Survival of Fittest: SA artist Gene Becker

Where do old Boer soldiers go after fighting the good fight?

May 31 2013 – The South African soldiers who fought in the African bush against terrorist-communist infiltrators were known as some of the toughest guys on the planet. Their phenomenal knowledge of the African veldt and tribal customs was inherited from their Boer forebears – with a lot of help and advice from the KhoiSan bushmen. These guys love Africa and know no other place as well as they do the African bush.

However – what happened to these tough Boer guys after their ‘Afrikaner’ president FW de Klerk voluntarily handed over their beloved country to their communist enemies in 1994?

Tough Boer soldier turns to art as a survival strategy:

This is one of their stories of survival, one of tens of thousands of stories just like it. And I intend writing many more over the next few months. BeckerGeneSelfPortraitMay2013 Above: Self-portrait by SA Artist Gene Becker: one Boer warrior’s survival story:

The amazing story of Gene Becker — a ‘tough guy’ who was sold out by their own president after working as a tracker to stop communists from infiltrating South Africa to plant their bombs.  This tough old soldier (above, pictured at his cottage on Balmoral farm today) has now turned the considerable inherited artistic skills he learned as a youngster at his mother’s knee to good use in his new battle: to go on surviving. Despite all the barriers thrown in his way by the present government – for instance barring ‘whites’ like him from the South African job market.

This old soldier has a soft side: he has become a very skillful artist. (below)

BECKERGeneArtistPICASSO1957 SA bush-fighter Gene Becker turned to art for his survival after his country was lost to communism after 1994…

At the age of 17, Gene Becker was already doing a man’s job: tracking terrorist-infiltrators on the border of Namibia:

As a fifteen-year-old, he’d left his parents behind back in Johannesburg — dad was a businessman, mom an artist – and joined the South African Defence Force in 1978. Two years later he was amongst the most elite troops – those trained as trackers at then-Southwest Africa’s Caprivi Strip (Omega Base). The army was his home, and he has also made lifelong comrades at Omega Base

  • Now known as Namibia, a gigantic desert-country with only 1,1-million people,  it also has some of the world’s most valuable mineral-resources such as uranium and diamonds. At that time, SWA was being run under a UN-mandate dating back to 1920, which was granted to the South African government. So Pretoria’s military leaders, who sent its bush-fighters to bases all along the northerly borders, also sent them into Namibia.

But by 1991, Gene Becker – like many Boers at that time — was becoming very disgruntled with the National Party government: those guys all knew that a bad storm was brewing when their arch-enemy, Nelson Mandela, was released from prison.

Boer Freedom Fighter:

So, after he had done his required military duty, he quit the army and joined Eugene Terre’Blanche’s Aquila bodyguard at the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging in Ventersdorp. In his own view: he became a Boer Freedom fighter. He says rather casually that while working for Aquila, he was “arrested for treason against the NP-government for a spate of bombs in 1990′. He was detained without trial under Article 29 of the Internal Security Act – but received amnesty. “Still fervently anti-communist, I then founded the White Alliance Movement in 1992,’ he said. However – he went to ground when the police raided their headquarters and found arms and explosives. This happened during the infamous, very violent handover period from 1991 – when Mandela was released from prison – and 1994, when the ANC was handed over hegemony of South Africa.Most of the so named ‘apartheid-era dead’ actually died during this brief period between 1991 and 1994.

  • The majority of these deaths were caused by black-on-black violence as the ANC-backed forces were battling for political control of South African homelands and organizing their political campaign with military precision.

“I kept the rifle’…BeckerGenePortraitBalmoralCottageMay272013

Many Boers like Gene Becker were by then growing very angry with the De Klerk government. “Why did we fight in the bush against the communists who now are being invited in to run our country,’ many wanted to know. Many quit the military in disgust, too. And many decided to fight.

So when the independent homeland of Bophuthatswana pleaded for help against being forcibly incorporated into South Africa during violent communist-orchestrated uprisings, many of the Boers in the AWB and other similar movements heeded that call. Becker: “I was called up to help quell that communist-inspired uprising in Bophuthatswana in 1994 and was issued an R4 assault rifle by that government,’ he said.

  • “When that independent State fell to the communists. I kept the rifle…’

Balmoral Boer Concentration Camp Museum:

He then started working as a hotel manager – but after the Twin Towers in New York city was bombed, he feared that WWIII had arrived – and moved  to Balmoral farm where the Boer Concentration Camp victims’ graves are located. He was asked by the former 32nd Battalion Commander Willem Ratte who held the lease to run it, to manage the Balmoral Visitors Centre due to his hotel-management experience

  • They soon formed a group of dedicated volunteers around them – and raised funds to renovate the dilapidated farm and build a small museum dedicated as a memorial to the many Boers who had died in the British’ colonial war which destroyed the two independent Boer Republics in 1902. They also organised memorial days where young people were taught about their own nation’s history —  which was no longer being taught in SA public schools after 1994…

Ratte, a quiet, dedicated Boer with strong leadership abilities, also helped trained many young men as skilled artisans to teach them to become independent entrepreneurs. For by that time, many young Boer males were no longer ‘eligible’ for any jobs in South Africa: by 2010 the SA government had already started putting its anti-white hiring laws in place. Under the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment Act, many working-class Boer families were becoming destitute very rapidly from this time onwards as their wage-earners were being fired and replaced with black ANC party card-carrying members.

  • That was the situation at this tragedy-ridden farm with its long history of tears, suffering and blood when, in 2010, Balmoral was raided by the police. They found his old R4 he’d kept after the Bophuthatswana defence force action.  “In 2011, I was sentenced to five years prison – ten months effectively and the rest under house arrest. And that’s where I am now,” he said.

So what does a tough bush-tracker like Gene Becker do now that he’s turned his back on all this mayhem and gone into ‘survival-mode’ in a country which denies jobs to all ‘whites’ like him and even denies him the right to honor his own history?

The answer may surprise you. He’s turning out some of the most beautiful pastel art I’ve ever clapped eyes on. From beautiful soft girls with nipple-rings, to a stunning portrait of Pablo Picasso. He also loves doing portraits for people – but always retains his own inimitable style. Below: two pastel drawings of his impression of ‘Ganges’ and underneath that, that beautiful soft girl with a nipple-ring. (if you cringe easily, don’t look at it please).BeckerGeneArtistSouthAfrica2009GANGES


Never ‘advantaged by apartheid’

Where did he learn his art? At his artist mother’s knee: “I am self-taught just watching my mother…’ he said. So this is what tough old Boer bush-soldiers like Gene Becker do for a living these days. He says even though he’s poor, he’s proud. And one fact is certain: no-one can ever say that he ‘was advantaged by apartheid’ when they see his living quarters today.  Like most Boers, he’s never been “rich”, mind you. But he is most definitely a survivor.


Omega base:


SouthWestAfricaTerritorialForces’ – Omega Base served as HQ for 31 Battalion – also known as the ‘Bushmen’ Battalion. The Battalion consisted primarily of Bushmen soldiers from the Mbarakwengo and the Vasquela tribes in Namibia. These soldiers have exceptional natural tracking and bushcraft abilities and were organized into a specialized and highly effective counterinsurgency unit during the war. May the souls that wander here rest in peace.  For the main thread regarding South Africa’s Forgotten War, click HERE!topic/gec-military-moderated/jFu59T2i1f4