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MBABANE – A special military unit is now in place to deal with acts of terrorism.

Government has enlisted the services of a military consultant to assemble and train a special missions unit to focus first and foremost on counter terrorism. The special missions unit comprises of officers from both the Umbutfo Eswatini Defence Force (UEDF) and the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS). Already, it has been reliably established, the quick response units (which are subsidiaries of the main unit) that have been put in place in key areas across the country are ready to diffuse any acts of terror. The units operate from the air and on the ground simultaneously to hunt down individuals linked to terrorist acts and the operations reportedly happen even in the thick of the night. Whenever there are reports of the use of firearms, the special missions unit reportedly springs into action to cease those weapons and arrest those responsible for them.

Bastion Security, which is headed by Military Expert Arno Pienaar, is the company that has been engaged to conduct the training for the special unit. All along, Bastion has been providing a fire and risk management function to Montigny Forestry since 2015. Two highly-placed sources within Montigny and the country’s security cluster confirmed to the Times SUNDAY that Bastion was formally training a counter terrorism unit of the State security agencies. The sources said they were aware that there was another company in South Africa (SA) called Bastion but there was no link between the two.

ulterior motives

“Bastion Security and Bastion Akademie are not even the least associated with each other. There is just no connection between the two. Those seeking to link the two have their own ulterior motives and it’s all a lie. They just want to dent the image of Bastion Security and the work they are doing in Eswatini,” said one of the sources. The source within the security cluster said engaging Bastion was done in accordance with the law as necessary in the provision of services for purposes of national security. According to the source, this is not the first time that government enlists a consultant from outside the country to train officers of State security agencies. Consultants from Russia and Israel have reportedly been engaged before.
 “The only difference is that previously we were sending the officers to be trained outside the country or the training happened virtually or outside of actual combat. This time though, it is on-ground and in-work training; it is a longer programme. They (consultants) are here to hold the officers’ hands through the process and not sitting somewhere and conducting the training virtually,” the highly-placed security cluster source stated.

He said even though Bastion was leading the training, this was not a one-man show but credit should go to the local officers for the work they have been doing as part of the special missions unit. It has been disclosed that the services provided by Bastion also include expert training on handling a special breed of canines (dogs). “Every time there is an operation, there are very expensive dogs which have been brought in from outside the country that are doing a whole new thing with the police. These dogs are able to sniff out guns from where they have been hidden,” said the source. It is reported that these dogs were responsible for sniffing out the gun that was allegedly used in the shooting of Umbutfo Fanafana Bhembe, while he was at Mahlabatsini on his way to join the march by Ingatja to cut the lusekwane shrubs. The source further disclosed that it was this special missions unit that shot dead Mlandvo Khumalo after he had shot Bhembe about four times in the stomach.   

operational units

“The consultants are also training operational units because as emaSwati, we are not used to terrorism and this is new to us. Whenever there’s something new then you need training as a country. From a terrorism point of view, there is a unit that is focusing on tracking those who are responsible for such acts in the country.  There is a group that has been brought in to train the army and police on many things such as intelligence operations, handling social media and, of course, counter terrorism tactics. We have never been here as a country so we need experts in this field to actually help us,” said the source. The special missions unit has been likened to the Delta Force in the United States of America, which is officially known as the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D) and is one of the US special missions units primarily focused on the counterterrorism mission.

According to Millitary.com, though Delta Force is primarily a tier-one counterterrorism unit, specifically directed to kill or capture high-value units or dismantle terrorist cells, Delta Force remains extremely flexible and can engage in direct-action missions, hostage rescues and covert missions working directly with the CIA, as well as high-ranking protective services of our senior leaders during visits in war-torn countries. The security cluster source said assembling the counter terrorism unit was critical because emaSwati were living a petrified life because of threats that were being made against them by faceless terrorist groups and individuals. 

“This special missions unit is what we have always lacked. The nation needs this. There were people who were holding the country to ransom and this operation has come to diffuse this situation. This training has up-skilled the army and the police. This is really helping the nation,” the source said. Further said the source:  “The purpose is to save the country, not to kill people; unless of course it’s a situation where the people being dealt with are out to kill security officers and other emaSwati. We can’t continue living in fear. The success of the terrorists is to have emaSwati living in fear; we can’t live like that; we have to get Eswatini back to what it should be. What is being done is critical.”


It has been established that the arrival of Pienaar and Bastion Security in the country happened when Montigny took over the forestry operation in 2014, whereupon it realised that the company was losing an average of 1 000 hectares a year to arson attacks. “Montigny realised that the only way to solve this was through a military approach, not a fire-fighting approach. This military guy Arno Pienaar was then brought in and he has been doing  a fantastic job. Because of the current political situation in the country which has seen a rise in acts of terror, government was alerted to the expertise of Pienaar and his company Bastion and talks then began. An agreement was reached and now Bastion is providing training to the special missions unit,” said one of the impeccable sources.

On January 9, 2023, SA Forestry magazine– an independent publication that focuses on the forestry sector in SA – published an article about Pienaar’s ‘military approach to fire prevention at Montigny’ in which it stated that  he was serving with a security company in Iraq when he was head hunted by Montigny. The magazine reported that surprisingly, at the time of his appointment, Pienaar had zero forestry experience and zero fire management experience but the Montigny management were confident they had enough people with forestry and plantation fire experience already – what they needed was Pienaar’s military expertise. In 2015, the Montigny approach to fire management was introduced, with immediate results as that year the company reportedly suffered damage to just 18.4 hectares of plantation as a result of wildfire. There was also a marked decline in the number of arson fires recorded.


During a 13th Fire Management Symposium held at Nelson Mandela University’s George Campus in November 2022, Pienaar provided some insights into the Montigny approach to fire prevention. According to SA Forestry, Pienaar shared that fighting fires was a bit like fighting a battle and that success depended upon clear objectives, good preparation and intelligence, the availability of well trained personnel on the ground, the right tools and plenty of ammunition. SA Forestry reported that Pienaar unpacked how all the elements of fire management were carefully analysed in the process of developing a comprehensive strategy that left no stone unturned: Fuel load management and fire break preparation, fire detection, reaction, suppression, command and control at the fire front and in the control room, mop up and patrols.

He reportedly explained that good intelligence was crucial as one has to know all the relevant facts. “People are predictable and criminal activities follow a pattern – understand the patterns and your counter measures will be more accurate,” he reportedly said.

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