22 January 2008 | Philby-3
A serio-comedy with some unanswered questions
Bob the Moo (see above) has summed up this TV movie on the abortive coup in 2004 in a small African country very well. Comical as it may have been, some of the participants, especially those in jail in Equatorial Guinea, are suffering greatly. There are also some unresolved questions about the possible complicity of the UK government. The film makers wisely stick to what is actually known about who organized and financed the "project" as it was called, but it is strongly suggested that MI6 knew in advance. The ringleader, Simon Mann (superbly played by Jared Harris), still languishing in a Zimbabwe prison awaiting extradition to Equatorial Guinea, may know, but so far he is not telling. Although we see a fair bit of Mark Thatcher (Robert Bathurst) it's clear his role was minor and he may well not have known about the proposed coup. I don't think his mother, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, impersonated here by Caroline Blakiston, knew, but she certainly supports the removal of "tin-pot dictators" by military means.
The most staggering thing is that Mann and his crew, experienced in military ways, planned the operation with almost no regard for security, with the result that the South African, Equatorial Guinea and Zimbabwe authorities were all able to act against them in a coordinated fashion. The fact that oil-rich Equatorial Guinea has one of Africa's most brutal and corrupt regimes didn't deter the South African authorities from tipping it off. (Zimbabwe is another story). Perhaps they would rather not have known, but once they did (and of course the troops involved were all ex-South African army personnel) the whistle had to be blown. With better security the "project" might have worked Mann and co had the right experience and means for the job.