Chris Hoare, the son of Congo and Seychelles mercenary Mike Hoare, with the biography on his father, which he is due to launch next month.
Durban - Mad Mike Hoare, the controversial mercenary, is an enigma. So said his son, Chris, who is due to launch his father’s biography next month.

Chris, who has written the book Mad Mike Hoare, The Legend, recalled his childhood and his father, who did not believe in corporal punishment.

“In his military career he was big on discipline, but at home discipline hardly existed,” Chris told The Independent on Saturday.

“He’s not what you expect in just about everything. He’s a cultured man who knows Shakespeare, loves classics, poetry, the Bible ”

Chris has spent the past 12 years putting together the book in his Durban North home where he has based his career in journalism and public relations.

His father, now 99, who lives in an old-age home in the city, has had little to do with his book and is not interested in biographies about himself, does not give interviews and “lives in the present and the future, not the past”, said Chris.

So Chris had to rely on other people all over the world to find details about Mad Mike’s military forays into the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1960s, when he was employed by Prime Minister Moïse Tshombe to fight the Simba rebellion.

Mike Hoare was also in the thick of an the attempt to take over the Seychelles in 1981, which backfired and saw him and other mercenaries spend time in jail for hijacking.

Other stints in his life included adventures to places like Lesotho and the Okavango.

Chris says his parents divorced and he became used to not having his father around much. During the Congo uprisings, he learnt about his father’s whereabouts from reading the newspapers delivered to Michaelhouse, where he was at boarding school.

“It was international news. Every day it was on the front page of the Mercury, which was delivered to the ‘day room’ at Founders House. I would get up early, before the rest of the school, to see where dad was.”

He particularly remembered when, in 1964, his father’s column was heading north to attack Stanleyville (now Kisangani), a city on a bend in the Congo River in the centre of the vast country.

In Chris’s matric year, when his father wanted him to broaden his horizons, Chris visited him at Albertville (now Kalemie) on the Congo shore of Lake Tanganyika and trained with his group of mercenaries, who were preparing to attack the stronghold of Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara’s on a peninsula further up the lake.

“What stood out was the way they revered my father.

“I couldn’t believe it. To me, he was dad with a number of failings, but the men were in awe of him.”

On his return, Mike Hoare gave a talk at Michaelhouse.

“Even to this day friends I have reconnected with remember it,” he said.

Mike Hoare’s efforts to take over the Seychelles government in 1981, which went disastrously wrong, was “a sad saga”, said Chris. Mike Hoare and other mercenaries were sentenced to 10 years in jail.

“Of course, when a family member is in jail it’s quite a burden on you because you are concerned all the time about that person and you make efforts to get them out.”

Chris said his family had a great debt of gratitude to fellow Seychelles mercenary, the late Durban photographer Peter Duffy, who looked after Mike Hoare during their incarceration.

Chris described his father as a free spirit with a strong sense of adventure, motivated by his loathing of communism.

“He met an American CIA man and he influenced my dad’s thinking,” said Chris.

“It was the Cold War in the 1960s and there was great fear of communists getting hold of the Congo and coming south, to take over South Africa.

“People admired him because he got off his backside and did something about something he believed in.”

That said, Chris said his father must also have been driven by a sense of adventure.

But he said while he inherited his father’s free spirit, having spent many years on adventurous travels, his politics had leaned in a more liberal direction for most of his life.

He had rarely been confronted by people attacking his father for being a mercenary.

The Independent on Saturday