The Seychelles government, although victorious in its confrontation with a group of foreign mercenaries who attempted a coup last Nov. 25, remains badly shaken by the raid and edgy in the face of threats of another try at toppling socialist President France Albert Rene.
Two curfews--one for land and one for sea--remain in force, armed militias patrol the beaches at night and a number of local people allegedly implicated in the plan have been arrested.
The government takes seriously threats by the Movement for Resistance, a loose association of supporters of deposed president James Mancham, that there will be another attempt. Official anxiety is heightened by the realization that the booty from the raid--seven prisoners from the 44-member mercenary group who include a self-admitted member of South Africa's national intelligence service--increases the risk of another attack, which might have more help than last time from Pretoria.
As a result, although the nonaligned government is enjoying more support than before from its 66,000 population, which resented the mercenary attack, it also is depending more on outside military help. This aid is coming from all sides. French and Soviet warships have made regular, prolonged visits to the main port on the largest island of Mahe since the abortive coup. Low-flying French reconnaissance planes patrol Seychelles waters daily.
The 100 or so Tanzanian troops stationed here prior to the coup, who gradually were being withdrawn, instead have been supplemented by about 400 more, according to diplomatic and other reliable sources.
Meanwhile, the government is preparing a white paper on the operation and as home video rental agencies report a brisk business in tapes of the damaged airport, businessmen worry that tourism will suffer.
Most Seychellois are skeptical that the coup would have succeeded even if the mercenaries, who were masquerading as members of a drinking club taking a holiday in the Seychelles, had gotten past the airport, where Seychelles security forces routed the commando raiders. "This is a small island; everyone knows everybody else. A countercoup is not the answer," said tour operator Kaven Parcou.
Others expressed relief that it failed. "It would have been one hell of a disaster," said Rama Vital, a hotel owner.
Evidence suggests that coup intrigue was going on for some time before Nov. 25, but that money only became available and detailed planning begun a few weeks before the attempt. Gonzague d'Offay is a tall, blond man who was Mancham's foreign minister. He and Gerard Horeau, a former Seychelles' immigration officer, now live in Durban, where they actively support the resistance movement.
D'Offay disclosed that in 1980 they approached Georg Schroeder, a German ex-mercenary from the Congo who now runs an export business in South Africa, to organize a coup for them. "But he worked out a plan that would have cost $10 million and that was too much," d'Offay said.
Irish-born Congo mercenary Michael (Mad Mike) Hoare, 62, a former British Army tank commander, apparently could offer a more economical plan. Besides deposing Rene and returning the procapitalist, flamboyant Mancham to power, Hoare and his band believed they would be "saving" the Seychelles from communism, giving the West a strategic gain in the Indian Ocean and themselves some "action." They also would be making an easy $10,000 each.
A year ago, however, money was still a problem, as Hoare told his friend, American author Robin Moore, in Johannesburg early in 1981. "Hoare wanted to finance the coup sort of like you finance a Broadway play," Moore said in a telephone interview from his Connecticut home. "He wanted people to put up amounts of money, sort of buy shares in the operation." In return, they would have received rights to build hotels and run casinos if the coup were successful, Moore said.
Moore said he spoke to some people about the plan but nobody seemed interested. As for himself, "I tried to convince Hoare to let me go along whenever it happened, so we could write a book about it," he said.
"Now I'm glad I didn't go," he added.
At some point during 1981 Hoare apparently got the money and the green light to proceed. D'Offay and Horeau said Seychellois living abroad raised half a million dollars. But on the island, this story is given short shrift by people who know most Seychellois abroad and doubt that they could raise that amount.
Government officials do not know the source of the fund, but privately say their chief suspect is an Arab business tycoon.
When planning for the coup began, secrecy apparently was not a paramount concern. "I knew about it three months before it happened," bragged one white living in Zimbabwe with close links to the military there.
According to one of the mercenaries, much of the scheming took place in a bar in a Durban waterside hotel, and in the apartment of its owner, Kenneth Dalgleish. Dalgleish, a former British intelligence officer who also worked for the Rhodesian security police, said he was responsible for recruiting the "Rhodesian section" of the coup corps.
Besides Dalgleish, Hoare turned to three colleagues from his legendary "Five Commando," the "Wild Geese" of the Congo wars, for help. They included free-lance news photographer Peter Duffy; part-time film actor Tullio Moneta; gas station owner Jeremiah Puren, 57. Puren and Hoare made this one of the more geriatric commando missions in mercenary annals.
Moneta, 42, who was born of Italian parents in Yugoslavia, has a build that would make the Incredible Hulk look puny. He once managed a topless bar on 7th Avenue in New York.
He supplements his mercenary earnings with bit roles in grade-B movies, sometimes portraying a mercenary, but he does not really care for show business. "I like being in front of a camera. But I don't like the people involved; they're all so phony," he said.
Moneta likes to joke about giving people "the wooden overcoat" if they double-cross him. Nobody is sure if he is joking. "I'm not violent, but being a mercenary is how I earn my living.".
Most of the other mercenaries were younger. Some, like U.S. veterans Barry Gribben and Charles Dukes, served in the Rhodesian war and at independence moved to South Africa. Dukes, 26, who is from San Francisco, was working as a bouncer in Durban's London Town Pub. An amateur boxer, he was known briefly as "the great white hope" until defeated by a black boxer from Bulawayo.
About half the mercenary group was South African, many either active or reserve members of the South African police and defense forces. One mercenary, Richard Stannard, was cited for bravery in action in a routine Defense Force release the week of the Seychelles fiasco.
Johan Coetzee, South Africa's security police chief, told a South African newspaper, apparently in an attempt to mitigate the mercenaries' responsibility, that the men "thought they were going on a special mission, adding that "they thought they were being patriotic."
The participation of more than 20 South Africans connected to the military is one of a number of indicators pointing to at least some official foreknowledge, if not blessing, of the operation at some level of the South African government. Whether this knowledge was passed on to higher-ups is unknown.
Pretoria had motivation to sympathize. Mancham had been a friend who welcomed South African officials. Rene, by contrast, is a Marxist and a friend of the Soviets who, shortly after coming to power, stopped South African Airways from landing in Seychelles on long flights.
Among the indicators of suspected South African foreknowledge is the matter of the guns. Where did Hoare get the Soviet-designed Kalashnikov assault rifles that were concealed in the raiding party's false-bottomed leather suitcases, and how was it possible for Dalgleish to test them on a Durban beach before the attack without detection, as claimed by one of the captured mercenaries?
D'Offay admitted in an interview that he was part of a delegation to the Department of Foreign Affairs asking for help in overthrowing Rene. They were refused, he said.
Schroeder told an Afrikaans-language newspaper that he informed "the authorities" about the coup plotting but also said they did not approve.
A South African journalist who interviewed families of two mercenaries said he was told by two relatives separately that the men were sent a message of encouragement on the eve of their departure to the Seychelles from Prime Minister Pieter Botha. They did not disclose how the message was conveyed, the journalist said.
Then there is Martin Dolinchek, one of the men captured after the raid by the Seychelles authorities.
After his capture, Dolinchek told reporters he was a "senior officer" of South Africa's national intelligence service and had come on the expedition without pay because Hoare, a personal friend, asked him to "interpret information into intelligence." He maintained that his superiors did not know of his participation.
But according to Seychelles Information Minister James Michel, Dolinchek also stated that there were other South African intelligence agents in the commando group and that he had once received instructions from the South African prime minister's office to meet d'Offay in Durban following a communication from d'Offay to Botha.
Last week when Dolinchek appeared with five other men and one woman in a Seychelles court and was charged with illegally importing arms, he refused legal aid, saying he believed his government should arrange for his defense, according to lawyer Keiran Shah, who spoke with him. This suggests he feels his government is responsible for his predicament.
Dolinchek, 43, says he was having second thoughts about his participation in the coup attempt even before it began. He told journalists he thought Seychelles was "a Communist tyranny run by Soviets and Marxists and the Libyan regime, so to speak."
But when he arrived here as part of the advance team, he found "the people friendly and free" and at a soccer match he sat "among 35 Soviet gentlemen who I believe work in cultural or sporting facilities.
"Col. Mike Hoare said the whole thing would be a pushover. I immediately realized that this would not be so, that somebody was telling him lots of stories, wittingly or unwittingly, of course," Dolinchek said.
Dolinchek's volubility is also a source of embarrassment to the black-ruled African country of Kenya, since it was he who first charged that the new Mancham government would be flown in from Kenya along with police and troops of that country.
According to Michel, Dolinchek also said that Hoare asked him to arrange two transport planes for the coup but two weeks prior to the attempt, Hoare told him not to bother since he had organized two planes from Mombasa.
The Kenyan government did not respond to the charges for 20 hours. The Cabinet then issued a denial saying it was "dismayed and disgusted" at the allegations and that Kenya "does not wish to be dragged into any aspect of it."
Despite the denial, Seychelles officials privately say they believe some members of government were aware of the coup attempt. Their suspicions center on the anti-Marxist minister of constitutional and home affairs, Charles Njonjo.
It was Rene who first publicly mentioned Njonjo. "It has been very clear for some time that some members of the Kenyan government do not like the Seychelles and its present government," Rene said. "I can tell you Mr. Njonjo, for one . . . does not like the Seychelles at all."