11 October 2004

Compiled by Guy Lamb, Senior Researcher


The Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR) welcomes the initiative by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence to revisit the Defence Review (1998). The reason for this is three-fold. First, over the past seven years the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has undergone a substantial transformation and rationalisation process. Second, the SANDF now operates is different environment compared to 1998. Third, there have been both positive and negative consequences as a result of the manner in which a number of provisions in the Defence Review (1998) have been implemented.

This submission considers, and makes comments on, the following chapters of the Defence Review (1998): Chapter Three (self-defence and peace-time force), Chapter Nine (force structure) and Chapter Ten (human resources).


According to Section 5:

"The following tasks relate to the self-defence function [of the SANDF]:

To provide a core defence capability against external military threats and execute military operations in defence of the Republic, its interests and its citizens when ordered by the President.

To provide a defence capability against internal threats to the constitutional order and execute operations in a state of emergency when ordered by the President.

To promote regional security through defence co-operation within the SADC framework.

To promote international security through participation in peace operations and military co-operation in support of foreign policy.

Post-apartheid South Africa has been at peace with its neighbours and other African countries, and there has been a relative absence of armed conflict within South Africa for more than a decade. As a result, the South African military has not been called on to actively fulfil its primary function, namely the protection of South Africa’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Hence, the SANDF has devoted most its resources to fulfilling its secondary functions, namely: support of the South African Police Service (SAPS) in the promotion and maintenance of internal security; borderline control; disaster relief and humanitarian assistance; as well as peacekeeping and peacemaking.

Examples of cases of disaster relief are as follows. In the 1998/99 financial year, the South African Air Force (SAAF) facilitated the evacuation of 572 Tanzanian Defence Force troops from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the 2000/01 financial year, the SAAF rescued 14,500 flood victims and delivered 2,648 tons of emergency aid in Mozambique.

The South African military has become increasingly involved in peacekeeping operations over the past three years. By the end of 2003, South Africa was ranked the tenth largest troop contributor internationally, and the third on the African continent, behind Kenya (ninth, with 1,788 troops) and Nigeria (third, with 3,361). By the middle of 2004, South Africa had deployed 1,460 troops and military observers to peacekeeping operations on the African continent.

It appears as though South Africa is seeking to become one of the major troop contributors to the African Union’s military Standby Force in the future. In February 2004, the South African Minister of Finance allocated R1.1 billion for South Africa’s involvement in peacekeeping missions in Africa for the next three years, which is being touted as part of South Africa’s commitment to the African Union and New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

As internal policing, disaster relief commitments and peace support operations appear to becoming the main focus of the SANDF, CCR recommends that special attention should be devoted to reviewing the current force design and force structure of the SANDF.

Through its Africa Programme, CCR seeks to influence positively and critically policy and academic debates on African security through providing a neutral platform for diverse African actors. In particular, CCR focuses on strengthening the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, and other sub-regional organisations, as well as conducting research on South Africa’s role in Africa; the United Nations in Africa; and the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development. Hence, CCR is in a position to organise seminars and discussions, as well as undertake research on issues such as peace support operations in Africa and South Africa’s relationship with the South African Development Community and the African Union, which may be very useful to the DOD.


The Transformation of the Department of Defence

Civil-Military Relations: Oversight Mechanisms

Section: states

"The creation of additional mechanisms to ensure that the activities of the DoD are consistent with the letter and the spirit of the new democracy the role of the Public Protector and the Military Ombudsperson for example."

The Defence White Paper (1996, Chapter 2, p.8) calls for the establishment of an independent Military Ombudsperson whose main duties would be "to monitor adherence to democratic civil-military relations, undertake investigations at the request of Parliament, and investigate complaints against the SANDF by military personnel and members of the public."

The Military Ombudsperson is currently under-resouced and lacks capacity, which needs to be urgently addressed.


Policy Framework

According to Section 1:

The DoD’s most valuable resource is its personnel. Human resource policies are directed at ensuring maximum efficiency, effectiveness, appropriateness, accountability and affordability, and providing job satisfaction, fairness and equity. The members of the DoD shall be non-partisan, subject to the control and oversight of the duly elected and appointed civil authority and obliged to perform all functions and conduct all operations within the parameters of the Constitution, domestic legislation and international humanitarian law and the law on armed conflict.

Size and Composition

According to Section 39.2:

The appropriate number of serving members and employees of the DoD can be calculated in terms of the following: the organisation of the Department to achieve maximum cost efficiency yet ensuring effectiveness. One aspect of this is the re-engineering of the SANDF combat: support ratio to optimise the number of combat and command elements. This is being investigated via a range of management interventions.

According to Section 40:

As anticipated during the negotiations that led to the formation of the SANDF, the integrated Regular Force exceeds the numbers required for the tasks which the SANDF has to perform in a low threat scenario and is unaffordable, especially in the light of the reconstruction and development needs of the country. It is therefore necessary that the force is down-sized.

As of June 2004, the SANDF was comprised of 75,722 personnel. This is the result of a significant reduction in the defence budget, the SANDF has been downsized considerably over the past eight years, as in 1996 the personnel strength of the SANDF stood at 102,600. This downsizing has been achieved by means of natural attrition (e.g. resignations, retirements, transfers, discharges and death), voluntary severance packages and the voluntary non-renewal of short and medium term contracts. This downsizing trend will continue in the near future as the Department of Defence (DOD) is actively seeking to realise the recommendations of the Defence Review (1998), which envisaged an optimal force size to be 70,000 full-time personnel.

The manner in which the process of rationalisation has been implemented has resulted in two serious negative consequences. First, as there is no long a regular supply of young personnel who were being fed into the lower ranks of the army, navy and air force, the age profile of the military has become skewed. Second, there has been a significant loss of technical expertise.

Currently the average age of the rank-and-file soldiers in the South African military became much higher that it had been in the past. By the end of 2002 only 7% of a total of 16,380 SANDF personnel with the rank of private were between the ages of 18 and 24. This state of affairs is a serious problem for any military, as those individuals in the lower ranks of the military are traditionally the fighting foot soldiers, and ideally they should be young, fit and healthy.

Since 1996 the SANDF has been loosing an alarming number of technically skilled individuals. Most of these individuals have left the SANDF for the private sector or other government departments. These individuals have either been white males who have left the military as a result of the equal opportunity and affirmative action policies, or African personnel who were offered more attractive salary packages and employment conditions outside of the military. The major consequence is of this "brain drain" is that the SANDF is unable fill some of these important technical posts with existing personnel or new recruits, and as a result, operational readiness of the SANDF has been compromised.

CCR recommends that the above-mentioned issues require urgent attention.


The SANDF is reported to have an exceedingly high HIV infection level. The official HIV infection level is estimated to be 23%, but outside sources estimate it to be around 40%. There is speculation that this will have a dramatic impact on the combat readiness of the SANDF, as well as the eligibility of many SANDF personnel to serve on United Nations peacekeeping missions.

This state of affairs should be prioritised by the DOD.

CCR is about launch a research programme that considers the relationship between HIV/AIDS and human and national security, with a specific focus on South Africa. CCR is a position to assist the DOD in undertaking research on formulating policy with respect to HIV/AIDS and the South Africa military.

Civic Education

According to Section 92:

"To ensure that the SANDF acts at all times in a military professional manner, the SANDF is committed, in terms of the White Paper on Defence, to the introduction of civic education on all its development courses and appropriate operational training courses. Training in the Law on Armed Conflict (International Humanitarian Law) has been implemented since January 1997 with the assistance of the International Committee of the Red Cross and other modules are being introduced during 1998."

To date, no such civic education has been implemented, despite numerous meetings and discussions on this issue. Given that SANDF personnel have become increasingly involved in peacekeeping and internal policing roles over the past six years (and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future).

CCR strongly recommends that DOD prioritise the implementation of such civic education programme.

Service Corps

Sections 126 states:

[The Service Corps’] mission is to assist with the reintegration of ex-service members into civil society by upgrading the standard of education, vocational and life skills to enable members to find employment or start their own enterprise in the private sector; provide career guidance on a continuous basis and assist with the social reintegration of members where possible. Its priority is to reintegrate ex-service members.

Section 132 states:

For the Service Corps to achieve its mission, it is imperative that it becomes an independent organisation in respect of logistics and human resources, facilities, commodities, service and applicable policies and directives.

The Service Corps’ record with respect to assisting ex-service members and ex-combatants to reintegrate into civilian life has been poor. In addition, the Service Corps is still located in the Department of Defence.

A number of academic studies have pointed out that since 1994, the rationalisation process has contributed to the unsuccessful integration of thousands of ex-combatants into civilian life. Liebenberg and Roefs (2001) found that 37% of their sample of ex-combatants to be unemployed. Gear (2002) concluded that many ex-combatants were experiencing major difficulties integrating into civilian life, and perceived themselves to have been "wished away," as "former superiors and respective communities now tend to distance themselves from the people who not so long ago, they urged into armed action." The Centre for Conflict Resolution’s (2003) study on the quality of life and socio-economic needs of previously demobilised combatants from MK and APLA found that 66% of this category of ex-combatants were unemployed, and a third indicated that they suffered from psychological problems.

CCR strongly recommends that serious consideration be given to restructuring the Service Corps, and other mechanisms and processes that are designed to assist demobilised ex-service members and those service members who will be separated in the future.


General Publications

African National Congress. 2004. Report on Delivery to Women.


Centre for Conflict Resolution. 2003. "Reintegration into Civilian Life: the Case of

Former MK and APLA Combatants", Track Two, Vol. 12, No. 2.

Department of Defence. 2002. Department of Defence Policy on Equal Opportunity

and Affirmative Action. Pretoria: Department of Defence.

Gear, S. 2002. "Wishing us Away: Challenges Facing Ex-Combatants in the New South

Africa," Violence and Transition Series, Vol. 8.

Liebenberg, I. and Roefs, M. 2001. "Demobilisation and its Aftermath: Economic

Reinsertion of South Africa’s Demobilised Military Personnel." ISS Monograph Series, No. 61.

Ministerial Committee of Inquiry. 2001. An Analysis of Progress with Transformation in the

Defence Force (Bloemfontein: Ministerial Committee of Inquiry).

Republic of South Africa. 1996. South African White Paper on Defence. Pretoria:

Department of Defence.

Republic of South Africa. 1998. South African Defence Review. Pretoria: Department of


South African Department of Defence. 1999. Annual Report 1994/95. Pretoria: DOD.

South African Department of Defence. 1999. Annual Report 1995/96. Pretoria: DOD.

South African Department of Defence. 1999. Annual Report 1996/97. Pretoria: DOD.

South African Department of Defence. 1998. Annual Report 1997/98. Pretoria: DOD.

South African Department of Defence. 1999. Annual Report 1998/99. Pretoria: DOD.

South African Department of Defence. 2001. Annual Report 2000/01. Pretoria: DOD.

South African Department of Defence. 2001. Human Resource Strategy 2010: Edition 2. Pretoria: DOD.

South African Department of Defence. 2002. Annual Report 2001/02. Pretoria: DOD.

South African Department of Defence. 2003. Annual Report 2002/03. Pretoria: DOD.

Print and electronic media

"SANDF Chief Plays Down Report of Racism in Army", Sunday Independent, 11 March 2001.

"The Battle’s Just Begun", Financial Mail, 7 June 2002.

"SA Defence Force Under Fire for its ‘Enron-like’ Accounting", Business Day, 8 July


"Too Fat to Fight", Sunday Argus, 14 July 2002.

"SA’s National Defence Force can Barely Function", Southern Africa Report, 12 July 2002.

"SA National Defence Force: A Battle for Survival", Financial Mail, 24 October 2003.

"Lekota on the Offensive against SANDF Critics", Sunday Independent, 21 July 2002.

"Crisis Looms on Unfit SANDF", The Citizen, 11 December 2003.

IRIN. 2004a. "South Africa: More Funds for Peacekeeping Efforts", 19 February,


IRIN. 2004b. "South Africa: Policy Review to Focus on African Peacekeeping", 10 June,


"Lekota Dismisses AIDS Stats on the SANDF", SABC News, 2 August 2004,