Submission to Parliament 26 October 2004

Professor Garth Shelton (Wits University)


The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has completed a large-scale integration of the country’s pre-1994 military formations, while at the same implementing a comprehensive transformation process. A new military structure and force design has emerged as a consequence of the Defence White Paper (1996) and the Defence Review (1998). However, the SANDF now faces new roles and challenges, largely unforeseen six years ago when the Defence White Paper and Defence Review were drafted.

There are numerous positive developments for which the SANDF should be applauded, however, the short-comings of defence policy in a wide range of areas, especially human resource planning, force preparation and design, likely future missions and long-term budgeting for new weapons purchases are now obvious. The focus on territorial defence and consequent military preparations for this role, largely identified as conventional war-fighting, has become less important as a consequence of increased continental and regional security co-operation and the urgent need for South Africa to play an active and effective role in African peacekeeping. While the SANDF plays a critical role as ultimate guarantor of South Africa’s new democracy, changed circumstances require an updating and refocusing of defence policy.


Given the military’s inherent tendency to increase its budget and expand its influence, the relationship between the military leadership and the civilian authorities is invariably characterised by continual bargaining, negotiation, disagreement, antagonism and co-operation. Issues relating to weapons purchases, roles and missions of the armed forces, the defence budget and strategy are ongoing areas of disagreement, debate and compromise. The requirement of independent advice based on efficient information collection and investigation is crucial for competent executive decision making on military affairs. Estimates on the nature and content of any threat to a nation, especially in the post-Cold War environment for example, requires more than a security-centric approach for effective, objective and accurate analysis.

The Defence White Paper should make an unequivocal commitment to further strengthening civil control of the defence function.

The Defence White Paper must be the product of civil policy making, with military input and advice, in order to ensure public approval and adequately provide for future contingencies.


Any effective defence policy must be based on a realistic, comprehensive and meticulous analysis of the threats facing South Africa, now and over the longer term. Without a threat analysis, defence policy, procurement and training will be driven by institutional needs (survival and growth) and industry needs (profits from existing weapons systems and programmes). The absence of a threat analysis as the key driver of defence policy will produce a distorted military structure, based on narrow institutional goals and defence industry interests. The updated White Paper should include a comprehensive and exhaustive assessment of the various threats to South Africa over the medium to long term.

An analysis of the regional and extra-regional strategic environment would suggest no possibility of a conventional military threat to South Africa in the foreseeable future, even using a worst-case scenario. (Ten to fifteen years).

In the context of a broad definition of security, South Africa’s and Southern Africa’s immediate security concerns include:

Poverty /lack of economic growth (poverty is widely considered to constitute the most significant threat to South Africa’s security. In terms of the absolute poverty line of US$1 per day, 17% of South Africa’s population are living in poverty. An estimated 45-50% of sub-Saharan Africans live below the poverty line.);

Disease (malaria, infant mortality, TB, HIV/Aids);

Unemployment (the South African Institute of Race Relations [SAIRR] estimates unemployment to be 33,9%, while the trend is negative);

Famine (By 2010, one in every three people in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to be food insecure);

Social decay (lack of human development - unskilled labour force South Africa ranks 94th in the world with regard to human development, but 45th in terms of GDP per capita. The SADC Regional Human Development Report 2000 indicates that human development has declined sharply over the last five years [the three basic components of human development are longevity, education levels and standard of living]);

Economic marginalisation (globalisation) and debt (the developing world now spends $13 on debt repayment for every $1 it receives in grants while a few hundred millionaires now own as much as the world’s poorest 2,5 billion people. Approximately 7 million children die each year as a result of poverty);

Ecological degradation - the need for sustainable development (water availability is expected to decrease with a concomitant increase in desertification. South Africa’s conventional water resources will be completely utilised by 2030).

Domestic and transnational crime.

Illegal migration (undocumented migrants - have a potentially detrimental effect on the socio-economic structure, place a burden on administration and infrastructure, while undermining economic development.)

Natural disasters (floods, cyclones, lack of water - most of the major rivers in Africa are highly sensitive to climate variation.);

While it is obvious that the SANDF cannot directly apply military assets to fully address this broad regional, or continental security agenda, it is also obvious that a significant contribution can be made in a number of areas.

The Defence Review should include a comprehensive analysis of the military and human security threats facing South Africa now and in the long-term. This should serve as the staring point for defence policy making.

The Defence Review should confirm the absence of a conventional military threat to South Africa, now or in the long-term and outline the implications of this. The availability of SANDF personnel for collateral deployment should be confirmed and specific areas where and how the SANDF can contribute to addressing human security needs should be clearly identified.





The SADC "Security Community"

The South African Development Community (SADC) formalised the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security (OPDS) during the August 2001 Blantyre Summit through the signing of a Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation. The signing of the Protocol provided a legal framework for SADC’s security integration, clarifying defence co-operation. The Protocol calls for a professional regional peacekeeping force along with a range of conflict resolution mechanisms and an arbitration process. The Protocol covers traditional state security objectives as well as broader security concerns. Specific OPDS objectives include (as outlined in Article 2):

  1. promoting peace and security in the region;
  1. protect the people and safeguard the development of the region against instability arising from the breakdown of law and order, intra-state conflict, inter-state conflict and aggression;
  1. promote regional co-ordination and co-operation on matters related to security and defence and establish appropriate mechanisms to this end;
  1. consider enforcement action in accordance with international law as a matter of last resort where peaceful means have failed;
  1. consider the development of a collective security capacity and conclude a Mutual Defence Pact to respond to external military threats;
  1. develop peacekeeping capacity of national defence forces and co-ordinate the participation of State Parties in international and regional peacekeeping operations.

The emphasis of the OPDS is on conflict prevention, management and resolution (as outlined in Article 11), but where this fails to be effective, provision is made for "enforcement action to be take against one or more of the disputant parties." (Article 11, 3c). The Organ is intended to establish an early warning system in order to "facilitate timeous action to prevent the outbreak and escalation of conflict." The Protocol envisages "enforcement action as a matter of last resort and in accordance with Article 53 of the UN Charter, with the authorisation of the UN Security Council."

On 26 August 2003, SADC Heads of State and Government signed an agreement establishing a regional defence pact, officially entitled the "SADC Mutual Defence Pact." The specific objective of the pact is "to operationalise the mechanisms of the Organ for mutual co-operation in defence and security matters." The emphasis remains on peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the UN Charter (Article 3), while Article 5 calls on SADC members facing a security threat to consult with the Organ, which may investigate and propose a course of action. Article 6, headed "Collective Self-Defence and Collective Action," outlines the essence of the Pact :

  1. an armed attack against a State Party shall be considered a threat to regional peace and security and such an attack shall be met with immediate collective action;
  1. collective action shall be mandated by Summit on the recommendation of the Organ;
  1. each State Party shall participate in such collective action in any manner it deems appropriate;
  1. any such armed attack, and measures taken in response thereto, shall immediately be reported to the Peace and Security Council of the African Union and the Security Council of the United Nations.

Article 9 urges African states to realise the objectives of the Pact by "co-operating in defence matters" and facilitating "interaction among their armed forces and defence-related industries" with a view to :

  1. joint training and the holding of joint military exercises;
  1. exchange of military intelligence and information;
  1. joint research, development and production of military equipment and the facilitation of supply, or procurement of defence equipment.

The co-ordination in implementing the Pact is the responsibility of the Secretariat of the SADC Organ is the responsibility of the SADC Secretariat in Gabarone.


The African Union’s (AU) Security Framework

The African Union (AU) was officially established in Durban on 9 July 2002, to replace the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). In advancing continental peace and security, the AU has suggested the development of a common security policy and the establishment of an African Standby Force (ASF), specifically designed for rapid deployment to keep and enforce the peace. The Protocol outlining the Peace and Security Council indicates that the PSC "shall be a collective security and early-warning arrangement to facilitate a timely and efficient response to conflict and crisis situations in Africa." The PSC Protocol envisages an African common defence policy over the longer term, with the establishment of the ASF as the short-term objective. The specific requirements of the ASF implementation process includes the following key elements :

  1. establishment of a standing advisory Military Staff Committee (MSC);
  1. an early warning system - to anticipate and prevent conflict;
  1. organisation of a brigade size (approximately 3 800 personnel) standby force in five different regions : North, West (ECOWAS), East, Central and Southern (SADC);
  1. training and equipment modification for African conditions and to meet UN training standards;
  1. interoperability of ASF equipment/combat platforms;
  1. rapid deployment capability, ie. 30-90 days with an eventual 14 day deployment period for a "robust" peace enforcement capability.

The overall objective is to provide the AU with an effective military capacity, at short notice, which can intervene on the African continent in situations of armed conflict. The specific design of the ASF implies a capacity for both peace keeping and peace enforcement.


The Global Environment

South Africa is unlikely to be directly affected by the USA’s so-called "war on terrorism," - fourth-generation warfare [4GW]. This point was recently emphasised by President Mbeki’s statement at the United Nations. Moreover, the apparent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction have little or no relevance to South Africa’s defence function. South Africa policy on WMD and active diplomatic participation in international fora to this end is comprehensive and effective. The long term focus of South Africa’s defence policy should thus be an Afro-centric approach concentrating on the enhancement of peace and stability on the African continent, rather than a Euro-Centric (US) approach which emphasises different security priorities and concerns.


The Defence White Paper should clearly outline how the SANDF will contribute to the success of the AU and SADC in terms of South Africa’s treaty obligations and commitment to promoting peace and stability in Africa.

In this context, the SANDF’s potential contribution in the following areas should be outlined :

  1. Regional co-operation on defence issues;
  1. SADC Co-operation on conflict early warning (sharing of intelligence);
  1. Contribution to the Military Staff Committee (MSC);
  1. Joint (SADC) training and military preparation;
  1. Development of an African common defence policy;
  1. Preparations for the ASF (training and rapid deployment);
  1. Training plans for the ASF;
  1. Budgeting for African peacekeeping.



Given South Africa’s commitment to peace and security in Africa, manifest in South Africa’s enthusiastic support for the African Union’s (AU) Peace and Security Council, as well as the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Mutual Defence Pact, this places a new and significant burden on the SANDF in terms of foreign policy implementation and the fulfilment of international obligations. In effect, the SANDF has a new role to play, already initiated via peacekeeping operations in Africa, with wide implications not provided for in previous defence planning.

Given the present threats to South Africa, the SANDF needs to become far more active in collateral activities and less focused on preparing for a conventional war. Thus the SANDF needs to retain a limited and appropriate war-fighting ability, while at the same time expanding and augmenting its collateral utility. While the SANDF obviously cannot directly and effectively respond to all human security threats, arguably they can be effective in the following areas :

  1. Contribution to fighting domestic crime - increased support for the SAPS
  1. Illegal migration and transnational crime - enhanced border protection
  1. Expanded humanitarian relief activities - such as the provision of emergency food supplies, casualty evacuation and medical support);
  1. Disaster relief - expanded disaster relief capacity (such as the March 2000 Mozambique rescue mission [Operation Litchi] where 14 500 lives were saved and the response to February 2000 Cyclone Eline);
  1. Regional conflict prevention - increased involvement in peacekeeping, designed specifically to advance sub-regional security. (The SANDF has indicated that all soldiers in the Army are undergoing basic peacekeeping training, but only one peace keeping exercise [Blue Crane 1999] has been conducted. The SAAF has confirmed that 53 transport aircraft along with 149 pilots are available for peace keeping, or to assist with diplomatic interventions);

The defence modernisation programme is not ideally suited for an adequate response to new security threats. The defence package is designed for the SANDF’s primary function, ie. conventional war-fighting, and has very limited collateral utility.

The Defence White Paper should explain how the SANDF will enhance its collateral utility in order to contribute to the urgent and immediate national security concerns.

The Defence White Paper should clearly explain how existing weapons systems can be used for collateral functions (for example, transport aircraft, etc.). Obviously, due to budget restraints no new major purchases of weapons systems, even to support peace keeping, would be appropriate at this time.

A further explanation of the SADF’s core function, ie. conventional military capacity requires no elaboration as this objective is clear from the extensive heavy weapons purchases and ongoing defence preparations.

Given the commitment to continental peace and security, South Africa should become the centre for peace keeping training in Africa. The Defence White paper should propose a plan for significantly enhancing South Africa’s peace keeping training and preparation.



Effective civilian control demands that all governmental decisions, including those relating to national and internal security, are made by elected officials, or their civilian appointees, outside the ranks of the armed forces. Civilian control is absolute, thus no decision, or action falls to the military without the clear delegation of the civil authority. Even command decisions, such as the selection of strategy and tactics and the management of the armed forces are in effect delegated to the armed forces by civilian decision makers. The state must clearly specify the role of the military, ensuring that the military leadership does not define its own role and purpose.

The White Paper should provide for a strengthened and more effective civil, Defence Secretariat, better able to carry out its mission.

Parliament should be further empowered to advance effective and intrusive civil control.

Defence policy must be made by the democratically elected officials, in consultation with military leadership.



South Africa’s defence transformation has largely produced a military force becoming less relevant and less applicable as time passes and new priorities emerge. Given the absence of a clear conventional military threat, the SANDF’s priorities must remain in the area of collateral activities. While the SANDF remains a key element in the foundation of South Africa’s post-1994 democracy, many new challenges have emerged. The SANDF should focus on new priorities, along with the appropriate application of existing military equipment and technologies.

Given the desperate need for increased social spending in South Africa, continued calls for an increased defence budget would be largely inappropriate.

In the context of South Africa’s constitution, the SANDF is tasked to defend and protect the country, its territorial integrity and its people. However, in times of peace the SANDF, and all armed forces for that matter, are required to carry out other functions in order to maintain relevance and public support. The concept of security defined in South Africa’s constitution goes beyond only territorial defence. It includes the security of persons and the environment. The SANDF must equip and train for non-core functions in addition to maintaining an appropriate conventional combat capability. The longer-term objective would be for South Africa to develop and advance a "soft-security" framework, rather than the present "hard-security" system.

The South African soldier "of the future will have to be versatile and multi-skilled.... he/she must be capable of participating in different types of operations."

Added to the primary defence role and collateral activities, South Africa’s commitment to the growing African security regime suggests a need for the SANDF to address defence development in the following areas :

Expand warning intelligence capacity designed to alert decision makers to future security threats, thus giving time for an appropriate response. Early warning intelligence, and information exchange, is a key component of both the SADC and AU security framework.

Advance the regional/continental security regime - This implies an integrated approach to regional defence and a SANDF policy alignment with regional structures. The development of a co-operative security framework would advance the SADC Defence Pact and AU security protocols. Commitment to a collaborative security framework would also imply that the SANDF adopt a non-offensive defence (NOD) posture.

Operationalising the SADC Defence Pact - This requires building on the OPDS framework and enhancing a regional defence framework, in response to a range of possible scenarios (to be determined in conjunction with other SADC partners). Operational plans for collective action with SADC partners require drafting and testing via joint exercises. Moreover, the development and maintenance of a robust, rapid reaction force for either peacekeeping, peace-enforcement, or defence against external attack should be prioritised.

Advance the African Union’s Security Framework - In this context, the SANDF should expand its capacity to contribute to the AU’s Military Staff Committee (MSC) and energetically implement the already drafted plan for regional brigade size ASF with rapid deployment capability. This implies developing a robust force capable of peacekeeping and peace-enforcement, along with a capacity to participate in humanitarian emergencies and complex interventions. The specific training requirement points to more peacekeeping and peace-enforcement training by developing best-practice guidelines for peacekeeping and conflict resolution.

The UN presently has 18 peace missions (observer, peacekeeping, peace-building and combined peacekeeping and peace-enforcement operations) in progress. An additional 30 multilateral peace missions are being conducted by regional organisations such as NATO, EU/WEU and the OSCE. Given South Africa’s new commitment to peacekeeping the SANDF’s participation, on a small scale, in these other missions as part of a learning/skills enhancement process appears appropriate. Argentina for example, with an armed force of 72 000 has over the last ten years sent 9 485 soldiers to participate in various peacekeeping operations. South Africa’s present peacekeeping deployment of 2 700 is respectable in international terms, but still short of a number of other countries such as : Bangladesh (6 006); Pakistan (5 455) Nigeria (3 489) and India (2 877). As the key driver for peace and security in Africa, South Africa needs to urgently participate in peace keeping operations (one or two officers ate each UN mission to observe and learn) while advancing active peacekeeping and related deployments on the African continent.

The present force structure is inappropriate, given the zero-threat environment and other security concerns, such as internal deployments against crime and peacekeeping commitments. This needs to be addressed in the updated White Paper.

Long-term requirements demand an enhanced SANDF peacekeeping capacity and an ability to effectively participate in SADC and AU security structures.

The Defence White Paper should clearly articulate the SANDF’s agenda for promoting peacekeeping, such as the urgent deployment of officers to UN missions with a view to further training and appropriate skills enhancement.



Human resource policy, recruitment and training should be driven by the specific policy objectives outlined in the White Paper. This would imply the preparation of personnel capable of conventional war-fighting (primary function) as well as an ability to perform collateral functions.

In addition, the widely reported and well known problems relating to human resource issues in the SANDF should be addressed. These issues include :


  1. Representivity at all ranks;
  1. Gender balance;
  1. Discipline problems;
  1. Reported racial disputes;
  1. Low morale;
  1. Equal opportunities and affirmative action (fast tracking);
  1. Ongoing loss of skills;
  1. Promotions policy;
  1. Poor communications;
  1. Grievance procedures;
  1. The top-heavy structure of the SANDF;
  1. The average age of combat troops is 34 years, far too old compared to other countries where the average is 22 years;
  2. HIV/Aids;
  1. Apparent lack of operational readiness;

The DOD’s Strategic Plan to 2004/5 highlights and identifies many of the problems relating to the perceived lack of effectiveness in the SANDF, but offers solutions largely based on increased defence expenditure which is inappropriate given the urgent need to increase socio-economic and welfare related budgets. The SANDF has completed a medium-term plan which will address a number of outstanding issues, while the new Human Resource Strategy - 2010 plans to ensure annual intakes to boost capacity.


SANDF personnel should be trained for both a core function (war-fighting) as well as collateral responsibility (policing, border control, peace keeping & disaster relief).

The SANDF must be able to deploy fit, healthy and well trained personnel at short notice for a variety of contingencies. This demands a constant renewal of personnel capacity in the form of regular and appropriate annual intakes of new recruits.

The White Paper should outline new policies and procedures to deal with issues presently impacting negatively on personnel effectiveness.



In a United Nations report on Africa entitled The Causes of Conflict and Promotion of Durable Peace and Sustainable Development in Africa, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on all African nations to freeze defence expenditure for a period of ten years. Concerned at the increasing number of armed conflicts in Africa, Annan also urged African governments to reduce defence expenditure to below 1,5% of annual gross domestic product.

The Defence White Paper should clearly commit South Africa to limit defence expenditure in line with UN recommendations.

Given the urgent demands for socio-economic expenditure in South Africa, the defence budget must be contained within manageable limits.




Despite the government’s confidence that arms offset programmes are on track, in terms of monitoring the implementation of industrial participation (IP) programmes, (either DIP - Defence Industry Participation, or NIP - National Industrial Participation) there is growing doubt that this can be done effectively, given commercial confidentiality and a lack of capacity. There is no clarity on how over the longer term job creation linked to the arms deal is to be monitored and verified. Moreover, if the arms deal is largely un-affordable, impedes training and operational deployment while being largely inappropriate for South Africa’s longer term defence needs, the NIP and DIP programmes become irrelevant.

The outcome of the Resolution 5 of the Parys work session alluded to in the "Proposed Architectural Design for an Updated White Paper on Defence" (page 3) should be made available for public debate and scrutiny.

The Defence White Paper should clearly indicate how NIP and DIP programmes, as well as related job creation is to be monitored and fully verified.

The Defence White Paper should clearly explain how the new (and planned) weapons purchases will (1) impact on the defence budget and (2) enable the SANDF to carry out anything but its core function.

Further purchases of heavy weapons need to be very carefully assessed and openly debated.



The armaments industry is heavily subsidised, thus diverting public funds away from socio-economic programmes. Arguments for or against a domestic defence industry would obviously be based on potential sales and profitability and would thus be inappropriate for inclusion in the updated Defence White Paper. Rather, an independent audit of the defence industry should be conducted and updated quarterly, as is best practice for normal commercial enterprises, to determine ongoing viability. Recent reports that Denel had a loss of R377,5 million over the past twelve months requires urgent investigation. Given that South African can now purchase arms and related material from any country in the world, the maintenance of a pre-1994 defence manufacturing industry which is unprofitable and possibly largely irrelevant in terms of the nation’s defence needs, requires immediate review.



As the major economic power south of the Sahara, South Africa is expected to play a role more commensurate with its economic strength. The SANDF should play a key role in operationalising the SADC/AU security agreements, thereby helping to providing "African solutions to African problems." As President Mbeki has pointed out, ending African conflicts is an urgent priority and "participating in a practical programme of their resolution is the joint responsibility of each and every African patriot." The SANDF can and should play a leading role in this process thereby confirming their African patriotism and active support for Africa’s renewal.

Based on the discussion presented above and in response to the "Proposed Architectural Design for an Updated White Paper on Defence," it is suggested that the key elements of an updated White Paper should thus include the following :



A comprehensive and realistic threat assessment which serves as the foundation for defence preparation.

An unequivocal commitment to democratising defence, thus ensuring that defence policy is devised, articulated and endorsed by civil, elected authorities.




Chapter Two should be based on an outline of the region and continental environment as already and extensively articulated by SADC, the AU, Nepad and President Mbeki’s own assessment.

Confirmation that global trends such as 9/11 and weapons of mass destruction have little or no relevance to South Africa’s defence preparations (ie. Fully endorsing and Afro-centric view, rather than a Euro [US] centric security perspective.)



A clear commitment and articulation of how the SANDF will, prepare for and participate in regional and continental collective security arrangements.



A realistic threat assessment based on a broad definition of security will confirm the SANDF’s need to retain a limited and cost effective conventional war-fighting capability, in addition to being equipped, trained and prepared for collateral missions.



The Defence White Paper should unequivocally confirm the SANDF’s commitment to support and advance South Africa’s key foreign policy goals, in the context of SADC and AU agreements.



The primary role and function of the SANDF remains to deter aggression against South Africa, however, in the absence of an external threat, the SANDF must participate in other collateral activities, such as policing, border protection, disaster relief and peace keeping.


The force design and structure will obviously be driven by the SANDF’s roles as outlined above.



The Defence White Paper should clearly outline methods and procedures for enhanced civil control of the SANDF through the Defence Secretariat, Parliamentary Committees and other related procedures.



The SANDF requires new intakes of recruits (volunteers) each year in order to effectively carry out its assigned roles and functions. This must be specifically provided for in the Defence White Paper.



Given the absence of a conventional military threat to South Africa, the part-time forces and reserves will have to be justified on the grounds of their possible (limited) commitment to the collateral functions of the SANDF.



South Africa’s defence industry requires a separate and urgent investigation to determine its long-term viability and commercial relevance.



The SANDF’s future requirements and capabilities would be directly related to its core function, ie. conventional defence (sufficient capacity for the foreseeable future) along with policing, border protection, disaster management and peace keeping.