Garth Shelton (Wits University),

"South Africa can not escape its African destiny."

Nelson Mandela

"The UN and the rest of the international community can appoint envoys, urge negotiations and spend billions of dollars on peacekeeping missions, but none of this will solve conflicts if the political will and capacity do not exist here in Africa."

Kofi Annan

"To end these (African) conflicts and find a lasting solution to their causes is something that must seize the collective mind of Africans, and participating in a practical programme of their resolution is the joint responsibility of each and every African patriot."

Thabo Mbeki

1. Introduction : President Mbeki’s Peace and Security Agenda

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 time implementing a comprehensive transformation process. A new military structure and force design has emerged as a consequence of the Defence White Paper (1994) and the Defence Review (1998). The present day SANDF, in terms of personnel, training and equipment is largely the result of the recommendations of the Defence Review. However, the SANDF now faces new roles and challenges, largely unforeseen six years ago when the Defence Review was drafted. In addition, the short-comings of the Defence Review 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 becoming 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.

President Thabo Mbeki’s vision of an "African Renaissance," increasingly given concrete form in regional and continental institutions and agreements, obliges the SANDF to be a key player in advancing peace and security outside the country’s borders. Old-style territorial defence and preparations for an air/land/seaward invasion have been superseded by a new demand for regional defence co-operation and peacekeeping operations. Given South Africa’s commitment to peace and security in Africa, manifest in Pretoria’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 agreements. In effect, the SANDF has a new role to play, already initiated via peacekeeping operations in Africa, with wide implications not provided for in the Defence Review. This paper aims to identify the key elements of the new regional and continental peace and security agenda, in the context of Mbeki’s African Renaissance vision, and to assess the SANDF’s capacity to support and advance that agenda. Suggestions will also be made with regard to the possible future direction of defence policy in the context of new demands not previously foreseen, or planned for.


2. Continental and Regional Security - Vision and Architecture

The evolving regional and continent-wide security framework is motivated by the desire for an African renewal, articulated in Mbeki’s African Renaissance. Driven by this vision, South Africa’s foreign policy has prioritised the advancement of peace and security both within the SADC region and in Africa generally. The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) includes a strong security element, based on the contention that peace and security is identified as the foundation of economic development. The Renaissance vision is given more formal expression via the SADC security related protocols, and the AU’s Peace and security Council. Collectively, the co-operative security elements contribute towards a new African security regime which has direct and important implications for defence preparation and planning in South Africa.



2.1 The African Renaissance

The philosophical postulates which underpin Mbeki’s African vision are to be found in the concepts of Pax Africana and a modern version of Pan-Africanism. Pax Africana is best understood in terms of Ali Mazrui’s definition which suggests that true peace in Africa can only be assured by Africans themselves acting in concert. The promotion of Pan-Africanism implies greater unity through continent-wide political, economic, social and cultural collaboration. In advancing the African Renaissance, Mbeki has identified two key elements : political and economic restructuring. Politically, one-party rule, coups d’etat, military dictatorships and corrupt rule are unacceptable, while the long-term goal is an Africa at peace based on good governance and democratic participation. Economic reform is proposed via the expansion of a free-market and business friendly approach, specifically designed to attract both domestic and international investment. A democratic and liberal political-economic restructuring of the African continent is offered as the key to economic upliftment and long-term prosperity.

The African Renaissance agenda, is partly inspired by the post-World War II East Asian miracle which witnessed the economic revival, sustained economic growth and wide-spread prosperity which now characterises the region. Sustainable economic growth along with competitiveness form the corner stones of an economic strategy intended to empower Africans and ready the continent for participation in a globalised international environment. However, the long-term vision, of a competitive and prosperous continent can not be achievable without a significant reduction, or complete termination of both intra and inter-state conflict. The African Renaissance will not be realised without Pax Africana. Establishing peace in Africa, as a foundation for economic progress, is based on terminating conflicts and building genuine and stable democracies, with open political systems and transparent policy-making procedures. The goals of the African Renaissance have been advanced and promoted through Mbeki’s active an influential foreign policy initiatives.


2.2 South Africa’s Foreign Policy Objectives

In pursuit of the African Renaissance, South Africa has played a leading role in the establishment of the AU and the conception, drafting and acceptance of Nepad. Policy positions have emphasised South Africa’s advocacy for the peaceful (negotiated) resolution of African conflicts and the strengthening of democracy as the keys to promoting peace and stability. At the same time, Pretoria has actively sought international support to partner and champion continental renewal. Mebeki has gained international respect for South Africa’s concerted efforts in advancing peace and security in Africa, via selected and effective interventions. Innovative conflict resolution initiatives, based partly on South Africa’s own recent historical experience, have made significant and positive contributions to ameliorating confrontations in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Through the AU Chair, South Africa has been actively involved in promoting peace in the Central African Republic (CAR), Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, the Sudan and Western Sahara. Contributions to post-conflict reconstruction have been made in Angola, the Comoros, Lesotho and Rwanda.

The Department of Foreign Affair’s (DFA) 2002-2005 "Strategic Plan" specifically outline’s Pretoria’s long-term objective of "transforming our continent economically, socially, politically and culturally." DFA’s vision is outlined as follows :

South Africa shall strive for peace, stability, democracy and development on an African continent, which is non-sexist, prosperous and united, contributing to a world that is just and equitable.

Under the heading of the "Security Calabash," South Africa is committed to promoting peace on the African continent as the foundation for sustainable socio-economic development and the eventual realisation of the African Renaissance. The focus for DFA is the resolution of conflicts on the African continent and the advancement of sustainable peace and stability. Country specific intervention programmes are the preferred option with the support of other African countries as well as the United Nations (UN).


2.3 Nepad - The New partnership for Africa’s Development

Nepad provides an agreed framework for collective action in promoting economic development on the African continent. It is specifically designed to provide the foundation for Africa’s economic development and effective integration into global markets. Nepad is based on three key elements outlined as preconditions for development, priority sectors and the mobilising of resources. In terms of ‘preconditions for development,’ an improvement in African governance is identified as a critical factor in initiating and advancing economic development. Regional co-operation and integration are intended to increase intra-African trade and encourage inward foreign direct investment (FDI). Development in the ‘priority sectors,’ such as health, education and infrastructure have been identified as essential for sustainable long-term economic development. Economic success is to be advanced via a ‘mobilisation of resources’ such as increased domestic savings, improved management of public revenue as well as increased inflow of foreign capital in the form of investment, or ODA (overseas development assistance.)

Achieving Nepad’s economic goals depends to a large degree on advancing good governance which in turn implies reducing corruption, increasing transparency and accountability, while improving regulation of financial systems. Good governance is seen as critical for increased investment from developed countries and for sustainable economic development over the longer term. The Nepad Peer Review System is intended to advance the concept of good governance via a periodic review of African governments. However, the precondition for African development and the precondition for the success of Nepad is establishing lasting peace and security which is the most urgent agenda item in many countries and sub-regions.


2.4 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 endorses Nepad’s vision of good governance, respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law as the key elements underpinning peace and stability in Southern Africa. 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 SADC Chair and Tanzanian President, Benjamin Mkapa, described the pact at a move towards fulfilment of the concept of "African solutions to African problems." 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 (however, this is not provided for in the Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation), but is rather the responsibility of the SADC Secretariat in Gabarone.


2.5 The African Union’s (AU) Security Framework

The AU was officially established in Durban on 9 July 2002, to replace the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). Modeled largely on the European Union (EU), the AU aims to uphold the sovereign equality and independence of its 53 member states while promoting peace, security and solidarity in Africa. The institutional structure of the AU provides for ten separate organs, of which the Peace and Security Council (PSC) is charged with monitoring and intervening in African conflicts. 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 AU’s plan is to establish an ASF in two phases, with a military advisory function and regional observer mission capacity in place by 30 June 2005. The second phase, to be completed by 30 June 2010, envisages the establishment of five regionally based brigades available for rapid deployment. The AU Assembly (of heads of states) can authorise the PSC to deploy forces at the request of member states for peace enforcement, or for offensive operations to counter aggression against a member state, "pursuant to a decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances, namely war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity." 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 and
  1. a rapid deployment capability within 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.


3. Continental and Regional Collaborative/Common Security, or Security Regime?

The evolving regional and continental security vision and agreed architecture has advanced the need for the articulation of a new African security paradigm. A range of co-operative security frameworks offer guidance with both regional and continent-wide application. Collective security implies an inward looking approach to ensure security within an organisation of states. The underlying principle suggests that an act of aggression by any organisational member will be opposed, if necessary by force, by other members. This approach underpins the United Nations system, but because of the all-inclusive nature of that organisation, this approach has only been partly effective. Collective defence organisations are outwardly orientated, committing all members to a joint defence in the event of an attack. Cold war style alliances, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), provides an example of this form of defence organisation. NATO members now favour a broader approach advanced by the concept of co-operative security. Co-operative security suggests that member state’s national security objectives are directed towards firstly, the common goals of maintaining peace and security within their common space; secondly, mutual protection against external aggression and thirdly, the active promotion of stability in areas which could threaten shared security. Common security implies that members states of a regional grouping share common security concerns and thus act together to address these concerns. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) provides a good example of the common security approach. The term common security is now also widely used within the SADC region, but the term ‘collaborative security,’ suggesting a less systematic and comprehensive interaction, is probably more appropriate.

Despite some suggestions that Africa’s evolving security architecture is cumbersome and complicated, the SADC/AU security agreements have established a comprehensive framework for a regional and continent-wide African security regime. In this context, a regime is defined as "principles, norms, rules and decision making procedures around which actors expectations converge in a given issue-area." A regime promotes the "convergence of expectations" in the sense that inter-state co-operation is facilitated and advanced by providing guidelines and standards for behaviour. When a regime member expects all participants to co-operate, the probability of effective and sustained co-operation over the longer term is enhanced. While the signing of the AU and SADC security related agreements and protocols does not instantly create a security regime, the iterative nature of state relations suggests that state-to-state interaction regularised and advanced via agreements increases the probability of co-operation. (Suggestions that the SADC Organ has "failed" for example, are excessively premature - the process of successful regime formation and effective implementation are necessarily prolonged as they impact significantly on state sovereignty.) Relatively small co-operative payoffs over time create the foundation for further success moving towards an outcome optimal (peace and security throughout Africa) for all parties, making them better off after co-operation, rather than without. The African security framework outlined in Figure 1 provides a solid foundation for an iterative, evolutionary development of defence co-operation in Southern Africa and Africa as a whole.

4. Implications for the SANDF - Implementing SADC/AU Agreements

The security framework outlined in the SADC/AU agreements, in support of Mbeki’s long-term vision, suggest the need for an active and robust involvement in fulfilling the demands of Africa’s new peace and security architecture. As a driving force behind the AU and SADC, especially the security elements, Mbeki’s approach is based largely on an optimistic Kantian world view informed by a Grotian ideal of a society of states (pluralist world view). The Kantian view advocates a federation of states, universalism and world citizenship as a means to peace. Sovereign states co-operate and discord is eliminated via collaboration, a gradual learning process and a shared concern for self-preservation. The Grotian ideal sees international legal norms (agreements and protocols) as the foundation for stability and the independence of states. However, the Defence Review which underpins and drives defence preparation in South Africa, was largely informed by a pessimistic Hobbesian/Machiavellian (realist) paradigm. The recommendations flowing from the Defence Review, primarily the emphasis on deterrence and territorial defence, reinforce the Hobbesian view of anarchy in the international system, making preparation for war-fighting an urgent and mandatory task, despite the absence of a clear and present danger to the state. A Machiavellian perspective would suggest that permanent, or perpetual peace is a dangerous illusion; thus even without identifiable enemies preparation for war continues. South Africa’s defence transformation, while impressive in its form and content given the level of domestic and regional conflict during the 1980s, has been largely driven by old-fashioned realist thinking, creating a force designed largely for conventional war-fighting with limited collateral capacity.

Given the apparent divergence between Mbeki’s pluralist vision and the Defence Review’s realist approach, a number of key questions arise :

  1. As a point of departure, has South Africa’s defence transformation in fact produced a military force in line with the demands of the Defence Review?
  1. Given the absence of a clear conventional military threat, (or likely threat, over the next ten years) what are South Africa’s security priorities?
  1. Is the SANDF appropriately armed, trained and prepared to give expression to Mbeki’s African Renaissance, via the AU and SADC security protocols?
  1. What is the new operational agenda for the SANDF in the context of SADC and AU security protocols and agreements?

Post-1994 Transformation - The Defence Review and Peacekeeping

In terms of the 1996 Defence White Paper and the Defence Review, South Africa’s response to the post-Cold War security environment outlined the following key long-term goals for transformation of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). These were :

  1. Integration and representivity;
  1. Civil control and accountability over defence;
  1. Providing a modern, effective and affordable defence.
  1. Improved international and regional defence co-operation (peacekeeping);

The DefenceWhite Paper emphasised that "the absence of a foreseeable conventional military threat (my emphasis) provides considerable space to rationalise, redesign and ‘rightsize’ the SANDF." Consequently, the 1996 White Paper on Defence was widely interpreted as an agenda for demilitarisation, defence down sizing and significant budget cuts. However, the Defence Review, intended to provide specific policy proposals based on the Defence White Paper, adopted a different approach. In many ways the 1998 Defence Review was a progressive, innovative and imaginative document. The Review was based on an extensive consultative programme, inviting participation by all interested parties, and produced a significant shift from a traditional Cold War style security approach. New thinking was evident in the areas of peace support operations, support for the South African Police Service, human resource development and collateral utility. At the same time, the 1998 Defence Review in advancing the "self-defence function" and ideal "force design," produced an agenda for rearmament, increased defence budgets and preparation for conventional war in stark contrast to the expectations created by the 1996 Defence White Paper.


5.1 Integration and Representivity

The officially planned integration process of the former non-statutory forces along with the former South African Defence Force (SADF) has been largely concluded. The process was far slower than originally anticipated and was characterised by a range of disputes, including suggestions that former South African Defence Force (SADF) officers were manipulating the process. The September 1999 incident at the Tempe army base, the Phalabora and Simonstown incidents pointed to serious underlying tensions in the integration process. The Selati Commission of enquiry suggested that affirmative action, representivity, resistance to change, racism, discrimination and political tensions hampered cohesion and harmony within the SANDF. However, overall defence integration must be considered largely a success given the difficult circumstances which prevailed at the initiation of the process. At the start of the integration exercise, many observers suggested that the plan to transform seven hostile military formations into a loyal, unified defence force serving all South Africans equally was impossible. Despite the pessimistic forecasts, and despite the inevitable difficulties and setbacks in the process, a single integrated SANDF was created.

While representivity in various military units differs, on the whole the process of bringing the SANDF in line with national demographics has been significantly advanced. (Along with a personnel reduction from 104 000 to the present 78 724.) In 1994, the ratio of Whites to Africans, Asians and Coloureds was 45 percent to 55 percent. By October 2001 the corresponding figures were 26 percent (19 393 white) to 74percent, (46 696 African) signaling a major achievement in advancing the goal of greater representivity. On the question of gender equality, women now make up approximately 18percent (7 265 female officers) of the Department of Defence (DoD). However, the vast majority of privates and corporals in the SANDF are black, but middle management remains predominantly white and male. At the more senior levels of DoD management, white former SADF officers continue to dominate the ranks. Of the 207 Generals in the SANDF, only 77 are black. Nevertheless, given the time required to train and prepare a military officer for senior command this is not surprising. The representivity imbalance is thus expected to alter in line with overall ratios over time. Human resource policy confirms that the defence force is striving to achieve representivity at all levels of the SANDF , both in terms of race and gender. The SANDF’s baseline target is : 65 percent African, 10 percent coloured, 0,75 percent Indian and 24 perecnt white. The March 2003 figures indicate the following: 62 percent African, 12 percent coloured, 1 percent Indian and 25 percent white.

Despite good progress on achieving representivity, SANDF studies on attitudes towards affirmative action and equal opportunities, conducted in 1999 and 2000, indicated that 58,5 percent of respondents were of the opinion that leaders in the top positions were not adequately represented, while 41,5 percent suggested that fair and equal career opportunities did not exist in the DoD. A total of 43,9 percent agreed with the statement that discrimination on individual differences occurs within the DoD, while 64,3 percent indicated that racial tension, or racism occurs within the DoD. At a military parade on 29 April 2003, SANDF Chief, Siphiwe Nyanda, introduced the new SANDF flag, while acknowledging the difficult transformation of the SANDF. However, he suggested that despite the difficulties, "tremendous progress" has been made "towards establishing a new identity and rich military culture reflecting complete unity along with shared values and traditions." The introduction of a new SANDF flag was widely interpreted as an attempt to promote greater unity and common purpose within the SANDF. The DoD ‘Human Resource Strategy - 2010' specifically acknowledges a failure to implement the DoD’s policy on representivity in three areas. Firstly, specialised musterings (for example, pilots, navigators, naval combat officers, engineers and health officers) still reflect a predominance of white SANDF personnel. Secondly, the DoD’s middle management remains predominantly white and male. Thirdly, the entry level of the SANDF reflects a stark contrast to that of middle management, with only 2,6 percent being white soldiers. Clearly, much works still needs to be done in advancing the DoD’s policy on representivity. The DoD’s fast tracking policy, introduced in October 2002, is aimed at leveling the playing fields and creating new opportunities. In the light of the obvious imbalances listed in the DoD Human Resource strategy, the full and urgent implementation of this policy should now be a top priority.

5.2 Civil Control and an Accountable Defence Force

Almost 2 500 years ago Plato wrestled with the question of how to ensure that a community’s guardians would be "gentle towards their fellow-citizens and dangerous only to their enemies." Plato decided that the best analogy in this context was the "watchdog" which he described as a "well-bred dog (which) behaves with the utmost gentleness to those used to and knows, but is savage to strangers." Thus Plato’s guardian was akin to the well-bred and well-trained watchdog, "annoyed at strangers yet kind to its master." As Plato’s discussion suggests, securing the subordination of military forces to political authority is one of the oldest problems of human governance. Societies have long sought to develop institutions and political mechanisms to control those who possess the instruments of physical coercion. Societies have as yet not devised any substitute for the military. As Adam Smith pointed out: "the first duty of the sovereign, that of protecting the society from the violence and invasion of other independent societies, can be performed only by means of military force." In modern democratic societies, the solution to this dilemma is sought in ensuring that civilians can exercise supremacy in terms of policy-making and decision-making by setting the agenda and making the final choice from a range of possible options. In many autocracies, such as South Africa pre-1994, the military became deeply involved in the political process, often undermining and threatening society, rather than protecting it.

The post-autocratic political order seeks to ensure the political neutrality of the military, establish and advance the concept of civilian control, while precluding any military intervention in the political process. In a democracy, civilian control, defined as control of the military by elected officials, is fundamental. Effective civilian control ensures that a nation’s values, institutions and practices are based on the will of the people, via the ballot box, rather than the narrow interests of military leadership. The dilemma is compounded by the tension between military organisation, which by necessity is the least democratic institution in society, and the democratic system which is built on individual freedom and civil liberties. Given the purpose of military institutions to wage war, military institutions are specifically designed in terms of organisation, operating procedure and values to exercise violence and coercion. Authority is based on a hierarchical system ensuring that individual soldiers, as well as the entire military establishment, acts according to the orders and intentions of the military commander. Thus the norms and procedures fundamental to the success of a military force are in direct conflict with the essential requirements for successful and stable democracies. Civilian control demands management of the inherently un-democratic military, ensuring that society’s aims and objectives are not subordinated to the martial interest of national security. While the military may be best able to identify the threat and suggest the appropriate responses to that threat for a given level of risk, only civilian decision- makers can determine the level of acceptable risk for society. The military leadership identifies and quantifies the risk, while the civilian leadership judges it and determines the appropriate response. In effect, "the purpose of the military is to defend society, not to define it."

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. However, in many countries the civil authority has been unable to develop the necessary tools, institutions and procedures to exercise effective control of the armed forces. Consequently, the military have been able to exercise a high degree of autonomy and independent decision making.

In some cases, the failure to develop and adequately manage the military is partly a consequence of overlooking the reality that civilian control is a process and not an event. The establishment of a system of civilian control along with constitutional provisions and institutions does not ensure that the military will adhere to the authority of the civil authorities. The balance between military and civilian influence varies form time to time, depending on personalities, circumstances, public opinion and the effectiveness of the civilian decision-makers. In the long run, civilian control depends on mutually accepted beliefs, practices and institutions which must be adhered to over time, thereby preventing military interference in political decision-making. The system to preclude excessive martial interference needs to be constantly maintained, fine tuned and perfected to achieve the objectives of civilian control. There will always be inherent tension between the military leadership and the civil authorities because of differing perceptions and ideals. The military will always try to increase its influence, prestige and promote national security goals, while the civilians will always seek to limit defence expenditure, ensure democratic freedoms and advance political objectives.

In a democracy the first requirement for civilian control is democratic governance, manifested in the rule of law, civil liberty, regular elections, a government and system of control that are legitimate and acceptable to the populace. The state must clearly specify the role of the military, preferably through a constitution, ensuring that the military leadership does not define its own role and purpose. The military’s role as defender of society should be exercised in the interests of all citizens and not on behalf of an elite, or special interest group. The second requirement for civilian control demands that the military leadership is subordinate to the government of the day and not simply the incumbent prime minister or president. This implies accountability to the legislature, including public discussion and scrutiny of defence policy, budgets and operations. Comprehensive parliamentary oversight makes military affairs more transparent and legitimate. The entire system of civilian control is undergirded by the military’s acceptance that they should abstain from interference in political decision making. Given the military’s control of the instruments of violence, they have the ability to undermine governments, or remove them completely. Thus in effect, civilian control is based on the military’s commitment to political neutrality which rejects interference in the process of government. The military leadership need to posses a knowledge and understanding of civilian control and be enthusiastic supporters of it. The military should thus advise civilians and represent the needs of the military, but should never advocate military interests, or perspectives in such a way that they undermine, or limit civilian authority. At the same time, the military must be the embodiment of the people as a whole, not a particular party, or ideology. As such, serving military personnel should not in any way participate in political activities, as an elected official, or member of a political party. If military officers, represent a particular party, publically express their views, criticise or support the executive, in other words behave like politicians, they cannot be trusted to act as neutral servants of the state and societal guardians.

As the monopolisers of the major instruments of violence in any society, the military can at any time interfere in politics, or overthrow a duly elected government. Thus in the final analysis, it is the military’s own attitude and self-restraint which ensures civilian control. Successful civilian control demands that the military chooses to submit to elected officials and to carry out lawful orders. At the same time, the machinery of government must allow effective and constructive military and civilian interaction enabling both sides to work together effectively. Military organisations inevitably try to maximise their ability to expand power and resources. Perlmutter and Bennett contend that "regardless of the nature of the political culture in which he (or she) lives, the modern military officer is orientated towards maximizing his influence in politics and/or policy." In countries with weak political institutions and customs, the government itself is often the prize of the military. However, in societies with strong political conventions, the military leadership seeks to maximise their influence, but allows institutional restraints to temper demands. Ineffective governance allows for the military to control political establishments, in the same manner as the Roman praetorian guard, which effectively determined the selection and tenure of the emperor. Strong democratic governance implies firm political control over the military. Under these conditions, the professional soldier submits to political control allowing the executive to control where, when and how military forces are used. Any disobedience, or failure to carry out the wishes of the executive is by definition a mutiny with consequential punishment.

In an effective system of democratic governance, the executive commands the military forces, decides on military policy, determines the defence budget and provides the framework within which the armed forces exist and function. In Clausewitzian terms, "war (military affairs) is a continuation of policy by other means." The role of the military in both peace and war is determined by policy, that is, by the political decision-makers, and not by the military leadership. The executive’s role is to commission officers, recruit and train troops, oversee the formulation of strategy and operations, purchase appropriate weapons systems and oversee military affairs in general. The chief executive relies on a civilian minister and/or secretary, supported by a civilian bureaucracy to exercise effective and on-going control of the military. 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 executive must be shielded from direct involvement in this process by a civilian institution, capable of providing a "second opinion," or more objective analysis of military requirements and concerns. 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. Without civilian control, military leaders would invariably identify numerous threats to a nation’s territorial integrity, requiring bigger and bigger defence budgets, with little concern for other social necessities. In this context, the military could destroy society by draining it of resources in a quest for increased strength as a hedge against enemies.


5.3 Civil Control in South Africa

In the post-1994 period, civil control over defence has been manifested via the Defence Secretariat, established in August 1994 and an expansion of parliamentary control through a dedicated Joint Standing Committee on Defence. In a democracy the test for civilian control is whether civilians can exercise supremacy in military policy and decision-making, that is, frame the alternatives, define the policy debate and make the final choices. The concept of civilian control is simple : all governmental decisions, including those relating to national security, are made by popularly elected officeholders, or their official appointees. No decision may be made, or action carried out by the military unless delegated to it by the civilian leadership. Thus governments must develop systems and mobilise public support in order to establish and maintain supremacy over their armed forces.

In August 1997, the Mail and Guardian suggested that three years since the establishment of the Defence Secretariat, "the government’s attempts to establish civil control of the defence force are floundering." Former Defence Secretary Pierre Steyn himself suggested that the Defence Minister was "not in control" because his budget did not match his policy commitments. The report concluded that Steyn and his small civilian component were "waging a turf war inside the Defence Ministry, against the old-fashioned, uniformed military bureaucracy." Steyn confirmed that he was failing in his task of establishing civilian control because he had insufficient capacity and his staff lacked the skills and experience to exercise effective control. More recently, Defence Secretary January Masilela has identified career development, labour relations, grievance channels and the development of human resources as key problems within the DoD generally. The Defence Secretary was clearly arguing in favor of a strengthened and more effective Secretariat, better able to carry out its mission.

During September 2003, tensions between the SANDF and Defence Secretariat escalated following Defence Secretary Masilela’s suggestion that human resource management, military logistics, command and management, as well as legal services come under the full control of the Secretariat. Masilela contended that the specific defence divisions needed to report directly to him in order to ensure effective control and monitoring. The Defence Secretary’s suggestion appeared to be in line with Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) view which has repeatedly complained that the existing system does not ensure full accountability by the secretary. SANDF Chief Nyanda opposed the suggested restructuring arguing instead that the changes would "break his chain of command" and undermine his ability to lead the SANDF. Despite Nyanda’s concerns, Defence Minister Lekota appears to be in favour of a strengthened Secretariat and a further "slimming-down" of the SANDF.

In many developing countries, governments have not managed to develop the tools, or the procedures to establish and maintain supremacy over their armed forces. Those tools and procedures should include a defence secretariat, or civil decision-making body with the following characteristics :

  1. Sufficient capacity. In the British MOD for example, 43 percent of Defence Headquarters personnel are civilian - the same is not true for South Africa. Former military personnel serving out of uniform in a Ministry of Defence, undermines the principle of civil control, because they bring with them a "military mind-set";
  1. Adequately skilled and experienced personnel. This requires time, training and commitment;
  1. Clarity on the roles and functions of the civil authorities, such as financial controls and determining policy. The military should advise civilians and represent the needs of the military inside the government, but should not advocate military interests, or perspectives in a way which undermines, or circumscribes civilian authority.

Uniformed leaders can and should be consulted on national security issues, but the military cannot define its own mission, function, or purpose. However, without sufficient capacity, no civilian defence authority can hope to exercise effective control over the military.

Section 228 of the constitution in effect gives the elected legislature the power to veto, or approve of any foreign military actions initiated by the executive. Parliament must also approve the annual defence budget and oversee the activities of the Department of Defence. Parliament, via the Joint Standing Committee on Defence, has been an active participant in the defence policy- making and budgetary process. The DoD makes regular and detailed reports to parliament. However, according to the Institute for a Democratic South Africa’s (IDASA) investigations, the oversight role of parliament is generally weak. The election of MPs is via the system of party nominations, rather than direct representation of statutory geographical constituencies. Consequently, MPs follow the direction of their parties, who decide their political future, rather than their voters. There is thus a broad reluctance for MPs representing the ruling party to energetically oppose executive decisions, while opposition parties lack the power to challenge government effectively. Parliament must do more than "monitor" the military. The legislature must approve the existence of the military (by appropriating money), make policy on the size and character of the armed forces, oversee their activities (including formal investigations where required) and approve actions taken by the executive. The liberal-democratic ideal of a strong independent parliament willing and able to challenge the executive on military issues thus remains largely unfulfilled. Moreover, IDASA has pointed out that Parliament did not specifically approve the current arms package when the Defence Review was concluded in 1998. The Portfolio Committee on Defence’s (PCD) "fact finding missions" to SANDF bases should be regular, comprehensive and transparent. The Committee should report on their findings in the interests of advancing public confidence in the SANDF and civilian control of the military. Despite the obviously good progress on advancing accountability, Defence Portfolio Committee Chair, Thandi Modise, complains that her committee has been "trying to get noticed" for years, suggesting that Parliament should be further empowered to advance effective and intrusive civil control.


5.4 A Relatively Modern Defence Force

South Africa is in the process of purchasing some of the most modern and technologically advanced combat platforms available. The package includes four corvettes, three submarines, 30 light utility helicopters, 24 Hawk lead-in fighter trainers and 28 Gripen advanced light fighter trainers. The Gripen, for example, is widely regarded a state-of-the-art fighter aircraft. Over the next ten years, the SANDF will thus be involved in a comprehensive modernisation programme developing the most technologically advance military force in sub-Saharan Africa. However, in international terms, the arms deal will make the SANDF a relatively modern force, but behind cutting-edge military technologies such as digital battlefield systems, battlefield information dominance processes and other RMA (Revolution in Military Affairs) developments.


5.5 Effectiveness Under Debate

The effectiveness of any military force can arguably only be convincingly determined by the success, or failure of a military operation. (Preparing an effective military force has a different emphasis for different commanders. For Napoleon speed and courage were a priority, for Montgomery organisation was the key, while Shaka emphasised rigorous training and conditioning.) In January 2001, the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) suggested that the SANDF was weakened by a "lack of cohesion," while the logistics system was "in complete disarray" and morale was "rock-bottom." The SANDF responded to the IISS’s criticism pointing to a number of achievements along with ongoing transformation and training programmes designed to address short-comings.

In September 2003, the Mail & Guardian reported "seething discontent" in the SANDF brought on by a "failed integration process," a breakdown in communications, counterproductive grievance procedures and poor leadership. It was also suggested that urgent recommendations and requests had been ignored. The high levels of discontent within the SANDF were widely regarded as impacting negatively on the effectiveness of the force. Arguably, an accurate assessment of military effectiveness can only be determined by a comprehensive investigation of a military force’s strengths and weaknesses. In this context, the SANDF’s present challenges include :

  1. Discipline problems (constantly being addressed, according to the Chief of the SANDF);
  1. Low morale, partly a result of planned personnel cuts from the present 78 000 to 69 000 by the year 2004. (The SA National Defence Union has asked the Pretoria High Court to stop government plans to redeploy 8 000 soldiers to other government departments ahead of their retrenchment.);
  1. Racial tensions (64,3 percent of respondents in the SANDF’s 2001 Equal Opportunities and Affirmative Action Climate Survey identified "racial tensions" as an issue.);
  1. A perception of lowering of standards in training and assessment;
  1. Ongoing loss of skills as highly trained personnel continue to leave the SANDF. (In June 2002 the Air Force reported a shortage of 17 fighter pilots and 79 helicopter pilots - almost half of the total requirement.);
  1. Suggestions that there is a "lack of good command" as a result of rapid promotions. Parliament has been calling for a review of promotions policy for more than two years;
  1. A perception that the old-guard SA Defence Force is still in control;
  1. Poor communications. The Former Black South African Defence Force (SADF) Members Forum have indicated that there has been no response to urgent letters sent to the Defence Ministry and the President’s Office. The South African National Defence Union (Sadu) complains that the union has been waiting for over a year to discuss issues of concern with senior government representatives;
  1. Brigadier General Philip Schalkwyk of the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) member of Parliament’s standing committee on defence argues that the SANDF’s grievance procedure does not work in practice. Schalkwyk suggests that "any soldier who complains to his superior officer is immediately labeled as a troublemaker and is targeted for punitive discipline."
  1. SA National Defence Force Union (Sandu) grievances relating to salaries, overtime work, promotion policies, criticisms of courts martial and retrenchment plans have not been resolved;
  1. Inadequate remuneration as well as poor allowances and benefits. (New incentive schemes to retian skilled personnel required to service the new aircraft are under consideration.);
  1. The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Defence, Thandi Modise, has suggested that "everyone is unhappy... Two years ago, a report to us (by the SANDF) showed that integration had failed. The Committee attempted to compel the DoD to review the whole process, but nothing happened;"
  1. The top-heavy structure of the SANDF - one general for every 250 troops (compared to the international norm of one general for every 1 500 to 2 000 troops). By international standards, South Africa should not have more than 40-50 generals;
  1. The average age of combat troops is 34 years, which is far too old compared to other countries where the average is 22 years;
  1. According to some reports, 53 percent of the SANDF personnel are either too old or unfit for combat deployment;
  1. Defence Minister Lekota has indicated that 22 percent of the defence force members are believed to be HIV-positive, based on SA Military Health Service investigations (Independent reports suggest far higher figures of between 40-50 percent. In some African countries where the virus has been present for more than ten years, armed forces report HIV/Aids infection figures of between 60 and 80 perecnt. For example, 77,5 perecnt of 1 SA Infantry Battalion have been classified as "unfit.") The SANDF’s resulting policy of excluding HIV positive persons from serving has led to widespread controversy. The Aids Law Project (ALP) is taking the SANDF to court on the basis that this policy is discriminatory and unconstitutional;
  1. Apparent lack of operational readiness given July 2002 reports that only a small fraction of battle tanks and armoured vehicles are immediately available for deployment (as opposed to 150 Olifant tanks and 200 Rooikat armoured cars). The SANDF gave the reassurance that 30 tanks and 18 armoured cars were available and that more funding would be required to operationalise additional armour.
  1. Lack of funding for adequate maintenance and general force preparation. Funds have been diverted from maintenance for operating costs;
  1. New arms purchases are increasing the pressure on training and operational budgets;
  1. The DoD has reported that a decline in the serviceability of most of the SANDF’s main weapons systems is undermining conventional war-fighting capabilities.
  1. SANDF suggestions that it is unable to prepare pilots adequately, due to an insufficient budget (flying only 67 perecnt of required flying hours); a shortage of fighter and helicopter pilots (63 pilots left the SAAF in 2001); a lack of funds to keep ships at sea; forced storage of battle tanks and requests to be withdrawn from border protection duties because of a lack of funding.
  1. Lt. Gen. Roelof Beukes, Chief of the South African Air Force, has complained that budget deficits have reduced flying time which in turn has resulted in low aircrew morale and a loss of pilots.
  1. Personnel costs consume 34 percent of the DoD’s budget, while in the army this figure is 70 percent, leaving little available funding for training and operations.
  1. Defence Minster Lekota has identified the following problems which would undoubtedly impact negatively on effectiveness - lack of internal communications, suppression of complaints, alleged theft of allowances, ongoing loyalty to "formations of the past," language problems, unfair treatment of members and a lack of a common military culture.

There are indications that efforts are underway to address the problem of combat effectiveness, such as recruiting new younger soldiers, strengthening the reserve force, actively addressing morale issues and advancing the DoD’s "Code of Conduct". Despite the obvious problems, Defence Minister Lekota is confident that the defence force would be able to respond adequately to any threat. In July 2002 the Defence Minister assured Parliament that based on existing risk analysis, "the SANDF was able and capable of defending the country against all probable threats." 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 (3 000 next year and 10 000 a year thereafter) to boost capacity. Other positive trends include the February 2000 Code of Conduct, the establishment of the "Landward Institute" and the "National War College" at Thaba Tshwane designed to enhance management and related skills; new rank insignia and the development of a new corporate identity; new land and environmental management systems; the establishment of military unions, addressing unfair treatment; efforts to develop sound labour relations; the destruction of more than 260 000 old and obsolete small arms; the destruction of all anti-personnel land mines; the Civic Education Programme aimed at transforming cultures in the SANDF; Masibambisane, the Army’s anti-AIDS campaign; the "equal opportunities programme;" the DoD’s Youth Foundation Training Programme (FTP); Project Phoenix aimed at revitalising the army’s reserve forces; and the International Red Cross’ involvement in the teaching of humanitarian law to SANDF personnel.


An Affordable Defence Force?

Current global military expenditure is estimated to be close to $850 billion, accounting for 2,6 percent of world gross domestic product (GDP) with a world average of $137 per capita. After a post-Cold War decline in military expenditure from 1987 to 1998, global military expenditures have begun to increase at an average rate of 2-3 percent per annum. In a United Nations report on Africa released in April 1998 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 percent of annual gross domestic product.

John Kenneth Galbraith, the seasoned peace campaigner, has pointed out that in "poor countries the military’s claim on resources is the greatest economic scandal and the greatest political tragedy of our time." In the developing world, soldiers claim resources for military use at great cost to the needs of society and the essentials for economic development. Arms sales to developing countries simply perpetuate the narrow, simplistic Cold War mentality which reduces inter-state interaction to a military competition. Moreover, weapons transfers to developing countries do little to advance security, but rather promote insecurity and amplify threat perceptions. Studies of the economic effects of military spending in developing countries vary depending on methodological differences, theoretical frameworks and empirical sampling. Most surveys investigating the economic effects of defence spending, conducted largely within the Keynesian framework, suggest that relatively high military expenditures have at best no impact on economic growth, but are likely to have a negative impact. A number of studies have investigated the statistical causality of military spending and economic growth, but with no clear result. There is no evidence of a positive impact on economic growth as a consequence of increased defence expenditure.

The "guns versus butter" debate in South Africa has witnessed a heated discussion between basically three groups : the military leadership and defence industry in support of a significant defence modernisation and rearmament programme (the "military-industrial complex"); the middle of the road group who see the need to retain an effective military force, but at reduced cost and the disarmament activists who call for an immediate termination of the rearmament programme and a significant downsizing of military capability. The military leadership/defence industry group argue that South Africa needs a "core force" that is able to meet its commitment to defend South Africa, while a defence capacity remains important even in the absence of war. (The defence industry has an annual turnover of approximately R 6 590 million and employs

26 000 people.) Maintaining a strong military posture enables South Africa to be a key architect of peace in Africa. With a coastline of over 3 000 km, important maritime resources need to be protected. Defence Minister Lekota has stressed the deterrent value of a modernised military force in preventing war. Moreover, the national industrial participation (NIP) projects linked to the arms purchases will stimulate economic growth and employment. Unverified figures suggest that 45 percent of the NIP programmes have already been concluded. The government has forecasted that the value of approved civilian offset projects and exports arising from the defence package will be worth R60 billion by the end of 2004, more than R20-billion in advance of the target. Total obligations over the next eleven years amounts to approximately R130-billion.

The disarmament activists (such as Cease Fire, the South African National NGO Coalition, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the Coalition for Defence Alternatives, Southern African Centre for Defence Information and the South African Council of Churches) have questioned the need for a military capability, arguing that the arms package should be replaced with poverty relief and increased social spending. They argue that the programme is driven by an old fashioned "Cold War mind-set" and have rejected the suggestion that the arms package would generate R110 billion in offsets and create the suggested 64 165 new jobs. They contend that the armaments industry is capital-intensive, rather than labour intensive and thus a poor creator of jobs, especially at the less skilled level. North American and European countries prohibit the use of offsets in arms sales agreements with each other on the grounds that they distort markets and encourage corruption. Moreover, the armaments industry is heavily subsidised, thus diverting public funds away from socio-economic programmes. The "Economists Allied for Arms Reduction," have campaigned against new weapons purchases suggesting they were "strategically, economically and financially irrational," while impeding social development. They contend that major expenditures on armaments in preparation for war against an "imaginary enemy" are unacceptable, given the pressing socio-economic needs faced by the government. Moreover, arms build-ups tend to provoke a similar response from neighbours leading to a wasteful and unnecessary regional arms race. By containing defence expenditures, others feel more secure, resulting in improved security for all at far lower costs. They have called for the abandonment of the arms deal and the redirection of state funds into sustainable social investment which over the long term will enhance human security.

The middle of the road group recognise the need for a defence capacity, but on a limited scale and at more manageable costs. (In democratic countries, citizens are ever mindful of how defence costs impact on social security spending.) The price tag for new weapons started off at R29,7 billion, but more recent estimates suggest any between R50 and R60 billion will be the final cost by 2012 when the procurement process is completed. The South African government is fully exposed to the fluctuating value of the rand against foreign currencies, which account for approximately 75 percent of the total purchase price. Independent investigations suggest that the estimates used in making the decision to purchase new weapons were overly optimistic on the exchange rate, while no high-risk scenarios relating to long-term negative currency fluctuations were factored into the process. Given the absence of an immediate conventional military threat, there is concern that the weapons packages are essentially designed to strengthen South Africa’s defence industries through offset alliances with European manufacturers.

The Budget Review, tabled by Finance Minister Trevor Manuel in February 2003, indicated that the arms deal will reach a total of R52,9 billion before the deal is completed in 2012. (See Table 1) Additional allocations in 2003 to the Defence vote provided for R1,2 billion over the next three years to buy four maritime helicopters and R200 million a year towards the cost of peacekeeping operations. The 2003 defence budget included a 6,4 percent increase over that of 2002 to R20,05 billion, with a planned 6 percent increase per year over the next three years. The defence budget equals approximately 1,6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), below the IMF’s (International Monetary Fund) recommended 2 percent, but higher than Secretary General Kofi Annan’s suggested 1,5 percent. The key element in the defence budget, the Special Defence Account (SDA) covered major acquisitions such as the Rooivalk attack helicpter, along with its Mokopa ZT-6 long-range laser-guided anti-armour missile system and the first phase of the ground-based air-defence (GBADS) programme and the first portion of the payments for the four Agusta Westland SuperLynx ship-board helicopters. Since 1999, the SDA has been the fastest growing element of the defence budget with an average growth of 33 percent per year. Personnel costs totaled 35,38 percent, over the target of 30 percent, while the SDA constituted 44,1 percent of the total, the rest amounting to 20,52 percent was allocated to training and operational costs. (The overall budget breakdown by programme is outlined in Table 2.)


Table 1.

Expenditure on the 12-year arms package

Financial Year Cost (billion rand)

2000/01 2,8

2001/02 4,2

2002/03 6,4

2003/04 6,8

2004/05 5,4

2005/06 7,8

2006/07 5,9

2007/08 5,8

2008/09 3,4

2009/10 1,6

2010/11 1,3

2011/12 1,5


Source : Budget Review 2003, quoted in Stuart, B.: "Arms to Cost R52 billion," The Citizen, 27 February 2003.


Table 2.

2003/04 Defence Budget

R million

Administration 660.32

Landward defence 3,188.14

Air defence 2,137.99

Maritime defence 1,050.88

Defence intelligence 153.48

Joint support 2,039.19

Command and control 721.96

Special Defence Account 8,843.66


Source : Heitman, H-R.: "South Africa Strengthens Defence Budget," Jane’s Defence Weekly, 12 March 2003, p. 28.


The escalating defence budget, driven upwards mainly by increased weapons expenditures continues to evoke criticism and concern. In a recent article entitled "SA Pays as Much for Peace Now as it did for War in the Past," Business Day’s chief reporter Tim Cohen questions the affordability and relevance of the arms procurement package. Cohen points out that best and worst-case scenarios were not factored into the deal and finance costs were ignored. Moreover, there was no assessment of the long-term impact on the defence budget. A report by the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) suggested that with a 77% increase in the cost of the arms deal, the purchases could eventually "undermine internal security." Goeff Harris, the author of the report suggested that the growing defence budget could prevent government from dealing with far more urgent social problems. Harris’ perspective has been supported by Terry Crawford-Browne who argued that South Africa has in fact been "held to ransom by the arms deal."2003. Browne also rejected the idea that Denel represents the "cutting edge of South Africa’s technology." He asks : "The notion that Denel might contribute positively to South Africa’s economic development is utterly ludicrous. Just what motivates politicians to believe that killing people for profit - either foreigners or our own citizens - represents good business practice?" Besides the ongoing debate relating the relevance and affordability of the arms deal, a more urgent concern is becoming evident. While payments for the arms deal increase over the next ten years, the rest of the defence budget will in fact be reduced, thereby undermining training and the ability to conduct peacekeeping and other related operations. Given the high and escalating cost of the arms deal, there is now insufficient funds for training, maintenance of existing equipment, retrenchments, recruitment of highly skilled personnel, or for operational deployments. The DoD’s own assessment admits to a "mismatch between defence funding and the present force design... The latter is neither affordable, nor sustainable and is not harmonised with the strategic environment and ordered defence commitments." In effect, the SANDF is admitting that the present force structure is inappropriate, given the present zero-threat environment and other security concerns, such as internal deployments against crime and peacekeeping commitments.

There is also concern surrounding the suggestion that full operational, training and maintenance costs were not included in the original estimates and will lead to a further increase in the defence budget at a later stage. The DoD has admitted that no plans were made for the purchase of ammunition for the corvettes, bringing into question the methodology of the arms deal purchasing process and the decision-making procedures. Moreover, Defence Minister Lekota has indicated that a lack of pilots, fuel and technicians will not allow full operational readiness for the new systems. 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 inappropriate for South Africa’s longer term defence needs, the NIP and DIP programmes become largely irrelevant.


5.7 An Appropriate Force Structure?

While the Defence Review set the SANDF the task of providing a modern, effective, affordable and accountable defence capability, the key issue overlooked in this process was the question of relevance. In other words, is the SANDF’s defence preparation and planning appropriate at this time under the prevailing regional and global conditions? The key to answering this question would be to carefully consider the likely threats South Africa is expected to face over the next five to ten years.

In 2001 there were 24 major armed conflicts in 22 locations throughout the world. The global trend is towards a reduction of international conflict, while since 1990, all but three of the world’s major conflicts were civil wars. In Africa, recent trends suggest a decline in conflict, all of which are defined as internal war. The Defence White Paper concluded that there was (is) no military threat to South Africa from any neighbouring state or external power. However, the Defence Review regrettably did not include a comprehensive and exhaustive assessment of the various threats to South Africa over the medium-to long-term. The Defence Review was largely based on the assumption of an external threat which was never clearly defined. Given recent trends in Africa and Southern Africa, such as the establishment of the AU, the launch and UN endorsement of Nepad, significant progress towards closer co-operation in SADC along with considerable moves towards lasting peace settlements in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and more recently the Sudan, long-term forecasts would suggest a more peaceful and less threatening regional environment.

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, (five to ten years). Factors which support this conclusion include :

  1. Almost all the ongoing and recent wars in Africa have been intra-state and not inter-state;
  1. The effectiveness of most sub-Saharan military forces are declining;
  1. Military projection capabilities are minimal;
  1. High costs of new military equipment is preventing significant rearmament;
  1. Growing economic and socio-economic problems are preventing governments from maintaining expensive armed forces;
  1. The high cost and difficulty in executing military operations with long supply lines makes long-range conflict in Africa extremely difficult (This largely rules out any significant long-range military operation against South Africa from anywhere but its immediate neighbours in the foreseeable future.);
  1. Most recent developments in the SADC region suggest an accelerated trend towards the resolution of conflict via negotiation.

(South Africa is unlikely to be directly affected by the USA’s so-called "war on terrorism," - fourth-generation warfare [4GW]).

Henri Boshoff, a military analyst at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) has suggested that in the absence of any conventional threat to South Africa new challenges come form poverty, HIV/Aids and natural disasters. In the context of a broad definition of security, South Africa’s and Southern Africa’s immediate security concerns include:

  1. 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 percent of South Africa’s population are living in poverty. An estimated 45-50 percent of sub-Saharan Africans live below the poverty line.);
  1. Disease (malaria, infant mortality, TB, HIV/Aids);
  1. Unemployment (the South African Institute of Race Relations [SAIRR] estimates unemployment to be 33,9 percent, while more jobs are likley to be lost over the short-term);
  1. Domestic and transnational crime (in 2000 the SANDF apprehended 5 19 criminals and recovered 412 stolen vehicles. During the period April to September 2001, the SANDF spent only R8,8 million on operations to assist the SAPS.);
  1. 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. The average cost for apprehension and processing is R16 000);
  1. Famine (food security - the UN World Food Programme now estimates that between 12 and 15 million people in Southern Africa are facing a famine. By 2010, one in every three people in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to be food insecure);
  1. Social decay (lack of human development and 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]);
  1. 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 the debt crisis);
  1. Natural disasters (floods, cyclones, lack of water - most of the major rivers in Africa are highly sensitive to climate variation.);
  1. 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).

At a media briefing on 16 February 2001, Defence Minister Lekota indicated that "contrary to the previous dispensation, defence posture is defensive as opposed to offensive." However, South Africa retains an impressive war-fighting capability and has begun to implement a very significant modernisation programme which will maintain and in many ways enhance the SANDF’s war-fighting ability. However, this capability is presently of limited value and is likely to become increasingly unimportant as threats to human security become more pressing. As South Africa fine-tunes its war-fighting capability over the next ten years, the SANDF is likely to come under increasing pressure and criticism as threats to human security escalate.

During the defence review process, the SANDF vehemently opposed the idea of equipping for collateral activities, for example purchasing weapons which could be used to assist with domestic policing or regional peacekeeping. SANDF thinking was dominated by preparation for its core function, war-fighting. It was argued that secondary tasks should ideally be executed by means of the collateral utility inherent in the design for the primary task. (In other words, submarines can be used for conventional naval defence as well as peacekeeping). However, 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 in Southern Africa which is unlikely to occur in the foreseeable future. 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 through increased support for the SAPS. (During 2001, an average of 895 soldiers per day were deployed to assist the SAPS. In 2001 no budget was allocated to assist the SAPS. The budget allocation for 2002 was only R131 million.);
  1. Illegal migration and transnational crime through enhanced border protection. (In 2000 the SANDF apprehended 47 419 illegal immigrants, in 2001 the figure was 47 440. At the same time, the Army estimates that there are at least 1,5 million illegal migrants in South Africa. Currently, the SANDF deploys and average of 1 742 soldiers and approximately three aircraft at any given time along South Africa’s borders.);
  1. Expanded humanitarian relief activities such as the provision of emergency food supplies, casualty evacuation and medical support;
  1. Disaster relief and 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 through 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); and
  1. Spill-over from regional intra-state conflict - Over the last twenty years, African conflicts have resulted in over 9,5 million refugees;

While the SANDF does already make a contribution to these activities, the emphasis should be on expanding this function, rather than decreasing support for the SAPS (which has been suggested), or withdrawing from border protection duties. The SANDF’s medium to long-term planning should be less focused on war-fighting and related equipment modernisation and should instead seek to further develop and enhance collateral utility in response to trends in the macro-security framework. Humanitarian intervention and peacekeeping capabilities could be developed by increasing the capacity of air transport using C-130 aircraft. In response to the broad threats presently facing South Africa and the region, increased capacity for collateral utilisation should be the focus of attention.

Arguably, 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, that is, conventional war-fighting, and has very limited collateral utility. In addition, the SANDF has over the last few years been engaged in a modernisation programme based on domestically produced, or upgraded equipment, including : Rooivalk attack helicopters (an additional R661 million was allocated to this programme in March 2003); Raptor 1 Stand-off glide bombs; 586 Mamba armoured personnel carriers; 35 mm artillery systems; 188 Rooikat armoured cars; 42 G-6 self propelled artillery; Vulture tactical unmanned air vehicles (UAV); and 25 Wasp air-droppable rapid deployment vehicles. All of these system are also largely designed for the primary defence function and have little collateral utility. (See Figure 2)

The naval acquisitions programme is based on 4 Patrol Corvettes (MEKO A200-SAN class) which are tasked to protect South Africa’s (and SADC’s) coastline and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) (more than 1-million square kilometres); counter illegal fishing, (0,5 percent of SA’s GDP is derived from fishing providing 27 000 jobs) drug and gun smuggling, counter pollution, piracy (10 incidents in 2001) rescues at sea, evacuation of civilian personnel, disaster relief, show the flag (maritime diplomacy)and peacekeeping (transport of personnel and equipment). They will be equipped with 76 mm, 35 mm and 20 mm guns; 8 surface-to-surface missiles (French manufactured Exocets); 16 surface-to-air missiles; surveillance and target acquisition radar; sonar systems; electo-optical and radar trackers; electronic warfare systems; naval communications systems and one helicopter.

The navy will also deploy 3 new submarines (Type 209/1400 MOD diesel-electric). Submarines have little utility in peacetime; their primary activity is to discourage hostile intervention in South African waters and to support surface ship naval patrol. Other tasks include territorial defence, deterrence, special forces insertion, support for peacekeeping and intelligence gathering. (During World War II submarines were used primarily for the sinking of merchant ships, enemy warships and submarines.) In addition, the navy is updating the six Warrior Class Strike craft and six

second-hand minesweepers have been purchased from the German navy. Arguably, South Africa really needs a coast guard and not a naval combat fleet. The naval acquisitions are essentially combat platforms designed for battle-space dominance. The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) recently announced a decision to spend R500-million on four fishery-protection vessels. The vessels will protect South Africa’s fishing waters in co-operation with the South African Navy and Air Force.

The South African Air Force’s (SAAF) "core fighter force" for the longer-term will be based essentially on 52 combat aircraft - Hawk 100 Mk 120 and SAAB JAS-39 Gripen. A "technological edge" is to be maintained by the utilisation of smart weapons along with a range of modern air-to-air weapons. Most of South African developed smart bombs will be integrated into the Gripen. (The SAAF will down-size to a force of 52 fighters by 2005, from a high of 300 in 1990.) The justification for replacing the existing Cheetah C fighter aircraft with JAS 39 Gripens was that the Cheetah’s systems would not last beyond 2010. Logically, this would suggest new fighter aircraft acquisitions closer to 2010. At the same time, Cheetah aircraft are to be sold to Brazil as the Gripens are deployed. Obviously, Brazil believes the Cheetah are an adequate option beyond to alleged 2010 deadline. The flawed logic of new fighter aircraft purchases is suggested in official SAAF explanations which indicate that by the late 1980s the SAAF was becoming "relatively outgunned operationally," while the Mirage "lacked performance in comparison to the Mig 23." These observations are obviously irrelevant in the post-1994 regional security environment.

The Army has begun plans for a major equipment modernisation programme which includes the following (the Army is expecting to receive funding for re-equipment after 2010):

  1. Ground based air defence system (G-bads - Armscor has placed a three year R796,7 million order with Denel for the first element of this system)
  2. New infantry combat vehicle (to replace the existing Ratels)
  3. New armoured personnel carriers (APC) (an 8x8 platform is under consideration)
  4. Person-portable air-defence systems
  5. Surface-to-air missiles (SAMs)
  6. Mokopa heavy anti-tank missiles (10 000m-range)
  7. Vektor 40mm automatic grenade launchers
  8. Modified SS77 7.62mm light machine gun

Other items on the equipment wish-list include :

  1. Super Lynx helicopters (on order at a cost of R700 million)
  2. Upgrading C-130 Hercules
  3. Upgrading the C-47TP coastal patrol aircraft
  4. New coastal patrol aircraft
  5. Upgrade of SAAF surveillance radars
  6. Expansion of transport force
  7. Replacement of the tanker fleet
  8. Upgrade of the Orynx utility helicopter
  9. More unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)
  10. Artillery target-engagement systems
  11. Replacement, or upgrade of the Cactus SAM
  12. New short-range AAM
  13. A new generation of smart weapons
  14. Rapid response vehicles for the Special Forces Brigade
  15. Tactical logistics vehicles
  16. Short range air-to-air missiles for the Gripen
  17. New main battle tanks (MBT)
  18. Advanced mortar systems
  19. ‘African Warrior’ project - enhanced infantry capability

The defence modernisation programme is thus scheduled to continue after the completion of the strategic packages presently on order, further enhancing war-fighting capability. In effect, the SANDF continues to equip and prepare for their least likely mission.

5.8 Improved International Defence Co-operation

In the context of improved international defence co-operation, the DoD has made good progress. Recent agreements include Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security with Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique and Namibia; Germany’s agreement to provide equipment for defence headquarters; Norwegian support for the Burundi peace mission and ongoing interaction with the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) armed forces. Since 1994, the DoD has signed protocols and Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with 25 other countries confirming expanded international defence co-operation. The Minister of Defence, Secretary for Defence and Chief of the Defence Force have undertaken a number of visits to African countries in the interest of advancing co-operation. Recent military exercises with other countries include Operation Lariat (interception of fishing vessels in co-operation with Australia), Exercise Tanzanite (a peacekeeping exercise with Kenya and Tanzania, co-organised by Tanzania and France), Exercise Atlasur (a combined exercise with navies from Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and South Africa), Exercise Rainbow Trek (with FASZOI - French Forces in the Indian Ocean Zone), Exercise Kutlwano II (reserve forces) and Exercise Iron Eagle. The Higher Commanders’ Peace Support Operations Course conducted in Benoni during February during 2001brought together military officers from ten SADC countries to sharpen their peace keeping management skills.


5.9 Regional Defence Co-operation - South Africa’s Peacekeeping Policy

Since the mid-1990s, the SANDF has participated in a planning process intended to prepare for participation in peacekeeping missions. The White Paper on South Africa’s Participation in International Peace Missions was approved by Cabinet in October 1998 and tabled in Parliament during February 1999. This White Paper linked peace and stability in Africa and Southern Africa to South Africa’s own national interests. The White paper argued that South Africa "has an obvious interest in preserving regional peace and stability in order to promote trade and development and to avoid the spill-over effects of conflicts in the neighbourhood." SANDF Chief Nyanda has stressed the link between South Africa’s national interest and the role of peacekeeping operations in maintaining stability within the economies of the Southern African region. Nyanda indicated the need to address human suffering and distress caused by armed conflict. South Africa’s active participation in peacekeeping also clearly forms part of Mbeki’s efforts to advance the African Renaissance by contributing to greater peace and stability in Africa.

Following the 1994 elections, the SANDF displayed a distinct reluctance to participate in peacekeeping missions, arguing that defence integration and transformation should be the medium term priorities. Despite international expectations that South Africa would play the leading role in African peacekeeping, the SANDF argued against active involvement. Consequently, during the Mandela Presidency, the emphasis was on diplomatic initiatives in the drive to promote peace in Africa. However, Mbeki’s focus on the need to urgently address conflict in Africa advanced a new emphasis on peacekeeping. Government policy firmly confirms South Africa’s support for the UN’s role in peacekeeping, while the AU’s position on addressing African conflict is strongly endorsed. Consequently, participation in peacekeeping missions has become a foreign policy priority.

South Africa has sought to develop a more holistic perspective and has sought to broaden the conventional parameters of peacekeeping to include diplomatic instruments and early warning procedures. Pretoria’s peacekeeping approach has been informed by the changed international security environment, conflicts in Africa and the lack of political will to participate in African peacekeeping by members of the UN Security Council. South Africa has also emphasised that peacekeeping operations without the consent of the belligerent parties hold little prospect for success in the long term, while peace enforcement by external powers is likely to be an extremely risky and costly operation. Moreover, the complexity of many disputes in Africa which often involve numerous fractured and well-armed political groupings defy easy solutions.

The analysis of peacekeeping initiatives in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Somalia led South Africa’s policy-makers to conclude that these types of operations are multifaceted and highly complex undertakings which includes much more than simply monitoring a geographical area following a cease-fire. Consequently, South Africa’s peacekeeping approach is based on a range of diplomatic and other elements. No conflict can be solved only by addressing the symptoms. Immediate relief of the symptoms may be a short-term priority, but South Africa’s approach is rather to investigate the exact causes of the conflict in order to prevent an escalation, or recurrence of violence. South Africa’s participation in peace missions are therefore informed by a careful assessment of the possible outcome of the operation. Pretoria’s policy is guided by the belief that early action based on a thorough analysis of early warning signals is more appropriate than a late response in the form of peacekeeping, or peace enforcement operations which are risky, expensive and often have no guarantee of success. South Africa has initiated a process designed to enhance capacity for participation in order to contribute to all aspects of peacekeeping and conflict resolution. This approach requires vigorous interaction between numerous government departments as well as co-ordination with SADC, the African Union and the United Nations. Any participation in peace missions, whether preventive diplomacy, election monitoring, cease-fire observance, or peace enforcement will be guided by the principles on which South Africa bases its domestic policy, namely equality, dignity and safety. At the same time, Defence Minister Lekota has stressed that "peace, prosperity and development in Africa mean peace, prosperity and development in South Africa."


5.10 The Lesotho Peace-enforcement Operation and Thereafter

The Lesotho operation began as a peacekeeping mission but rapidly became a peace-enforcement procedure. As former UN Secretary General Dag Hamerskjold pointed out, peacekeeping belongs to Chapter VI and a half of the UN Charter, it does not fall fully within Chapter VI (peaceful resolution of disputes) or Chapter VII (forceful resolution). In effect, a peacekeeping mission can easily and rapidly change to become a peace-enforcement operation, requiring a far more robust response. On 22 September 1998 South Africa, along with Botswana, decided to execute a military operation in Lesotho. Escalating unrest and violence in Lesotho following the May 1998 parliamentary elections prompted the intervention by South Africa. Pretoria responded to what they called a "creeping coup d’ etat" which threatened to undermine democracy in Lesotho. The decision to respond militarily was made without explicit SADC authorisation. However, from the outset, the SANDF claimed that the intervention took place under "SADC auspices" in accordance with "SADC agreements." At a 21 September 1998 meeting, the South African Minister of Safety and Security and representatives from Botswana, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe reportedly confirmed that SADC had authorised a possible military intervention in the event of a coup in Lesotho.

Combined Task Force (CTF) Boleas, as the intervention was as known, was essentially a South African undertaking that enjoyed the political support of a few countries from the sub-region. Botswana’s initial contribution to Operation Boleas was limited to a motorised infantry company (130 personnel) and a battalion command element. South Africa, by contrast, initially sent 470 troops to Lesotho and also provided air and medical support. What was expected to be a quick and simple military operation intended to protect democracy in Lesotho turned out to be a difficult undertaking. There were a number of reasons for a failure to achieve its objectives with limited costs and in the predicted time frame. Within the South African foreign and defence departments, there was a breakdown in communication and planning. South African foreign affairs officials criticised the intervention and claimed they did not participate in the decision- making process and only learned about the decision after the fact and through the media.

Planning for the operation within the DOD was hurriedly formulated and implemented, but Defence Secretary Pierre Steyn was not consulted. The operation was expected to be both quick and easy. South Africa fully anticipated that the troops it sent would be sufficient to resolve the situation peacefully. However, they were met with stiff resistance and soon realised that an insufficient number of troops had been deployed for the operation. According to Jackie Selebi, former Director-General of South Africa’s Department of Foreign Affairs, the idea was that "maximum visibility but minimum force" would suffice. However, the rebellious soldiers realised that the South African troops were not prepared to fight, which emboldened them. In the ensuing conflict, eight South African soldiers - and many more Lesotho citizens - lost their lives. Rioters took to the streets and destroyed property and looted businesses. Much of the capital, Maseru, was destroyed, while thousands of people were uprooted from their homes. Clearly, the SANDF was ill-prepared to respond to the unexpected developments and the initial mission was much smaller than what was needed to put down the unrest. (The force would eventually grow to more than 3 000 troops). According to Brig-General Borries Bornmann, former Chief of South Africa’s Special Forces, "the wrong people were sent in and there was a lack of intelligence."

Clearly South Africa had not been adequately prepared for what initially seemed to be a very limited military action. Operation Boleas eventually restored a semblance of calm, and a negotiated settlement was reached between Prime Minister Mosisili and the opposition parties. However, the badly managed intervention raised doubts internationally about South Africa’s military competence. It raised the concern that if South Africa could not handle a relatively small problem, like Lesotho, it could not serve as the sub-region’s policeman. The Lesotho operation suggested that the SANDF was not adequately trained and equipped for a peacekeeping operation which rapidly changed to a peace-enforcement mission. Lack of focus on peacekeeping training along with a preoccupation with conventional war-fighting probably lay at the root of the problem.

Despite the problems encountered in the Lesotho peace-enforcement operation, the SANDF has become increasingly involved in other similar, but lest demanding missions. On 1 September 1999, the SANDF began deployments to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as part of the UN’s peacekeeping operation there. This was followed in November 2000 by a small SANDF military observer mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea. In April 2001 a technical support force of 150 was deployed to the DRC to assist the 3 000 strong UN peacekeeping mission, followed earlier this year by a far larger contingent. In December 2001 a four person observer team was sent to the Comoros to participate in OAU election monitoring and weapons collections. Since October 2001, a fairly large SANDF contingent of almost 700 troops has been stationed in Burundi as part of a UN-endorsed mission to protect VIPs and provide military assistance to the transitional government. To date, the SANDF’s involvement in these missions has been largely impressive and South Africa has gained both African and international respect for its efforts. The UN presently has 18 peace missions (observer, peace-keeping, 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 would need to urgently advance peacekeeping and related deployments on the African continent.


Conclusion - Operationalising Mbeki’s Security Agenda

In the context of the four key questions posed at the start of this paper, the South Africa’s defence transformation has largely produced a military force in line with the demands of the Defence Review. However the policy directives of the Review are clearly 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. Moreover, by all accounts, the SANDF has limited capacity to give full expression to Mbeki’s commitment to peace and security on the African continent. Peacekeeping capacity is limited and equipment purchases are designed largely for conventional war-fighting. While the SANDF remains a key element in the foundation of South Africa’s post-1994 democracy, many new challenges have emerged. The Defence Review has not provided adequately for present circumstances, specifically regional and continental security co-operation and new demands on the defence force. Arguably the Defence Review should have focused first on integration, transformation/representivity and right sizing, while then implementing an incremental arms acquisition programme over a longer period of time. In addition, a careful threat analysis and comprehensive regional forecasting exercise should have informed the process. Some have called for another defence review to re-engineer the defence function; however, this would appear to be a time consuming, expensive and unnecessary exercise. Rather, the way forward for the SANDF would appear to be a focusing of energies 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. SANDF Chief Nyanda, however, has argued that the defence budget remains "too small" for the military to conduct effective training, maintain and replace key equipment, continue border and police support operations and take on a greater regional security role. By implication, the decision to modernise war-fighting capability and prepare for a future conventional war against an as yet unidentified opponent is preventing the SANDF from effectively performing collateral functions and impeding Mbeki’s efforts to realise his vision of an African renewal. President Mbeki has stressed that "without peace, stability and democracy" Africa has no chance of economic development and prosperity. Ongoing modernisation will require increased training costs and escalating equipment maintenance bills, making the military unaffordable with growing defence budgets unsustainable over the longer term.

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. Moreover, Mbeki’s foreign policy priorities now demand that the SANDF play an active and robust role in promoting peace and security on the African continent.

President Mbeki’s role as key architect and enthusiastic supporter of the SADC/AU security related protocols and efforts to build a regional and continental-wide security regime will require a progressive re-focusing of the SANDF’s roles and mission. At the same time, the SANDF obviously cannot loose sight of other urgent issues. The arms procurement programme along with appropriate training and skills enhancement to operate the new combat platforms suggests that the SANDF has far more than sufficient capacity to fulfil its primary territorial defence function. Increased collateral utility through adaptations in training and preparation, along with modification of equipment, remains a short to medium-term priority. Without an increased contribution to collateral activities, the SANDF is likely to be seen as an expensive, ineffective and inappropriately configured state organisation. 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." This includes an on-going commitment to assisting the South African Police Services, as well as border protection. The suggestion that the SANDF will phase out assistance to the police over a six year period in order to concentrate on African peacekeeping appears short-sighted. Obviously the SANDF’s first commitment must be to ensure stability at home. (South Africa has slipped significantly in the latest World Economic Forum competitiveness rankings partly due to continued high levels of crime.)

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. Early warning intelligence allows for the military forces to budget and prepare adequately for any future contingency. This would include developing strategic intelligence analysis, predictive-estimate intelligence capacity, establishing a regional strategic intelligence matrix and developing information source multipliers such as SIGNT (signals intelligence), HUMINT (human intelligence) and IMINT (imagery intelligence - satellite surveillance). An enhanced military intelligence capability would provide the foundation for appropriate defence planning and operational preparation. In terms of SADC and AU protocols, the SANDF will increasingly be required to share appropriate intelligence with other African countries, thereby enhancing capacity for timely action to advance peace and stability. There is no reason why tactical, as opposed to strategic intelligence, could not be shared with SADC neighbours.

Advancing the regional/continental security regime. This implies an inclusive security philosophy which over the longer term will provide a framework for regional common security. This could be advanced through greater transparency, along with more effective communications and regular interaction, via a formal regional defence dialogue. This also implies an integrated approach to regional defence and a SANDF policy alignment with regional structures. The goals of a co-operative security framework include :

- maintaining peace and stability within their common space;

- mutual protection against outside aggression; and

- actively promoting stability in areas which could threaten their shared security, using diplomatic, economic and military means, if necessary.

The framework would be built on active dialogue, already initiated as part of the African Standby Force (ASF) discussions, and the pursuit of common interests in a spirit of flexibility and compromise. The system would seek to develop common goals over time and to preempt insecurity in the area around it. 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. NOD refers to a strategy, reflected in military posture which is based on defensive strength, while lacking offensive capabilities. This would imply the deployment of forces and development of doctrines based on a "non-provocative defence" philosophy. This approach is motivated by the problem of the "security dilemma" that is, it is counterproductive to seek security at an adversary’s expense since this will only encourage rivalries, tensions and possibly an arms race resulting in an unimproved security condition. NOD includes the development of "denial forces" which implies a military capability without long-range offensive capability. NOD could be supported by advancing regional confidence and security building measures (CSBMs) such as exchange of information on defence expenditure, advance warning of military equipment purchases and military exercises along with information exchanges on the organisation, size, structure and composition of armed forces.

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. Fully operationalising the SADC Defence Pact would also require increased defence co-operation among SADC members, including joint training and exercises along with the exchange of appropriate military intelligence.

Advancing the African Union’s Security Framework implies that 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 also 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.

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.




























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AFS African Standby Force

ALP Aids Law Project

AAM Anti-aircraft missiles

APC Armoured Personnel Carriers

AU African Union

CAR Central African Republic

CSBM Confidence and security building measure

DA Democratic Alliance

DEAT Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism

DFA Department of Foreign Affairs

DIP Defence Industry Participation

DoD Department of Defence

DRC Democratic Republic of Congo

ECOWAS Economic Community of West Africa

FAZOI French Forces in the Indian Ocean Zone

GBADS Ground-based air-defence system

HUMINT Human intelligence

IDASA Institute for Democracy in South Africa

IMF International Monetary Fund

IMINT Images intelligence (satellite surveilance)

IISS International Institute for Security Studies

ISDSC Interstate Defence and Security Committee

MBT Main battle tank

MOU Memorandum of Understanding

MSC Military Staff Committee

NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

NEPAD New Partnership for Africa’s Development

NGO Non-governmental Organisation

NIP National Industrial Participation

NOD Non-offensive defence

OPDS Organ on Politics, Defence and Security

OSCE Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe

PCD Portfolio Committee on Defence

PSC Peace and Security Council

RMA Revolution in Military Affairs

SAAF South African Air Force

SADC Southern African Development Community

SADF South African Defence Force

SAIRR South African Institute of Race Relations

SANDF South African National Defence Force

SANDU South African National Defence Force Union

SAMS Surface-to-air missiles

SAPS South African Police Service

SDA Special Defence Account

SIGNT Signals intelligence

UAV Unmanned aerial vehicles





President Thabo Mbeki’s vision of an "African Renaissance," increasingly given concrete form in regional and continental institutions and agreements, obliges the South African National defence Force (SANDF) to become a key player in advancing peace and security outside the country’s borders. Old-style territorial defence and preparations for an air/land/seaward invasion have been superseded by a new demand for regional defence co-operation and peacekeeping operations. Given South Africa’s commitment to peace and security in Africa, manifest in Pretoria’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 agreements. In effect, the SANDF has a new role to play, already initiated via peacekeeping operations in Africa, with wide implications not provided for in the Defence Review. This paper aims to identify the key elements of the new regional and continental peace and security agenda, in the context of Mbeki’s African Renaissance vision, and to assess the SANDF’s capacity to support and advance that agenda. South Africa’s participation in an evolving continental security regime and the "convergence of expectations" for increased peace and security provide the framework for the SANDF’s new mission. The SANDF’s potential for contributing to the establishment of regional and continental security is assessed in terms of the 1998 Defence Review and the post-Defence Review defence and security environment. Suggestions are also be made with regard to the possible future direction of defence policy in the context of new demands not previously foreseen, or planned for.