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South Africa

Constitutional and Legal Framework

South Africa's 1984 constitution, the Republic of South Africa Constitution Act (No. 110) of 1983, which remained in effect through 1993, affirmed the provisions of the Defence Act (No. 44) of 1957 establishing the missions of the armed forces. These missions were, and continue to be, to defend the country; to fulfill South Africa's international treaty obligations; to prevent terrorism and domestic disorder; to protect life, health, and property; and to help maintain essential services. The president had the power to declare war, martial law, and states of emergency, and to establish peace. The minister of defence, under the overall direction of the president and with the consent of the State Security Council (SSC), bore responsibility for formulating and for executing defense policy. During the late 1980s, the military was frequently assigned domestic duties as part of the constitutional requirement to help the police and local authorities to maintain essential services and domestic order in times of emergency.

The 1994 interim constitution, the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (No. 200) of 1993, reiterates the provisions of the 1957 Defence Act that make the president commander in chief of the armed forces. The constitution reserves specific powers related to national security for the president, who may, with parliamentary approval, declare a "state of national defence." This is, in effect, a state of national emergency, but the framers of the constitution emphasize their reluctance to undertake any offensive military action against neighboring states. The constitution also authorizes the president to establish a national defense force to fulfill the responsibilities formerly assigned to the SADF. It empowers the president to employ the military in accordance with constitutional principles to defend the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the republic; to fulfill South Africa's international obligations; to preserve life, health, and property; to provide or to maintain essential services; to uphold law and order in cooperation with the police; and to support the general social and economic improvement of the population.

The interim constitution states that the new military organization, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), will include former members of the SADF, the ANC's Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), and the militias of the former homelands of Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda, and Ciskei. Former members of other militias, such as the Inkatha Freedom Party's Self-Protection Units, were admitted to the SANDF after the 1994 constitution was implemented.

In May 1996, the National Assembly and the Senate, in joint session as the Constitutional Assembly, completed a draft of the final constitution, to be implemented by the end of the formal political transition. Like the interim document that preceded it, the 1996 draft constitution calls for civilian control over the military. The draft makes no mention of the State Security Council or similar overarching security apparatus reminiscent of the 1980s. It reaffirms the missions of the armed forces as outlined in the Defence Act of 1957 and the role of the president to serve as commander in chief of the SANDF. As of mid-1996, the draft was being reviewed by the Constitutional Court, and after some revisions, was expected to be implemented in phases, beginning in 1997.

Military Organization

Four armed services--the South African Army, the South African Air Force, the South African Navy, and the South African Medical Service--make up the SANDF, also referred to as the National Defence Force. SANDF headquarters are in Pretoria. The SANDF is commanded by the chief of the armed forces, who is appointed by the president from one of the four branches of the military (see fig. 20). The SANDF chief is accountable to the minister of defence, who is a civilian.

The SANDF chief consults with members of several councils and committees and chairs the Defence Command Council (DCC), which oversees the defense budget. On the DCC are the four service chiefs, the chief of the National Defence Force staff, the military inspector general, the chiefs of defence headquarters staff divisions, and other key defense officials. Headquarters responsibilities are allocated among six staff divisions--the Finance Division, the Intelligence Division, the Logistics Division, the Operations Division, the Personnel Division, and the Planning Division.

Data as of May 1996

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