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South Africa

Integrating Armies in the 1990s

The military's massive reorganization began a year before the historic April 1994 elections and was scheduled to be completed by late 1996. The process began with the creation of a multiservice Joint Military Coordinating Council (JMCC) by the Transitional Executive Council (TEC)--the country's interim executive authority. The TEC also established a Subcouncil on Defence to supervise the planning phase of the reorganization. The JMCC and the subcouncil worked together to set program goals, and in late 1993 the JMCC formed five working groups to address specific problems associated with finance, intelligence, logistics, operations, and personnel. These working groups presented their recommendations to the JMCC and the subcouncil in early 1994.

At that time, the major security challenge for South Africa was the need to end the township violence that threatened to derail the April 1994 elections. Officials hastily formed a multiracial National Peacekeeping Force (NPKF), including about 3,500 members of existing military organizations--primarily the SADF and MK. In February 1994, the NPKF was deployed to several townships around Johannesburg, but its troops, with widely varying military backgrounds and training, could not adequately coordinate their operations and standards of behavior. NPKF units encountered morale and disciplinary problems, and, in at least one instance, civilians were killed in gunfire between military and paramilitary personnel. The NPKF was disbanded soon after the April 1994 elections.

The failure of the NPKF did not delay the military reorganization, however, and other efforts already underway in early 1994 were more successful. SADF officials and a British Military Advisory and Training Team (BMATT) assembled members of the former homeland armies and former MK and Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA--the military wing of the Pan-Africanist Congress) liberation fighters at locations near Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Bloemfontein to evaluate applicants for the new army. The SANDF accepted into its ranks most senior officers from both homeland and liberation armies without extensive testing. In addition, members of the homeland armies who had been trained by SADF instructors were generally accepted immediately into the new organization.

Finally, MK and APLA members were considered for admission on an individual basis, but these cases proved more difficult. Some of the liberation fighters could not meet minimal formal education requirements. Many had received uneven or inadequate training that left them ill-prepared for either combat or organizational responsibilities. Some had been trained in languages other than English or Afrikaans. A few were disqualified because of bureaucratic problems, such as lost files, or because they were overage. The SADF and BMATT personnel provided three to six months of basic training for many former liberation fighters, in order to rectify gaps in background qualifications or experience. For some of the new SANDF soldiers, training continued through 1996.

The New Face of the Army

As the military reorganization proceeded, a multiracial officer corps emerged. By early 1996, more than 1,300 former members of homeland or liberation armies held officer ranks of lieutenant or above. At least eleven black South Africans had been promoted to the rank of major general or above.

As of 1996, military officials had no plans to reinstate conscription as long as there were enough qualified volunteers to meet national security needs. They planned, instead, to transfer some soldiers into the police and others into service brigades. The latter would act as civic-action teams to work on road construction and other infrastructure development projects. Military officials chose this tactic over large-scale dismissals in order to avoid flooding the civilian work force and to provide some work-related training and job skills for former guerrilla fighters. Funds were allocated for this training in late 1994, and the first three- and six-month training courses began in early 1995.

Military officials were working to maintain continuity in SANDF military training, and, at the same time, to inculcate a sense of the changing responsibilities of the army in the 1990s. Military trainers were preparing for new border control problems, as the threat of political infiltration by antiapartheid dissidents gave way to a tide of political and economic refugees hoping to prosper in the new South Africa. Officials also were concerned about increased smuggling and other forms of border fraud. One of their greatest challenges was the dramatic increase in cross-border narcotics trafficking that threatened to bring South Africa into the global spotlight as an important transshipment point in the late 1990s. Finally, the military continued to prepare for the possibility of cross-border hostilities with a neighboring state, although this possibility appeared remote as of 1996.

Data as of May 1996

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