South African’s National Liberation Movement

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Parliamentary Bulletin

Issue No.36

Transforming Defence for the 21st Century

29 May 1998

The Defence Review

When the ANC came into government in 1994, it was faced with the complex question of transforming the apartheid defence force while at the same time integrating the liberation armies into the new SANDF. Defence transformation has been a dynamic process that has led to a clear formulation of defence policy along with reductions in defence expenditure and a review of defence business processes, force design and force structure.

The White Paper on Defence, adopted in May 1996, set the stage for further defence transformation by establishing a policy framework for defence in a new South Africa founded on the principles of democratic governance. It also laid the basis for a more detailed Defence Review.

Departing from apartheid secrecy and exclusivity

For the first time in South African history, defence policy is the result of a benchmark consultation process that included extensive sessions with, apart from government structures, NGOs, church leaders, academics, labour, business, and community leaders.

Through this process the post-1994 Department of Defence accedes two crucial factors that were regarded as the ultimate sin, ie it acknowledges:

  • that the defence debate can be strengthened by outside consultation and involvement, and that the Department is not the sole warehouse of skills on defence matters
  • that defence cannot be the closed shop agreement it was under the NP regime, but definitively should understand the many and diverse opinions that exist outside of the Department.

New civil-military relations

In another move away from the SADF vs the citizens model of the previous regime the Defence Review maps out a new model of relations with a unique African character. One where the SANDF protects and develops people. The citizenry is assured that they are not the targets of military operations, rather the object of military development projects.

The costs involved in the new SANDF

In another benchmark break with the past the ANC-government continues to institutionalise, promote and maintain fiscal discipline and adherence to budgetary constraints. The NP wasted billions on fighting its citizens and its neighbour.

Government expressed a vision of future spending in the light of national priorities and budgetary constraints. The Department will adapt its design to fit in with these factors.

The defence mission

The NP used the army to brutally enforce inhumane laws on South Africans and to interfere in the affairs of, and go to war with, almost all frontline states. The ANC model is based on a peace-time force with the necessary elements for future expansion and ongoing peace-time tasks.

Future policies arising from the Defence Review

The White Paper on Peace Missions seeks to guide our future involvement in peace missions and our capabilities in terms of the African environment. Some of the critical capabilities include:

  • huge land, air and maritime capabilities for mobility, surveillance and firepower
  • an emphasis on light, mobile forces of which air mobility is essential
  • an ability to maintain long external lines of logistical support
  • an ability to operate and maintain equipment away from bases is vital
  • logistics, medial and engineering services become increasingly important.

The Defence Industry Green Paper will be a seminal document that captures, for the first time, a complete understanding of the Defence Industry. Under NP rule the industry was clouded in secrecy and shady dealings. The Green Paper will provide the first comprehensive analysis of the business processes in the industry.

It will further identify and synchronise all the fragmented policy and legislation inherited from the NP. And it will provide a strategic analysis of future defence needs and articulates how the industry positions itself to meet those needs.

Defence Conversion – A part of the National Conversion Framework

The conversion of defence assets to civilian assets is the most significant contribution by the Department in support of the RDP. Defence conversion will include elements such as:

  • Base conversion – returning bases that will be closed for civilian or government use, and includes an environmental clean-up of terrain soiled by military use
  • Human resource conversion – reintegrating soldiers back into society through numerous programmes that include en-skilling for re-entry into economic society
  • Community economic adjustment – economically adjusting communities living near bases that will be closed and have been reliant on the bases for survival
  • Inventory clean-up – consolidating and disposing of capital inventories. South Africa is already a world leader in this area.

The Department of Defence recognises the need to develop an integrated strategy for defence conversion within the framework of a national conversion strategy. To this end they have already entered into discussions with other departments like the Public Works Departments.

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