From the CIAO Atlas Map of Africa 

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The Pariah Comes in From the Cold: South Africa's Changing Security Environment 

Susan Willett

Copenhagen Peace Research Institute
April 1998

The dramatic political changes brought about by South Africa's first democratic elections, held on 27th April 1994, have triggered a profound, normative, institutional and cultural transformation of South African society. Following decades of unaccountability and lack of transparency, policy procedures have been opened up to widespread public scrutiny and democratic participation. As a consequence many institutions, particularly those closely associated with the apartheid system, such as the security forces are undergoing a dramatic process of restructuring, both in response to the domestic forces of change and in relation to the realignment of South Africa's role and place in the "new world order."

The military institutions of the apartheid state have been a specific target of reform because of the central role they played within the apartheid system and because of the strong under-current of anti-militarism which permeates the ANC, particularly at grass roots level. This populist sentiment is strengthened by the work of a number of academic analysts who have provided a degree of intellectual coherence to the popular pressure for demilitarisation. 1 They argue the need to release the concept of security from its narrow militaristic concerns in order to embrace non-military factors such as economic, environmental and human security. 2 This has led to the advocacy of developmental and collective approaches to security which, place a strong emphasis on respect for human rights and the observance of international norms. 3

No part of the South African defence establishment has remained untouched by the fundamental upheavals associated with South Africa's transition to democracy. Since 1994, greater transparency and accountability in military affairs have been imposed through the creation of a civilian run Ministry of Defence and a powerful parliamentary Defence Select Committee, which has powers to define policy. The integration of the previously hostile "statutory" and "non-statutory" military forces into a newly created South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has produced a new military entity more representative of South African society as a whole. At the same time security policy, strategic doctrine and operational practice have all been subject to a process of re-evaluation. 4 The first stage of reform involved the drafting of the 1996 White Paper on National Defence that laid out the broad conceptual framework for defence and security policy. 5 The second stage, the Defence Review, began in February 1996 and was at the stage of completion at the time of writing . 6 The task of the Defence Review was to translate the conceptual framework of the White Paper into the nuts and bolts of institutional and operational practice. The final stage, which started in February 1997, aims to produce a White Paper on the Defence Industry that is consistent with the 1996 White Paper and the Defence Review. Throughout the process of reform, one feature unique to the South African experience requires a special mention, namely the degree of open consultation on defence and security policy which has occurred. No group or individual was barred from submitting both written and oral presentations on aspects of national defence and security policy. Moreover, all contributions were treated with equal consideration and respect by the teams appointed with the task of writing up the policy documents. In addition to the domestic pressure for reform, the gathering pace of change at the regional level and the re-entry of South Africa into the international community has forced a major examination of South Africa's priorities in the security policy field.

As a consequence of these changes the traditional security establishment has found itself in an equivocal position faced with the difficult task of realigning itself within the context of policy changes imposed by a newly empowered civil authority that does not always hold its interests at heart. 7 Nevertheless, the radical changes proposed by the adherents of demilitarisation have not gone unchallenged by the military and its supporters. Representatives from Armscor, the procurement agency, the former South African Defence Forces (SADF), the domestic arms industry and hawkish and influential elements within the ANC, have strongly emphasised that the backbone of a strong and independent state is built upon a robust military, supported by a vibrant defence industrial base. 8 The security establishment's strident defence of its traditional position has inevitably provoked a passionate debate on national defence and security policies in South Africa since the end of apartheid. The outcome of the debate not only has long-term ramifications for the future orientation of the South African military, but as a dominant regional power South Africa's post-apartheid security posture will have long-term implications for the Southern African region.

This paper attempts to capture the complex dynamics, which have been brought to play within the South African security discourse. The first section of the paper attempts to locate the South African discourse within the context of the changing international environment. In particular it attends to the influences of "new security thinking" and how this relates to post-apartheid South Africa. With the ending of apartheid South Africa has returned to the African continent, which has added a new dimension to its security concerns, this is dealt with in the second section. The third part identifies the new domestic and regional security challenges, while the fourth part examines the new concepts being developed to deal with these challenges. The fifth part looks at the emergence of regional security mechanisms and South Africa's role in it. The final section examines the debate at the more operational level, of strategic doctrine, a terrain on which the military find themselves at a more advantageous level, and where it has been able to reclaim control of the security discourse.

The International Influences

Despite its isolation during the years of apartheid, the South Africa security community was profoundly inspired by the realist discourse of the major Western powers. With the end the Cold War, however, the certainties of the realist paradigm have come under review. 9 As Booth has observed " there are accumulating signs that world politics is fitfully coming to the end of a 350 year span of history, which was dominated by the military competition between technologically advanced states of the north with realist outlooks, Machiavellian ethics and a Clauswitzian philosophy of war". 10 Fukuyama, went so far as to argued that the events from 1989 onwards marked an "End of History" - a discontinuation of the history of thought about first principles, including those governing political and social organisation". 11 Ideology which had been at the root of all conflicts during the Cold War period was declared dead and a new era of world peace was anticipated. In this vein Fukuyama suggested that the end of apartheid was synonymous with his "End of History" thesis. 12 Clapham "s work also echoes this end of and era theme with his claim that the death of President Mobutu symbolises both the end of Western domination of African politics and the end of the post-independence era. 13 The widespread problems of nationalism, collapsing states, ethnic conflicts, migration, political instability and economic under-development on the African continent have exposed the shortcomings of Western approaches to security, and have encouraged a healthy search for new meanings and mechanisms for security policies on the African continent. 14

Events in the "real" world temporarily reflected Fukuyama's optimism about world peace. George Bush called for the creation of a "new world order" in which the strong would protect the weak, the rule of law would prevail in international affairs, and the principles of the UN Charter would be implemented. For a while, events appeared to justify this new found confidence. With the end of bi-polar confrontation, miraculous progress was made in resolving what had once appeared intractable conflicts in Cambodia, El Salvador, the Ethiopia, and Nicaragua. In Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union foes turned into friends as everywhere democracy and free markets flourished. In Southern Africa the dispute in Mozambique and Namibia were brought to an end, and apartheid was finally overthrown. Indeed, the peaceful transition in South Africa and the birth of what has become termed the "Rainbow Nation", have been viewed by some as one of the great historic events of the late twentieth century, encouraging a sense of confidence about the possibility of achieving a more peaceful and conciliatory world.

Peace was also tangible in the growing pressures for disarmament and lower levels of military spending, as well as attempts to control arms transfers and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. From a high of $1.26 bn in 1987 (1993 prices) global military expenditure declined to $868bn by 1993. 15 The cumulative reduction in spending between 1987-1993 amounted to over a trillion dollars. At the same time the international demand for weapon systems declined by over 60% at an average annual fall of 20% during the period 1987-1993. 16 These global indices of disarmament gave rise to great optimism about the potential of a global "peace dividend" which could be used to rectify the inequities of the international system. The United Nations attempted to support the international process of disarmament by passing resolutions which guaranteed country's territorial integrity, and setting up mechanisms (e.g.UN Register of Conventional Arms) to control and reduce arms transfers. Other multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF started to consider the possibility of tying financial aid to reductions in military spending in an attempt to lower the risk of war among developing nations while at the same time accelerating economic and social development. These international pressures for disarmament and lower levels of military spending echoed throughout the world and started to gain support in Southern Africa after 1989.

In this mood of optimism, liberal scholars argued that war was less likely in future. New confidence about the prospects for world peace was founded upon three basic principles. The first was that most leaders recognise that war does not pay, and that modern states will do almost anything to avoid general war. 17 The second point was that economic interdependence renders war unprofitable. 18 If a country's main markets are likely to be destroyed it is unlikely to initiate wars for reasons of vested interests. The third argument is that democracies rarely if ever go to war with one another. 19 Based on these premises new notions of security emerged emphasising "common" or "comprehensive" security. Its proponents argued that military centred notions of national security had become fundamentally flawed in a highly interdependent world facing multiple security threats that are not amenable to traditional statist solutions.

Common security assumes that there are global dangers, which threaten the entire system and which cannot be solved by boundary protection: by emphasising common dangers, it bases its appeal for co-operative behaviour, not on altruism, but on the larger sense of collective self-interest. These new perceptions of security and efforts to promote "collective security" were pursued in various multilateral institutions (e.g. Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE, now the OSCE), the Association of South East Asian States (ASEAN) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC)).

The general mood of optimism about the changing global security environment was short lived, however. The depth of the world recession in the early 1990s , characterised by a contraction of global markets, the slowing down of economic growth and widespread structural unemployment, exacerbated the transitional problems of newly democratising states throughout the globe, encouraging a rise of nationalism and inter-ethnic rivalry which in turn acted to undermine the sovereignty of states. As Yugoslavia erupted into Europe's worst nightmare since the Second World War and the US adventure in Somalia ended ignominiously with the loss of 18 US Ranger's lives, the perception of a "new world order" fast disintegrated into the notion of a "new world disorder". The spectre of which was horrifically played out in the genocide in Rwanda and on a smaller scale in Angola when war broke out again in 1993 in which 1,000 people a day were being killed. The overwhelming nature of events particularly the conflict in Bosnia, shook the foundations of traditional realist beliefs. It became increasingly apparent that there was a dearth of conceptual tools for comprehending the transformation at work in the world.

For realist the meaning of security has been subsumed under the rubric of power. Conceptually it is synonymous with the security of the state against external threats, hence the emphasis on military capabilities and the defence function. The focus on a state-centric notion of security grew out of the assumption of a sharp boundary between domestic order and international anarchy. A condition which Waltz has described as a "state of nature". 20 The end of the Cold War keenly posed a challenge to these assumptions because it produced a world in which military power appeared less appropriate to the maintenance of international security or power. 21 The system of sovereign states, that had been the organising principle of international relations and diplomacy throughout the twentieth century appeared to be under threat from the widespread proliferation of intra-state conflicts. These conflicts are characterised by new forms of violence based on civilian generated genocide (Rwanda, Burundi, Bosnia) war lordism (Somalia, Afghanistan ), international crime syndicates ( Colombia, Russia, Southern Africa) and terrorism(widespread). Inevitably nostalgia emerged for the certainties of the past and the Cold War became re-invented as a period of certainty and stability. 22

A robust debate began about the limits of traditional security thinking which owes much to the contribution of Buzan's Peoples, States and Fear, 23 "security" had always been a persistent value in international relations theory, but until Buzan's work appeared, it had been a relatively unexplored concept. By probing its connotations and ramifications, Buzan constructed a more holistic understanding of the notion. He broadened the concept of security to include freedom from military, political, societal, economic and environmental threats. From this analysis he made the case for a new more multi-dimensional approach to security.

One one level Buzan's broad concept of security has proved valuable for developing states faced as they are with multiple threats to human security from non-military sources. However, Buzan's approach remains state-centric and has drawn criticism from certain scholars who have argued that the state in developing societies is often the main threat to the security of citizens. 24 The concept of "national interests" around which realist security policies are framed is usually defined by the concerns of political and military elite's in developing societies whose interests do not necessarily coincide with those of all citizens. This has led to the observation that the notion of security in the South is invariably linked to regime security. 25

In reply to his critics, Buzan, has argued that the global system is on a trajectory towards "mature anarchy" due to an evolutionary progress towards stronger states, this process will eventually produce a more stable international system which will enhance both domestic and international security. Augmenting this political progress is the integrative features of an increasingly globalised market economy. Evidence, in sub-Saharan Africa, to support such conjecture remains weak. Throughout the continent states are collapsing rather than moving on a linear trajectory towards greater strength. 26 Despite concerted attempts to build state capacity during the post colonial period, the majority of African states continue to face the problems of lack of internal cohesion, lack of legitimacy; susceptibility to internal and inter-state conflicts and facile permeability from external actors. As a consequence the majority of African states remain "weak" and preoccupied with internal security problems. In addition, there is little evidence that economic interdependence has enhanced security for the majority of the African states. The Northern monopoly of high technology, its consumption of the majority of global resources, its control of commodity pricing resulting in unequal exchange and the vicissitudes of the international financial system, have enhanced global economic inequality to the disadvantage of the South. As the majority of South Africans know only too well the benefits of economic progress are not available to all. Political hierarchies and uneven development are structural constraints in the attainment of security for the poor and marginalised. Historically the attempt to transfer Northern security concepts to the South has been part of Africa's security problem not its solution. 27

For much of the Cold War era, in South Africa ,as elsewhere in the developing world, the emphasis on the military dimension of security, not only led to the burgeoning of military institutions and bureaucracies, but also resulted in a serious neglect of non-military aspects of security. 28 The siphoning-off of scarce national resources to bolster military institutions has had a detrimental effect on programmes for sustainable development and contributed in no small measure to rising debt burdens. 29 In the process the basic security of citizens here understood as the basic right to food, shelter and health was systematically undermined. 30

More recently, Buzan, in association with the Copenhagen School, appears to have revised his conceptual model of security both, in response to unfolding events in the post Cold War world, and in riposte to the widespread criticisms of the ontological primacy he has bestowed on the state. 31 His shift of emphasis accords significance to societal identity as the core value vulnerable to threats and in need of security. 32 But such definitions leave open the question of the extent to which individuals in fact share a common culture and identity. In South Africa identity and history were systematically established around the Afrikaner sovereign space, resulting in a denial of the identities and histories of the majority of South Africans. The task of maintaining the Afrikaner's sovereign space depended upon the organised violence of the state resulting in the insecurity of millions of people within the Southern African region. The apartheid state's "destabilisation" campaign of the 1980s, resulted in the deaths of more than a million people and is estimated to have cost $62.42 billion. 33 Ultimately, however, the Afrikaner approach to security proved dysfunctional to the apartheid state as it created such internal instability that the security of the white elite came under threat. The demise of apartheid and the emergence of democracy created the space for new identities to emerge which have, for the first time given voice to a different security discourse, one that challenges the centrality of the role of the military in security provision.

Continental and Regional Security

The ending of institutionalised apartheid brought South Africa back into the fold of the African continent. However, Africa in the 1990s is a very different continent to the one South Africa chose to separate itself from in the 1960s. Then Africa was confident with its new-found freedom from colonial rule and its inspirational nationalist leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah and Nyrere. Tragically this confidence has dissipated into turbulence as the failures of African nationalism gave way to corruption, dictatorship, militarism and the widespread failure of national development programmes. 34

Though some of the factors, which brought about this sorry state of affairs, were undoubtedly domestically generated, external political and economic forces have played a significant part in the present crisis of the African continent. In the realm of economics the decline in the terms of trade for Africa's primary commodities, the oil shocks of the seventies and subsequent indebtedness, deprived African countries from the goal of economic self-determination. On a political level Africa became a playground for the super-powers to act out their ideological clashes, through wars of proxy. The Horn of Africa and Southern Africa, in particular, became key arenas for superpower competition and confrontation, resulting in the widespread dislocations of populations, disruption of agricultural production and subsequent famines, disease, and death. However, with the almost simultaneous ending of the Cold War and apartheid there has been a reduction in internal and regional military conflicts and a move towards political pluralism in virtually all the states in the Southern African region. Armed conflicts in Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa have been resolved. Only Angola remains unstable despite the presence of the United Nations in the form of UNAVIM 111. Multiparty elections have taken place in Malawi, Namibia, Mozambique, Zambia, and Tanzania and of course South Africa.

The withdrawal of the superpowers has, in effect hailed the end of the post-independence era in sub-Saharan Africa. The US intervention in Somalia in December 1992 -now seen as a one off operation - chastened the US and other Western military powers of any ambitions of policing the African continent. 35 As Christopher Clapham has observed " Attempts to impose universal solutions are now widely acknowledged to be inappropriate. And in the nineties, the international community is seen by many to have failed in recent humanitarian crises. It has insufficient will to intervene. There is now acceptance that imposition from outside cannot produce a system that is stable from within." 36 There is circumspect recognition that the solution to Africa's problems must come from within. The rise of new African leaders such as President Museveni in Uganda, President Isiasias in Eritrea and Prime Minister Meles in Ethiopia is symptomatic of the political changes from within Africa itself. Collectively they point to the failure of African post-colonial leaders and advocate African solutions to provide basic necessities and equality of opportunity and transparent and non-corrupt government.

Into this context South Africa has returned as an economic and military giant. To many in Africa, South Africa provides hope for restitution,. As a giant it is being expected to take a leading role in both the internal affairs of the continent and in representing the continents interests in the wider international community. How well it can meet these expectations, depends on a profound re-orientation of South Africa's foreign and security policy from one of isolation to one of continental engagement.

New Security Challenges

Much of the literature which focuses on security crises in Africa highlights the disintegration of political authority (legitimite power) law and order 37 , but arguably Africa's greatest security challenge lies in its development crisis. 38 The quality of life indicators for the sub-Saharan region are far below those of the more affluent countries of the South.. Angola, Benin, Ethiopia, Guinea, Liberia, Mozambique, Niger, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Zaire (now Congo) are among the poorest countries in the world. Widespread economic collapse has undermined the social cohesion of many of these African societies exposing the fragility of states in sub-Saharan Africa. In some cases - Liberia, Rwanda, Somalia and Sierra Leone - the state has virtually ceased to function. Arguably economic growth and development is crucial if legitimacy is to be restored to the state in much of disintegrating Africa. 39

In this vein the new South African government has articulated the view that South Africa's greatest security challenge lies in its development crisis. 40 In the public debates on defence and security the real threats to South Africa's security have been identified as internal and non-military - poverty, underdevelopment, unemployment, illiteracy, inadequate access to basic services like water and health and rising levels of crime and violence. 41 For most people in South Africa the feeling of insecurity has always arisen from worries about hunger and disease and depravation rather than from a threat to national sovereignty. Poverty affects the lives of millions of South Africans. It is estimated that 17 million people live below South Africa's official Minimum Living Level. 42 Income redistribution remains one of the most unequal in the world: the per capita incomes of whites are around 12 times higher than those of blacks, the income of the richest households being some 45 times higher than those of the poorest 20 percent of the population. Unemployment remains high particularly in the black community where it is estimated to be 50 per cent. 43 It is forecast that at current rates of growth (the population is anticipated to rise to 58 million in 2010 and 73 million in 2025) jobs will be available for only 7% of new comers to the job market, compared to an absorption rate of 80-85 per cent between 1965 and 1970. Approximately half of the current unemployed are under the age of 30 and almost 90 per cent lack skills or training of any kind. Some 12.5 million or 30 per cent of the population are believed to be illiterate. These conditions provide fertile ground for future social unrest. In view of this challenge the government has stated that "the RDP (Reconstruction and Development Programme) is the principal long-term means of promoting the well being and security of citizens and, thereby, the long term stability and development of the country. There is consequently a compelling need to reallocate state resources to the RDP." 44

The security problems that South Africa faces are compounded by the spill-over effects from the security problems of neighbouring states. The demise of the apartheid regime, although eradicating the major cause of regional conflict, has not been accompanied by a decline in the overwhelming range of security problems in Southern Africa for which no military solution is apparent.

Most people in Southern Africa continue to experience extremes of insecurity, as a result of the legacies of apartheid. In war torn Mozambique and Angola the large-scale displacement of peoples and the subsequent disruption of economic activities, have left tens of thousands of people dependent on food aid for survival. Large numbers of refugees, particularly from Mozambique have found their way into South Africa intensifying the problems of urban poverty and unemployment, contributing to growing xenophobia and ethnic tensions in the townships. The widespread dispersal of landmines means that much agricultural land in Mozambique and Angola will remain uninhabitable and uncultivatable for the foreseeable future, delaying the return of refugees and internally displaced peoples.

The severe drought of 1992 intensified the situation of food scarcity and exacerbated regional migration trends. Arguably food insecurity is a more fundamental threat to the region than the likelihood of inter-state violence, but the achievement of food security requires a far higher level of regional co-operation than exists at present. A crisis in the supply of one or more of life's basic stables (such as water) may precipitates further disasters. For example when food scarcity and water shortages coincided with the large scale displacement of populations and the breakdown of communities as happened in Mozambique during the latter part of the war - epidemics of fatal diseases such as cholera, typhoid, meningitis brokeout with devastating effects on the young old and weak. 45

The presence of a huge amount of war materiel resulting from civil wars and South Africa's war with the Frontline States also provides a continued source of instability within the region. 46 Small arms flows into South Africa from Mozambique, Angola and Namibia are facilitating an unprecedented wave of violent crime in the townships and city centres, intensifying the sense of individual human insecurity. In war torn countries such as Mozambique and Angola the widespread presence of small arms potentially threatens the duration of peace and stability. As Christopher Clapham has commented, "war teaches few skills beyond the use of weapons: it destroys much of the already weak economic base on which a newly independent government must painfully build; and fighters who view themselves as having borne the brunt of the struggle for freedom, then find their expectations of victory bitterly disappointed, have few resources with which to improve themselves beyond a renewed resort to arms. 47

Whether South Africa likes it or not it cannot escape the problems of its neighbours as they directly impinge upon its own stability and long term security. Mills has argued that "it is realistic to suggest that a broad-based development orientated approach to building regional security would better address these kind of socio-economic issues than a purely militaristic response" 48 As another South African security analyst has noted, "southern Africa is wrestling with the very problem of the survivability of human collectivities. A one-dimensional focus on the military-political dimension of security does not therefore take account of the full range of security issues facing the sub-continent. Moreover, excessive militarisation as an answer to the behavioural dimension and demands of military political security has in itself become part of a broader security problem in the region as is evidenced in the easy availability of firearms (especially AK-47s) the increase in violent crime and military and civilian upheaval in many parts of the region." 49 Clearly if any semblance of security is to return to the region different perspectives, institutions and responses need to emerge.

Demilitarising the Concept of Security

Having experienced the insecurities and violence of the apartheid state, the newly empowered groups within civil society have been preoccupied with constructing a new more "holistic" vision of security which places people, rather than the state at the centre of national security concerns.

Human security or the "citizen" as the object of security implies a shift of emphasis from the well being of the state to the well being of the citizen. This has enormous resonance in South Africa were the majority of ordinary citizens are primarily in need of protection from the structural insecurities of poverty and inequality, rather than from any real or perceived external military threat. In the words of one advocate; " This broader concept acknowledges that people rather than states, are the primary referent for security. It also sets a wider security agenda since the threats to human security such as poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy, unemployment, environmental degradation and the abuse of human rights deserve as much attention as the military threats to state security." 50 In an environment of increasing globalisation and interdependence, it has been argued that states can no longer guarantee the security of their citizens through unilateral military measures. 51

The 1996 White Paper on National Defence, defines South Africa's new approach to security as ""an all encompassing condition in which individual citizens live in freedom, peace and safety, participate fully in the process of governance, enjoy the protection of fundamental rights, have access to resources and the basic necessities of life, and inhabit an environment which is not detrimental to their health and well being" 52 Shifting the referent point of security from the state to the citizen, however, requires the whole structure, organisation and implementation of security policy to be profoundly refocused. 53 The 1996 White Paper on Defence stresses a shift from the pre-occupation with militarism and the role of the state to one based on a broader interpretation of security, which by definition, embraces a number of inter-related structures and policy mechanisms. This more inclusive approach to security does not negate the importance of military security, but rather accords it a place in a hierarchy of security needs which require urgent attention. The order of precedence is determined by needs rather than by tradition, ideology or vested interests and will change according to concrete circumstances rather than by design. Such an approach allows for linkages between security needs, recognising that one cannot have one form of security at the expense of others. Above all this approach places emphasis on resolving the current security challenges at a regional level through common security provisions. National security is sought with rather than against other states. Recognising that international relations are dominated by competing national interests and the risk of conflict, common security seeks to promote a culture of peaceful conflict management and resolution

A Common Security Approach

Emphasis is placed on security co-operation through the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and acknowledgement is given to the fact that many states in the region share the same domestic threats with potential spill-over into neighbouring countries. The founding document of the SADC provided the following motivations for its mandate on security issues;

War and insecurity are the enemy of economic progress and social welfare. Good and strengthened political relations among countries of the region, and peace and mutual security, are critical components of the total environment for regional cooperation and integration. The region needs, therefore, to establish a framework and mechanisms to strengthen regional solidarity and provide for mutual peace and security. 54

Such moves were influenced, in part, by the formation of the Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Co-operation in Africa (CSSDCA) in 1991, which in turn was modelled on the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE). 55 The CSSDCA stressed the critical relationship between peace and development on the African continent, as well as emphasising that the security and stability of each African country is inescapably connected to the security of all African states. CSSDCA adopted an integrated approach to security, grouping policy proposals in four "calabashes" security, stability, development and co-operation. 56

SADC has proposed a similar framework to guide a Regional Security Council (RSC) - on which all governments in the region are to be represented - which acts as a forum for joint consultation on a wide range of conflict prevention and peacekeeping issues. The 1993 SADC document "A Framework and Strategy for Building the Community" stated that "a framework must be found for enhancing political solidarity and harmony among member states in order to minimise conditions which can lead to national and regional instability and insecurity". 57 A number of strategies for advancing peace and security in the region, have been listed, such as the creation of a forum for mediation and arbitration, reductions in force levels and military expenditure, the adoption of non-offensive defence doctrines, and the implementation of confidence and security building measures. 58 The long term objective of the regional security regime is to engage the region in active security dialogue and prevent conflicts from breaking out, or should this fail, to contain conflicts and end them.

SADC's current interpretation of security appears to have liberated the concept from its previous pre-occupation with state-centred perspectives that focused almost entirely on threats to the state and its interests, to one that is more inclusive embracing political, environmental, developmental and economic threats to society. These determinants are seen as inter-linked which is why emphasising one above the others can have detrimental effects on national security. Confronting the potential sources of conflict and instability requires the development of quite different policy approaches to security. It follows from this that regional security does not rest on force alone, or even upon the threat of force.

The formalisation of SADC's security aspirations took place in January 1996, when SADC Ministers for Defence and Foreign Affairs met in Gaborone, Botswana, to agree the terms of reference for the setting up of a SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security. 59 The ministers recommended that "in view of the reduced tensions in the region, military force levels and expenditure should be reduced to the minimum level required for territorial defence . 60

Ultimately the potential for realising the SADC's broader security goals depends upon establishing a genuine collective identity at the regional level. This in itself is fraught with pitfalls. During the apartheid era a common identity of purpose was forged between the Front-Line States (the originators of the SADC) because of the existence of a common enemy, namely apartheid South Africa. With the demise of apartheid, it is questionable whether there is a binding force that can any longer sustain a collective sense of purpose beyond a loose alliance of nation-states bound in a common geographical area. With South Africa now a key actor in the evolution of any future regional security arrangement, the convergence and complementarity of South Africa's interests with those of its neighbours are central to the issue of regional integration and collective sense of purpose.

There is a sense in which the other states in Southern Africa believe they can be South Africa's equal within the SADC, when in reality South Africa's overwhelming economic and military power exposes this as illusion. 61 Even with the most co-operative will in the world South Africa will inevitably set the regional agenda, and it will primarily reflect south Africa's interests. Thus, although the security rhetoric highlights regional integration, there is a growing sense on the part of South Africa's neighbours that the evolution of SADC may weaken national sovereignty and undermine national interests. Residual fears about South Africa's hegemonic intentions and rivalry for regional influence all contribute to an underlying unease within the SADC framework. In particular, President Mugabe of Zimbabwe is thought to be resentful that his position as a regional leader has been usurped by the dominance of South Africa in regional forums. 62

The road to closer regional co-operation on security issues will be long and hard, as its success depends on the complex interaction of a number of variables. Genuine regional co-operation can only take place once South Africa's neighbours overcome their mistrust of South Africa's regional intentions. Its present overwhelming regional balance of power continues to feed distrust in the region, which suggests that South Africa has some way to go to in building a sense of confidence and security between neighbours. South Africa is the largest military spender in absolute terms in Southern Africa, and its military spending accounts for nearly 80 per cent of the regions total. It currently has the largest and most sophisticated forces on the African continent and the SANDF's inventory of military equipment is significantly better in qualitative, quantitative and operational terms than those of all the other countries in the region put together. These factors taken together feed into the residual fears about South Africa's hegemonic intentions within the region and places the onus on South Africa to take the initiative in building trust and confidence about its future ambitions.

Military co-operation between previously adversarial forces is one mechanism through which greater trust and confidence can be established. To this end the Inter-State Defence and Security Committee (ISDC), originally established in 1983 under the aegis of the front Line States , has rejuvenated and incorporated into the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security. 63 The ISDC, which operates as an informal structure and is chaired by SADC defence ministers on a rotational basis, is made up of a ministerial council, three sub-committees (defence, security and intelligence) and a number of sub-sub-committees dealing with operational, intelligence, aviation, medical and other matters. The task of these committees is to examine, advocate and co-ordinate military activities on an extensive range of issues including cross border crime, illegal immigrants, peace support operations and intelligence sharing. These committees convene on a frequent basis, but so far only operate in a somewhat ad hoc manner. Nevertheless considerable headway has been made in some forms of military co-operation, notably joint training in peacekeeping methods, in border patrols and attempts to curb illegal small arms flows.

So far greater progress has been made in military forms of co-operation than in other forms of regional co-operation which can partly be explained by the fact that the military has at its disposal far more resources than other parts of the SADC machinery. The role of the SANDF is particularly significant in this respect. In seeking legitimacy the SANDF been quick to latch onto military forms of regional co-operation. The narrow focus of the military's preoccupations has result in an agenda which appears much more manageable than one which promotes an expanded notion of security at the regional level. This has the effect of making the military's arguments appear much more concise and their goals more attainable than the more expansive and arguably more pressing concerns of human and environmental security within the region. Progress towards achieving the broader goals of collective security is meanwhile constrained by the lack of established procedures and mechanisms and the absence of skills and techniques required for conflict resolution and mediation.

Security and the South African Military

The conceptual challenge to South Africa's traditional security referent has placed considerable pressure on the military to find a rational for its continued existence. . How can armed forces retain cohesion in a world in which the use of force comes under intense public scrutiny and where the threats to human security require other organisations to confront existing threats?

This perplexing question is by no means unique to the South African experience, since the end of the Cold War armies everywhere are having to address the question "what are armies for?" 64 The contemporary quest for legitimacy can be seen in the attempts of the South African military to redefine its roles and missions in line with the newly perceived threats such as transnational crime, ecological terrorism, drug trafficking, economic migration, humanitarian disasters etc. Many if not all of the concepts upon which South Africa's military structures have been constructed are, however, deficient in meeting the current complexity of tasks presented by these contemporary security challenges

During apartheid, security figured as an integral part of the white minority's narrative in which their country was cast as an embattled "bastion of western civilisation" in the global struggle against communism. 65 Here the analogies with Huntington's thesis are strong for the communist threat in Southern Africa was distinctively black and "other". The powerful symbolism of civilisation under attack helped propel the military to the centre stage of policy making within the apartheid state. Many of these viewpoints remain echoed in the realist discourse in South Africa today. The spectre of new external threats are being constructed from visions of countless economic migrants from South Africa's impoverished and war torn neighbours scrabbling across South Africa's borders in search of material succour. On this issue General Meiring, Head of National Defence, has stated; "Overflow from regional conflicts is the most likely threat to our national security, mainly in two ways; a large scale influx of illegal immigrants and refugees from countries in the region, the RSA inadvertently being drawn into regional conflict." 66

An additional threat scenario assumes a concerted attack form neighbouring states with the support of a superpower. The military argue that such challenges can only be met by establishing stability through a strong military balance of power. Meiring has insisted that "in an uncertain world it must be assumed that the enemy will be strong and sophisticated" 67 It follows, therefore, that the South African military must remain a formidable force to be reckoned with. In order to achieve this, Meiring argues that the SANDF needs to improve its fighting quality through investments in; a) research and development; b) technology including aspects such as defensive chemical warfare capabilities; c) war gaming and operational research; and d) force multipliers such as electronic warfare and night fighting capability, and the mobility, reach and staying power of its forces. 68 In addition if it is to retain its force capabilities the SANDF needs to modernise its equipment through a new round of procurement involving the purchase of advanced weapons platforms such as front-line combat aircraft, corvettes, submarines and attack helicopters. Much of this equipment is highly offensive in role and function, yet the White Paper on Defence states quite unequivocally that the "sANDF shall have a primarily defensive orientation and posture." 69

The notion of defensive defence poses a direct challenge to the military's traditional strategic doctrine of "offensive defence" By which is meant a strategy which is defensive, but a posture which is offensive. The idea of offensive defense being that the military must be prepared at all times to protect the territory of the Republic of South Africa by taking offensive pro-active steps to avoid combat on South African soil. The doctrine seeks to deter external aggression by threatening to inflict high levels of destruction on the enemy via pre-emptive or retaliatory offensive action. The requisite precept being that "offence is the best form of defence." The rationale for this doctrine is that with a low force-to-space ratio and a relative lack of strategic depth compared to the width of the possible front, South Africa needed to be able to strike enemy targets at base. This strategy had been in operation since 1910. 70 and remains at the core of the military's strategic doctrine even after the change of government in 1994.

Critics of the SANDF's offensive doctrine argue that it was inherently provocative and destabilising within the Southern African region in the past and is no less so in the current situation. 71 If a state considers pre-emptive strikes and surprise attacks as a strategic option it effectively puts pressure on neighbouring states to emphasis the same strategies. The all too likely outcome is an escalating arms build up. The action reaction spiral or what is often termed a "security dilemma" the vertical and horizontal proliferation of arms in response to a real or perceived threat from one's neighbours. In this case the risk of armed conflict is amplified and the security of all states is decreased.

The present, more benign, regional climate has seriously eroded the foundations upon which the SANDF's traditional strategic doctrine was constructed. The time-honoured constructs of threat and deterrence no longer hold weight in a region under going the perceptible process of disarmament and demobilisation. 72 As a consequence South Africa's new security advisers have sought to secure a strategic doctrine which is more in keeping with the atmosphere of détente and co-operation within the region. This has led to the promotion of non-offensive defence (NoD) as a means of providing an operational doctrine to the concept of defensive defence.

A basic premise of NoD is the settlement of disputes by peaceful means, arms control and disarmament, confidence and security-building measures and a restructuring of armed forces towards a defensive orientation. 73 A central tenet of this doctrine is the combination of security assurances and peaceful intentions. This implies restraint from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state. Non-offensive defence is conceptualised as "a strategy, materialised in a national posture that emphasises defensive at the expense of offensive military options" 74 It rejects the idea that military stability is achieved through a balance of force. It argues instead that security is achieved through the non-threatening behaviour of states. The idea of replacing an offensive doctrine with non-offensive defence would help to bring South Africa's military doctrine in line with its broader political aims of regional co-operation and confidence and security building.

Needless to say NoD has not found much favour with the South African military establishment. The perceived threat to its traditional modus operandi put the SANDF on the offensive in the debates on strategic doctrine, which took place during the Defence Review. In accordance with its "new"threat perceptions the SANDF has reorganised itself around the concepts of a threat-independent approach and a core-force approach. The threat independent approach lays emphasis on the present geo-strategic uncertainties and the consequent need for a wide range of responses given all possible contingencies. The core force approach relies on the idea of a five year warning period for any new conventional threat allowing the SANDF the time to build itself up to a full war mobilisation capability. 75

Despite the fact that the Defence Review process was as open and transparent as the earlier consultations for the White Paper on Defence, civil society organisations found the task of tackling the military on strategic doctrine and threat perceptions far more onerous. Few organisations or individuals are empowered with the language or articulation of "strategic speak" which would have enabled them to challenge the military on their familiar ground. Non offensive defence was rapidly dispensed with as the military reasserted its old axioms. A fundamental contradiction exist therefore, between the policy of defensive defence enshrined in the White Paper and the core force approach enshrined in the Defence Review.

After four years of a consolidated defence review process, far from resolving the inherent contradictions between the old and new thinking on security, the differences have been fudged in an unhappy compromise which has produced a less than coherent security policy. This observation should not, however, detract from the very significant changes that have occurred within South Africa's security community since the end of apartheid. Not least because the world around them has changed so profoundly and even the most conservative resistance to change cannot turn back the tide of history.

Concluding remarks

Since 1994 the South African security community has been under-going a profound transformation, of this there can be little doubt. The democratisation of South African society and its return to the international community after years of isolation has meant that many new influences have been brought to bear on the national security debate. Civil society has flexed its muscle and asserted greater civilian control over the military through the parliamentary process and in a number of security policy forums that have proliferated since the demise of apartheid. These new voices have articulated the need for a new security agenda, which delimits the role of the military in national security provision. At a conceptual level, the influence of critical theory is apparent in the shift of emphasis to a human centred security, which stresses the importance of development and human rights in security provision. Much of the content of the 1996 White Paper on National Defence gives official recognition to these new conceptual influences. At the same time, however, the White Paper, contains a realist sub-text, which re-affirms a commitment to a strong national defence force designed to preserve territorial integrity and national sovereignty. By the time the first draft of the Defence Review, was released in 1997 it was apparent that the military had reasserted their influence in the national security debate, being more comfortable in an operational rather then conceptual terrain. In terms of strategic doctrine the dominant narrative within the Defence Review is firmly entrenched within a realist and neo-realist paradigm.

That two contradictory narratives can cohabit the official defence documents of the post-apartheid era can partly be attributed to the open, transparent and consultative nature of the defence review process, which has allowed all interested parties to contribute their thoughts and views. Intrinsically, however, it is a reflection of the fact that the South African transition process has emerged through a process of negotiation and reconciliation that has brought opposing political cultures and identities together in a process of accommodation. So far this process has produced a benign confusion, the most pronounced characteristic being the disjuncture between conceptual discourse and operational practice. Time alone will tell the outcome of this existing contradiction.


*The author would like to acknowledge the useful comments of two anonymous referees and the generous support of a MacArthur Research and Writing Grant which made the research for this paper possible

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Note 6: At the time of writing no formal document has been produced on the Defence Review, but two draft documents have been issued: Defence Secretariat, Draft Defence Review Document, 1 Aug. 1996; and Defence Secretariat, Draft Defence Review Document, 15 Feb. 1997. Back.

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Note 75: For further details see Draft Defence Review Document, 15 February 1997 Back.