Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Arms Control and Disarmament in South Africa after the Cold War

Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Arms Control and Disarmament in South Africa after the Cold War

Article excerpt


The radical change in its internal and foreign policies during the late 1980s and the ending of the Cold War have led to South Africa disarming itself with regard to weapons of mass destruction. Following the first democratic election in 1994, South Africa has become a respected member of the world community in the field of arms control and disarmament. Although not always apparent in practice, South Africa attempts to act responsibly when exporting conventional weapons; is a force curbing the proliferation of light and small arms in Southern Africa; and has placed a ban on anti-personnel mines.


The purpose of this article is to assess arms control and disarmament in South Africa since the end of the Cold War. A conceptual framework is presented to provide insight into the phenomena of arms control and disarmament, whereafter an overview is given of the situation as it developed during and existed at the end of the Cold War. This is done with reference to the post-Cold War period; the introduction of disarmament; South Africa's policy concerning arms control and disarmament; South Africa's approach to the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; and South Africa's position concerning conventional weapons, including small and light arms.


The concept of disarmament is defined in various ways. According to Bull disarmament is "the reduction or abolition of armaments. It may be unilateral or multilateral; general or local; comprehensive or partial; controlled or uncontrolled". (1) Unilateral disarmament means action by a single state; bilateral disarmament that an agreement has been entered into by two states; and multilateral disarmament that an agreement has been entered into by more than two states, (2)

Booth states that "(d)isarmament is a continuation of strategy by a reduction of military means ... these concepts are best understood as strategies in the business of politics among nations". (3) Along similar lines, Buzan views disarmament as "the most direct--and in a sense the crudest--response to the problem of military means. Its logic is that since weapons create the problem, the solution is to get rid of them. This logic can be applied to all weapons--general and complete disarmament (GCD)--or to specific categories of weapons deemed to be particularly dangerous, such as nuclear bombs and biological warfare agents. It can be applied unilaterally or multilaterally, and can involve partial or complete elimination of the specified type(s) of weapon. The concept refers both to the process by which capabilities are reduced, and to the end condition of being disarmed". (4)

Singer identifies three different ways in which disarmament can be approached, namely the "tensions first" approach; the "political settlement" approach; and the "weapons first" approach. (5) According to the "tensions first" approach conflict can be decreased or completely eliminated through education and the improvement of relations between the parties involved. This can lead to a better understanding of the situation and greater respect and a sense of tolerance of each other. This in turn could lead to greater flexibility in disarmament negotiations and even to a willingness to disarm. (6) The "political settlement" approach contends that disarmament can only be achieved after political conflict and the accompanying tension have been resolved. Accordingly, disarmament is impossible as long as political issues, important to the parties involved, remain unresolved. (7) The "weapons first" approach is based on the idea that tension can only decrease and political conflict be resolved after the disarmament process has begun. (8)

Concerning the concept arms control, Bull describes it as international restraint in arms policy in respect of the quantity, nature, deployment and use of weapons. …

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