Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

The South African Military Academy: A Time for Debate and Change

Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

The South African Military Academy: A Time for Debate and Change

Article excerpt


The article explores the need for change and debate about change at the South African Military Academy in order to optimise the education of officers for the South African National Defence Force. A number of proposals are made, including the need to extend the duration of officer education and military training at the institution; to militarise the socialisation of officers; to change the institutional roles and positions of the Dean of Military Science and the Commandant of the Academy; to adapt the academic offerings of the Faculty of Military Science; to introduce a core curriculum; to make organisational and structural changes to the Faculty; and to involve the Military Academy in the education of senior officers and the conduct of research in the South African National Defence Force.


The South African Military Academy (hereafter the Military Academy) is unlike any other military unit of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). It provides academic education to candidate and young officers from all the different services as well as to a small number of foreign students, primarily from sub-Saharan Africa. The Military Academy is also the only academic or military institution in the country which confers degrees in military science. As such it is a strategic asset of great value, although--for a variety of reasons--this asset has not been optimised.

The unique civil-military interface between the University of Stellenbosch (US) and the Department of Defence (DoD) underpins both the existence and the nature of the Military Academy. On the one hand, it is a military unit of the SANDF and, on the other hand, it also hosts the US Faculty of Military Science. This civil-military interface ensures that academic programmes are tailored to the needs of the SANDF, while at the same time maintaining academic standards through its association with a leading South African university. However, this arrangement for the education of officers for the South African military reflects the tensions that are common to civil-military relations and to the interface between academic education and military training the world over.

At an organisational level these tensions are exacerbated by the absence of an overarching governmental policy framework regulating the functioning of the institution. The existence of the Military Academy is at present rooted in a departmental agreement between the US and the DoD that allows for wide interpretation. In an effort to provide clearer guidelines for the functioning of the Military Academy, the SANDF has issued a departmental level instruction to the institution's command cadre. (1) There are, however, still a number of challenges that create tension within the institution and between the US and the DoD as the two higher order partners. (2)

This article proposes changes to optimise the organisational structure, focus and functioning of the Military Academy. Whereas it is easy to criticise and deconstruct, the real challenge is to find solutions and to construct proposals to deal with the complex problems presently confronting the Military Academy. (3) Concrete proposals to confront these problems are due to be controversial and therefore subject to criticism. The recommendations contained in this article should therefore be seen as a basis for a constructive debate that will hopefully lead to better solutions, and not as the sole solution.


Military education should be an integral part of the career paths of officers. (4) Modern military professionalism requires that officers have a minimum level of academic education. In most countries the possession of a first degree (B-degree) has become the minimum academic entry requirement for appointment as an officer, whereas an advanced degree has become the norm for appointment to senior levels. The SANDF, however, lags far behind the rest of the world in this regard. …

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