Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Regional Involvement: Attitudes of SANDF Officers towards Future Military Missions (*)

Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Regional Involvement: Attitudes of SANDF Officers towards Future Military Missions (*)

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

South Africa realises that it has a common destiny with southern Africa and that given the volatile state of the region, may have to deploy South African National Defence Force (SANDF) personnel in multinational peace support operations. Hence, this article examines the attitudes of SANDF officers toward peacekeeping and combined military operations based on a survey conducted in November 1996 among serving officers of different ranks in all the arms of service. The findings reveal that while most officers support future involvement in peace support and combined military operations with other states in the region, they felt that the SANDF was less competent to do so at the time of the survey than before. Significant differences in opinion were found among officers serving in the various arms of service and by race, rank and gender, possibly influenced by arm of service specific, historic, political and economic factors. The results indicate that there is not equal support for such missions among all sectors o f the SANDF, which raises important questions about future commitment, effectiveness and gender equality.

1. INTRODUCTION

South Africa's involvement in peacekeeping and combined military operations with other southern African states is increasingly debated in the country. It comes at a time when the continent is experiencing the most turbulent period in its history. As Nhara states: "Never in its history has it seen such a 'bloody experience' of genocides, democides and ethnocides as during recent years, leaving more than three million dead, seven million refugees and twenty million internally displaced persons" (1) -- a grim reality for African peacekeeping. Recent experiences of United Nations (UN) missions, which have attempted to resolve such conflict, have made the international community increasingly wary of intervention. The message is clear -- Africa must find ways to resolve or manage its own conflicts.

The political will to commit resources for such missions depends largely upon perceived national interest. South Africa realises that it has a common destiny with southern Africa and that given the volatile state of the region, it may become necessary to deploy military personnel in peace support operations. A related question, given South Africa's relative military potency, is whether it must carry this burden itself, or undertake such military operations in co-operation with other states in the region. The Government has stated that security and defence co-operation in southern Africa is a priority and that South Africa is committed to the development of a common security approach. However, the future of effective peace support operations depends upon the creation of a viable capacity to do so and the willingness of participating states to carry the financial costs involved.

These are some of the key issues that underpin the peacekeeping debate. But how do members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) who have to execute this role, feel about their inevitable involvement in the region? Based on a survey conducted by the Centre for Military Studies (CEMIS), this article attempts to assess the attitude of SANDF officers towards peacekeeping and combined military operations in Africa, and southern Africa in particular. A brief background to each question is provided, whereafter the attitudes of officers are analysed.

2. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

South Africa realises that it has a common destiny with southern Africa and that given the volatile state of the region, may have to deploy SANDF personnel in multinational peace support operations in future. But how do members of the SANDF, and particularly the officer corps, respond to the possibility of a future involvement in the region? After all, it is the "soldier" (2) and not the political decision-makers that bears the brunt of peace operations and upon whom the operational success of such missions ultimately depends. …

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