South Africa and military draft

Feb 2011
882
The far North
How compulsory was military draft before the end of apartheid in the early 1990s? Anyone with personal experiences (particularly of service outside South Africa proper) that would elaborate how society and life was affected by the NP government's military policies? Were Blacks ever conscripted for the SADF? This is not a homework assistance issue, I'm purely interested since I've read about this, and would like to learn more.
 
Dec 2011
555
Norway
How compulsory was military draft before the end of apartheid in the early 1990s? Anyone with personal experiences (particularly of service outside South Africa proper) that would elaborate how society and life was affected by the NP government's military policies? Were Blacks ever conscripted for the SADF? This is not a homework assistance issue, I'm purely interested since I've read about this, and would like to learn more.
Back in the 1980's the alternative for most white men was either 2 years in the army or 4 years in the navy. From what I remember you got 6 years in a tough prison if you didn't do your national service. South African prisons were notorious for 'accidental' deaths.

Army service, from what I recall from stories from people who did it, started with 3 months in training camp, then 3 months doing riot controll in black suburbs. This was presumeably to toughen the soldiers up cause the remaining 18 months was spent fighting the Border War (Angola/SWA) or fighting insurgents in other border areas.

Of course not everyone ended up shooting their fellow citizens in black suburbs and/or fighting in the Border War. There were alternatives like driving ammunition trucks from the Cape and through the length of SWA (Namibia) to supply the troops fighting at the front. I guess there were also a lot of soldiers posted to commands (camps) in white areas and who never experienced any hostilities.

South Africa has a history of fighting wars. Provinces like Natal are full of battle fields and war memorials. I would guess most people accepted that there was no alternative than to fight yet another war. But there was more reluctancy amongst English speaking than Afrikaans speaking citizens to be sent to fight ANC, SWAPO, Cubans etc. A lot of English speaking South Africans, who were often more liberal, felt they were fighting the Afrikaaners wars.
 
Dec 2008
179
Somewhere in Africa
There were blacks who fought for the apartheid forces against insurgents in SWA and against communist forces in Angola. Whether they were conscripted or not I have no idea. After the end of apartheid, many of these soldiers were taken away to marginal towns where they and their families live to this day. Many have been a source of manpower for any mercenary activity that is to be carried out in the continent. A good example was the failed attempted coup against President Obiang of Equatorial Guinea. Both black and white South Africans were to participate in Simon Mann's expedition which was funded by Mark Thatcher. We all know what happened.
 
Apr 2012
7
How compulsory was military draft before the end of apartheid in the early 1990s? Anyone with personal experiences (particularly of service outside South Africa proper) that would elaborate how society and life was affected by the NP government's military policies? Were Blacks ever conscripted for the SADF? This is not a homework assistance issue, I'm purely interested since I've read about this, and would like to learn more.
I am an English-speaking South African, and I served in the SADF in 1989 and 1990.
National Service was compulsory for every white citizen who had lived in the country for more than 5 years. No black, coloured or Indian citizens were conscripted, but due mainly to economic reasons joined the SADF.
The length of service changed over time as the need to commit more soldiers arose.
In the mid to late 70's service changed from 1 year to 2 years. The troops who were ready to leave the SADF suddenly had another year to serve and were understandably unhappy.
After your National Service was finished, one still had to report for "Camps" (which could last from 1 day to 1 month or 2) every year for a certain number of years.
Whilst I was in the army the length of service decreased to 1 year, so I ended up serving 18 months. The intake after me did 16 months, and thereafter 12 months.
The mood in the country at the time was that we ALL had to fight communism, that we stood alone against the Red Scourge. Those that resisted conscription were sentanced to prison for 2 to 4 years.
I did not wait for conscription, but volunteered to join up so I could choose a posting of my choice.
Once I joined up I was subjected to harassment by a few of the Afrikaans soldiers that made me realise I was fighting Communism and dumb-ass Afrikaaner nationalists who thought they were still fighting the Anglo-Boer War. It did not matter that my forefathers had fought against the British as well, I was English speaking, so I was the enemy to them.

National Service seriously affected the country economically as the war escalated. "Campers" were called away from their jobs, and while some companies continued to pay a soldier his salary while he served his 1 or 2 months each year, not all companies did. Students who had completed university courses had to serve 1 to 2 years in the SADF before they could begin paying back student loans. The amount of lost man-hours must be staggering. I recall reading a newspaper article that said the cost of the war was 1 billion Rand a day!
I am of the opinion that the cost of the war brought the National Party to the negotiating table rather than overseas opinion and sanctions.
 

Lawnmowerman

Ad Honorem
Mar 2010
9,842
I remember reading a book called "Crazy white men with guns" about South African soldiers whom refused to carry guns. They still had to do milatry service but were placed in a unit specifically designed for the mentally ill. These pacafists then had to deal with army life as well as trying to keep the mentally ill members of their unit in check.

It seemed strange to me that the South African would have a unit consisting of mentally ill men. It seems when they said every one they ment EVERYONE.
 
Feb 2011
882
The far North
I remember reading a book called "Crazy white men with guns" about South African soldiers whom refused to carry guns. They still had to do milatry service but were placed in a unit specifically designed for the mentally ill. These pacafists then had to deal with army life as well as trying to keep the mentally ill members of their unit in check.

It seemed strange to me that the South African would have a unit consisting of mentally ill men. It seems when they said every one they ment EVERYONE.
Sweden (which until the 1970s or 80s spent more per capita on defense than any country but the US, the USSR and Israel) had a similar policy, though I doubt it covered real mental illness. If you had a certificate you were clinically unable to fire a gun or paralyzed below the waste, there was still a place for you, always; driving tanks, serving food in a cooking unit, or directing airplanes starting and landing or whatever. And of course draft dodgers, in which case there were a wide range of non-violent tasks to carry out. It's an interesting part of a society very reliant on a drafted national defense. :cool:
 
Mar 2012
1,579
Following the breeze
How compulsory was military draft before the end of apartheid in the early 1990s? Anyone with personal experiences (particularly of service outside South Africa proper) that would elaborate how society and life was affected by the NP government's military policies? Were Blacks ever conscripted for the SADF? This is not a homework assistance issue, I'm purely interested since I've read about this, and would like to learn more.
Military Service was VERY compulsory for all white males during Apartheid, failure to meet these terms would result in IMPRISONMENT. But as hardcorepawn correctly stated, the terms of service did change as apartheid drew to an end.

As for the impact, my father served, my father's father served and his farther served in both world wars... It was the norm, like a child having to go to school. Every white male knew that they would have to join the army. I was lucky to miss the drafting though:)... However I did join the SANDF after finishing High School, because it was expected of me... Like I said, almost my entire family had served.
 
Feb 2011
882
The far North
As for the impact, my father served, my father's father served and his farther served in both world wars... It was the norm, like a child having to go to school.
This very widespread notion was apparently very prevalent in the Western world until recently. Only a few countries seem to keep it up, Finland and Israel for example.:notrust:
 
Mar 2012
1,579
Following the breeze
This very widespread notion was apparently very prevalent in the Western world until recently. Only a few countries seem to keep it up, Finland and Israel for example.:notrust:
It goes without saying that the trend is also dying in South Africa... Especially seeing as their are no wars to fight:). Funny thing is that there are a lot of similarities between South Africa during Apartheid and Israel, in fact they were even allies.
 
Apr 2012
7
Military Service was VERY compulsory for all white males during Apartheid, failure to meet these terms would result in IMPRISONMENT. But as hardcorepawn correctly stated, the terms of service did change as apartheid drew to an end.

As for the impact, my father served, my father's father served and his farther served in both world wars... It was the norm, like a child having to go to school. Every white male knew that they would have to join the army. I was lucky to miss the drafting though:)... However I did join the SANDF after finishing High School, because it was expected of me... Like I said, almost my entire family had served.

Well done! After the 1994 elections temporary call-ups (camps) stopped. I volunteered for the Transvaal Scottish (2nd Battalion) and continued serving my country on my own terms with excellent friends. Every Jock was a volunteer, so when something needed doing, it got done very quickly and efficiently.

It was quite different being an infantryman as my National Service was in the Armoured Corps.