Beyond the barracks: Reflections on the role of the SADF in the region

This paper gives theoretical observations on civil-military relations in South Africa and examines the role of the SADF in the region, with emphasis on Namibia and Angola. There are three patterns of interaction in civil-military relations in South Africa: the professional military, praetorianism, and the professional revolutionary soldier. Also, the notion of the frontier army is introduced, since it offers better understanding of the role of the South African military in the region. The report then describes South African military involvement in Namibia and Angola and concludes that it constitutes an important element in the Republic’s regional political policy, which is determined by the following interests: the security of South Africa, its own domestic political considerations, and the political situation in Namibia itself. Pressures from the international community and the escalating costs of the war have influenced South African attitudes. The socio-political consequences of SA’s war strategy may undermine the social cohesion of Namibia and Angola and retard the processes of nation-building. Thus, the role of the SADF has undermined diplomacy. Finally, this paper shows some of the contradictions inherent in the frontier role of the SADF both in Namibia and Angola, in particular the failure of South Africa’s political strategy in Namibia.