Journal for Contemporary History - Volume 37, Issue 2, 2012
Volume 37, Issue 2, 2012
Author Andre WesselsSource: Journal for Contemporary History 37, pp I –IV (2012)More Less
Although the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was only established at midnight on 26-27 April 1994, its history can be traced back to 1 July 1912, when South Africa's first-ever defence force, namely the Union Defence Forces (UDF), officially came into being. In the light of the fact that all South Africans should commemorate the centenary of their country's armed forces, the Editorial Board decided as early as 2009 - at the recommendation of the Editor - to publish a special edition of the Journal for Contemporary History, in commemoration of a century of armed forces in the Union and (since 1961) the Republic of South Africa.
Hoewel die Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale Weermag (SANW) eers om middernag op 26-27 April 1994 tot stand gekom het, kan die SANW se geskiedenis na 1 Julie 1912 teruggespoor word, toe Suid-Afrika se eerste weermag, naamlik die Unie-Verdedigingsmagte (UVM), amptelik gestig is. In die lig van die feit dat alle Suid-Afrikaners die eeufees van hul land se gewapende magte behoort te herdenk, het die redaksie so vroeg as 2009 - op aanbeveling van die Redakteur - besluit om 'n spesiale uitgawe van die Joernaal vir Eietydse Geskiedenis die lig te laat sien waarin 'n eeu van gewapende magte in die Unie en (vanaf 1961) die Republiek van Suid-Afrika herdenk sal word.
Author Ian Van der WaagSource: Journal for Contemporary History 37, pp 1 –31 (2012)More Less
This article explores for the first time the early history of the South African Engineer Corps. The difficult environment in which the SAEC was established is investigated first. The factors that militated against growth during this period are then analysed, followed by an explanation of the reorganisations of the mid-1920s and mid-1930s, which, placed in their domestic and international contexts, are set against the background of South Africa's evolving interwar defence policy.
The South African Engineer Corp's water supply operations in Kenya during the Second World War : its wartime impact and postwar legacySource: Journal for Contemporary History 37, pp 32 –51 (2012)More Less
War is often conducted in areas where water is not readily available, which forces militaries to create sufficient water sources in the theatre of war. During a war military activities often place much pressure on civil society's access to their traditional water sources. After a war the increased water supply created by the military may be exploited for the benefit of civil society. The Second World War propelled the belligerent forces into some areas where fresh water was in short supply, including East and North Africa. This article, firstly, explores the efforts of the South African Engineer Corps (SAEC) to exploit existing water sources in Kenya and to create new ones to meet the needs of the Allied forces during their campaign against the Italians. Secondly it tries to establish how the activities of the SAEC affected the lives of the local population during the war. Lastly, it attempts to determine the postwar legacy of the SAEC's water supply activities in Kenya.
Author Evert KleynhansSource: Journal for Contemporary History 37, pp 52 –70 (2012)More Less
The South African Engineering Corps (SAEC) provided a variety of specialised units to assist the Allies during the Second World War. These units performed outstanding work in the East and North African theatres, as well as in Italy. Through their concerted efforts, they were able to provide much needed assistance to the troops on the ground. South African engineering troops, however, served in lesser known territories as well. The likes of 61 Tunnelling Company, under the auspices of the Mines Engineering Brigade (MEB) SAEC, was but one of these specialised units called upon to render services to the Allied forces in the Middle East. The company, representing a cross-section of miners from the Witwatersrand, was tasked to dig a series of tunnels that continued to the completion of the Haifa-Beirut-Tripoli (HBT) railway line. Upon completion of the task, the unit further carried out two more tunnelling tasks in the Middle East, namely at Ras Bayada and at the Kasmieh Irrigation Scheme. Due to the specialised nature of this unit, its exploits during the war only received minimal attention in the written histories of the South African forces. This article thus explores the history of 61 Tunnelling Company's exploits in the Middle East during the Second World War.
The greatest military reversal of South African arms : the fall of Tobruk 1942, an avoidable blunder or an inevitable disaster?Author David KatzSource: Journal for Contemporary History 37, pp 71 –104 (2012)More Less
The surrender of Tobruk 70 years ago was a major catastrophe for the Allied war effort, considerably weakening their military position in North Africa, as well as causing political embarrassment to the leaders of South Africa and the United Kingdom. This article re-examines the circumstances surrounding and leading to the surrender of Tobruk in June 1942, in what amounted to the largest reversal of arms suffered by South Africa in its military history. By making use of primary documents and secondary sources as evidence, the article seeks a better understanding of the events that surrounded this tragedy. A brief background is given in the form of a chronological synopsis of the battles and manoeuvres leading up to the investment of Tobruk, followed by a detailed account of the offensive launched on 20 June 1942 by the Germans on the hapless defenders. The sudden and unexpected surrender of the garrison is examined and an explanation for the rapid collapse offered, as well as considering what may have transpired had the garrison been better prepared and led.
In for a hell of a time : the wartime experiences of two ordinary South African soldiers in the North African desert during the Second World WarAuthor Gustav BentzSource: Journal for Contemporary History 37, pp 105 –122 (2012)More Less
At the conclusion of most conflicts, generals and politicians put pen to paper and often, in rather immodest terms, describe their role in the struggle and how their individual contribution secured an inevitable and glorious victory. Such versions of history by these "great men" are then viewed as some of the most important personal contributions on the respective topics. This article is an attempt to bring to the fore the experiences of but two men of much lesser importance. Through an analysis of some surviving correspondence and reminiscences of relatives, the author hopes to show that the stories of the ordinary are indeed the building blocks of greater works.
Afrikaner unrest within South Africa during the Second World War and the measures taken to suppress itAuthor A.M. FokkensSource: Journal for Contemporary History 37, pp 123 –142 (2012)More Less
South Africa's involvement in the Second World War was strongly opposed by elements within the white South African community, especially the Afrikaners. The majority of Afrikaners were historically anti-British, although some supported Britain, and the issue of participation divided them accordingly. Activist elements, such as the Ossewa-Brandwag, became platforms for discontent and various militant groupings violently opposed South Africa's participation in the war. Gen. JC Smuts, infamous amongst Afrikaners for his brutal suppression of the Afrikaner Rebellion in 1914-1915, as well as striking miners in 1913-1914 and 1922, utilised the Union Defence Force (UDF) and South African Police (SAP) to facilitate internment, to spy and to guard strategic objectives in an effort to prevent sabotage and serious damage to the war effort.
The willing and the not so willing : conscription and resistance to compulsory military service in South Africa, 1968-1989Author Ian LiebenbergSource: Journal for Contemporary History 37, pp 143 –164 (2012)More Less
South Africa participated in two world wars without implementing compulsory military service. Following the Second World War, the Union Defence Force relied on the Active Citizen Force to supplement its manpower needs. Leaders of the ruling National Party, influenced by the Cold War psychosis, myopically believed that global conflict was defined by two ideologies in a deadly struggle for dominance, nationalism and communism. Apartheid advocates made a distinction between the white "us" and the black "them"; Christianity against barbarism; Marxism-Leninism against Christian-Nationalism. Maintaining Nationalist rule increasingly demanded manpower. Conscription for white men was a reality for twenty years, supplying conscripts for border duty and later for suppressing internal unrest. More than 500 000 served in the military, many of them in northern Namibia, Angola and South African townships. War resisters were monitored, ostracised, ridiculed, forced to emigrate or jailed. This contribution shares some thoughts on the issue, including moral objections to apartheid violence and the militarisation of South African society.
Author Leopold ScholtzSource: Journal for Contemporary History 37, pp 165 –190 (2012)More Less
The purpose of this article is a critique of the strategic approach to the so-called Battle of Cuito Cuanavale by the leadership of the South African Defence Force (SADF). The article starts with an analysis of South Africa's strategic position on the eve of the campaign in 1987. It concludes that the country was internationally isolated, and that it would have to fight basically alone against FAPLA (the Angolan Army), PLAN (Swapo's army), and possibly also the Cuban forces in Angola - in other words, an overwhelming force. At the same time, the white South Africans viewed the war as an existential struggle which they could not afford to lose.
Against the above-mentioned background, the thinking in SADF circles is then analysed. It is shown that leading SADF military thinkers were of the opinion that any campaign would have to be well thought through and concluded quickly, before international pressure became unbearable. Against a much stronger enemy, it was also thought that a brutal head-on clash would be unwise, and that South African forces would have to follow Sir Basil Liddell Hart's "indirect approach".
The article subsequently analyses the haphazard way in which the SADF became sucked into the campaign. In the beginning, no clear political objective existed, the South Africans became involved incrementally, they naïvely tried to keep their involvement secret, and threw their indirect approach convictions overboard and opted for exactly the brutal frontal attacks against which their leading thinkers previously warned. The final conclusion is that, although the SADF fared extremely well on a tactical and operational level, their strategic handling of the campaign was not good.
Die repatriasie van die Ebo-4 : die lokalisering en opgrawing van die grafte van vier Suid-Afrikaanse soldate in die Ebo-distrik, Kwanza Sul, Angola, 1975-2012Author Willem BoshoffSource: Journal for Contemporary History 37, pp 191 –223 (2012)More Less
The final phase of the history of Operation Savannah, the 1975-1976 South African military involvement in Angola dawned when remains of three of the four South African soldiers who were left in Angola, were repatriated during June 2012. The graves of the deceased, the Ebo-4, were found in 2006 and locals who were involved in the burials confirmed the veracity of the sites and the events. After years of research and negotiations, a team made up of relatives, members of the Ebo Trust and a professional team of archaeologists and a forensic anthropologist left for Ebo in May 2012. The excavations were abruptly terminated by the Angolan authorities and the team had to leave Angola, only to be invited back to Angola two weeks later. Remains of three individuals were located in one grave and excavated, while a second grave site yielded no mortal remains. The mortal remains were interred in niches at the SADF Wall of Remembrance at the Voortrekker Monument on 8 July 2012.
Author Abel EsterhuyseSource: Journal for Contemporary History 37, pp 224 –241 (2012)More Less
This article aims at providing an exposition of the most important factors that have shaped and are still shaping the institutional culture of the South African (SA) military. The view is broad and holistic and places the timeframe from 1961 to the present under review. It makes sense to divide the article into a discussion of the military cultures of the pre-1994 South African Defence Force (SADF) and the post-1994 South African National Defence Force (SANDF) respectively. However, it is not necessarily a comparison of the two timeframes. There are obvious links between the two eras and two organisations, and a comparison is almost inevitable. This is, however, not done on purpose and not to reflect either positively or negatively on any of the two periods or institutions. Instead, the article highlights the fact that both the SADF and the SANDF are products of their time and the societies they have served or are serving. The military cultures of both the SADF and SANDF were influenced by identity politics, the political structures within which they had to function, the underlying political outlooks of the reigning political elite and the prevailing views on military professionalism. From an organisational perspective, the military ethos was shaped by factors such as the personnel system (conscript vis-à-vis all-volunteer), the size of the military budget and the operational responsibility and missions of the military.
A historical perspective on military chaplaincy services in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), 1998 - 2012Source: Journal for Contemporary History 37, pp 242 –267 (2012)More Less
This study provides a review of the structure, policy and nature of military chaplaincy within the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) from 1998, when the first black Chaplain General in South Africa, Maj. Gen. (Rev.) FFS Gqiba, took office, until 2012. Since 1994, the SANDF underwent a process of transformation in line with the new democratic dispensation in South Africa. The question arises whether the new democratic military order that was arrived at in 1998 simply entailed a substitution of faces and names superimposed onto an old dispensation, or whether it succeeded in establishing a new structure, ethos and policy, as was envisaged in the original planning of the transformation process. To determine the extent of transformation that was effectuated in military chaplaincy after 1998, the structure, character and policies of the old order is traced, and, against this background, the new dispenstion is evaluated. This also indicates that transformation and change are not unique occurrences, but part and parcel of the course of history.
Source: Journal for Contemporary History 37, pp 268 –287 (2012)More Less
This study analyses and evaluates ninety years of naval activity in South Africa. Although the Union Defence Forces of South Africa were established in 1912, the country's first permanent navy, namely the South African Naval Service (SANS) was only established in 1922. This article shows how in practice the SANS continued only in name from 1934 until 1939, and that when the Second World War broke out, South Africa had no warships. It then follows the establishment of the Seaward Defence Force (SDF) in 1939, how it was built up, became the South African Naval Forces (SANF) in 1942, and made a small but nevertheless significant contribution to the Allied war effort. It is shown how the post-war navy was drastically scaled down, but then gradually built up again to serve as guardian of the Cape sea route. The SANF became the South African Navy (SAN) in 1951, and acquired Simon's Town as its main naval base in 1957. The study indicates how political developments in the Republic of South Africa in due course impacted on the country's navy, leading to increasing isolation and eventually a mandatory United Nations arms embargo. The SAN's role in the post-apartheid South Africa is also discussed, with special reference to flag-showing cruises, and it is indicated how, after many years as a small-ship navy, the SAN regained its blue-water capability.
South Africa's role in the private military industry in the post-Cold War conflict environment with specific reference to the South African connection to Erinys InternationalAuthor Burgert A. SenekalSource: Journal for Contemporary History 37, pp 288 –313 (2012)More Less
Since 1652, South Africa has played a prominent role in the Private Military Industry. Following the end of the Cold War, companies such as Executive Outcomes have continued to exert influence in the global security arena, and since 9/11 and the so-called Global War on Terror (GWOT), South Africans have remained part of the private security environment. Particularly through Erinys, although not limited to this company, South Africans have contributed to this rising phenomenon in Iraq and elsewhere, and this article attempts to document the history and operations of this company in Iraq against the global background - both synchronically and diachronically - from a South African point of view.
Bush War: the road to Cuito Cuanavale. Soviet soldiers' accounts of the Angolan War, Gennady Shubin and Andrei Tokarev (Eds.) : book reviewAuthor Audrey LawrenceSource: Journal for Contemporary History 37, pp 314 –317 (2012)More Less
Dr Gennady Shubin is a Senior Research Fellow at the African Institute in the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. He has co-authored and published various books, in particular on the history of South Africa (SA), the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902) and various memoirs of the Angolan War (1966-1989). Given his interest in and other publications on this subject, this book can be considered to be a useful contribution. Among all his previous publications, this is only the second of his six on the Angolan War, which was translated into English. One cannot help but wonder why his previous works were not translated into English or Afrikaans for the South African reader.