AR Staff, American Renaissance, July 2003
The South African Defense Force, once by far the strongest army on the African continent, has dissolved into near-anarchy since the introduction of black rule in 1994. Fewer than half of its “soldiers” are medically fit, it has an AIDS infection rate estimated at 60 percent, and its equipment is deteriorating to the point that the country has only four working tanks and eight armored cars. The decline began after the handover of power to the ANC, when members of the armed wings of both the ANC, and a smaller more radical black movement, the Pan African Congress (PAC), were incorporated into what was renamed the South African National Defense Force (SANDF).
Incorporation has not always been smooth. On September 16, 1999, a former PAC guerilla inducted into the SANDF went on a rampage, killing and wounding whites at the Tempe military base in Bloemfontein. The leader of a special police investigations team reported he was “reluctantly forced to admit” that Lieutenant Sibusiso Madubela, 28, brushed aside black colleagues in order to shoot only whites, killing six officers and a civilian woman, and wounding five soldiers. Another soldier later died of his wounds.
Since then, whites have slowly been squeezed out of the army, leaving an overwhelmingly black force — with predictable consequences. A South African parliamentary subcommittee briefing on defense, held in July 2002, found that:
- More than half of South Africa’s 76,000 soldiers were medically unfit for duty.
- The SANDF could deploy only one operational brigade of 3,000 men.
- Training had virtually come to a halt.
- Equipment was in a deplorable state, with only four out of 168 Olifant tanks and eight of 242 Rooikat armored cars still operational.
- There was not enough money to buy fuel. In the air force, funds were allocated for only 2,400 flying hours instead of the 7,200 requested, and pilots were resigning in droves. “The air force usually runs out of aviation fuel every September,” said a member of the committee that handles military matters.
- Reduction of the armed forces from 104,000 in 1994 to the present 76,000 involved massive cash payouts that, according to committee member Hendrik Schmidt, turned the defense force into “an armed welfare department.”
- The force was seriously top-heavy, with a ratio of one general for every 293 men, compared to one general for every 2,000 men in the United States Army.
- More than 52 percent of the defense budget was spent on personnel, and only 0.5 percent on new equipment.
- Seven out of every 10 deaths in the armed forces were AIDS-related. A medical specialist at a military hospital said six out of every 10 soldiers admitted to hospital tested HIV-positive, and that an AIDS infection rate of 60 percent was “feasible.”
Some details of the decline of the SANDF seem almost comical. In August 2002, Colonel T.C. Mokhosi, who commands the 1st South African Infantry Battalion, told another parliamentary subcommittee that “dental reasons” explain why only 138 of his 612 men can be deployed internationally. Presumably 77.5 percent of his men have such bad teeth they are unfit for service, but the SANDF refuses to elaborate. Col. Mokhosi also told MPs that his battalion turns in 175 sick notices a week in the winter, which prevents it from participating in certain training programs. Many of the army’s other 38,000 unfit soldiers reportedly have dental problems, too.
Generals have faked their qualifications to land plum jobs. At least two, Ernest Zwane and Petronella Mari, both from the ANC’s armed wing, were arrested in November 2002 for forging university qualifications. The year before, police arrested two other former ANC fighters, a colonel and an ex-colonel, on charges of diverting about R20 million from the SANDF demobilization fund in 2001. Upon learning of the scandal, Defense Minister Mosiuoa Lekota replied, “I remain satisfied that there is nothing we cannot deal with.”