SABC News | Sport | TV | Radio | Education | TV Licenses | Contact Us

TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 414

Paragraph Numbers 58 to 66

Volume 2

Chapter 5

Subsection 9

58 Transkei’s return to the South African fold, nonetheless, brought its own rewards for the TDF. In the 1982/3 financial year, the TDF received R50 million from the Economic Co-operation Promotion Loan Fund, and a further grant of R30 million above its budgeted allowance to build up its counter-insurgency capabilities. Meanwhile, general recruitment was stepped up and, in June 1983, a record 400 trainees passed out of the Transkei School of Infantry. A second officer cadet course was in progress and, in July, a parachute course was established. Soon, in addition to its 1st Battalion and a Special Forces Regiment, the TDF boasted a small naval unit.

59 Although the Transkei took the lead in establishing local forces, homeland armies were being created in the other TBVC states. On Chief Lucas Mangope’s request, the South African government began military training in Bophuthatswana in 1976. The SADF set about creating a National Guard, with the goal of providing basic training for 221 men in time for the independence ceremonies in 1977. Some thirty South African officers and non-commissioned officers supervised the group. The first African non-commissioned officers were subsequently selected and eight officer candidates were provided with further instruction. Training initially occurred at a base near Mafikeng, although some members of the National Guard later received specialised counter-insurgency training in South Africa. The force’s equipment was donated by the SADF.

60 Two years after independence, the National Guard was reconstituted as the Bophuthatswana Defence Force (BDF). At the time, it consisted of an infantry battalion (50 per cent of whose members had been trained in counter-insurgency), a training unit and a logistics section. From the start, its commanders were South African. Former SADF Brigadier Hugh Turner was appointed commanding officer while Brigadier Riekert, another former SADF member, became Minister of Defence. Brigadier FEC van den Bergh, senior officer in the SADF’s North Western regional command, was named military advisor to Mangope. Because of these developments, one analyst has concluded that, in effect, the BDF constituted a unit of the SADF’s North-West Command.

61 Given Venda’s strategically important location, near to both Zimbabwe and Mozambique, the South African authorities were especially concerned to limit the potential security risks posed by independence. As a result, a strip of land bordering the Limpopo was excised in 1978. Furthermore, the SADF remained operative in Venda from a base at Madino. From its inception, South Africa regarded Venda as a ‘buffer state’, which shared borders with potentially hostile neighbours.

62 In addition to its continued presence, the SADF established an infantry battalion as the core of a future army for Venda. By independence, the nascent military, consisting of 450 men, was combined with the police, traffic wardens and prison warders to form the Venda National Force (VNF). The VNF was placed under the command of a former South African security police officer, Lieutenant Colonel Mulautzi. However, in 1981, a separate Venda Defence Force (VDF), incorporating the infantry unit, was established under the command of Brigadier PG Steenkamp, formerly with the SADF. A counter-insurgency unit was subsequently created which served in the Namibia/Angola operational area. Shortly thereafter, a second infantry unit was established together with an air wing and a logistics team. At least thirty-nine seconded South Africans occupied leadership positions within the enlarged force.

63 At Ciskei’s independence, a newly established infantry unit and a ‘special airborne group’ formed part of the Ciskeian Combined Services (CCS). The military components of the CCS were reconstituted as the Ciskei Defence Force (CDF) in 1982. Control over the new security force appears to have been more complex than in other homelands. While command of security forces had generally been given to seconded South African officials, Major General Charles Sebe assumed control over the CCS in Ciskei. Although he had served about twenty years in the South African security structures, at the time of his appointment Sebe was not a formally seconded member of a South African security force. This, at least in theory, weakened South Africa’s direct control over the Ciskeian forces. It appears, however, that Sebe was probably working very closely with the South African security forces (see section on Transkei and Ciskei). Moreover, Charles Sebe being brother to President Lennox Sebe, the ruling family’s infamous squabbles carried over into the security forces.

64 With respect to the self-governing homelands, by the late 1970s the South African government had abandoned its opposition to arming black soldiers within the SADF. By 1978, a small unit of Africans, originally trained at the Prisons Service Training Centre, had been reconstituted as the 21 Battalion and assumed responsibility for training new African recruits. By early 1979, the government approved a plan to form a number of regional African battalions, each with a particular ethnic identity, which would serve under regional SADF command. This led to the formation of the 121 Battalion for Zulus, the 111 for Swazis, the 112 for Venda, the 113 for Shangaan, the 115 for Ndebeles, the 151 for Southern Sotho and the 116 for Northern Sotho. These complemented the Lusophone 32 Battalion that had been secretly formed in 1976. All of these units were to be employed in operational areas, and the 21 and 32 Battalions in particular played significant roles in Namibia and Angola. Subsequently, two additional Northern Sotho Battalions were established, the 117 and the 118, while the 116 was converted into a multi-ethnic unit. In spite of these developments, the SADF remained an overwhelmingly white army.

65 In addition to the specialised SADF units for recruiting troops from the self-governing territories, the SADF maintained bases near each of these territories. According to information from the SADF, bases responsible for the self-governing territories were: Gazankulu - Group 14 in Pietersburg; KaNgwane - Group 33 in Nelspruit; KwaNdebele - Group 15 in Pretoria; KwaZulu - Group 27 in Eshowe; Lebowa - Group 14 in Potgietersrus; QwaQwa - Group 36 in Ladybrand.

66 While the self-governing homelands did not get their own defence forces, KwaZulu’s Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi called for a KwaZulu army to keep order in schools during a period of class boycotts in 1980, and said it was time for Inkatha to establish training camps. He also made subsequent calls for paramilitary groupings to be set up.

Broadcasting for Total Citizen Empowerment
SABC © 2022