South African National Defence Force

South African National Defence Force

Current form 1994 – present
Service branches South African Army
South African Navy
South African Air Force
Military Health Service
Headquarters Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa
Commander-in-Chief Jacob Zuma
Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula
Chief of the South African National Defence Force General Solly Shoke
Military age 18–49
Available for
military service
10,354,769 males, age 18–49 (2005),
10,626,550 females, age 18–49 (2005)
Fit for
military service
4,927,757 males, age 18–49 (2005),
4,609,071 females, age 18–49 (2005)
Reaching military
age annually
512,407 males (2005),
506,078 females (2005)
Active personnel 78,707[1]
Reserve personnel 15,107[2]
Budget $US 4.572 billion[3]
Percent of GDP 1.1% (2010–2011)
Domestic suppliers Denel, Paramount Group, Reutech Radar Systems
Foreign suppliers AgustaWestland, BAE Systems, Heckler & Koch, IVECO, MAN, Saab AB, Thales, ThyssenKrupp
Related articles
History Military history of South Africa
List of wars involving South Africa
Ranks South African military ranks

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) comprises the armed forces of South Africa. The commander of the SANDF is appointed by the President of South Africa from one of the armed services. They are in turn accountable to the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans of the Defence Department.

The military as it exists today was created in 1994,[4][5] following South Africa's first post-apartheid national elections and the adoption of a new constitution. It replaced the South African Defence Force.


The SANDF took over the personnel and equipment from the SADF and integrated forces from the former Bantustan homelands forces,[6]:5 as well as personnel from the former guerrilla forces of some of the political parties involved in South Africa, such as the African National Congress's Umkhonto we Sizwe, the Pan Africanist Congress's Azanian People's Liberation Army and the Self-Protection Units of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).[4]

As of 2004, the integration process was considered complete, with retaining personnel, structure, and equipment from the SADF. However, due to integration problems, financial constraints, and other issues, the SANDF faced capability constraints.'[7]

The South African Commando System was a civil militia active until 2008, based upon local units from the size of company to battalion.[8] In its final years its role was to support the South African Police Service during internal operations. During such deployments the units came under SAPS control.

According to the Defence Ministry's 2014 Defence Review, the SANDF is "in a critical state of decline".[9]


In 1999, a R30 billion (US$4.8 billion) purchase of weaponry by the South African Government was finalised, which has been subject to allegations of corruption.[10][11] The South African Department of Defence's Strategic Defence Acquisition purchased frigates, submarines, light utility helicopters, lead-in fighter trainer and multirole combat aircraft.[12]

Domestic operations

The SANDF is involved in a number of internal operations, including:[13]

International operations

The SANDF partakes in UN peacekeeping missions, mostly on the African continent. It also provides election security when needed.

Organisation and structure

Overall command is vested in an officer-designated Chief of the SANDF (CSANDF). Appointed from any of the Arms of Service. he or she is the only person in the SANDF at the rank of General or Admiral, and is accountable to the Minister of Defence and Veteran Affairs, who heads the Department of Defence

The structure of the SANDF is depicted below:[14]

In 2010, a Defence Amendment Bill created a permanent National Defence Force Service Commission (NDFSC), a body that will advise the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans on the improvement of conditions of service of members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).[15]

Members of the Commission include the Chiefs of the service arms, as well as the Chief of Defence Intelligence as well as the Chief of Joint Operations

Four armed services make up the forces of the SANDF:[16]

The Joint Operations Division is responsible for co-ordinating all Joint Operations involving any or all of the four services. The South African Special Forces Brigade is a separate special forces unit under the direct command of the Joint Operations division.[17]

2012 Defence Review

The South African Defence Review 2012 is a policy review process carried out by a panel of experts, chaired by retired politician and former Minister of Defence, Roelf Meyer. The review was commissioned by Lindiwe Sisulu the then Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, in July 2011. The review was motivated by the need to correct the errors and shortcomings of the previous review. According to defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu, the old report was no longer relevant to South Africa's current situation.[18]

See also


  1. "SANDF not meeting staffing targets". DefenceWeb. 11 November 2014. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
  2. "South Africa: South African National Defence Force". DefenceWeb. 1 February 2013. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  3. "National Treasury Budget 2012: Estimates of National Expenditure" (PDF). Department of National Treasury. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  4. 1 2 "Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act 200 of 1993 (Section 224)". South African Government. 1993. Retrieved 2008-06-23.
  5. L B van Stade (1997). "Rationalisation in the SANDF: The Next Challenge". Institute for Security Studies. Retrieved 2008-06-23.
  6. Wessels, André. "The South African National Defence Force, 1994–2009: A Historical Perspective" (PDF). University of the Free State. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  7. U.S. Embassy The Hague, 05THEHAGUE2973 Netherlands/Africa: DASD Whelan's visit to The Hague, 1 November 2005, via Wikileaks United States diplomatic cables leak
  8. Potgieter, Thean; Liebenberg, Ian (October 2012) [2012]. Reflections on War – Preparedness and Consequences. Stellenbosch: Sun Media Stellenbosch. ISBN 978-1-920338-84-8.
  9. Dörrie, Peter (9 April 2014). "South Africa's Military Is Falling Apart". War is Boring. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  10. Buthelezi, Mangosuthu (22 November 2007). "Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Weekly Newsletter to the Nation". Inkatha Freedom Party. Retrieved 2008-11-13.
  11. Bright hopes betrayed Mail & Guardian
  12. Neethling, Theo (22 Jul 2010). "Military spending, socio-economic challenges and foreign policy demands: Appraising South Africa's predicament" (pdf). African Security Review. Institute for Security Studies. 15 (4): 57–78. doi:10.1080/10246029.2006.9627622. ISSN 2154-0128. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  13. "C J OPS Briefs Media on Deployments". Retrieved 22 January 2013.
  14. "The Department of Defence Strategic Business Plan 2009" (pdf). Department of Defence South Africa. October 2009. ISBN 978-0-620-43741-7. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  15. "PCODMV adopts Defence Amendment Bill". DefenceWeb. 18 October 2010. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  16. "Defence Act 42 of 2002" (PDF). South African Government. 2003-02-12. p. 18. Archived from the original (pdf) on 2008-06-24. Retrieved 2008-06-23.
  17. "Fact file: The Joint Operations Division". DefenceWeb. 2008-11-28. Retrieved 2013-03-13.
  18. "Draft Defence Review report released".

Further reading

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