Posted: June 21st, 2021
The South African Border war, which is sometimes also referred to as the Namibian Border War and Angolan Bush War, lasted between the years 1966 to 1989. (Source F) During this period the government of South Africa sent hundreds of thousands of men to go and fight in the war at the Namibian and Angolan borders. (Source B- pg. vii) What was the government’s motive for this It was truly an attempt by the government to keep Communism and certain parties out of the country and also to keep control of the States she owned. (Source G) But what negative psychological effects did this military service have on the men and their families and how permanent were they The soldiers were badly mentally affected and some of their memories still haunt them today. (Source C) The effects were negative and permanent.
The South African Border War was really part of the Namibian War of Independence and ultimately a result of the Cold War which started in Europe in the 1940’s all the way to the late 1990’s. (Source F) It took place in Southern Africa, involving South Africa, Namibia and Angola. (Source F) Angola, Cuba, SWAPO, Zambia, other independent countries and Umkhonto we Sizwe were against South Africa and UNITA. (Source F) Russia supported the Communist States and America supported South Africa because they were against Communism. (Source F) This relates to America’s policy of containment. The ANC were in exile in Angola and South Africa wanted to keep them out of the country because they were thought to be Communist. (Source F) When the war ended, South Africa and Cuba withdrew from Angola, and Namibia got independence. However, a Civil War in Angola continued all the way until 2002. (Source F) This shows the origin of the conflict in Southern Africa and why the SA government did conscription.
The Cold War began in Europe and was a fight between Communism and Capitalism, initially starting with Russia and America, but then spread to the rest of the world and it was thought by the anti Communist states that they needed to contain Communism before it spread further. This was called America’s policy of containment. (Source G) This is why South Africans were told that they were to fight against Communism. (Source D) This is why the SA government did conscription.
The Angolan war began when the super powers of the world, although they were not directly interested in it, used the battleground for Cold War rivalry. (Source G) “Other countries became independent in the 1950’s and 1960’s and so the Portuguese wanted to keep control over Angola. This resulted in wars between the Portuguese and Angolan liberation groups. (Source G) In 1974 army officers in Portugal overthrew the governing Portuguese dictator in order to end the futile wars and bring independence. (Source G) In Angola there were 3 main rival liberation groups, namely MPLA, FNLA and UNITA. (Source G) Before elections, outside powers got involved. (Source G) America provided arms to FNLA and UNITA, against MPLA. America wanted to join South Africa in the war in order to regain their status after their defeat in Vietnam.” (Source G) South Africa invaded Angola in 1975 for its oils and minerals. (Source G) SA was against MPLA and it was thought that they would be able to take over Namibia, which was a South African state. (Source G) “South Africa wanted to capture Luanda after occupying large areas of Angola.” (Source G) The economy of Angola suffered badly and the war only ended finally in 2002. (Source G) This shows the origin of the conflict in Southern Africa and why the SA government did conscription.
In order to keep things under control, the South African government needed to send some soldiers to the Namibian and Angolan borders to prevent Communism, the ANC and SWAPO from entering the country. (Source D) The South African government and the SADF were against guerrilla warfare used by SWAPO. (Source D) The government kept them out by means of conscription. (Source B- pg. vii) This shows why and how the South African government dealt with the enemy.
All white males aged 17, 18 and 19 had to go and do military service after they finished school. (Source A) It was compulsory and was expected of the boys as they grew up with the war. (Source A) You needed to go and do military service for 2 years after which you could go and begin your studies at university. (Source A) The only way you could get out of doing your military service was if you failed to pass a medical examination, had permission to continue university education before your service or by conscientious objection, in which case you would be thrown into jail. (Source A3) Each boy had to fill out forms at school (Source A1) and their families were sent a telegraph (Source A2) or a formal military letter. (Source A3) They knew that they needed to go and do military service as it was expected of them and some of their relatives had previously gone too. It was something they grew up with, if they were entered at a later stage in the war. (Source A1) After 2 years of military service, you could leave. (Source A) The boys needed to purchase a few items, e.g. an iron, and then the parents would take them to a place where they were told to gather and when they were told to gather by the telegraph. (Source A2) The parents then had to leave and the boys were taken to their specific sector to do their basic training.Two examples are Ian and Gavin McAlpine who were conscripted at age 18 and 19. Ian needed to get on a truck to go to Pretoria and Gavin got on a train to go to Kimberley. (Source A) This confirms that there were splits between families. Jeremy, aged 18 at the time, says “It was the worst day of my life”. This shows how the government of SA conscripted soldiers into the war.
It was a sad time and the soldiers felt scared and didn’t know what to do next and what was going to happen next. (Source A) When they got to their sectors for basic training they were only told of the fact that they needed to fight Communism and were sometimes shown powerful images as a form of propaganda. (Sources A & B- pg.63) Chris, who was aged 17 at the time, says “The horror was nauseating.” (Source B- pg. 63) The rest of the world was also not told of the true reason behind the war and were only told that it was a fight against Communism. (Source A) There was also control of the media so that the public would not be allowed to be well informed. (Source A2) This meant that they did not know that what they were getting involved in might have been bad. They could not object because they were convinced by the propaganda that they were doing right by fighting the enemy. This shows how the government prevented knowledge of why they did conscription.
“The army was not easy” – Ian (Source A1) and the process of basic training and physical activity was difficult and humiliating at times. It often involved bringing them down in order to build them up as a team. (Source A1) “Seeing boys cry because they could not take it anymore was not fun” – Ian (Source A1) and the war broke soldiers. However, “it was necessary to just put on a brave face and become tougher or else you would not survive.”- Ian. (Source A1) This shows how the soldiers were personally affected at the time they were in the army, which was negatively.
A boy would be sent to a specific sector that the army thought they would be good in or they would be sent to a specific sector if they had any previous qualifications. (Source A) The men could have communication with their families when they were granted leave and could go home, ‘phoned when it was necessary, saw their parents on open days for them to visit and the parents corresponded regularly and sent postcards over to their children. (Source A3) However, this was not done through the army itself. (Source A3) The army did not offer any psychological assessments or treatment to the soldiers –duits. (Source C) Soldiers felt angry and disappointed that they were placed in situations against their will and sad about what happened to their fellow soldiers. (Source A2) Afrikaans generals looked over the men and did regular inspections. (Source B- pgs. 50, 21 & 22) Soldiers learnt that they need to iron perfectly and have perfectly made beds, and they sometimes didn’t even sleep in them. (Source B- pgs. 21 & 22) Some of the soldiers weren’t even interested in the politics and basic training brings back bad memories for the soldiers. They were treated badly, but the experiences were worse for the men who did the fighting and saw the death of friends and the enemy. (Source A2) This shows the negative and permanent effects on the soldiers.
However, skills that the soldier previously had helped them to an extent e.g. Scouting. (Source A1 & B- pg. 46) Although Scouting was very different to the war, it helped the boys who were Scouts and gave them an advantage as they would be more independent, strong and have bush craft knowledge already.
Soldiers had to do mortar training and Ian experienced a friend being blown up during this training. (Source A1) The soldiers did patrols of villages. (Source B- pg. 218) These patrols were violent and gruesome and negatively affected the soldiers. The confrontation in the battlefield was terrible. The amount of casualties was large. “All told my armour squadron lost 12 guys with a further 20 casevacs.” -Jaycee. (Source C) “The horror and fright one experiences in contacts and large ops is all too real.” – Scottman (Source C) Soldiers felt horrible about doing things “It was instrumental in making me think: this is not for me.” – Anonymous. (Source B pg. 218) However, the war experiences were worse for the soldiers who battled than the others. (Sources A & B) This shows how the soldiers were affected by the war and the events they experienced.
When their sons were conscripted it was a sad time for the parents but it was necessary for them to put on a brave face. (Source A3) Parents were heartbroken and scared for their children. (Source A3) Although parents dealt with it in different ways because one is surrounded by so many different opinions at the time and they had to think positively. (Source A3) Parents always worried because there was always a risk for their children. (Sources A3 & 4) It was difficult for a parent if both their sons had to leave at the same time. (Source A4) Parents felt apprehensive. (Source A4) The government was really supporting white privilege on top of protecting the country from Communism. (Source A4) This shows how the parents were affected by the war.
There are some soldiers and parents who do not think negatively about the war now.The parents have relief that their children came back unscathed, if they did. (Source A3) Some soldiers do not have memories which haunt them (Source A2) and they say that the war made men out of them. (Source A1) Some parents believe that it gave their sons responsibility and disciplined attitudes, which they still use today. (Sources A3 & C)Memories are not vivid today for some soldiers and their families. (Source A4) This means that people are beginning to lose the gruesome and painful details of the war and so are getting over things. This shows that some people may not be permanently and negatively affected still today.
But some soldiers and their families are still haunted by the memories of their experiences. (Source C) “They only ‘struck contact’ once in this entire time, but that was enough to wean him off war forever.” –eJay. (Source C) It had lasting effects on the men. “….some of the experiences I went through, and witnessed, during the Mau Mau war do sometimes come back to give me nightmares!” –Neso. (Source C) Although this was in Kenya, some South African men could still feel this way too. “Although I did not recognise it at the time, it really had a profound effect on me.” – Jaycee. (Source C) The long term effects could be physical injuries, emotional wrecks, people who committed suicide, having violent nightmares and marriages did not last. (Source C) They were bitter days. (Source C) After the war a medal was awarded to anyone who had spent 55 days doing continuous service on the Border. (Source B)This shows the negative, permanent effects of the war on some soldiers.
People have different takes on war nowadays. Some believe that war doesn’t solve anything (Source A1) and that we should negotiate instead of resorting to violence. (Source A3) “Old men start wars, young men fight and die in them.” –Ian. (Source A1) Whereas some people are not against war, provided it is used to protect a country. (Source A2) There was a struggle for liberation and war in Northern Namibia and Angola and it deeply affected the South African people, their children and society. (Source E) At the present day, however, “South Africans are rediscovering and re evaluating a turbulent past and its permutations”. “They are reliving sensitive, angular optics”. Yvonne Mokgoro, Constitutional Court of South Africa. (Source E) This shows the different opinions on war from the perspective of soldiers and their families. It also shows that some soldiers and their families are not still negatively and permanently affected today, and some are.
It has been shown how and why the South African government conscripted soldiers into the South African Border War. It has also been shown that the time in which the soldiers served the military was a terrible time that has negative and positive aspects to it and it will still affect some soldiers today, and some not. Most in a negative and permanent way, but some do not have vivid memories. It has also been shown that the South African government did not consider the young soldiers in their fight against Communism.
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