About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

South African Defence Force (SADF)

The Union Defence Force was established in 1913 and South African troops, including many black people, took part in both World Wars. From 1966 to 1989 the SADF participated in the Nambian border war, moving into Namibia and Angola to assist UNITA* against the Angolan liberation movement (MPLA), with the loss of some 788 South Africans, many of them conscripts. The SADF was also sent into Mozambique to support Renamo* against Machel's Marxist Frelimo government that had come into power in 1975 and was cooperating with the ANC.* With the end of apartheid in sight in the 1990s a huge cutback could be made on the defence budget and compulsory national service was stopped. The suggestion by some that the SADF be replaced in its entirety by cadres from MK* and the Azanian People's Liberation Army* (APLA) was not implemented, but they were instead absorbed into the existing force which was re-named the South African National Defence Force in 1994.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.