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South Africa's National Security Management System, 1972–90

  • Annette Seegers

Analyses of the South African state during the 1970s and 1980s all tried to come to grips with the rôle of the Security forces.1 Research justifiably ran in different directions, but the National Security Management System soon became an essential part of recent work,2 albeit remaining very much of a mystery.3 Since we need to know how it originated, developed, and operated in practice, as well as its legacy, this article attempts to describe the N.S.M.S. and offers avenues of interpretation.

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1 For example, Cock, Jackie and Nathan, Laurie (eds.), War and Society: the militarisation of South Africa (Cape Town, 1989);Frankel, Philip H., Pretoria's Praetorians: civil-military relations in South Africa (Cambridge, 1984); and Grundy, Kenneth W., The Militarisation of South African Politics (London, 1986).

2 Except where otherwise indicated, the term ‘state’ refers to government and associated bureaucracies, while ‘security forces’ include the military and the police.

3 With the accession of F.W. de Klerk to power, the N.S.M.S. was changed into the National Co-ordinating Mechanism (N.C.M.). For a more complete assessment, see Annette Seegers, ‘After Angola and With De Klerk: current trends in South Africa's security establishment’, in Vernon J. Kronenberg et al. (eds.), The Military and Democracy (forthcoming). Because of this transition, I here use the past tense in describing the N.S.M.S.

4 Seegers, Annette, ‘Extending the Security Network to the Local Level: a clarification and some further comments’, in Politeia (Pretoria), 7, 2, 1988, pp. 120–5.

5 Politicians (including the Prime Minister) between 1961 and 1970 usually de-emphasised threats to South Africa or remained otherwise convinced that the régime had sufficient strength to ward them off. Public warnings of a fierce general assault started to appear from the S.A.D.F. (and the Minister of Defence) in 1970. Selfe, James, ‘The Total Onslaught and the Total Strategy: adaptations to the security intelligence decision-making structures under P. W. Botha's administration’, M.A. thesis, University of Cape Town, 1987, pp. 115–24.

6 The most conspicuous failure was the prediction by the Department of Foreign Affairs about election results in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia). See Geldenhuys, Deon, The Diplomacy of Isolation: South African foreign policy making (Johannesburg, 1984), pp. 118–19, for Pretoria's heavy backing of Bishop Abel Muzorewa's United African National Council.

7 The relevant documents remain classified, including that known to bureaucrats as the Venter Report, produced in 1975 for the Public Service Commission. When interviewed in Pretoria, 22 November 1989, J. J. Venter pointed to the decisive rôle of P. W. Botha and close associates in the mid-1970s, as well as to the importance of the Oorlogsdagboek (Diary of War), created in 1918 in conjunction with the Colonial Office, as a place to record threats. When instructed to examine this diary, Venter found that entries had stopped in 1968. See also, Malan, Magnus, ‘Die Aanslag Teen Suid-Afrika’, in Issup Strategic Review (Pretoria), 11 1984, pp. 316, and the post 1975 White Papers on Defence and Armaments Supply.

8 Geldenhuys, op. cit. pp. 84–9.

9 As in the following: Republic of South Africa, Report of the Office of the Prime Minister, 1980 (Pretoria), 1980); the explanations of Lieutenant-General Pieter van der Westhuizen in Braun, David, ‘Malan Lifts Covers Off Government's National Security System’, in The Argus (Cape Town), 12 03 1976; and General van Deventer's, A. J. ‘Briefing to the Press on 21 September 1983 by the Secretary of the State Security Council’, Pretoria, 1983, as well as his later article in Die Burger (Cape Town), 27 05 1986. See also Spence, Jack, ‘Politicians in Army Fatigues’, in Sunday Tribune (Durban), 1 09 1985.

10 Baynham, Simon, ‘Political Violence and the Security Response’, in Blumenfeld, Jesmond (ed.), South Africa in Crisis (London, 1987), pp. 107–13. See also the Government's various justifications when a state of emergency was initially introduced in July 1985 for 36 magisterial districts, when eight more were added three months later, and when subsequent emergency regulations were applied and renewed nationally.

11 See Republic of South Africa, Debates of the House of Assembly (Cape Town), 112, 27 01–9 03 1984, cols. 29–106, for perhaps the most strongly-worded attack on those who were critical of military influence in government.

12 For example, General Malan's claims that the N.S.M.S. was neither sinister nor secret, and his references to services rendered, as reported in Braun, loc.cit., and the statement by the Information Minister, van der Merwe, Stoffel, about addressing grievances, ‘Stoffel on Stability’, in the Financial Mail (Johannesburg), 13 02 1987.

13 Foreign visitors to South Africa were taken on tours through the area. For press coverage, see van der Velden, Mark, ‘A Face-Lift for Alexandra’, in The Natal Witness (Pietermaritzburg), 18 03 1987;Reiss, Spencer, ‘The Tale of Alexandra’, in Newsweek (New York), 30 03 1987;Vosloo, Johan, ‘Vaarwel aan die Oue’, in Rapport (Johannesburg), 19 04 1987; and the statements by Burger, J. S., an Alexandra administrator, as reported in The Star (Johannesburg), 6 03 1987, and in The Citizen (Johannesburg), 9 03 1987.

14 The view of the African National Congress is given in ‘JMC's Centres for Control and Repression’, in Sechaba (London), 01 1988. See also, Baynham, Simon, ‘South Africa: the Government in the shadows’, in Africa Confidential (London), 28, 14, 8 07 1987, pp. 14; ‘The Network: from Soweto to De Aar to Ogies to Koega to Koppies’, and Harber, Anton, ‘The Uniformed Web that Sprawls Across the Country’, in The Weekly Mail (Johannesburg), 3 10 1986; Peter Gastrow, ‘The Real Message Is: the military's ruling the country’, in ibid. 7 November 1986; and Ross, Neill, ‘JMCs Usurping Role of Public Representatives’, in The Cape Times, 28 November 1986.

15 The administrative section of the N.S.M.S. was located in Pretoria, and headed by A. P. Stemmet (formerly of the Department of Justice), who provided me with information about the training given there.

16 Republic of South Africa, 1980 Report of the Office of the Prime Minister (Pretoria, 1980).

17 Republic of South Africa, Report [Abridged] of the Commission of Inquiry into Matters Relating to the Security of the State (Pretoria, 1972).

18 The outline here is largely based on the 1980 Report of the Office of the Prime Minister, pp. 1–11, and Van Deventer, op. cit.

19 Including R. P. Meyer, former Deputy Minister of Law and Order.

20 The National Joint Management Centre came into effect towards the end of 1986, and its existence was publicly acknowledged. Confusion did, however, arise in nomenclature, as the old I.D.C. was known as the Gesamentlike Veiligheidskomitee (or G.V.K.), and some officials referred to this body by its older name and not as the N.J.M.C. See Kotzé, Hennie, ‘Aspects of the Public Policy Process in South Africa’, in Venter, Albert (ed.), South African Government and Politics, (Johannesburg, 1989), pp. 170200.

21 The Veikom was aided in its work by a joint intelligence committee (Afrikaans acronym G.I.K.) and a joint operational committee (G.O.S.).

22 The internal design of the N.S.M.S. was recorded by officials and observers in the following: Harber, loc.cit.; Venter, Lester and West, Norman, ‘Enter the Peace Corps’, in The Sunday Times (Johannesburg), 2 11 1986; Dennis Cruywagen, ‘JMCs–a Network of Secrets’, in The Argus, 28 November 1986; Tos Wentzel, ‘Security Council's Silence on Secret JMCs’, in ibid. 9 December 1986; David Braun, ‘Govt Plans to Hijack Revolution for its Own Ends’, in The Star, 17 March 1987; Vosloo, loc.cit.; and Moira Levy, ‘Fumbled Bid to Hush Security Debate’, in The Weekly Mail, 28 November 1987. See also, Swilling, Mark and Phillips, Mark, ‘The Powers of the Thunderbird’, in Centre for Policy Studies, South Africa at the End of the Eighties (Johannesburg, 1989), pp. 2973;Seegers, , ‘Extending the Security Network to the Local Level’, pp. 132–5; and Selfe, op.cit. pp. 115–80.

23 The actions of the so-called management committees in the Coloured areas of the Cape Province were discussed in ‘Bontcheuwel's Silent War’, in Upfront (Cape Town), 6, 04 1987, and New Era (Cape Town), 04 1987.

24 Information provided in this paragraph was derived from: unsigned report of statements by the chairman of the National Regional Development Advisory Council, Dr Piet Rautenbach, ‘Military to Have Voice in Local Decisions’, in The Argus, 24 June 1986; Braun's report on Alexandra, loc.cit.;Patrick Cull's report of J.M.C. liaison in the Port Elizabeth area in ‘Minister: PE area has six JMCs’, in Eastern Province Herald (Port Elizabeth), 2 April 1987; unsigned report, ‘Principal Tells of Unexpected JMC Meeting [in Athlone]’, in South (London), 7 05 1987; unsigned report of activities in Hout Bay entitled ‘JMC Proposal at Secret Indaba’, in New Nation (Cape Town), 11 06 1987; Diana Games's report on the rôle of the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce, Randburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Transvaal Chamber of Industries, the Security Association, and the Engineers Association of South Africa, entitled ‘New Security Network Set Up’, in Business Day (Johannesburg), 16 07 1987; unsigned report of manpower liaison committes in the Johannesburg area entitled ‘Control Crntres’, in The Financial Mail (Johannesburg), 24 07 1987; Gavan O'Connor's report of liaisons in the Port Elizabeth area in ‘Forum Links Government, Private Sector’, in Eastern Province Herald, 8 September 1987; and Franz Kruger' investigation of the link between the ‘Greater East London Coordination Committee’ and J.M.C.–activity in that area as reported in ‘Liberals Linked to Covert Security Panel’, in The Weekly Mail, 21–27 November 1987. See also, Seegers, Annette, ‘Local Government: state strategy –the national security management system and the joint management centres’, The Urban Foundation, Johannesburg, 1988.

25 This cover was demonstrated in the legal proceedings instituted against the Minister of Law and Order over action taken in the Crossroads area of the Western Cape during 1986. Information supplied by the Legal Resources Centre in Cape Town.

26 This interpretation is suggested by the number of arrests, as well as by the selectivity of upgrading efforts. According to the Sash, Black, ‘Greenflies’: municipal police in the Eastern Cape (Mowbray, 1988), p. 4, between 25,000 and 40,000 were detained during the first year of the third state of emergency (or after 12 June 1986). In an interview during early 1988, the Secretary of the State Security, General C. J. Lloyd, indicated that upgrading projects were selected on a ‘strategic’ basis, and that several were in communities which formerly had been scheduled for removal – or, stated differently, where infrastructural development had ceased. His views were supported by the fact that many communities did not receive socio-economic assistance despite their urgent needs.

27 J.M.C. boundaries were roughly equivalent to S.A.D.F. command areas, but those of lower entities seemed to follow S.A.P. jurisdictions.

28 Seegers, ‘Extending the Security Network to the Local Level’, pp. 50–70. Bureaucrats frequently complained about having to travel long distances between, for example, a mini- and a sub-J.M.C., in order to attend N.S.M.S. meetings which often dealt with inconsequential and/or routine affairs.

29 Some of these were personal likes and dislikes, but others involved more enduring disputes between institutions. For example, the apparent reluctance of the S.A.P. to permit the deployment of the S.A.D.F. during unrest in Sebokeng (Lekoa) led to substantial damage to the city council's property.

30 On the spending issue, see Seegers, ‘After Angola and with De Klerk’.

31 As from 1990, the S.A.P. took command of municipal police forces.

32 [The Brigadier] C. J. Lloyd, ‘The Importance of Rural Development in the Defence Strategy of South Africa and the Need for Private Sector Involvement’, Workshop of the Urban Foundation, Natal Region, 10 August 1979.

33 See, for example, the physical proximity of new businesses and industries to projects being upgraded in Alexandra and Mbekweni.

34 Newspapers in the Eastern Cape, for example, benefited from the upsurge of tender advertisements. In other areas, construction projects, particularly those of private dwellings, plainly advertised the companies involved.

35 For example, the switching fortunes of Carl Coetzer of P.E. Tramways in the Eastern Cape.

36 According to A. P. Stemmet of the N.S.M.S.

37 However, a J.M.C. could recommend to the S.S.C. that certain actions be taken, according to General Malan, and then ‘arrangements could be made for the Treasury to release the necessary funds to the departments concerned, and this amount would later be approved by Parliament as part of the annual Additional Appropriation for that Department’. Braun, David, ‘Malan Tells of 12 Bodies That “Defuse Unrest”’, in The Star, 12 03 1986.

38 The Secretary of Cabinet, Handleiding: nasionale koordineringsmeganisme (NKM)’, Cape Town, 22 03 1990, pp. 13ff.

39 Half the posts in the S.S.C.'s secretariat were scheduled to be phased out by the end of 1990, mainly by the abolition of the research and training sections. Information supplied by Stemmet, A. P., 5 03 1990.

40 Ibid. 11 November 1989, and by P. du Preez of MILISTAN, a private firm specialising in military contracts, 20 December 1989.

41 South African Institute of Race Relations, Race Relations Survey, 1986, Part I (Johannesburg, 1988), p. 73, and 1987/1988 (Johannesburg, 1989), p. 335.

42 Annual Report of the Commissioner of the South African Police, 1984 (Pretoria, 1985), and ibid. 1989 (Pretoria, 1990).

43 With the exception of joint management centres, N.S.M.S. entities below the national level were eventually led by S.A.P. personnel who gained importance because of the actions of Veikoms.

44 White Paper on the Organisation and Functions of the South African Police (Pretoria, 1991), and Annual Report, 1989, p. 2.

45 The blocs largely coincide with the 11 policing regions; Eastern, Western, Northern, and Far Northern Transvaal; Eastern, Northern, and Western Cape; Natal, Orange Free State, Soweto, and Witwatersrand.

46 Posel, Debbie, ‘Language, Legitimation and Control: the South African state after 1978’, in Social Dynamics (Cape Town), 10, 1, 1984;van Vuuren, Willem, ‘Domination Through Reform: the functional adaptation of legitimising strategies’, in Politikon (Pretoria), 12, 2, 12 1985;Atkinson, Doreen, ‘Power, Surveilance and the New Administration in South Africa: some insights from Michel Foucault’, Biennial Conference of the Political Science Association of South Africa, University of Stellenbosch, 10 1987; and James, Wilmot G. and Pisani, André du, ‘End of a New Deal's Contradictions of Constitutional Reform’ in James, (ed.), The State of Apartheid (Boulder, 1987), pp. 3750.

47 Smith, B. C., Bureaucracy and Political Power (Brighton, 1988), p. 157.

48 When the legacy of apartheid was raised, bureaucrats responded with the qualification that South Africa was a third-world society which had made mistakes. See Seegers, Annette, ‘The Government's Perception and Handling of South Africa's Security Needs’ in van Vuuren, D. J. et al. (eds.), South Africa: the challenge of reform (Pretoria, 1988), pp. 414–24.

49 Atkinson, op. cit. p. 18.

50 These values are those of the so-called F-scale, as explained in Adorno, T. W. et al. , The Authoritarian Personality (New York, 1950). The scale is used on the grounds that the military, as an institution, systematically embodies authoritarian values.

51 See Seegers, Annette, ‘Institutionalising a Cultural Style of Management? Afrikaners, the N.S.M.S. and State Power’, Annual Conference of the Association of Sociologists of South Africa,University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg,2–5 July 1989.

52 Views about how a militarised state manages crisis can be found in: Grundy, op. cit. pp. 49–57; Selfe, op. cit.; Davis, Stephen M., Apartheid's Rebels: inside South Africa's hidden war (New Haven and London, 1987), pp. 158202; and Cawthra, Gavin, Brutal Force: the apartheid war machine (London, 1986).

53 Lombard, J. A., ‘Fiskale Beleid in Suid-Afrika’, in The South African Journal of Economics (Johannesburg), 47, 4, 1979, pp. 359–66, discusses the effects of the state's horizontal and vertical divisions on fiscal policy.

54 Standish, Barry, ‘Some Statistics on Public Sector Employment in South Africa, 1920–1980’, Working Paper No.69, University of Cape Town, 09 1987, p. 76.

55 Lombard, loc. cit. p. 361.

56 See Botes, Paul S., ‘Die Sentrale Administrasie’, in Nieuwoudt, Charles F. et al. (eds.), Die Politieke Stelsel van Suid-Afrika (Pretoria, 1981).

* Associate Professor in the Department of Political Studies, University of Cape Town. Currently a Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

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