The clausewitzian trinity: reassessing the South African military's relationship with its polity and society

Access full-text article here


Peer-Reviewed Research


This article provides an historic–theoretical understanding of civil-military relations in South Africa and an outline of important influences on South African civil-military relations at present. Historically, a well-developed professional officer corps shaped South African civil-military relations. Africa’s postindependence history, though, is full of examples indicating that neglect of the military often translates into domestic risk and a dwindling of military professionalism. Post-apartheid South Africa seems to emulate this example. The South African military may be in the barracks at present. However, there are clear indications that, in the longer term, the military risks promotion of elite interests, patronage and uncompetitive practices rooted in a single political party. This tendency is rooted in a general decline of military professionalism due to factors such as a declining defence budget, obsolete military technologies, a diminishing role of Parliament in overseeing the military function, the nature of operations and institutional factors such as a distorted professional self-image of military personnel.