South Africa participated in two world wars without implementing compulsory military service.
Following the Second World War, the Union Defence Force relied on the Active Citizen Force to
supplement its manpower needs. Leaders of the ruling National Party, influenced by the Cold War
psychosis, myopically believed that global conflict was defined by two ideologies in a deadly struggle
for dominance, nationalism and communism. Apartheid advocates made a distinction between the white
“us” and the black “them”; Christianity against barbarism; Marxism-Leninism against Christian-
Nationalism. Maintaining Nationalist rule increasingly demanded manpower. Conscription for white
men was a reality for twenty years, supplying conscripts for border duty and later for suppressing
internal unrest. More than 500 000 served in the military, many of them in northern Namibia, Angola
and South African townships. War resisters were monitored, ostracised, ridiculed, forced to emigrate
or jailed. This contribution shares some thoughts on the issue, including moral objections to apartheid
violence and the militarisation of South African society.