Conflict Trends 1999/1

Disarmament And Defence Industrial Adjustment In South Africa

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The South African defence industry, built up during the apartheid years and during the UN embargoes on sales of arms to South Africa, became one of the most important sectors of the country’s industrial base and a significant exporter. Since the end of apartheid, the end of the cold war and the elections of 1994, South Africa has cut its military expenditure drastically and is seeking to use the resources released to restructure and revitalise the country’s industrial base and to support reconstruction, development and redistribution. The new government has a unique opportunity to develop innovative policies on defence and security matters, the arms industry and arms exports. This analysis of the South African experience provides a valuable contribution to the international debate on the economic effects of military expenditure and defence industrialisation and on the relationship between disarmament and development in developing countries.

Peter Batchelor and Susan Willett have extensive first-hand experience of the developing public debate and defence and security policy in the new South Africa. They examine the experience of the South African arms industry – the largest in any developing country – consequent to the process of disarmament undertaken in the country since 1989, drastic defence cuts and the transformed regional environment. They show the structural distortions introduced in the apartheid economy by the investment in a local arms industry and consider how far a ‘peace dividend’ has been achieved. One of their conclusions is that the reallocation of defence resources to civilian purposes as a result of defence cuts does not occur automatically. The South African experience provides a clear example of the need to construct a link between disarmament and development through explicit government policies.