Barbarism is Back: Conscription in South Africa

Offset litho poster in black and white with illustrations of three soldiers from newspaper cuttings, issued by the End Conscription Campaign (ECC) in 1986. SAHA archive AL2446_0318

A year prior to the 1994 elections, a blight on our country was eradicated. Conscription of white males had been a major contributor to the strength of the SADF (forerunner to the SANDF) since 1967 and also one of the biggest signs of the underlying fascist policies of the Apartheid government.

Its collapse in the 90s heralded a new era of freedom and peace for South African citizens – for the white men who were no longer forced to fight for a jingoist and authoritarian state and for the rest who did not have to suffer the boot of this slave army. The ANC government seems to have no regard for this.

The ANC has proposed the start of a “National Youth Service” to combat unemployment. Gwede Mantashe, the ANC secretary general, has come out in saying that:

“We moved away from conscription too soon. Naturally, we would actually say that every youth person may serve an X number of years or months in the army to be trained because the army is the most equipped structure that could deal with young people in a structured way.”

It is a scary prospect when the ruling party wants to bring back one of main policies of its historical opposition. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise, seeing that the National Party and ANC are on pretty good terms since 2004, when they became the same party.

The ANC has proved itself willing to use their historical enemy as a blueprint in the past and will not be afraid to do so again.

There are a multitude of reasons why conscription is a bad idea. I will be listing the most prominent refutations below:

Conscription violates individual freedom

We have a word for when people are forced into work – its called slavery. A paid slave is just as bad. An individual must be the one to choose their employment. Conscription of the youth, unemployed or not, violates their right to choose their career or otherwise. Believe it or not, people have a right not to work (and to deal with the consequences).

Forcing employment on a person eliminates personal choice and responsibility. It’s serfdom and a violation of a myriad of every list of human rights on the planet.

The Military doesn’t solve unemployment

People often try to defend Hitler by stating that he fixed Germany’s economic problems through conscription into the military and the military industrial complex. This is, of course, not true.

Employment is not merely the filling of people’s time in exchange for a wage. It has to contribute somehow to society or the economy.

A military exists as a last resort, not as a convenient dump for unemployed youths. Training and maintaining a military costs a fortune. A military does not create wealth. Even without conscription, I would be discouraging mass military employment. It is a waste of money and yet another drain on the taxpayer.

Which leads me onto…

Fiscal Strain

South Africa has a national debt of over R1.65 trillion and counting. A minority of the population pay tax and contribute actively to the economy. Their money is used to feed a bloated public service and ill-wrought welfare scheme.

With all that the South African taxpayer already has to pay, it is a complete impossibility that a National Youth Service could be financially feasible.

Of course, this has never been a problem for the state who will just print and borrow to avoid the blame of their bad policies.

Oppressive Government

Let’s hypothetically pretend that the National Youth Service gets off the ground and that conscription will be feasible. Do we really want to see our government in charge of a bloated army of eager youths with military training?

We have no foreign enemies and remember that the SADF gained much of its power from a drafted force. The ANC will be able to form a police state with their newly trained force.

But let’s admit it – that’s improbable. The Apartheid government, for all its misgivings, ran a competent military.

The ANC cannot – leading onto…


The National Youth Service will not be able to control their new conscripts. Most will, fortunately, dodge the draft but a few will stay and receive training.

Those who do will either be left behind by the transient military or desert. If the current state of our military and police force are anything to go by, many of these will utilise their new skills in the same way that many of our ex-cops and MK members have: Crime.

We can already see the results of a trained criminal underground. Mass conscription will just contribute to this. Incompetence will lead to ex-conscripts turning to crime and being able to steal military property to use in crime.


It should be self-evident to the likes of Gwede Mantashe that conscription is a bad idea. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean anything when it comes to the ANC.

Let us just hope that this doesn’t make it past the legislature or the courts, as if it does – there will be even darker days ahead.


  1. When will the medieval idea that the best way to get things done is to force people into a job die? Even Edward Longshanks figured out that it’s better to tax, then pay for what you want done. When your ideas are so primitive they predate scutage (look it up) you should give up any pretense to being a modern government.