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Vol 41 No 8

Published 14th April 2000


South Africa

Military manoeuvres

Pretoria's once powerful armed forces need fast reform and a new strategy if they are to help regional security

One of the country's sharpest and most popular politicians Defence Minister Mosiuoa (Patrick) Lekota has a daunting task ahead of him if he is to reform the military and give it a credible role in promoting security in the region, let alone the continent. His job is the third most important in the cabinet, after President Thabo Mbeki and Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, if one accepts that foreign policy is still largely run from the presidency. Six years after the country's first non-racial elections, military reform and restructuring have been sluggish and little of the corruption that thrived in the services and in arms buying during the apartheid years has been rooted out. The main difference now, thanks to a freer press, is that we hear more about it. The picture isn't all gloom. Lekota is justifiably proud of the South African National Defence Force's heroic assistance to flood-stricken neighbours in Mozambique. It showed what good the South African military could do - all the more poignantly when rich Western governments were arguing over which of their ministries' budgets would be allocated to rescue drowning people.

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