- Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development in Africa: concepts, role-players, policy and practice ed. by Theo Neethling and Heidi Hudson
Theo Neethling and Heidi Hudson’s Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development in Africa: concepts, role-players, policy and practice is a well-compiled collection of perspectives on the how South Africa should position itself towards peace keeping. The book is a South African National Defence Force (SANDF) attempt to complement its 2012 Defence Review with an academic (civilian) perspective. In essence, the question running through the book’s 11 chapters (drafted by a collection of largely South African and African academics) is what it means for South Africa to play a peace-building role on the continent.
South Africa (254) has ‘found itself in the league of countries such as Nigeria, Rwanda, Ghana, Ethiopia, Egypt, Senegal and Morocco…all important troop-contributing nations in the international peace missions arena’ and is ‘one of the top 15 contributors to UN peace missions’. In this arena, South Africa appears to be looking for a script. In the 1990s, South Africa’s defence establishment was largely focused on transformation but this is gradually giving way to peace-keeping as a feature of foreign policy. In this space, there is a growing awareness of a policy and capacity gap. On the one hand, there is no clear idea of how peace-keeping conforms to the vision of an ‘African renaissance’. And, on the other hand, SANDF appears to be insufficiently resourced to be an effective peace-keeper. As Maxi Schoeman (Chapter 10, 213) points out, it is not clear that SANDF has the [End Page 153] ‘unconventional capabilities’ necessary ‘to deal with new threats such as militarised non-state actors (including terrorists and transnational crime cartels)’ that so often feature in the context South Africa hopes to be effective in. At the same time, SANDF does not appear ideally resourced to deal with conventional threats either. Greg Mills reports (Chapter 11, 241) that ‘there remain ongoing shortages of maintenance and other technical personnel…[and] a related challenge…is in the gap created between those left (usually above 50 years of age) and the influx of trainees (usually below 25)’. This combined with a clear underestimation of the cost required to finance such operations and capacity clearly question whether South Africa’s electorate is prepared to pay for ‘guns over butter’ (267).
In this regard, the questions posed by the book to a certain extent mask the lack of a consistent and comprehensive rationale for such an interventionist approach in the first place. To begin with the reader should be aware that the book was ‘commissioned by the SA Army [making] it hard to avoid a South African lens’ (7). The book is a response to the failure of ‘Thabo Mbeki [and/or] Joe Modise [to] provide vision or guidance’ resulting in some critics to argue that both the 1995-1996 and 2012 Defence Reviews suffer from the same problem in that they put forward a policy that plans ‘the future on the experience of the past’ thus not being contextualised or goal driven. While what is to be achieved by South Africa in the peace-keeping space is not clearly explained, some of the motivations are touched on. South Africa wants to play a more important role on the international stage and particularly in Africa ‘with peacekeeping viewed as part of the price you have to pay to be among the nations who make the rules’ (218-9). With over a third of African countries being ‘in the post-conflict phase’ (2) getting into peace-keeping, is a fairly self-explanatory means to bulking up South Africa’s foreign policy capabilities. At the same time, there are clear industrial-economic interests at play too. ‘In an era of dwindling budgetary support, militaries are hard-pressed to fulfil their dual roles’ (217) of defending the state and supporting peace-building abroad. In South Africa’s case, the hang-over of the much...