End Conscription Campaign
The End Conscription Campaign was an anti-apartheid organisation allied to the United Democratic Front (UDF) and composed of conscientious objector
Conscientious objector
A conscientious objector is an "individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service" on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, and/or religion....

s and their supporters in South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

. It was formed in 1983 to oppose the conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 of all white South African men into military service in the South African Defence Force
South African Defence Force
The South African Defence Force was the South African armed forces from 1957 until 1994. The former Union Defence Force was renamed to the South African Defence Force in the Defence Act of 1957...


Apartheid government's policy on compulsory military conscription

The apartheid government had a policy of compulsory conscription for young white men who were expected to perform military service at regular intervals, starting with an extended training which began in the year immediately following the one in which they left school or as soon as they turned 16, whichever came last. Many were granted deferment, for example to attend University and complete an undergraduate degree first, but very few young men were exempted from conscription for any reason other than being medically unfit or for a race classification error. Valid reasons included Conscientious objection
Conscientious objector
A conscientious objector is an "individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service" on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, and/or religion....

 based on religious beliefs, but these exceptions were tightened in 1974.

Increasingly stringent laws were passed increasing periods of service, broadening the base of eligible white men who could be called up, and providing stringent sentences for those men who objected.

Conscripts provided the major part of South African Defence Force
South African Defence Force
The South African Defence Force was the South African armed forces from 1957 until 1994. The former Union Defence Force was renamed to the South African Defence Force in the Defence Act of 1957...


1983 The End Conscription Campaign formed

The End Conscription Campaign (ECC) was formed in 1983, in protest against compulsory military service. It mobilised support for its campaigns, proposed service alternatives, supported conscientious objectors and provided a forum for the public with information and education on conscription and the alternatives.

Conscientious objection was a serious choice as the consequences were severe. The reasons for conscientious objection included political, ethical and religious reasons. Some religious organisations, parent groups and student organisations such as the National Union of South African Students
National Union of South African Students
The National Union of South African Students was an important force for Liberalism in South Africa in the latter part of the last century...

 (NUSAS) also engaged in anti-conscription activities.

At its peak, conscription in South Africa consisted of two years of mandatory military service, followed by camps at intervals. Under apartheid, the call-up applied to all white men after completing their schooling or further studies.

Objections against War and participation in the Apartheid State

Objections to military service and the War in Angola
Angolan Civil War
The Angolan Civil War was a major civil conflict in the Southern African state of Angola, beginning in 1975 and continuing, with some interludes, until 2002. The war began immediately after Angola became independent from Portugal in November 1975. Prior to this, a decolonisation conflict had taken...

 were generally based on the role of the military and security forces in enforcing the policy of apartheid. Although South Africa's defence forces were active against various liberation movements in Southern Africa and the frontline states (countries bordering the republic including Angola
Angola, officially the Republic of Angola , is a country in south-central Africa bordered by Namibia on the south, the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the north, and Zambia on the east; its west coast is on the Atlantic Ocean with Luanda as its capital city...

, South West Africa
South West Africa
South-West Africa was the name that was used for the modern day Republic of Namibia during the earlier eras when the territory was controlled by the German Empire and later by South Africa....

 (now Namibia
Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia , is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. It gained independence from South Africa on 21 March...

) and Mozambique
Mozambique, officially the Republic of Mozambique , is a country in southeastern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west and Swaziland and South Africa to the southwest...

), suppressing a guerrilla war, they also waged war against SWAPO and Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

n forces in a conventional war at the battle of Cuito Cuanavale
Battle of Cuito Cuanavale
The Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in 1987/88 was an important episode in the Angolan Civil War . Between 9 September and 7 October 1987, the Angolan Army , in an attempt to finally subdue the Angolan insurgent movement UNITA in south-eastern Angola, was decisively repelled in a series of battles at the...

. The military had also became increasingly active in suppressing a civil war in South Africa's black townships
Township (South Africa)
In South Africa, the term township and location usually refers to the urban living areas that, from the late 19th century until the end of Apartheid, were reserved for non-whites . Townships were usually built on the periphery of towns and cities...


Those who refused military service were subject to contempt from the minority white community, and left with the choice of either going underground (internal exile) fleeing the republic (external exile) or imprisonment of up to double the length of the allotted military service. Many conscripts simply went Absent Without Leave (AWOL), failed to arrive at BASICS (training) or got lost in the system.

The End Conscription Campaign, one of many anti-war movements alongside Congress of South African War Resistors (COSAWR) mobilised against the draft, promoted alternatives to military service, provided information about the situation in the townships and support to those brave enough to speak out against the war, as conscientious objectors.

1985 Troops out of the townships

In 1985, the ECC held the "Troops out of the Townships" rally and were overwhelmingly successful in demonstrating the growing dissatisfaction within the white community, with the government of the day

The rally was preceded by a three-week fast by objectors Ivan Toms
Ivan Toms
Ivan Toms was a South African physician, who battled the Apartheid era government as a prominent anti-Apartheid and anti-conscription activist. At the time of his death in 2008, Toms was serving as the Director of Health for the city of Cape Town, South Africa. - Early life :Ivan Toms was born...

, Harold Winkler and Richard Steele.

It was announced in parliament that 7 589 conscripts failed to report for National Service
National service
National service is a common name for mandatory government service programmes . The term became common British usage during and for some years following the Second World War. Many young people spent one or more years in such programmes...

 in January 1985, as opposed to only 1 596 in the whole of 1984. As there were two intakes annually, in January and July, this would suggest a tenfold increase in non-reportees over the previous year. An estimated 7 000 "draft-dodgers" were also said to be living in Europe in 1985.

January 1985 and July 1985 were the first so-called "immigrant intakes" after the involuntary nationalisation of white immigrant men of a predetermined age group in November 1984. The high number of non-reportees was due to many of these immigrants opting to return to their countries of origin rather than do military service, since this opportunity was easily available to them because of their dual citizenship.

1987 Group of 23 refuse military call-up

In 1987, a group of 23 conscientious objectors from the Universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch, including Cameron Dugmore, then University of Cape Town
University of Cape Town
The University of Cape Town is a public research university located in Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa. UCT was founded in 1829 as the South African College, and is the oldest university in South Africa and the second oldest extant university in Africa.-History:The roots of...

 Students Representative Council Chairperson and Jonathan Handler, South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) Chairperson, refused to do military service in the South African Defense Force. Handlers' objection was based upon the notion of an "Unjust War" as opposed to the Pacifist position held by many Christian students.

1988 ECC banned

The organisation was banned in August 1988 under emergency regulations. In a press statement Adriaan Vlok
Adriaan Vlok
Adriaan Johannes Vlok was Minister of Law and Order in South Africa from 1986 to 1991 in the final years of the apartheid era...

, then Minister of Law and Order said: "The changes posed by the activities of the End Conscription Campaign to the safety of the public, the maintenance of public order and the termination of the State of Emergency, leave no other choice than to act against the ECC and to prohibit the organisation from continuing any activities or acts."

The same month, an issue of an alternative newspaper, the Weekly Mail
Mail & Guardian
The Mail & Guardian is a South African weekly newspaper, published by M&G Media in Johannesburg, South Africa, with a strong focus on politics, government, the environment, civil society and business.- The Mail & Guardian newspaper :...

, was confiscated by security police, "on the grounds that it had covered, and therefore promoted, opposition to conscription." News coverage included a cartoon, an advertisement from War Resisters International, and "a report on 143 men who stated they would never serve in the South African Defence Force."

As a result of the banning of the ECC and confiscation of the Weekly Mail, protests at the University of Cape Town
University of Cape Town
The University of Cape Town is a public research university located in Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa. UCT was founded in 1829 as the South African College, and is the oldest university in South Africa and the second oldest extant university in Africa.-History:The roots of...

 (UCT) and other campuses were held. According to Grassroots, a crowd of 3000 UCT students marched on campus after a meeting condemning the banning. The paper said, "government fears losing control of white youth. This is the message sent by the banning of the ECC under emergency regulations...the ECC pointed out that there is a civil war in our country, and that the SADF is being used against fellow South Africans....ECC's growing influence led PW Botha and Magnus Malan to close it down. They fear that the message of the ECC will undermine apartheid's defence force." After the End Conscription Campaign was banned, hundreds of white South African war resisters refused the call-up, and conscription into the War in Angola and Civil War raging in South Africa's Black Townships continued. Some dodged the draft, others fled the country, some stood-up and faced the consequences for what they believed. None were ever given recognition by either the South African government or the newly elected democracy.

1989 Forced conscription shortened

In 1989, conscription was reduced from two years to one year, and during the negotiations to end apartheid from 1990 to 1994, it was less rigorously enforced. A Kairos campaign against conscription was the 1989 Campaign focussing on the End Conscription Campaign with participation of Alistair Teeling Smith, Rob Watson and Mandy Tailor. Saul Batzofin, 27, a member of the End Conscription Campaign, was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment in 1989 for refusing to serve in the South African Defence Force. After he had completed his sentence he later told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that he wanted to apply for amnesty to clear his criminal record. Although he was proud to have been a conscientious objector, the record caused difficulties with visa applications for foreign countries.

During September 1989, thirty Stellenbosch conscientious objectors joined more than 700 listed COs nation-wide by publicly refusing to do military service. The National Registry of Conscientious Objectors was also launched.

1993 The end of conscription announced

On 24 August 1993 Minister of Defence Kobie Coetsee announced the end of conscription. In 1994 there would be no more call-ups for the one-year initial training. But although conscription was suspended it was not entirely abandoned. Indeed in January 1994 for the first time there was no call-up for initial training, but at the same time conscripts who had already undergone training could be subject to "camp" call-ups, as they were technically subject to military law rather than civilian law. Actually "camp" call-ups reached record proportions over the period of the April 1994 elections, and for the first time in history the ECC called on conscripts to consider these call-ups to be different from previous call-ups.

1994 Conscription moratorium

Until the August 1994 moratorium on prosecutions for not responding to call-ups, several of those who did not respond to "camp" call-ups were fined. After the first multi-racial election
South African general election, 1994
The South African general election of 1994 was an election held in South Africa to mark the end of apartheid, therefore also the first held with universal adult suffrage. The election was conducted under the direction of the Independent Electoral Commission .Millions queued in lines over a three...

 in 1994, conscription has no longer applied in South Africa and the civilian draft has been exchanged for a professional standing army.
However, conscripts who failed to report for duty, still faced prosecution under South Africa's Defence Act. An amendment to the act promulgated in 2002 allows for absentee members of the SANDF to be regarded as discharged from official duty.

Absent without leave

3 Section 59(3) of the Defence Act determines that: A member of the Regular Force absent from official duty without permission of their commanding officer for more than thirty days is regarded as having been dismissed if an officer, or discharged if of other rank, for misconduct with effect from the day immediately following the day of attendance to duty or last day of official leave, but the Chief of the Defence Force may, with good cause, authorise reinstatement of such conditions as they determine.

According to a Department of Defence bulletin, dated July 10, 2003, "In essence, this means that if a member has absented himself or herself for a continuous period of thirty days, he or she is automatically discharged from the SANDF. It is therefore no longer necessary to approach the Minister of Defence for such a dismissal or discharge, as the individual will effect their own discharge if absent thirty days without permission. Should a member wish to be reinstated in the SANDF, he or she should approach the Chief of the SANDF with sound reasons why he or she was absent without permission."

End conscription cases

Prominent cases of conscripts refusing to serve included: Philip Wilkinson; the late Ivan Toms (formerly Director of City Health, Cape Town
Cape Town
Cape Town is the second-most populous city in South Africa, and the provincial capital and primate city of the Western Cape. As the seat of the National Parliament, it is also the legislative capital of the country. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality...

), David Bruce, Charles Bester, Saul Batzofin, Michael Graaf, Andre Zaaiman, Billy Paddock, Neil Mitchell, Charles Yeats, Brett Myrdal.


  • Anton Eberhard Sentenced to 12 months, 10 of which were suspended, in 1977 for refusing to do a camp. Now a research professor at the University of Cape Town's business school.

  • Peter Moll Sentenced to 18 months in 1979; served a year. Now a senior economist at the World Bank.

  • Richard Steele Served a year in jail in 1980; now a homeopath.

  • Charles Yeats Served a year in detention barracks in 1981, then sentenced to a year in civilian prison for refusing to wear a uniform. He teaches at Durham University and advises corporations on their social, environmental and moral responsibilities. He wrote a book about his experiences.

  • Mike Viveiros Sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment in 1982, served a year in Pretoria Central. Has been living in Taiwan since 2001 where he teaches English.

  • Neil Mitchell Served a year in 1982. Now a member of the Order of Preachers (Dominican friars).

  • Billy Paddock Served a year in 1982. Died in a road accident in the early 1990s.

  • Etienne Essery Served four months in 1983. Is writing a feature film script looking at South Africa in the Seventies and Eighties.

  • Pete Hathorn sentenced to two years in 1983, served a year in Pollsmoor Prison. He is now an advocate.
    Paul Dodson sentenced to a year's imprisonment in 1983. He died in a motorbike accident in the late 1980s.

  • David Bruce sentenced to six years in 1988, Bruce was released in 1990 after an appeal arguing for a review of maximum jail penalties for objectors. Now a researcher at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.

  • Saul Batzofin served nine months of a 21-month sentence. Now an IT programme manager at Imperial College, London.

  • Ivan Toms
    Ivan Toms
    Ivan Toms was a South African physician, who battled the Apartheid era government as a prominent anti-Apartheid and anti-conscription activist. At the time of his death in 2008, Toms was serving as the Director of Health for the city of Cape Town, South Africa. - Early life :Ivan Toms was born...

    served nine months of a 21-month sentence imposed in 1988. In 2002 became Cape Town's director of health, where he led the battle against TB and HIV/Aids. Was awarded the Order of the Baobab in 2006 in recognition of his "outstanding contribution to the struggle against apartheid and sexual discrimination". He died from meningitis in April.

  • Charles Bester The last objector to be jailed, Bester served 20 months of a six-year sentence. He now runs a guesthouse in Plettenberg Bay.

Forces Favourites and musicians against conscription

In 1986, Shifty Records
Shifty Records
Founded by Lloyd Ross and Ivan Kadey, Shifty Records was a South African anti-apartheid record label which existed for over a decade beginning 1982...

 released Forces Favourites in conjunction with the ECC. Named after a radio programme for sending greetings to the troops fighting on the "border" - the frontline of the Angolan campaign).

The ironically titled Forces Favourites compilation features some of the strongest political songs of the time.
  1. "Pambere" - Mapantsula
  2. "National Madness" - Aeroplanes
  3. "Potential Mutiny" - Stan James
  4. "Numbered Again" - The Facts
  5. "Shot Down In The Streets" - Cherry Faced Lurchers
  6. "Don't Dance" - Kalahari Surfers
    Kalahari Surfers
    The Kalahari Surfers is the moniker of South African composer and musician Warrick Sony. It began as a solo recording project in the early 1980s to subvert the total media and propaganda onslaught of P. W. Botha’s Apartheid South Africa...

  7. "Whitey" - The Softies
  8. "Don't Believe" - In Simple English
  9. "Too Much Resistance" - Nude Red
  10. "Spaces Tell Stories" - Roger Lucy
  11. "Suburban Hum" - Jennifer Fergusson

Counter-operations against the ECC

Many ECC members were subject to persecution. During 1986 98 members were detained, and others subjected to systematic harassment and intimidation. Meetings, publications and activities of the organisation were banned. Disinformation, death threats, fire-bombings, assaults, break-ins, and anonymous counter-propaganda against the organisation was commonplace. Evidence in a Cape Town court in 1988 revealed that the SADF itself had been running a disinformation campaign against the ECC.

Psychiatric Oppression and the ECC

In order to get out of forced conscription into the SADF, many conscripts allowed themselves to be labeled as mentally ill, sick, or incapable of carrying a weapon. The price was incarcaration in one of South Africa's psychiatric facilities. Instances of psychiatric abuse of conscripts who refused national service have also been recorded. The cases of conscripts who ended up in mental hospitals are in the process of being documented by groups such as MindFreedom International
MindFreedom International
MindFreedom International is an international coalition of over one hundred grassroots groups and thousands of individual members from fourteen nations. It was founded in 1990 to advocate against forced medication, medical restraints, and involuntary electroconvulsive therapy. Its stated mission is...


See also

  • Conscientious objection throughout the world
  • South African resistance to war
    South African resistance to war
    South African resistance to war has a long tradition, and a history that includes conscientious objectors, pacifists, deserters and draft dodgers, as well as those whose objections are based upon the notion of "just war" as opposed to unjust or illegal war....

  • Committee on South African War Resistance
  • Cape Town Peace March
    Cape Town Peace March
    On 13 September 1989, 30 000 Capetonians from a diverse cross-section of the city marched in support of peace and the end of apartheid. The event, led by Mayor Gordon Oliver, Archbishop Tutu, Rev Frank Chikane, Moulana Faried Esack, Allan Boesak, and other religious leaders, was held in defiance of...

  • South African Border War
    South African Border War
    The South African Border War, commonly referred to as the Angolan Bush War in South Africa, was a conflict that took place from 1966 to 1989 in South-West Africa and Angola between South Africa and its allied forces on the one side and the Angolan government, South-West Africa People's...

  • Truth and Reconciliation Commission


  • Out of Step; War Resistance in South Africa. CIIR, 1987
  • KAIROS documents http://www.wits.ac.za/histp/kairos/AG2918series7.html

External links

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