Enforcement of military conscription for all white males in SA

Military conscription for all white males in South Africa was enforced 50 years ago. Photograph by Paul Weinberg

Friday, 4 August 1967

The Union Defence Force was created in 1912 and served as the South African Army. It was renamed as the South African Defence Force (SADF) by the passing of the Defence Act (No. 44) of 1957. Subdivisions included the Army, Air Force and the Navy. Service in any of these divisions was restricted to White South African males.

Prior to the Amendment Act, military service was voluntary. However, on 4 August 1967, military conscription became compulsory for all White men in South Africa over the age of 16. Deferment to complete schooling or a university degree was granted, but hardly any White men were exempt from conscription.

Conscripts formed part of the SADF and their services were largely used to uphold the apartheid regime. They fought against liberation movements in Angola, Namibia and Mozambique, and were often deployed to townships to quell anti-apartheid action.

In 1983, the End Conscription Campaign (ECC) was formed to end compulsory military service. By 1985, the ECC held a "Troops out of Townships" rally, in which the White dissatisfaction with the apartheid government and their policy on conscription was made clear.

The government responded by banning the ECC in 1988. However, the following year the length of conscription had been shortened, and in 1993, the end of conscription was announced.

The SADF was replaced by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in 1994.


  1. Department of Defence - South African Army
  2. South African Military Guide
• Kalley, J.A.; Schoeman, E. & Andor, L.E. (eds) (1999). Southern African Political History: a chronology of key political events from independence to mid-1997, Westport: Greenwood.
• South African Defense Force [online] Available at: www.wikipedia.org [Accessed 28 July 2009]

Last updated : 04-Aug-2017

This article was produced by South African History Online on 31-Jul-2013

Support South African History Online

Donate and Make African History Matter

South African History Online is a non profit organisation. We depend on public support to build our website into the most comprehensive educational resource and encyclopaedia on African history.

Your support will help us to build and maintain partnerships with educational institutions in order to strengthen teaching, research and free access to our content.