The South African Defence Force (SADF) comprised the South African armed forces from 1957 until 1994. Shortly before the nation reconstituted itself as a republic in 1961, the former Union Defence Force was officially proceeded by the SADF, which was established by the Defence Act (No. 44) of 1957. The SADF was, in turn, superseded by the South African National Defence Force in 1994.
South African military units were involved in the long-running Angolan and Mozambican civil wars throughout the 1980s, frequently supporting Pretoria's allies in the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO). SADF personnel were also deployed during the related South African Border War and attempted, unsuccessfully, to crush Namibia's bid for independence.
Within South Africa itself, the SADF was organised with the aim of performing a dual mission: to counter possible insurgency in all forms, and to maintain a conventional military arm which could defend the republic's immediate borders, making retaliatory strikes as necessary. During apartheid, armed SADF troops were used in quelling opposition to minority rule, often directly supporting the South African Police services.
The burden of maintaining a strong defence force fell largely on white South Africans, who were alone subject to conscription. However, Asians and Coloured citizens with mixed ancestry were eligible to serve as volunteers, several even attaining commissioned rank. Conscription was opposed inter alia by organisations such as the End Conscription Campaign, but overall, white morale remained high - as exemplified by the few recruits tried for serious disciplinary offences.
As the military expanded during the 1970s, the SADF general staff was organized into six sections - finance, intelligence, logistics, operations, personnel, and planning; uniquely, the South African Medical Service (SAMS) was made co-equal with the South African Army, the South African Navy and the South African Air Force.
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