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Introducing conscription
Conscientious objection
ECC: early days
First State of Emergency
Raising the ECC profile
2nd State of Emergency
ECC: underground
ECC: final days

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The Union Defence Force was reestablished as the South African Defence Force (SADF) through the Defence Act (No. 44) of 1957. Through this act all white males were made liable for training and service in the armed forces. While the provision for conscription was laid, this was not enacted.
In response to demonstrations following the Sharpeville Massacre, the SADF raised its intake from 7000 to 20000, and increased the training period from three months to nine months.
The South African Defence Force (SADF) first occupied South West Africa (Namibia), conducting actions against guerillas.
Universal conscription of white South African males into the SADF was introduced by the South African State.
Armscor was established to buy and secure the SADF’s growing military equipment requirements.
The SADF increased the training period of conscripts from nine to twelve months with an obligation of 19 days per year for five years to contain insurgency in occupied South-West Africa/Namibia.
The SADF replaced the SAP as the occupying force in Namibia.
The SADF supported the rebel group, National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), despite the removal of support for this group by western powers such as the United States, Britain and France.
The South African Council of Churches (SACC) issued the Hammanskraal Declaration, which provided a theological justification for conscientious objection to military service.
02 October 1975
The SADF invaded Angola during Operation Savannah
The duration of national service increased from one to two years for the initial period, with an obligation of 30 days per year for eight years after this.
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South Africa’s first Conscientious Objector, Anton Eberhardt, was tried in Durban for refusing his call-up. He was sentenced to twelve months, with ten months suspended.
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Thousands of conscripts failed to report for duty. In response, the SADF amended the Defence Act, with penalties of up to two years imprisonment. This amendment also made it an offence to encourage conscripts to refuse to serve, with severe penalties for doing so.
The National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) established committees to explore alternatives to military service.
The Conscientious Objector Support Group (COSG) was established in South Africa.
The Committee on South African War Resistance (COSAWR) was founded in both London and Amsterdam, to assist and organise South Africans going into exile. Through extensive research, and the tireless commitment of those involved, COSAWR worked to raise awareness about the growing influence of the military in apartheid South Africa.
PW Botha became the Prime Minister and implemented his ‘Total Strategy’ to consolidate a state-wide security strategy. This policy served as the basis for the transformation of the South African state into a military bureaucracy, controlled by the National Security Management System (NSMS)
Religious (Baptist) conscientious objector Peter Moll was sentenced to 18 months and served 12 for refusing a call-up to a three-month camp.
Moll’s cousin, also a religious conscientious objector, Richard Steele, was sentenced to a year in prison for refusing to report for duty.
Another amendment was made to the Defence Act with provisions for the deployment of troops to suppress perceived internal security threats - namely, occupying black townships and bantustans created as part of territorial apartheid policy.
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Charles Yeats, another religious objector, served a year in detention. He refused to wear military uniform, and was denied his civilian clothing, so he spent the majority of the year in blue boxer shorts, and then another year for this dissent.
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Conscription was further extended to foreigners who were permanent residents in South Africa.
Conscientious Objectors Mike Viveiros, Neil Mitchell and Billy Paddock were tried for their refusal to serve. Viveiros served one year of an eighteen month sentence, and Mitchell and Paddock served one year sentences each.
NUSAS formed the Conscription Action Group (CAG) to publicize and lend support to the cause of conscientious objectors. The University of Cape Town (UCT) branch of CAG exemplified this by holding a ‘Focus on Militarisation’ seminar.
The SADF launched Operation Askari, the third major invasion of Angola, with ten thousand troops being deployed.
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The Defence Act was amended allowing for a six-year substitute service for religious conscientious objectors – with six years imprisonment for all other conscientious objectors. The Board of Religious Objection established.
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Ettienne Essery, Pete Hathorn and Paul Dodson were sentenced for refusing to serve. Brett Myrdal went into exile rather than facing trial.
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May 1984
Members of the growing anti-conscription movement helped coordinate a two week focus on Namibia, with advocate (and SWAPO member) Anton Lubowski and political leader Hans Rohr touring South Africa to raise awareness about the illegality of permanent South African occupation in Namibia.
August 1984
The End Conscription Campaign was established. Its name, logo and official declaration were decided upon at a national coordination meeting. The first campaign was the ‘Declaration Launch Campaign.’
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07 October 1984
Troops first enter the townships, reflecting a shift in the notion of the ongoing war – from an external to an internal one against marginalized elements of the South African population.
15 October 1984
End Conscription Campaign launched at the Claremont Civic Centre in Cape Town, with over 1400 attendees. State funded protesters attempted to disrupt the meeting.
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January 1985
Parliament reports 7589 conscripts had failed to report for duty in the recent call-up.
January 1985
ECC holds its first national conference to consolidate national structures and decide how to move forward.
05 June 1985
A high profile public debate took place in Johannesburg between Wits academic and activist David Webster and official leader of the opposition, Frederick Van Zyl Slabbert.
July 1985
As part of the ongoing 'Working for a Just Peace' Campaign, the ECC organized a Peace Festival in Johannesburg.
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20 July 1985
In response to growing political instability, President P.W. Botha declared a State of Emergency in thirty six districts in South Africa, covering the Eastern Cape and the Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging.
September 1985
The Troops out of the Townships Campaign coincided with the Fasting for Just Peace Campaign during this month. With several Conscientious Objectors fasting over three weeks, and thousands of other supporters joining them for 24 hour periods, the focus of the campaign was a mass fast on 7 October 1985. This was the one year anniversary of troops first being sent into the townships.
October 1985
Emergency Regulations under the State of Emergency were now extended to the Western Cape.
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October 1985
Religious Conscientious Objector Ivan Toms was briefly detained.
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November 1985
The ECC joins 22 other organizations in protesting against the extension of emergency regulations to the Western Cape, and generally against the State of Emergency.
December 1985
A planned open forum panel discussion on conscription scheduled to take place in Cape Town was banned, and police broke up the candlelight procession of 23 organisations (including the End Conscription Campaign) in Sea Point.
December 1985
Laurie Nathan and Peter Hathorn travel Europe meeting with international network of conscientious objector groups, as well as a number of anti-war organizations. The purpose of their trip was to strengthen international solidarity and raise awareness about the South African anti-conscription movement.
Philip Wilkinson, religious Conscientious Objector, was turned down by the Board for Religious Objection. After being arrested and released on bail, his trial was set for July 1986.
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January 1986
The End Conscription Campaign implements its 'Cadets is not Compulsory! Troops out of the Schools! Campaign' with the central aim of informing school goers of their legal rights to refuse participation in the SADF-run cadets program in South African schools.
March 1986
United States ECC tour through international supporters including the War Resister’s League, and funded by the UN Special Committee against Apartheid. Gavin Evans spoke on behalf of ECC at a UN Special Committee meeting, as well as several public meetings and media events.
April 1986
Under the 'Working for a Just Peace' campaign, 26 Alternative Service Projects, involving over 250 people, were implemented. This included a fair in Cape Town visited by over 5000 people.
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April 1986
Anti-war Film Festival at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town took place as part of the Cape Town Film Festival. This was opened by Dr Alex Boraine.
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May 1986
The End Conscription Campaign, Black Sash and UDF Claremont and Observatory area committees jointly hosted a protest meeting against SADF raids.
May 1986
The End Conscription Campaign is attacked by Malan and the Conservative Party in parliament on numerous occasions.
12 June 1986
The State of Emergency was extended to cover the entire country. The Public Security Act was amended to enable the state to declare certain places 'unrest areas', which in turn gave more leeway for intensely repressive security measure to be implemented.
August 1986
Janet Cherry of the Port Elizabeth ECC was detained in Cape Town after being in hiding since June of 1986.
December 1986
The 'War is No Solution' Campaign is introduced.
David Bruce imprisoned for six years.
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February 1988
The 'Know Your Rights' Campaign and the 'Alternative Service Campaign' were both launched at an ECC national conference.
June 1988
Representatives of the End Conscription Campaign met members of the South African Defence Force in Pretoria with a proposal for alternative national service.
August 1988
End Conscription Campaign effectively banned under restriction orders of the State of Emergency regulations
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01 May 1989
ECC founder member David Webster assassinated by members of the Civil Cooperation Bureau (CCB)
July 1989
The ANC-organized Five Freedoms Forum was organized in Lusaka, including the ECC.
21 September 1989
771 men publicly stated their refusal to serve in the SADF.
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December 1989
The initial call-up period for new conscripts was reduced to one year.
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The ECC launched the 'Release Objector Campaign' and re-established branches in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, East London, Grahamstown and Stellenbosch.
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January 1990
The six year term of community service granted to religious conscientious objectors was halved to three years.
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January 1990
Imprisoned Conscientious Objector Saul Batzofin was released from Zondwater Prison after serving 9 months of an 18 month sentence.
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February 1990
President F.W. De Klerk officially unbanned the End Conscription Campaign.
21 March 1990
The independence of Namibia is declared. The new bill of rights is passed, with the right of conscientious objection enshrined.
April 1990
Conscientious Objector, David Bruce, who was serving a six year sentence, was granted bail.
May 1990
The End Conscription Campaign acted as an intermediary at a meeting between South African Defence Force officials and the African National Congress.
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June 1991
The charges for refusal to serve against Conscientious Objectors Alan Storey and Wally Rontsch are withdrawn. This is interpreted by the ECC as a sign of reluctance on the part of the SADF to argue for the legality of the call-up in a public court of law.
July 1991
The ECC holds a nation-wide campaign to "End Racist Conscription" in the South African Defence Force.
August 1991
The granting of political indemnity to Conscientious Objector Michael Graaf was seen as an important turning point for the anti-conscription movement. It indicated the recognition by the state that COs were political offenders and that Conscientious Objection to service in the SADF was a political issue.
October 1991
SADF Chief General Kat Liebenburg revealed that 50 percent of serving soldiers were black volunteers, 19 percent coloured volunteers and only 31 percent white conscripts and Permanent Force members. While this was seen in part as demonstrative of a move away from a racist armed forces, the ECC responded that the most senior black officers in the SADF were 3 colonels, and that senior officer corps remained white.
December 1991
The ECC holds a nation-wide campaign to "End Conscription Now."
24 August 1993
Minister of Defence Kobie Coetsee announces the abolition of the system of conscription in South Africa.
The End Conscription Campaign officially disbanded.
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