The South African ‘War Resistance’ Movement 1974–1994

  • Gavin Cawthra


From the mid-1970s until the onset of negotiations to end apartheid in 1990, escalating military conflict in the Southern African region was accompanied by a steady increase of conscription dependent on the white male population in South Africa. This was compounded by a process of militarisation in the white community, under the apartheid regime’s ‘total national security strategy’.1 In turn, this provoked a counter-reaction in the form a movement of resistance to conscription and more generally to the various internal and external conflicts. Resistance was initially led by exiled self-styled ‘war resisters’ who set up a number of support organisations. After some political contestation, one such organisation, the Committee on South African War Resistance (COSAWR) emerged as the leading force and aligned itself openly with the African National Congress (ANC). This paper is the first academic contribution to focus on COSAWR and touches on its legacy in terms of its influence on the ANC and the policy frameworks it helped establish for post-apartheid security policy.



Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2224-0020
print ISSN: 1022-8136