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SOUTH AFRICA, Landmine Monitor Report 1999


Mine Ban Policy

South Africa was the third country to sign the Mine Ban Treaty on 3 December 1997. In his address to the signing ceremony, Foreign Affairs Minister, A.B. Nzo, noted that the ban treaty “represents some of the best news in the field of disarmament as it abolishes an entire range of conventional weapons. Early Entry Into Force of the Convention must be a top priority to make our new international norm against anti-personnel mines legally binding.”[1] The National Assembly ratified the ban treaty on 5 May 1998, and on 26 June 1998 South Africa deposited its instrument of ratification, the twenty-first country to do so and the fifth from Africa.

South Africa has been one of the most active African nations in the global process to ban antipersonnel mines. On 20 February 1997, just days before the Fourth International NGO Conference on Landmines in Maputo, Mozambique, South Africa announced, effective immediately, a comprehensive ban on use, production, and trade of antipersonnel mines, as well as its intention to destroy existing stocks.

In June 1995, a number of South Africa NGO representatives attended the third International Conference to Ban Landmines in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and, on their return, the Ceasefire Campaign launched a coordinated campaign against antipersonnel landmines. In early 1996, the campaign was restructured as the South African Campaign To Ban Landmines (SACBL).[2]

In May 1996, at the conclusion of the negotiations on the Landmine Protocol of the Convention on Conventional Weapons, South Africa announced that it was suspending use of antipersonnel mines, pending an evaluation of the military utility of the weapon. However, it continued at that time to advocate “smart” mines as the solution to the global mine crisis. Over the course of 1996 and early 1997 South Africa’s policy shifted to one of full support for a comprehensive ban, leading to the 20 February 1997 unilateral ban announcement.

South Africa played a prominent role in the Ottawa Process. It was a member of the “core group” of governments that took responsibility for developing and promoting the Mine Ban Treaty. At the first treaty preparatory meeting held in Vienna in February 1997, South Africa was the first nation to speak, making a particularly strong statement in support of the Ottawa Process. South Africa hosted the Organization of African Unity (OAU) conference on landmines in Kempton Park in May 1997, a key meeting in building support among African states for the ban treaty. South Africa’s Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Jacob Selebi, skillfully steered the ban treaty negotiations toward their successful conclusion in September 1997 in Oslo, Norway. South Africa has also supported or co-sponsored all key UN General Assembly resolutions on landmines.

The roads to the ban was never completely smooth, however. A South African Defense Department document dated 20 May 1997, described the possibility of a global ban as "a tall order" and went on challenge "anyone doubting the effectiveness of such an anti-personnel minefield, should try it sometime."[3] South Africa ratified the CCW on 13 October 1995, and its amended Protocol II on 26 June 1998. It is a member of the Conference on Disarmament, but has not been supportive of efforts to negotiate landmine restrictions in that forum.

Production and Transfer

South Africa has in the past produced and exported landmines, but the government, manufacturers and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) have been tight-lipped about how many mines were made, where they were exported to, and when exactly the manufacture ceased.[4] Some claim that in the past South Africa was the largest African producer and exporter of landmines.[5] South Africa's mines have been found in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe and exported further afield to Cambodia, Rwanda and Somalia.[6] The U.S. Department of Defense has identified South Africa as manufacturing six antipersonnel mines: the R2M2; the R2M1; the Mini-MS 803; Shrapnel No. 2; the Type 72, a direct copy of the Chinese Type 72; and the No. 69 Mk1, a direct copy of the Italian Valmara 69.[7]

South Africa also produced the “Ambush” mine which can be used against “personnel, vehicles of low-flying helicopters,” and the DEVA M8926A1 anti-handling device equipped with a self-destruct of self-neutralization option.[8] It produced the Demi, also known as M8943A1, a mine initiator or add-on fuse designed to be “conventional pressure-activated anti-tank mines providing an add-on magnetic sensing capability.”[9] South Africa also produced the following antitank mines: the “intelligent horizontal mine;” the No. 8 and the Type 72 antitank mine.[10] More recently, Ruetech Defence Industries has developed the Superstop Area Denial Boom System (ADBS 145) for the South African armed forces. It was introduced to the defense industry at IDEX 97 in Abu Dhabi.[11]

In March 1994, the De Klerk government announced an indefinite moratorium on the export of all landmines (both AP and AT mines). This was superseded by the 20 February 1997 announcement of a unilateral comprehensive ban on use, production, and trade of antipersonnel mines.


The Minister of Defense in reply to a question in Parliament on 15 May 1996 said that the SANDF has "a total of 311,179 landmines in stock. Of these 261, 423 are anti-personnel types and 49, 756 anti-tank.” In May 1997 the South African Department of Defense listed South Africa's stockpile as consisting of: R2M2 "blast" type anti-personnel landmines, J69 "Shrapnel" type jumping anti-personnel landmines and number 8 HE anti-tank mines.[12] It stated that all of the standard South African landmines are "dumb" (non-self-destructing) landmines. There were 186,408 AP mines (HE), 13,038 practice AP mines, 48,484 J69 Jumping mines; 2,059 practice Jumping mines; and 11,434 foreign mines making a total of 261,423 mines.[13]

A significant number of these mines were destroyed in a "big bang" ceremony on the 21 May 1997. The remaining stockpiled antipersonnel landmines were destroyed over a period of five months in 211 detonations which culminated in the destruction of the last thousand on 30 October 1997. By then, the total destroyed was 243,423.[14] It was estimated that R1,18 million (U.S. $19 million) would be required to destroy the AP mines but the actual cost is not known. An environmental study was conducted before and after the destruction to ensure that as little cost to the environment as possible would be done. South Africa prides itself on not only having destroyed its stockpiles way ahead of the four year period provided for in the Convention, but also for the fact that it was the first country to have involved the media and NGOs as witnesses in various phases of the destruction.

When South Africa announced its ban policy in February 1997, it also stated that it would retain "a very limited and verifiable number solely for training specific military personnel in de-mining techniques and for research into assisting the de-mining process.”[15] Since then it has indicated that 5,000 high explosive AP mines have been retained for research and development and 13,000 AP mines for demining training.[16] South Africa also vowed that demining training and research will be carried out under the strictest government supervision and control.

Mine Use

Mines have been used in South Africa, though not extensively. According to one source, South African security forces sometimes placed AP mines on suspected ANC infiltration routes in northern and eastern Transvaal.[17] Recently, various sources including from the ANC's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) have revealed new information regarding mine use in South Africa.[18]

After its June 1985 National Consultative Conference in Kabwe, Zambia, the African National Congress (ANC) conducted a low intensity guerrilla campaign and opened up a new front in rural areas by laying a number of landmines on roads and farm tracks. In response, the South African government repeatedly warned the neighboring governments against allowing their territories to be used as bases from which the ANC could operate and subsequently South African Defence Forces personnel carried out "cross-border" raids into Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

In a submission to the TRC in June 1996, retired senior members of the South African Police argued that the decision by the ANC to engage in a landmine campaign was a flagrant violation of Protocol 1 of 1977 of the Geneva Convention of 1949 which the ANC had signed in 1980. "In their struggle to overthrow the South African government, the ANC alliance resorted to one of the most frightening and intimidatory, if not cowardly, forms of violence, namely the use of landmines."[19]

Research by the Institute for Strategic Studies at the University of Pretoria has revealed that ninety percent of the ANC’s landmine use occurred in rural areas.[20] According to the South Africa Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), in 1986, 1,298 people were killed in political violence, of whom forty-two were killed by landmines and other explosives.[21] The then-Minister of Law and Order claimed that between 1 January and 14 September 1986, seventeen landmine attacks were carried out by the ANC. The South African government also claimed at the time that eleven people were killed in fourteen landmine incidents in the Eastern Transvaal alone from April to November 1986.

Other sources list fifty-seven landmine incidents between November 1985 and February 1991, of which thirty-nine landmines were actually detonated, fourteen were detected and de-activated and another four destroyed by controlled explosions. In this period, twenty-five people were killed and seventy-six injured. It should be noted that it is often unclear in the sources whether “landmines” refer to antitank and/or antipersonnel landmines.

According to South Africa police figures between 1991 and 1994, twenty-six landmines were seized in South Africa in operations aimed to stem the illegal weapons trade in Southern Africa and in particular the flow of illegal weapons into South Africa.[22] In 1994, the press reported that on 6 December an arms cache was seized in the Ingwavuma district of Kwa-Zulu Natal containing among other weapons four TM7 landmines and thirty-four PMN mines.[23] In April 1995, police seized what was believed to the biggest and most sophisticated arms cache of its kind found in the country, on a farm near Pretoria. The cache included 15 Valsella antipersonnel landmines and one Claymore mine.[24] In the same month another large cache of weapons allegedly stolen from the South African Police training center in November 1994 was recovered. Twenty-six Claymore mines and two practice mines were amongst the arms found.[25]

The number of landmines seized by police in 1995 showed an increase of one over 1994.[26] In March 1996, a cache unearthed near Bloemfontien included landmines and antipersonnel bombs. In November 1996, an advertisement was placed in a daily newspaper's "classified" section by a Cape Town-based man who described himself as a commodities dealer. Under the R200 columns, the man advertised M-18 Claymore, SPM, PMN and PMD-2 mines. He claimed that more than 200 had been bought.[27] As late as February 1998, police raided and arrested exiled Albanian King Leka for the possession of a large arsenal of weapons and explosives, including landmines.[28]

Mine Action

South Africa is emerging as a leader in the field of mine clearance equipment and believes that it possesses leading demining technology and expertise as well as medical capability and experience to assist mine victims. Mechem, a specialized engineering division/subsidiary of South Africa’s state-owned arms giant Denel has since 1991 been contracted by both U.N. and private electrical or road-building companies to demine in Mozambique. In 1997, it was estimated that Mechem mine-clearance contracts in Mozambique and Angola have brought in up to U.S. $5 million a year.[29] In August 1997, the South African government signed a R12 million deal with Mechem to clear landmines along the Maputo Corridor.[30]

In October 1997, it was reported that the United States was to order twenty Chubby mobile mine-detection systems developed by the South African company, Dorbyl Ltd (RSD Division).[31] The same article said that the Chubby is being used by the French, British and Rwandan forces as well as by IFOR in Bosnia.

South Africa’s involvement in demining has not been without controversy. Besides the issue of “double-dipping”, which the South African Campaign to Ban Landmines defines broadly to include demining profits being earmarked for general arms production, Mechem’s Terra Limpa (clean land) project in Mozambique recently received media attention because of alleged bad labor practices. In addition, the SACBL has called on Mechem staff to come clean on their apartheid past. A former member of Koevoet and the Civil Co-operation Bureau units who is regularly employed by Mechem appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation to ask for amnesty for his role in the killing of anti-apartheid activists in 1985. Mechem’s property was also allegedly used to store large caches of weaponry earmarked for the Inkatha Freedom Party to be used before the first democratic general elections in 1994.[32]

A list of landmine incidents in South Africa is available.[33]


[1]Address to the Signing Ceremony by Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of South Africa, A.B. Nzo, Ottawa, 3 December 1997.

[2]SACBL members include OXFAM, the Group for Environmental Monitoring (GEM), the Anglican Church, the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission and more than 100 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community-based organizations, religious groups and student movements.

[3]Department of Defense, Landmines in the Department of Defense. (SANDF, Logistical Division 20 May 1997).

[4]Weekly Mail and Guardian, (Johannesburg), 10 May 1996.

[5]Human Rights Watch, Still Killing: Landmines in Southern Africa (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1997), p. 125.

[6]Human Rights Watch, Still Killing, p.129.

[7]U.S. Department of Defence, “Mine Facts CD Rom.”




[11]World of Reunert, 5 (3), April 1997.

[12]Department of Defense, Landmines in the Department of Defense. (SANDF, Logistical Division 20 May 1997).

[13]Department of Defense, Landmines in the Department of Defense. (SANDF, Logistical Division 20 May 1997).


[15] Press Statement by the Minister of Defence, the Hon. Mr. J. Modise, Parliament, 20 February 1997.

[16]Department of Defense, Landmines in the Department of Defense (SANDF, Logistical Division, 20 May 1997).

[17]Human Rights Watch, Still Killing, p. 125.

[18]Political Conflict in South Africa: Data Trends 1984 - 1988. (Durban: Indicator SA, 1998); Various Press reports; the South African Institute for Race Relations' Race Relations Survey.

[19]Submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission by the Foundation for Equality Before the Law, June 1996.

[20]Star, (Johannesburg), 19 September 1996.

[21]Race Relations Survey 1986, Part 2, pp. 517-518.

[22]In 1991, nine landmines were found; in 1992 - eleven; 1993 - none; 1994 - six. Chris Smith and Alex Vines, Light Weapons Proliferation in Southern Africa, London Defence Studies 42, (London: Brassey's and Centre for Defence Studies, 1997), p.30.

[23]Natal Witness, (Durban), 27 December 1994.

[24]1995/96 Survey. South African Institute of Race Relations.


[26]1996/97 Survey. South African Institute of Race Relations.

[27]Star, (Johannesburg), 5 November 1996.

[28]Saturday Star, (Johannesburg), 6 February 1999.

[29]Weekly Mail and Guardian (Johannesburg), 23 May 1997.

[30]Star, (Johannesburg), 4 August 1997.

[31]Star, (Johannesburg), 1 October 1997.

[32]Weekly Mail and Guardian, (Johannesburg), 21 November 1997.

[33]'Political Conflict in South Africa: Data Trends 1984 - 1988.' (Durban: Indicator SA, 1998); Various Press reports.