Decline and Fall: Why The South African Civilian Defence Secretariat Was Dissolved In 1966

Deon Fourie


Briefly, between 1912 and 1966 there was an independent Secretary for Defence, described in the Acts and the Permanent Force Regulations as the “Permanent Head of the Department”. Not only was this not true in practice after the establishment in 1918 of the office of Chief of the General Staff (later at various times General Officer Commanding the UDF, Commandant-General and Chief of the SADF) but the meaning of the characterisation was never clearly defined. A minefield of prerogatives and consequent overlapping developed between the two office holders and their staffs. Those attempts at solution all ignored the fundamental constitutional principles behind the establishment of the Secretariat as well as the principles of organizational theory, ambiguity about authority, mministerial failures, the personalities involved and ill-considered appointments and also the failure to exploit the benefits of a Secretariat. After years of conflict, worsened by the demands of the Second World War and recommendations by several committees of enquiries and the Public Service Commission, the Secretariat was taken into the SADF, in a civilian capacity under the Comptroller. Between 1966 and 1968 it was absorbed into the various Staff Sections at DHQ.   The results were perhaps a mixed blessing.  In some areas it was very successful.   But many of the defects remained.


Accounting Officer; Chief of the General Staff; Executive Commanders; Ministerial policy; Permanent Head; Secretariat; Union Defence Forces

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