ACTIVE CITIZEN FORCE: CAMPS
After completing the two years full time initial service commitment, male South African Citizens were liable to be called up for camps of up to three months every two years for the next ten years. After that they would be moved to the local 'Commandoes'.
ED: Maybe I should check the accuracy of this - (1978 - 1989).
In 1980, the year after finishing his initial two years, Matthew Field was called up to Grahamstown Command, because he was a student at Rhodes University. He went along to a parade to explain that he was a student and did not have time for such things. A National Service Lieutenant, himself a camper, said that this was fine, and thanked him for coming. Matthew was very relieved, and said that this was the most pleasant encounter he had ever had with the Defence Force, but this was explained because the Lieutenant was a fellow national serviceman.
A friend's brother in law says that he was in a position to destroy all the documents that would be needed to call him up for camps in the last days of his two years. He did this, and gleefully announced that he had not had any call-ups for camps.
In 1987, Campers were called up over the Christmas Season to man roadblocks around Voortrekkerhoogte. The purpose of the roadblocks was to indicate to all and sundry that the army own the road. Personnel working in Voortrekkerhoogte were all requested to carry ID around with us all the time, but we don't do so.
If a car was stopped, and the driver could not identify himself, all that the soldiers manning the roadblock could do was to ask him if he was aware that he was travelling along a military road, and then allow him to continue of his way. They had forgone Christmas with the wife and kids to defend the country, and ended up doing this?
Not surprisingly, camps were not popular with the vast majority of people eligible for them. People would do their best to move heaven and earth to avoid doing a camp. It was rumoured that if the army needed three campers, they had to call up at least a platoon in order to get their three.
"Army commanders were complaining that white South Africans preferred sport and social life to military duties. 'The attitude of the man in the street is that the Defence Force and the police are responsible for the defence of the country for which they have to pay taxes. So why should they serve in the army?', one commander complained." (Cawthra, 1986, p. 230.)
"A 23-year-old Pretoria student, Louis Bredenkamp, may just have hit on a sure-fire way of getting off military service. He says an 18-day call-up was cancelled when he told the army he was an ardent member of the ANC."
- 1990 Press Cutting (Untraced) from a South African Newspaper
Published: 1 July 2000.
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