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A Destabilization Manual

South Africa

new internationalist
issue 192 - February 1989

A Destabilization Manual


Author: Dr Deon Geldenhuys (1), Associate Professor of Political Science at Rand Afrikaans University, Johannesburg, 1982.

Consumer: Mr P W Botha, President of the Republic of South Africa.

Theme: It is desirable and justified for South Africa to destabilize neighbouring countries which threatens its security by opposing apartheid.

[image, unknown] Support rebel groups within target country.
[image, unknown] Paralyze transport systems
[image, unknown] Cut off food and energy supplies.
[image, unknown] Destroy health and education services.

Expected result: Severe hardship to the population who will in turn direct their fury and frustration at their own Government and compel it to reconsider its hostile attitude towards the destabilizer.


Method: Destabilization should take a covert form. The target state's political, economic and military vulnerabilities can best be exploited by supporting, arming and training a disaffected group within the country.

Progress: So far MNR (Renamo) action is estimated to have claimed 100,000 Mozambican lives. A further 200,000 children are thought to have lost contact with their parents. In one attack on the market town of Homoine in July 1987, 420 civilians died. Rebels burst into the hospital and using knives and bayonets as well as firearms systematically killed patients as they lay in their beds.

'From where I was I saw them kill my mother. They shot her in the stomach. She tried to crawl across the yard but her stomach was completely open. I was hiding behind a thin wall. Then the bandits started firing around and I was hit in the legs.'

Rebeca Tembe, aged 10 describing an attack on her home.


Method: Mining of roads, ambushing of vehicles and sabotage of railway lines are effective means of bringing the country to a standstill.

Progress: Around 1,300 trucks, tractors and buses were destroyed between 1980 and 1986. More than 164 locomotives and 352 wagons and passenger coaches have been removed. The use of Maputo a port decreased from nine million tons to one million in 1987.

'I work for the emergency programme transporting food and clothes. We always travel by convoy but we got caught in an attack recently. My vehicle was set alight by the bandits. Sure, it's a dangerous job, but I look at this way: "Those people who are hungry and naked out there. They are my aunts, my uncles, my brothers, my sisters. I have to serve them. That is my duty, as a Mozambican".'

Victor Manuel Jose, convoy driver with Oxfam, Niassa province.


Method: Denying food to the target state is the most powerful weapon. Rebel activity forces peasants to flee the land and stop producing food.

Progress: The 1983-4 famine claimed the lives of 100,000 Mozambicans. A quarter of the population became refugees. Around 40 per cent of the population is still suffering from acute food shortages. Aid workers say the situation is 'worse than the Sudan' in some parts.

'I have seen too many, too many of my children and too many children of other women die of hunger. All I long for is a small bit of peace so I can cultivate a plot of land and feed my children.'

Olga Agida, farmer, refugee and former Renamo captive in Zambesia province.


Method: Attacks on rural health posts are profoundly demoralizing for the local population. Mozambicans identify the improvement of health care as a major post-independence achievement.

Progress: A total of 720 rural health units have been destroyed or sacked with a logs of access to health care for two million people.

'They took all the medicines and then set fire to the clinic. We had to start all over again. Using parts of old refrigerators as tables; walking for miles to try and obtain medicines. But we are managing somehow. No, I would never think of leaving. I have a job to do here. I don't come from here but I feel I belong. More so after the attack.'

Ambrosio Dustao, Health worker in Niassa province.


Method: The destruction of schools dashes the target state's hopes of creating a generation of literate, educated and trained people to ensure its economic and social development.

Progress: A total of 2,049 primary schools and 36 boarding schools have been destroyed in rural areas.

'For me the saddest thing is the thought of all those thousands of children we cannot reach. The children who come here out of nowhere, who have lost everything. Their home, their family. What can we give them? How can we educate them? How can we give them a hope for the future?'

Alberto Junqueiro, Director of Education in Metangula, Niassa province.

* This page is inspired by Destabilization Controversy in Southern Africa and other academic papers produced by Dr Geldenhuys. We have added the quotations. For more information read Apartheid's Second Front or Beggar Your Neighbours by Joseph Hanlon.

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