Why the DA is against army conscription in SA

 ·28 Jul 2015

The Democratic Alliance (DA) says it will oppose forced military service for youth in the country.

An ANC-led alliance has reportedly begun pushing for the return of military conscription in the country, in a bid to contain youth unemployment and also instill discipline, patriotism and volunteerism into young people from the ages of 18.

Military conscription was outlawed in 1994 when Apartheid ended.

Given that ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe has recently publicly supported the re-introduction of military conscription, it is possible that forced conscription will become government policy, the DA said in a statement on Tuesday (28 July).

“Such a policy is a clear example of goal displacement. The purpose of the military is to defend our borders, not to attempt to create jobs,” said Phumzile van Damme, deputy shadow minister in the Presidency.

“Looking to the military in an attempt to fix our country’s youth unemployment crisis is a resounding admission by the ANC government that its economic policies simply cannot create real employment for the millions of young South Africans who find themselves unemployed.”

The DA said there is no space for forced military service in a constitutional democracy that values the freedom of movement, conscience, thought, and opinion.

It also questioned whether it is wise to train young unemployed people how to use a gun and then release them into a society where job opportunities are limited.

The DA stressed that it supports a national internship programme which is voluntary, demilitarised, and includes other sectors such as the health and education sectors.

There are many alternative ways to create opportunities for young people, it said including:

  • Establishing Job Zones near ports and airports, and in rural areas, to attract investment into industries that employ many people;
  • Upscaling the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) to provide temporary relief from unemployment and much-needed skills development as the DA has done successfully in the City of Cape Town;
  • Creating a national government internship programme based on the successful model used in the Western Cape; and
  • Introducing a real Youth Wage Subsidy to address high levels of youth unemployment. Government’s current intervention, the Employment Tax Incentive (ETI), has failed to provide young South Africans with job opportunities they need; instead, it has benefited middlemen and big employers.

“The DA is committed to creating a South Africa where all of the country’s young people have access to opportunities and jobs. We will support any policy that aims to do so. However, such policies should not infringe on the right of our young people to choose lives they can value,” said van Damme.

“We therefore will not support forced military service,” the shadow minister said.

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