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South Africa

South Africa WMD Stats

Overview:

South Africa's nuclear, biological, chemical, and missile programs reflected perceptions of internal and external threats stemming from its former government's policy of apartheid, as well as the country's advanced state of technical development. Pretoria developed nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles but relinquished these armaments in the early 1990s. The apartheid government also undertook a chemical and biological weapons (CBW) defense program, which reportedly also included offensive research and use of CBW agents against opponents of that government. While the proliferation legacies of South Africa's nuclear and missile programs were effectively resolved through verified disarmament measures that won international acclaim, dismantlement of the country's CBW capabilities was not verified to a comparable degree of certainty. The post-apartheid government of South Africa implemented its nonproliferation and disarmament policy through the Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction Act (No. 87 of 1993) to control the transfer of sensitive items and technologies. South Africa is the first and, to date, only country to build a nuclear arsenal, and then voluntarily dismantle its entire nuclear weapons program. The South African experience demonstrates that at least under some conditions, unilateral disarmament is not only possible, but can improve a nation’s security.

Definitions

  • Biological: A description of the nation's situation with regards to the possession and manufacture of biological weapons of mass destruction
  • Chemical: A description of the nation's situation with regards to the possession and manufacture of chemical weapons of mass destruction
  • Missile: A description of the nation's situation with regards to the possession and manufacture of missile weapons of mass destruction
  • Nuclear: A description of the nation's situation with regards to the possession and manufacture of nuclear weapons
STAT AMOUNT DATE RANK
Biological South Africa’s biological weapons program was one of the two principal components of its covert state-sponsored CBW program, codenamed Project Coast (later Project Jota). Personnel associated with Coast have characterized it as the most sophisticated program of its type outside of the former Soviet Union, but international CBW experts generally consider it to have been considerably less advanced from a scientific standpoint. Although ostensibly created entirely for defensive purposes, since government and Cuban military forces in Angola were reportedly equipped for and planning to use—if not already using—CW agents against the South African Defence Force (SADF), from the outset the program also had offensive features and capabilities. The apartheid-era South African government viewed itself as the target of a “total onslaught” by Soviet-backed Marxist guerrillas or regimes in neighboring states and black nationalists at home, and to meet this all-encompassing “red-black danger” it was apparently willing to use almost any means at its disposal to defend itself. It was in this highly charged political and military context, which precipitated a “bunker” or “laager” mentality, that Coast was secretly initiated in 1981 under the aegis of the SADF Special Forces. The chief facility for researching, producing, and testing BW agents and lethal toxic chemicals was a military front company called Roodeplaat Research Laboratories, located north of Pretoria, and other facilities were established to develop protective clothing and manufacture exotic assassination devices. Project Officer Dr. Wouter Basson also set up an elaborate network of procurement and financial front companies overseas. During its existence Coast scientists tested or developed a wide range of harmful BW agents, including Bacillus anthracis, botulinum toxin, Vibrio cholerae, Clostridium perfringens, plague bacteria, and salmonella bacteria. Some of these pathogens were probably used to assassinate individual “enemies of the state,” and it is alleged that both anthrax bacteria and V. cholerae were each employed on at least one occasion to infect larger populations. The CBW program was officially dismantled in 1993, in the midst of a liberalizing transformation of the regime. There are indications, however, that certain personnel who were intimately involved in the program, including Basson, may have provided technical knowledge, equipment, or materials to “rogue regimes” such as Libya, to foreign intelligence personnel, to unscrupulous black marketers trafficking in dangerous weapons, and perhaps also—if certain journalists can be believed—to elements of a shadowy international network of right-wing extremists. These claims have yet to be fully investigated, much less verified. The extent to which various foreign governments, military establishments, and intelligence agencies secretly monitored or covertly assisted in the development of the program likewise remains an open question. 1993
Chemical South Africa’s chemical warfare program was one of the two principal components of its covert state-sponsored CBW program, codenamed Project Coast (later Project Jota). Personnel associated with Coast have characterized it as the most sophisticated program of its type outside of the former Soviet Union, but international CBW experts generally consider it to have been considerably less advanced from a scientific standpoint. Although ostensibly created entirely for defensive purposes, since government and Cuban military forces in Angola were reportedly equipped for and planning to use—if not already using—CW agents against the South African Defence Force (SADF), from the outset the program also had offensive features and capabilities. The apartheid-era South African government viewed itself as the target of a “total onslaught” by Soviet-backed Marxist guerrillas or regimes in neighboring states and black nationalists at home, and to meet this all-encompassing “red-black danger” it was apparently willing to use almost any means at its disposal to defend itself. It was in this highly charged political and military context, which precipitated a “bunker” or “laager” mentality, that Coast was secretly initiated in 1981 under the aegis of the SADF Special Forces. The chief facility for researching and producing CW agents was a military front company called Delta G Scientific, located between Johannesburg and Pretoria, and several other facilities were set up to develop protective clothing, manufacture exotic assassination devices, and “weaponize” irritants (Riot Control Agents such as CS and CR) and incapacitants by placing them in artillery shells, mortar bombs, and grenades. Project Officer Dr. Wouter Basson also set up an elaborate network of procurement and financial front companies overseas. During its existence Coast scientists tested and developed both small quantities of well-known CW agents (including mustard agent, sarin, tabun, BZ, and perhaps VX) and a host of lethal, hard-to-trace toxic chemicals. Several of these latter, above all the toxic organophosphates, were almost certainly employed to assassinate individual “enemies of the state.” Certain CW facilities also carried out research on the suitability of using illegal drugs such as methaqualone (“Quaaludes”), MDMA (“Ecstasy”), LSD, marijuana extract (tetrahydrocannibol), and cocaine as incapacitating “calmatives,” but some of these illegal drugs may have ended up being sold for a profit. The CBW program was officially dismantled in 1993, in the midst of a liberalizing transformation of the regime. There are indications, however, that certain personnel who were intimately involved in the program, including Basson, may have provided technical knowledge, equipment, or materials to “rogue regimes” such as Libya, to foreign intelligence personnel, to unscrupulous black marketers trafficking in dangerous weapons, and perhaps also—if certain journalists can be believed—to elements of a shadowy international network of right-wing extremists. These claims have yet to be fully investigated, much less verified. The extent to which various foreign governments, military establishments, and intelligence agencies secretly monitored or covertly assisted in the development of the program likewise remains an open question. 1993
Missile It is not clear when South Africa began ballistic missile-related efforts, but reportedly by the mid-1980s, some missile infrastructure existed in the country. It appears that Israel collaborated with South Africa in development of this program, but the nature and extent of this relationship is unknown. Following a July 1989 flight-test of what Pretoria described as a “booster rocket” in a space-launch program, U.S. intelligence noted striking similarities between this system and Israel’s intermediate-range Jericho-2 ballistic missile. Facing U.S. opposition to missile proliferation and the end of its apartheid government, South Africa abandoned its missile and space launch programs in 1991 and dismantled associated facilities under international observation. South Africa became a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in 1995. 1995
Nuclear In the 1960s, South Africa began to explore the technical utility of "peaceful nuclear explosions" for mining and engineering purposes. In 1973, then Prime Minister Johannes Vorster approved a program to develop a limited nuclear deterrent capability. Ultimately, South Africa manufactured six air-deliverable nuclear weapons of the "gun-type" design. In parallel with decisions to end apartheid, the government halted the bomb program in 1989 and dismantled existing weapons and associated production equipment. South Africa acceded to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as a non-nuclear weapon state in 1991, and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors subsequently verified the completeness of its nuclear dismantlement. South Africa joined the Zangger Committee in 1994 and the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 1995. South Africa was instrumental in winning indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995, and played a leading role in successful conclusion of the 2000 NPT Review Conference as a member of the "New Agenda Coalition" that also included Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, and Sweden. More recently, South Africa began working more closely with the IAEA in 2004, in order to monitor international smuggling of nuclear weapons materials, after investigations of a South African businessman exposed connections to the A.Q. Khan network. In 2004, there was also ample discussion concerning South Africa’s dwindling coal reserves and its need for additional nuclear power generation. 2004

Citation

"South Africa WMD Stats", NationMaster. Retrieved from http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/profiles/South-Africa/Military/WMD