One percent terror, ninety-nine percent boredom: an analysis of the military boredom and leisure time experiences of SADF soldiers during the South African Border War 1966–1989

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Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University
ENGLISH SUMMARY : The soldier's recreational time is not particularly well-researched, even in contemporary armies, with most emphasis being placed on the battles themselves, their aftermath and post-war trauma. Important aspects indeed, however, a soldier’s activities when resting, recovering or when keeping themselves entertained between adrenaline-soaked action is also worthy of scrutiny as it raises questions on war and society, and opens a window into the base-level mental state of what one could consider “professional combatants”. Using conscripts deployed during the South African Border War 1966-1989 as a case study, this research considers the causes and impacts of military boredom for the Cold War-era South African soldier as well as the strategies employed and structures built to overcome this state. This study reviews the institutional and the interpersonal circumstance of the bored South African Defence Force (SADF) soldier by exploring and analysing the historical, sociological, and psychological costs of boredom and leisure strategies whilst considering the interplay between boredom and trauma, the weighty influence of an increasingly militarised society, and finally how veterans now navigate memorialising this time in their lives. Evidence has revealed that, as the war progressed, the SADF became increasingly aware that leisure was as much a need to cater to, and boredom as much a state to guard against, as were clean water and nutritious food needed to ensure the physiological well-being of the soldiers under their command. Countering boredom, as a result, became a significant enterprise into which many resources were funnelled, from simpler aspects such as ensuring access to reading materials to more involved and far-reaching socio-military structures such as sports, religious organisations, and civilian support networks such as the Southern Cross Fund. For the men themselves, resolving boredom was as much an exercise in relieving daily duty drudgery as it was about survival in a hostile and alien environment with some successfully bearing their required National Service as a result, whilst for others, these strategies led to significant trauma and destructive coping mechanisms. The result of this study is a broader image of an under-researched conflict that demonstrates that the impact of the lesser known 99% of boredom is as important to a fuller understanding of this war as the 1% of terror is. This is also where a significant aspect of the human cost of such a war is hidden, the impact of which we are only now beginning to understand.
AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Geen opsomming beskikbaar.
Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2023.