South Africa’s nuclear capabilities are ambiguous, both in terms of its reasons for developing the bomb and the secrecy surrounding the development. It has been suggested that South Africa’s development of the bomb was linked entirely to national ambition. It is perhaps plausible that South Africa developed the bomb simply to be as technologically advanced as possible, in order to equal great international superpowers, like the US and Russia. This mentality was enhanced by South Africa’s isolation in the 1970s and 80s, due to its domestic turmoil caused by the apartheid movement, making South African government more determined to prove themselves on an international scale.
Another perhaps more pragmatic reason for South Africa’s nuclear development was the political and military advantage of having nuclear weapons. The bomb for South Africa meant security; having a nuclear arsenal that could be revealed at the last minute would ensure foreign intervention, not necessarily support, if there was ever to be a Soviet attack on South Africa, given its anti-communist stance. This interpretation would explain the covert nature of South Africa’s nuclear weapons program as these plans would require secrecy in order to be successful. Continue reading “South Africa and the NPT”