Afrikanerdom and nuclear weapons : a cultural perspective on nuclear proliferation and rollback in South Africa
This thesis focuses on the history of nuclear weapons proliferation and rollback in South Africa.
The main challenge it poses relates to statements and written accounts by former South African
officials published since 1993, which emphasize new external threats as the sole incentive for
building the weapons and their disappearance as a necessary condition for dismantling them. This
study contends that their strict focus on national security considerations has obscured vital
influences and incentives that shaped nuclear decision making. The alternative perspective
developed in this study argues that certain core tenants of Afrikaner culture significantly enhanced
the lure of the nuclear weapons option and informed nuclear decision making, from the beginning
of South Africa's nuclear weapons programme until its termination. The focus on culture generates
questions about the veracity of key aspects of the official account, such as the start-date of the
programme and the reasons for nuclear rollback, which have not been subject to thorough
scholarly investigation due to the destruction of all nuclear weapons-related documents.
Underlying this study is the now widely-held assumption in IR that states' strategic
postures are not derived solely, or perhaps even primarily, from crude 'material interests' or
rational calculations. Rather, actors are sensitive to material conditions (e. g., relative capabilities) in
a culturally unique way. South Africa's nuclear weapons programme is presented as an outcome of
a dynamic interplay between the culture of the state's former ruling minority, the Afrikaners, and
structural or external factors. The Security Culture approach developed by Keith Krause in his
work on arms control issuesi s adopted to systematically assessh ow the Afrikaners' collective
understandings, values, traditions, beliefs, perceptions and self-perceptions were implicated in
South Africa's nuclear history.