In 1977 the Department of Defence published a White Paper spelling out the belief of P.W. Botha and the military that South Africa faced a ‘total onslaught’ in virtually every area of society. Threats could only be countered by a ‘total strategy’ against subversive elements.
The battle had to be fought on two fronts. There were the challenges of liberation organisations with Marxist leanings coming to power in neighbouring states. Internally there were the grievances of a subordinate black population that was poor and without rights. Improving socio-economic conditions in the townships was seen as essential for the white-dominated political order and the free-enterprise system to prevail.
From the mid-1970s the speeches of senior generals had as their recurring theme that the struggle against revolutionaries was 20% military and 80% socioeconomic. As one phrased it: ‘If South Africa lost the socio-economic struggle we need not bother to fight the military one. The objective is no longer territory but the hearts and minds of men.’