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Quis custodiet ipsos custodes – Who is guarding the guardians?


Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular. He completed his PhD and Masters studies at the University of Cambridge (UK). His undergraduate studies were at Turfloop and Wits. He is currently a Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Fort Hare University and writes in his personal capacity.

A storm is brewing in the hinterland of KwaZulu-Natal and it’s going to get bad before it gets better. Political killings, intimidation and general ill-discipline among ANC members are the order of the day. Even the auditor-general’s office staff had to flee from the province because it seems the people in that part of the world are immune to accountability and above the law.

When observing these last few months since the victory of President Cyril Ramaphosa at the ANC National Conference in Nasrec, it seems as if some in the ANC have not as yet accepted the outcome of that constitutional structure.

Internal turmoil in the governing party is at the heart of these matters because the logical trajectory for cleansing the party of the criminal elements that have crept into the organisation these last 10 years in particular means that some will have to go to prison. And that is not a good prospect for some.

So, what is to be done?

On the one hand, external to the ANC there is a war of impunity being waged on the citizens of our beautiful country. Criminals are running roughshod over law enforcement agencies and running gun battles are becoming the acceptable soap operas in our streets. More than 100 cash-in-transit heists have taken place around the country this year alone, spreading fear and terror in the hearts and minds of the people.

While in London, President Cyril Ramaphosa was informed of insurrection in North West which meant he had to cut his trip short to come and address matters of state. We did not see the requisite outcome in that matter. Running battles in Parkwood and Bo-Kaap in the Western Cape sit with a certain political unease.

Then there are the overt racial tensions resulting in battles between the communities of Mitchells Plain and Siqalo, also in the Western Cape. We have South African far-right elements going to the USA on tour for months to inform some there of the blatantly untrue “genocide of white South Africans”. I mean, really, is this what it really all boils down to? More racial conflict being stirred up, by whom I wonder?

So, what is to be done?

It seems to me that altruism in our security sector over the years with a tinge of liberal values have not really stood us in good stead. Yes, there are agencies to protect the republic from enemies foreign and domestic and within the ambit of the Constitution, but these criminals don’t give a damn about our Constitution. Murder and mayhem are their armoury to sow division and fear.

We have recently been informed of a plan to deal with some of these criminal elements by the Minister of Police but what is really needed is a complete overhaul of the State Security Agencies in our country, Mr President.

Cleansing of the State Security Agencies cannot be a reformation, it has to be brutal. People must be fired, not reassigned to other parts of the state; others must be arrested for their complicit roles over the last 10 years and still others must be forced to return the huge sums of money they have stolen from state coffers over the years.

Now, I know that the governing party cannot afford to burn down the entire house just to kill a mouse, but examples must be made for all to know that never again will it be allowed for State Capture to run amok in this country. Where our country can be sold to the highest bidder. But for this to be executed correctly, we have to fix our security agencies first.

The National Intelligence Co-ordinating Committee (NICOC) is the appropriate vehicle with which to start the cleansing, Mr President. And by the way, it cannot be managed by someone who does not have the appropriate qualifications nor the requisite skills sets. It is from here that you will be able to receive comparative analysis since all intelligence agencies report into this structure and those that still have hang-ups of doing so must simply be compelled through the Presidency.

This in turn must report to a State Security Council; now I know that such a structure conjures up old apartheid memories but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Such a structures will go a long way in proper co-ordination of intelligence products. Who should sit on this is a matter I will leave to your capable office.

Next, I have to ask, who is your National Security Adviser, Mr President? You certainly need such a person.

You cannot micromanage all the priorities of the state, and a capable individual with the right pedigree and qualifications will be able to correctly administer all the competing priorities of the security of the state and advise you correctly as to the way forward on these matters of state security.

In other words, Mr President, what is the order of battle against this war of impunity? A war that is clearly undermining our gains as a nation over the last 24 years?

  • Political impunity with certain forces undermining the government and its elected leadership.
  • Criminal impunity with terror being spread all around us.
  • And finally, treasonous impunity with some state organs working against or not co-operating with others.

Who guards the guards?

This is an election year, Mr President, and when we debunk the title of this written piece, we will come to understand that, whether it is from Juvenal’s satires or Plato’s Republic, the guards that will ultimately guard the guardians are we the people through our votes, come 2019.

Let’s not forget that the people’s interface with the ANC is through its government representatives, in other words the national and provincial representatives we mandate to do the people’s bidding must be beyond reproach, ethical in their behaviour and incorruptible.

It’s time to get cracking. Those that are busy in dark corners in KwaZulu-Natal and elsewhere, undermining the revolution, must be dealt with harshly and without fear or favour.

Let’s stop chasing lizards when crocodiles are against you. DM


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