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Dereliction of duty: Government is failing to keep the people of South Africa safe and secure

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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.

Safety and security are hugely compromised in our beloved country and I want to know what you are doing about it, Mr President.

It’s the long game, people say when it comes to making sense of the Ramaphosa strategy. It is beginning to bear fruits on many fronts. The Radical Economic Transformation forces are now a shadow of their former selves, they no longer pose a political threat to the president and the ANC, but they do still pose a significant security threat to our nation.

Imagine the July riots and looting in KZN and Gauteng on a national scale – it would render the country ungovernable and we would be a failed state in a matter of months. Imagine if the Richards Bay Portnet fire, the hacking of the networks of Transnet and other utilities and the explosion of a generator at Kusile power station were actions of sabotage.

We have seen the violence in Mozambique and we have been informed of it is extremist elements such as Islamic State fuelling the violence, but I think it’s actually local citizens who are engaged in protest action against their government.

Why do I say this? Because it is a known fact that the Mozambican government forcibly relocated many people away from where gas had been discovered to the hinterland of that country. Far away from their livelihood, the ocean. Many citizens of the country are reliant on fishing as their source of food and income,and they certainly can’t fish in the rural hinterland, so they fight and cause havoc for their government that’s not listening to them.

We have seen the violent protests in our neighbour Eswatini where citizens are demanding their monarch step aside and allow democratic practice through the vote to prevail. They have had enough of the security apparatus suppressing and bullying them into submission. Surely we must support their efforts for freedom and democracy.  

The military coup in Sudan is yet another indication of how quickly a country can be embroiled in chaos and uncertainty. I am sure that over the next few weeks we will observe more death and destruction in that country, since citizens do not agree with the intervention of the military.

Here in South Africa, thugs enter malls with automatic rifles and rob jewellery stores in broad daylight, killing security personnel and innocent bystanders and they don’t get caught. Rape, housebreakings, car hijackings and kidnappings are the order of the day. 

Why do I mention all of these incidents? For the simple reason that I don’t think our government can keep its citizens safe. Safety and security are hugely compromised in our beloved country and I want to know what you are doing about it, Mr President.

After the policing failure in the July protests, after the destruction of billions of rands of property and infrastructure, you took months before taking action against the national police commissioner, and even then you seem to be approaching it with kid gloves. 

The minister of police survived the whole affair – instead you picked on the minister of intelligence and removed her from her post, when in fact she indicated that her department did alert you and others in the security cluster of the impending protests and potential violence following the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma.

The crime stats tell us that contact and violent crime are on the increase, meaning that we cannot feel safe in our own homes. Security and comfort are what the Freedom Charter aspires to and yet we have fallen far short of it.

I’m harping on this matter because you and I know that it’s not only about fixing our economy and getting growth back into it so as to address our triple challenges; it must also be about securing our future, our assets and indeed us as citizens. 

How do you expect foreign investors and companies to come and do business here when they cannot feel safe? Ratings agencies also look at this issue as a contributing factor in their assessments of our country and its stability. 

It is good that you and your government have gone some way to addressing and combating another scourge in our country, gender-based violence, but there is also general violence against ordinary citizens. What is your police service doing about this?

In the end, Mr President, I want to know whether your government is ready to tackle any of the above scenarios we observe on the continent if they should occur here. If the so-called military veterans run amok and block national roads, and more so-called sabotage actions are in the offing, can you assure us that we are safe, Mr President? From where I’m sitting the police service (not all) behaves like a criminal entity. You took an oath to protect us from all enemies, foreign and domestic – now just do it.

The budget cuts to our armed forces and police are matters for concern, but even this fact must not become a convenient excuse for why we cannot be protected as citizens. The SA National Defence Force Review must be implemented without fear or favour. Denel is in distress, maintenance of crucial equipment is not done, our air force cannot secure our airspace, nor the navy our coastline. In the meantime, we are being plundered by foreign vessels deep inside our territorial waters. We have unsecured borders, particularly along the Limpopo River.

What do you call this dereliction of duty, Mr President? You have much on your plate, but your respective Cabinet ministers must pull their fingers out of their butts and get the job done.

Though local government elections are pending, these national security matters fall outside of its ambit. However, your government must be seen to be doing much more in this regard. Trying to defeat the enemy without fighting is a noble idea, but in the harsh reality of these times, we demand action.

And that action must be decisive. DM

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