What South Africa can learn from the crisis
The national plan to build a South Africa that meets the needs of its citizens and operates under a rules-based system, all backed by a progressive constitution, has suffered a major setback in the past two weeks. With the whole country now in introspection mode, there is the emergence of a wide range of opinions on what caused the ongoing crisis, reflections on the performance of security agencies and the perennial question: what make ?
When a crisis of the intensity of the magnitude we are witnessing erupts, the immediate responses are usually shaped by the extent to which events occur outside of our established mental model of the appearance of protest, of protest. resistance and war; by the agility of our institutions and by the resilience of the state-society complex in the face of unexpected shocks.
The purpose of the country’s national security apparatus is to prepare the state and society both materially and mentally for these shocks which might be unexpected both in content and in time. It is obvious that, with regard to the latter, and as admitted by the various ministers of the security cluster, the institutions had not correctly characterized the threat, communicated its emergence in sufficient detail and responded with agility, intelligence and strength necessary for its manifestation. . Here we have the classic case of a systemic failure that goes far beyond an intelligence failure.
In the midst of such a crisis, there are often, as we have seen in the media over the past two weeks, calls for the application of extraordinary powers to suppress violence, the division of responsibilities and the inevitable appeal to all. While this may serve a sort of cathartic purpose in light of the traumatic events, I would caution against the urge to purge and the call for severity of punishment.
The most damaging example of a similar crisis and an exaggerated, reckless and instinctive response in contemporary times is the response of the United States to the traumatic events of September 11, 2001. Having suffered a physical and psychological blow from On an almost unprecedented scale and character, the American elite felt the need to react quickly, aggressively and without due regard for the second and third order effects of their actions.
It was about shedding blood, razing institutions and building new entities that would somehow magically be the answer to all the evils of the previous regime. Twenty years of disastrous wars and defeats, the use of significant financial resources, and the loss of political and diplomatic influence is the sum total of the accomplishments for this thoughtless and emotional response to a systemic crisis.
South Africa is not the United States and does not have the societal or financial resilience to embark on an ill-conceived adventure in response to the current crisis. We are a fragile state whose influence and cohesion has diminished over the past 10 years, simultaneously facing an institutional restructuring of our civilian intelligence agencies, capacity building of our law enforcement structures and reconstruction of citizens’ confidence in the State and the ANC, the first instrument of national cohesion.
What to do then, since doing nothing offers no solution and will put us in the same position we found ourselves in two weeks ago: ill-prepared, disjointed and slow to react.
With regard to the current crisis, it is essential that it be properly analyzed and characterized. While it may be too early to arrive at a definitive characterization, some elements of violence and its contextual reality are evident and form the basis of a proper characterization.
The weakness of state institutions and their lack of agility to respond to political and security crises reflect both the lack of strategic direction and the concomitant development of doctrine and capacities; the failure to put in place the right capacities capable of responding to the new types of political and information warfare which have now become commonplace in the world and have finally reached our shores; and the lack of integration into the security cluster.
Insurgents and anti-constitutionalists have certainly assessed the capacity and readiness of security institutions and implemented their plan with confidence, aware of the challenges these institutions face. The state of our security institutions therefore becomes part of the threat itself.
The involvement of a large number of ordinary citizens in violence and looting is the surest sign that our development model must be fundamentally reconsidered in order to build a state capable of lifting people out of poverty, of creating lives. dignified and to provide a sense of ownership of the state and the constitution, to counter the alienation and despair that prevail in our townships. The levels of poverty and inequality in our society provide a ready-made mass of human fodder for those who seek to arm the people against their own state and their own constitution.
Paradoxically, as we witness the devastating effects of the ANC’s slow collapse and its ability to assert a cohesive function in society, more and more commentators are calling for the ANC’s collapse or its final split into several entities. Accelerating this collapse through the supposed inevitability of faction breaks or expulsions does not magically resolve the inherent contradictions that have transformed the ANC into a fractured entity, but likely gives new, more violent forms to those fractures. In the absence of a capable state, it is a recipe for disaster.
Some immediate measures that could be implemented include:
- The finalization of the national security strategy in which the Minister of State Security has been engaged for some time, including substantial engagement with communities and interest groups in the process of reconceptualization.
- A review of the entire national security architecture, in light of the new national security strategy, a radically new global context and the current crisis. We can no longer assume that institutions have to stay as they are, with slight tinkering around the edges to create ‘efficiencies’.
- The immediate establishment of an integrated intelligence, pursuit and short-term response capability where intelligence and response / prevention are seamlessly integrated. The work done to counter and defeat urban terrorism in the early 2000s offers a successful and enduring model to consider.
- Initiate a process to draw the necessary analytical and sensible lessons from the current crisis: how does it change our view of war, politics and the intersection of crime, organized crime, corruption and anti-constitutionalism?
Although we are instinctively geared towards blood and head rolling, the need to develop abilities that can cope with the inevitable and possibly more aggressive return of the current phenomenon demands that we instead need to deliberate, learn, and build.