In defence of South Africa's sovereignty
Watching the delivery of the state of the nation address (Sona) by newly elected president Cyril Ramaphosa was a welcome breath of fresh air and a departure from a chaotic trend we had become accustomed to in Parliament. Parliamentarians and the nation had long forgotten what the true role of Parliament ought to be.
Parliament had for many years been characterised by ardent, vehement and almost always irrational, senseless and unreasonable defence of the ANC and its president. At the same time, the opposition parties must be commended for their relentless and uncompromising fight against clear evidence of corruption, neutralisation and looting of state institutions.
The South African constitution was designed on the pillars of the legislature, executive and judiciary – all meant to be independent, with checks and balances to prevent abuse of powers. The pillars are in turn supported by independent chapter 9 institutions, the purpose of which is to strengthen principles of democracy and accountability. There is no doubt that each of these institutions plays a pivotal role in the preservation of the state as a composite institution.
The legislature is supposed to find solutions by creating the legislative framework and enabling an environment for the economy to function, to facilitate planning for a growing economy and creation of jobs. The legislature should create an environment that enables the government to function towards the fulfilment of national objectives and aspirations. In this regard, it was refreshing to listen to the EEF's Floyd Shivambu's contribution to the Sona debate.
The depth and scope of his intellectual engagement were impressive and revealing of his research. This was a damning challenge to the governing party and its ability to match the EFF in Parliament. Shivambu gave a free lesson on the sovereign wealth fund (Temasek Holdings) of Singapore, and how South Africa could learn from it by way of long-term wealth creation for the population. He also spoke of the important oversight and supervisory role played by China's commission over state-owned entities (SASAC).
Most developed economies function based on long-term plans. While planning is not an exact science, it nevertheless provides guidelines and scenarios based on hypotheses. Some countries even work on as much as fifty-year plans or longer. Planning for population growth will ensure that the government plans the necessary economic infrastructure – such as housing, roads, water, energy, transport, health and defence – to go with it. Clearly, state-owned enterprises should play a critical role in government delivering on various mandates, as most are responsible for various infrastructure.
Strategic investments also ensure that the government is not solely dependent on tax revenue, which encumbers citizens, to finance its expenditure.
Proper long-term planning also provides for the necessary resources to be allocated that will be used to finance the required investments, as well as cater for unforeseen contingencies such as the current drought affecting the country. Planning enables the avoidance of elements of surprise and uncertainty in dealing with both expected and unexpected national disasters.
Effective planning should take cognisance of the limitation of resources and their allocation to competing political, economic and social needs (the economic problem). Most resources, except for renewables such as solar and wind, deplete with usage.
Not only do mineral resources such as oil, gold, platinum, copper and coal diminish, they also leave behind the problem of rehabilitation. Not only would the economy be facing a problem of an unemployed population after the useful life of a mine, but also a lack of fiscal income. The government needs to have in place alternative plans which will be ready to kick in once existing resources are depleted.
This is the kind of planning that enabled Saudi Arabia to diversify its once oil-dominated economy, while using the reserves accumulated from years of oil revenue. The Saudis, through state investment company Sunabil Investments, are now refocusing their economy towards tourism, technology, healthcare, energy and telecoms. Such strategic investments also ensure that the government is not solely dependent on tax revenue, which encumbers citizens, to finance its expenditure. Such investments are clearly in the national interest.
Since the Cold War days, the world has essentially shifted away from armed conflicts, with the exception of a few regions. Countries rarely attack each other – partly due to regional integration and collective vigilance in dealing with armed conflicts. Events in South Africa over the past few years demonstrate the extent to which armed threats have become irrelevant.
The Gupta family has opened our eyes to a new concept known as state capture. They did not have to bring heavy artillery to unseat the democratically elected government. All they needed was the guts and brains to colonise the leadership and exert their influence, resulting in massive wealth flowing to themselves and their families and friends.
One hopes that regional bodies such as SADC also adopt an integrated approach and coordination of their resource planning, bringing together the synergies of both their strengths and weaknesses.
In the light of state capture, conventional methods of defending our national sovereignty will no longer suffice. The fortification of our boundaries and border posts will no longer be enough – the SANDF and other security establishments will need to reinvent themselves, because the war has become unconventional. They cannot continue to use tanks, artillery and jet fighters to fight terrorism, cyber attacks and indeed state capture.
We hope by the time investigations into state capture are complete, the nation will be in a better position to institute other appropriate means to defend the country's sovereignty – in the process, providing an invaluable case study to other jurisdictions. Unconventional attacks call for unconventional defence measures.
One hopes that regional bodies such as SADC also adopt an integrated approach and coordination of their resource planning, bringing together the synergies of both their strengths and weaknesses. This approach could be extended to prioritising regional investment, economic growth and employment creation.
Countries such as Angola, which is oil producing, could be encouraged to invest in an oil refinery to supply the region with petrochemicals, while Namibia and Botswana could invest in diamond beneficiation to benefit the region. It would be logical for Zambia to attract investment in copper beneficiation for supplying the region and beyond. Such integrated policies will ensure balanced growth and minimise regional migration, which leads to influxes of economic refugees towards the more developed economies.
In conclusion, defending South Africa's or indeed any other country's national sovereignty requires a lot more than the traditional defences; extraordinary circumstances demand extraordinary measures . Fighting state capture probably requires some form of patriotic warfare that has never been seen or experienced before.
People may be familiar with situations where business entities assist political parties to win elections in return for future government business, but state capture, in which government officials completely outsource decision-making, is a new phenomenon that requires radically new ideas to deal with it. We are familiar with defences against conventional military attacks, terrorist attacks, cyber attacks and even economic attacks – but not state capture in the form and shape that South Africa has recently experienced.