Reasserting the authority of the State

30 Sep 2019

By Richard Moleofe

“I have given orders to the police and they will be supported by the military if need be to use life ammunition on anyone who may continue to cause trouble on the streets of Bontleng. Anyone to be found wanting in the next twenty four hours will be shot on sight”The above are the paraphrased words of President Sir Ketumile Masire in 1988 during the height of the Bontleng riots which were also known as the Malebogo riots.

The police had been engaged in the cat and mouse battles with multitudes of crowds of the township of Bontleng. Within no time the crowds were growing as reinforcements came from the neighbouring locations and also from as far afield as Mogoditshane.A five year old girl known as Malebogo had disappeared and the local residents were blaming one Mma Direlang for the missing child. The crowds that came from other places were just rubble rousers and they did just that. The air around Bontleng was always filled with the stench of tear gas.Once the president made this infamous speech, the crowds disappeared in twenty four minutes and not hours. The state had reclaimed its space and was back at the driving seat. Are there lessons South Africa can learn from Botswana from the past and present in regard to issues of safety and security and particularly policing?South Africa is inundated with riots at every junction and the situation cannot be allowed to continue in the trajectory it has taken.

A week never passes without the blockade of roads and the burning of public property as a protest to get services. The state’s response has been muted in the past and we all thought they were trying to be as soft as they could until election time. Looking at the April election results, one may tow with this narrative as the ruling ANC lost some territory to the opposition. They knew they had to tread carefully.But can the state allow this lawlessness to flow perennially? Sure a state cannot thrive in a state of anarchy. Deep seated in the proliferation of riots lies the issues of governance and that needs to be fixed by the ruling ANC before the coming local government elections which will only serve to embarrass the party if they do not get their house in order.Botswana is a good learning ground for the South Africans. Recently, the World Internal Security and Police Index has rated Botswana as the number one country in Africa as far as policing is concerned. 

The index uses the frequency of bank robberies and cash heists as the main indicators on the policing barometer around the world. Furthermore, the country has been able to achieve position fourty seven globally. Some countries behind Botswana are China, Greece, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.However, robberies are growing in Botswana even though they are classified as minor as they include the use of less lethal weapons such as knifes, stones and the umbrella has become the latest weapon of choice. These small crimes are keeping the country in fear as the petty thieves have now altered the way of life in the country.South Africa needs to outsource in the area of policing when it comes to cash protection and bank robberies. Technological leaps should help that country to reach the desirable levels of security. The state needs to take back the country from criminals with intensified crime intelligence networks as well as revamping their total surveillance network.China has become one of the safest growing economies in the world. They have not achieved this through visible policing but they have an elaborate surveillance networks throughout that large country.

These are given sufficient human capital to conduct monitoring and analysis. These gadgets are also proving to be vital in the regulation of traffic.It is slowly becoming evident that the application of technology is the way forward particularly in the era of the so called fourth revolution. We can never take off the human element from the security and intelligence aspects but technology must be placed in the primary role of watching us.The major problem in South Africa is not the lack of surveillance equipment even though it is admissible that their networks are insufficient and aging. The main problem lies in the booming corruption in the country which has suffocated primary policing and the use of technology for surveillance.It has come to light that in almost every bank robbery and cash heist, insiders are involved in one way or the other. The level of corruption among the law enforcers being the police officers is very high. It is reported by community members that almost every station commander is rich in South Africa and they live beyond their means. The country is slowly eating itself away and it will soon reach the level of a pariah state.

The government of the ANC is under intense pressure to fulfil the wishes of the electorates but so far it is not delivering.The pressure continues to increase because the levels of unemployment are growing. The country is failing to attract the much needed Foreign Direct Investment. FDIs thrive in the atmosphere of security but currently that is not the case with South Africa. Compared to the days of apartheid, there is currently no control by government in the area of security. The state has failed to reassert itself and build confidence on the foreign investor. The locals have equally lost confidence on their own police.The state must take back the reigns before everything collapses. There is need for reassertion and the establishment of a new policing platform that will help drastically reduce these inconceivable levels of crime.