PPPs a necessity for meeting South Africa’s defence and security challenges

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The rapidly deteriorating security environment combined with a lack of government resources means public-private partnerships (PPPs) are a necessity for dealing with defence and security challenges.

This was one of the findings from the inaugural Public-Private Partnerships for Defence and Security conference held at the CSIR on 16 August and hosted by defenceWeb and AMD.

Advocate Vasu Gounden, Founder & Executive Director of ACCORD, warned that massive unemployment in Africa, especially among the youth, will see an increase in social and political conflict. “Governments are losing control of their sovereign territory. Borders are becoming more porous. The state is sharing the monopoly on violence with rising insurgencies,” he warned, pointing out a 400% rise in insurgencies across continent and the collapse of governments in Sudan and Niger as governments failed to deliver on their mandates and people became tired and frustrated.

With insurgencies challenging the state, “South Africa needs an offensive capability. Our military has to be repurposed, retrained, re-equipped for an offensive capability to deal with what is coming. Cabo Delgado is too close for comfort,” Gounden warned, referring to the insurgency across the border in Mozambique.

Internally, “police are going to have to deal with crowd control to mitigate socio-economic conflicts. This means retraining, re-equipping…The state needs to partner with the private sector where capabilities are better, and come up with solutions to deal with that challenge” Gounden maintains.

“Right now, the security environment is changing rapidly. We don’t have…years to deal with this,” Gounden told a panel discussion on PPPs in the security cluster. “The state cannot afford and it doesn’t have the resources in the fiscus to deal with the challenges and come up with solutions for defence and security. Public-private partnerships are here and are something we have to do.”

Gounden noted one issue with defence and security-related PPPs is the matter of sovereignty and national security as the state will not want to relinquish control to private interests in this regard. Other challenges like red tape and National Treasury approval can be dealt with, but it’s important the military and state must lead defence and security PPPs.

Dr Willem Sprong, Managing Director, Sprong Consulting, said PPPs in the defence sector would be ideally positioned to take a lot of the humanitarian responsibility burden off the military (for example disaster relief), leaving the defence force to focus on its core role of warfighting. “That is where we can really look at PPP partnerships,” Sprong said.

Gounden emphasised the need to view improved security as necessary for socio-economic welfare, and the military-industrial complex as a catalyst for industrialisation. “The military-industrial complex, if we are successful in reinvigorating it in South Africa, can be a huge boost in South Africa and the whole continent also. Our competitive advantage is in our backyard as Armscor and Denel have manufactured equipment for the African terrain.”

Sandile Ndlovu, CEO, South African Aerospace Maritime and Defence Industries (AMD), echoed Gounden’s concerns that “we must be mindful of the seriously deteriorating security situation. While we must not rush to adopt this policy option [of PPPs] without knowing what it means, we don’t have the luxury of time. This discussion is long overdue.”

Ndlovu said, “I have no doubt that with the ongoing engagements we will have, we will find each other. We will pursue this topic to its logical conclusion…when we have a number of registered PPP projects running and that is the end goal we are aiming for. As the industry association we will invite the SANDF and other security cluster departments to aim at the very same end goal because our country needs this and so does our industry.”