SONA will be soft on hard security: analysts


President Jacob Zuma’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA) will likely be soft on hard security matters such as defence and border management and will focus instead on issues raised in the governing African National Congress’ 2009 election manifesto. That;s the word from a range of political and defence analysts.

“There may be some mention of it in terms of the fight against crime or better service conditions, but everything else will be silent,” says Professor Adam Habib, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation & Advancement at the University of Johannesburg.

Zuma’s inaugural SONA on June 3 last year concentrated on fighting poverty and creating employment a well as bettering education, health and policing. As part of the latter there was a single reference to a plan to stablish a Border Management Agency (BMA).

The South African National Defence Force also received one mention – a presidential tribute for its “sterling role in peace building in the continent.”

International affairs experts and retired Rear Admiral Steve Stead says “there are few things more important than [Zuma’s] address to the nation. Not only is it the Head of State talking but he is the official mouthpiece of the ANC. What he says is what the party in power is telling the electorate – and the business community and overseas investors, etc.” But Stead also does not expect much of a focus on hard security issues.

In July State Security minister Siyabonga Cwele conceded “deficiencies in the control and security of our borders have been … a challenge for some time now. In his annual budget vote speech he added his department had been charged with “coordinating the process towards the development of a framework for the establishment” of the BMA by the end of 2009. No further announcements, other than that the process was ongoing has been made since.

Former defence force Senior Staff Officer Borderline Control, Colonel (Retd) David Peddle says he hopes Zuma will make a further announcement on the matter. “I do hope he does as this represents the single most critical aspect affecting the RSA pre-[World Cup].” Peddle also urged Zuma to make an explicit reference to its structure and funding, noting that the entire issue was currently in a state of drift.

Minister in the Presidency for Monitoring and Evaluation Collins Chabane yesterday said the choice of the date and time of the address – on the 20th anniversary of the release of Nelson Mandela from 27 years of imprisonment was deliberate. “It will coincide with … a critical moment in the history of our nation. It will allow us to reflect on how far we have come as a people, and to focus on what still needs to be done.
“While it draws on the momentous events of 20 years ago, this year’s State of the Nation Address will be about the future. It will be forward looking, reflecting the outcomes by which this administration will measure its progress in fulfilling its electoral mandate.”

Chabane added “the chief priorities of this administration will feature prominently in the speech. These are the creation of decent work, education, health, rural development and land reform and the fight against crime. A critical issue will be the state of the South African economy.”

Business Day added this morning that Chabane told journalists trade and industry minister Rob Davies presented a “high-impact” industrial policy action plan to last month’s Cabinet lekgotla. The policy addresses financial provisions likely to be made for the implementation of the three-year rolling-action plan in finance minister Pravin Gordhan’s budget, to be tabled in Parliament next week. Davies said in December the plan had attracted much buy-in from stakeholders, including the private sector. It was “a pretty substantial piece of work with quite detailed proposals for what we need to do”

Pic: Scouts of 1 SA Intelligence Regiment seen during a night movement in October 2006.


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