SONA: Anodyne, light on security (updated)


President Jacob Zuma has devoted just 120 words out of a 4394 word State of the Nation Address (SONA) on security: focussing exclusively on fighting the scourge of crime. The bulk of the speech similarly provided policy in broad brush-strokes but were light on detail.  

“We are working hard to ensure that everyone in South Africa feels safe and is safe,” Zuma told a joint session of Parliament minutes ago. “We will take further our work to reduce serious and violent crimes, and ensure that the justice system works efficiently,” he added.

Zuma also said the police would be increased by 10% over the next three years, but provided no numbers.
“We are implementing plans to increase the number of police men and women by 10% over the next three years. We have identified the fight against hijacking, business and house robberies, as well as contact crimes such as murder, rape, and assault, as top priorities.
“We all have a role to play. Let us participate in community safety forums. Let us stop buying stolen goods. Let us always be ready to provide the police with information about criminal activity. Tshebedisano mmoho etla lwantsha botloko-tsebe.”

He added that this was just the outline of “the main elements of our plans for 2010, our collective commitment as government to the people of South Africa. The State of the Nation Address provides a broad overview of our action plan. Ministers will provide the detail in their respective Budget Vote speeches.”
Reaction to the speech was mixed.

Democratic Alliance shadow defence minister David Maynier says he is “disappointed that President Jacob Zuma did not use the State of the Nation Address to expand on his promise in last years speech to establish a Border Management Agency. Borderline security is a gaping hole in our national security architecture, and the proposed Border Management Agency appears to have fallen between the cracks.”

Asked about the defence budget vote, Maynier said “I am really not sure what to expect but we do need to get clarity on a number of things – most importantly in the short term the cost and opportunity cost of improving service conditions in the defence force.” He was referring to a R1.9 billion salary increase for defence personnel announced by Zuma on December 16. “I will be very interested to hear how the salary increases where financed within the existing budget.”

Professor Adam Habib, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation & Advancement at the University of Johannesburg and well-regarded political commentator says he did not expect mention of security beyond crime and perhaps service conditions. He adds this is a pity as there as a dire need for such a debate.
“I do think the arms deal and the scandal around the arms deal [the 1999 purchase of 55 fighter aircraft, 30 helicopters, four frigates and three submarines] has created public perception that says ‘keep the money away from these buggers’. I think that is a very unhelpful way to approach it.

SA cannot succeed without an African agenda. That agenda has to stabilise and that does mean a significant military capacity… We need to think these things through a lot more carefully than we have so far.”