Intelligence Report

What SA State Security Agency should tell the government

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As it becomes increasingly clear that the government has been caught off-guard by student unrest, suspicions are growing that all is not well between it and the State Security Agency (SSA).

On its website the SSA states its vision and mission as follows:

Vision A world class provider of dynamic intelligence to advance South Africa's national security and interests.”

Mission To provide critical and unique intelligence on threats and opportunities for the government to advance South Africa's national security interests in a changing global environment.”

It is our conclusion that either the SSA has failed dismally to advise on or to prepare government for the events surrounding the ongoing student revolt under the banner of #Fees must Fall, or government was negligent in taking proper notice of the warning signs.

In a recent article, ‘South Africa’s ‘spooks’ are failing the country’, we posed the question: “If those responsible for the safety and well-being of the state were doing their work, why was government so clearly caught off-guard by the seriousness and intensity of the anger as demonstrated by the students?”

Even if the SSA had only kept an eye on the website University World News, it would have been alert to the fact that what has been happening in the South African student community since the #Rhodes must Fall-days, was part of a global trend. Right from the start it was about wider and deeper issues, as one can read on that site: “The objective of the Rhodes Must Fall movement was to ‘decolonise education’ by way of transformation from a curriculum dominated by an Anglo-Saxon narrative, to one more inclusive of African and black academia.
“This was in line with ensuring that the educational curriculum of institutions is more reflective of the society it educates. Perhaps when second-generation university students study the work of Dr Chinua Achebe and Professor Pumla Gqola alongside Charles Dickens, then we can truly say that racial integration exists in South African society.
“Educational transformation also entrenches us as agents of change in current affairs.”

Caught off-guard

Nothing illustrated the fact that government was caught off-guard, and that it reacted in a kneejerk mode, more clearly than President Jacob Zuma’s eventual announcement that university fees will not increase next year.

While thousands of protesters were gathered on the luscious lawns surrounding the Union Buildings, he made the announcement (probably wisely so) from the safety of his office inside the building.

He made the announcement, with a R2.3 billion cost implication, only days after the Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Nene, in his Medium Term Budget Policy Statement, introduced while students were protesting outside parliament, revealed that government had depleted its entire R5-billion contingency fund for this financial year to cover higher-than-budgeted salary increases in the public sector.

At the time of writing, despite a post-cabinet briefing by Minister in The Presidency, Jeff Radebe, neither the students nor the broader public have any idea where the money will come from to keep universities going next year – never mind the almost R20 billion that would be needed for the free university education that is being demanded.

When pressed for details, Radebe merely said: "I am not the minister of finance. The money will be found."

What cabinet should have been told

If the SSA had been doing its job properly and cabinet were paying attention, they would have known that the appointment by President Zuma of a Higher Education Commission of Enquiry, announced at the same post-cabinet briefing, would not do the trick to calm down the unrest on our university campuses.

They would also have known that the #Rhodes must Fall protests were but the tip of the iceberg. The reasons for explosive discontent among the major part of South African society lie much deeper and wider and in the face of the expected surge in food price in months to come, a fast-developing water crisis and increasing racial polarisation, things are set to become much worse.

When a municipality can decide to use pellet guns on people scavenging waste dumps to survive, as if they were a bunch of stray cats from the wild, the country is in deep trouble.

Real Intelligence Report

Against this background The Intelligence Bulletin team decided to, starting next week, attempt to put together a regular Real Intelligence Report based on thorough research and in consultation with a network of experts.

It is aimed at helping our readers to understand the real threats to stability present in our socio- and political economic environment. If political and other leaders, across the board also take notice, it would be a huge bonus – we hope.

The first of these reports will take a look through a wide-angle lens at what we believe is a dangerous moment in South Africa’s post-1994 history. But also one that offers some real opportunities to place the country on a new and robust development trajectory.

Future reports might also focus more in detail – as we do to some extent with the present student uprising in this article – on specific issues as they arise.

by Intelligence Bulletin team

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