Speech by Ismail Vadi on the Presidency Budget Vote
12 June 2007
Ilana Mercer, a South African living abroad, had this to say of her former homeland:
"A decade (after democracy), the city of Johannesburg looks like Mogadishu - streets are strewn with garbage … gun battles
are commonplace and shopkeepers often sit behind iron bars." Emphasising that ordinary South Africans are fed up with
crime, she adds that they are foolishly organising protest marches to present petitions to President Mbeki.
She then declares that, "Thabo will take note, mind you, if the once-mighty Afrikaners take to the streets with their
weapons, not with petitions and scented candles."
It might well be that Mercer\'s call to arms was inspired by Bok van Blerk\'s song, de la Rey. This song is about an
Afrikaner soldier who, towards the end of the Anglo-Boer War, after Lord Kitchener had implemented his scorched earth
policy and had burned the soldier\'s farm and put his wife and child in a concentration camp, calls on the valiant general,
Koos de la Rey, to lead the Afrikaner volk to victory.
Whilst I do not believe that the song aims to incite treason, Mercer\'s article does reflect a dangerous mindset. It so
glibly calls upon Afrikaners to take up arms against a democratic government.
It ignores the fact that violent crime in the country is on the decrease. However, both the ANC and the Presidency
recognise that this downward trend provides little comfort to ordinary South Africans, as crime is still at an unacceptably
high level in our country.
It is disappointing that Mercer\'s article came only days after President Mbeki had dealt with the issue of crime at the
ANC\'s 95th anniversary celebrations, where he declared that crime is a scourge that continues to bedevil our young
democracy and that it impacts negatively on the quality of life of all our people.
This view was reiterated in the President\'s State of the Nation address, wherein he stated:
Certainly, we cannot erase that which is ugly and repulsive and claim the happiness that comes with freedom if communities
live in fear, closeted behind walls and barbed wire, ever anxious in their houses, on the streets and on our roads, unable
freely to enjoy our public spaces. Obviously, we must continue and further intensify the struggle against crime.
The President urged all of us to address the socio-economic conditions that feed crime. He called for the active
participation of all communities to build a united front against crime.
These assertions from the Presidency are re-assuring. They must galvanise all of us to fight criminals and to take charge
of our communities.
Mr President, I am pleased to report that this is precisely what we are doing in our constituency. On 16 June, members of
the South African Police Services from three police stations in Lenasia, Ennerdale and Lenasia South, together with the
CPFs and other community organisations, are to embark on a joint anti-crime campaign. This programme will see the staging
of joint roadblocks, joint operations in crime hotspots and a massive community campaign against drug dealers.
It is activities such as these that inspire hope in our people and which contribute towards safer communities.
The possibility of joint police operations across precinct areas raises another important question. Can we enhance the
level of co-operation and co-ordination among the different arms of our security, intelligence, judicial and correctional
We are aware that under this Presidency, government has opted for an approach of clustering departments. It has established
the National Security Council and more clearly defined the functions of the National Intelligence Co-ordinating Committee.
Yet, the question must still be posed: Do we have the desired level of co-operation and co-ordination within the peace and
security cluster? Are we minimising turf battles? Are we sharing information and expertise? Are we really joining hands to
safeguard the overall security of our nation and its people?
This leads me to the next question. How do we propose to deal with threats to our national security, particularly the threat of international terrorism?
In the past, this House welcomed the President\'s condemnation of international terrorist attacks on the African continent and elsewhere in the world. This principled view is inspired by our struggle for national liberation and the core values of our Constitution. While the President pledged South Africa\'s co-operation in the fight against international terrorism, he rejected acts of vengeance directed against individuals, communities or nations, simply because of their faith, language or colour.
It is, however, disturbing that the US-led "war on terror" is increasingly being perceived as a "war of terror" against weaker states in the Muslim world. Of equal concern is that some Western powers are exerting enormous pressure on smaller states to join in this obsession with fighting international terrorism. One wonders if our country is also coming under this spell.
In the recent past, several conferences have been held in our region to discuss the threat of international terrorism in Africa, and in Southern Africa specifically.
For example, in January this year a "dialogue" sponsored by the US National Intelligence Council and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research of the US Department of State, brought together African and American policy makers and analysts to consider:
- terrorist threats in Africa;
- the extent of a threat from so-called "radical" Islam on the continent;
- the relationship between religious and political radicalism and terrorism in Southern Africa;
- the sectors that may be affected by this relationship; and
- the capacity of regional organisations to address these matters.
Similarly, a "Combating and Preventing Terrorism in Africa" conference was hosted by the International Quality and Productivity Centre in August last year, involving anti-terror \'experts\' who previously have had close links with the Israeli Defence Force and the US Defence Department.
South Africa must be mindful of such events. It should not allow itself to be pushed into driving an external agenda at the expense of its own national and security interests. Madam Speaker
Lastly, I wish to examine the question of changes in political leadership within African states. I raise this issue because the succession of leaders either through military coups or democratic processes has emerged as a source of instability within many African societies. If one were to scan the African continent in this regard, three trends become apparent.
The first is the well-known, but unacceptable practice of having a "President for Life". Here, an African leader committed to a \'strong man culture\' uses all means - fair or foul - to remain in power either for life or for as long as possible. This is the case whether or not he enjoys popular legitimacy.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have seen the emergence of a positive trend of changes in political leadership through legitimate, democratic and peaceful processes. The changes in Mozambique and Namibia, as in South Africa in 1999, represent the best examples of well-managed exercises within the context of recognisable democratic norms and standards.
In between these two trends, we have had cases of bitter and often violent contestation over the Presidency. One can think of the Ivory Coast and the DRC, and to a limited extent Nigeria, as pertinent examples of succession battles leading to political instability and social insecurity.
South Africa has been a leading example of the best that Africa can offer on this question. As we come closer to our fourth national, democratic elections, let us reject any notion of a street revolution or undemocratic procedures from any quarter to resolve the succession question in our country. Let us also be alert to the sinister tricks of covert forces, both national and foreign, that might want to exploit the moment for ulterior purposes. So, being vigilant, we can remain the brightest, southern star on the African continent!