The death of Collins Khosa has raised new ques­tions about what pur­pose the army serves — other than to guz­zle money SA doesn’t have

Financial Mail - - ON MY MIND - By Tris­ten Tay­lor

When a cor­rupt, de­funct, ill-dis­ci­plined and in­her­ently vi­o­lent in­sti­tu­tion is used to po­lice a coun­try, hu­man rights abuses are inevitable. The death of Collins Khosa was the di­rect re­sult of us­ing the SA Na­tional De­fence Force (SANDF) to en­force civil reg­u­la­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to the au­di­tor-gen­eral, R5.13bn out of the mil­i­tary’s R50bn bud­get in 2018 can­not be ac­counted for. Over the past five years, an un­ap­proved R900m was spent on Cuban me­chan­ics to fix ve­hi­cles man­u­fac­tured in SA by Denel. And, in the past fi­nan­cial year, the gen­er­als spent R20.5m of public money on lux­ury cars.

To make it worse, sex­ual ex­ploita­tion and abuse are also rife within the ranks. Last year, de­fence min­is­ter No­siviwe Mapisa-nqakula said she was “aware of the ram­pant cases of [th­ese] in­ci­dents in­ter­nally in de­ploy­ment ar­eas, as well as in the work­ing en­vi­ron­ment. Th­ese are kept un­der wraps by the com­man­ders.”

De­fence ex­pert Greg Mills es­ti­mates that only 10% of the SANDF’S 76,000 per­son­nel are med­i­cally fit to be de­ployed. The av­er­age age at the SANDF is be­tween 40 and 48. Ex­pen­sive arms deal fighter planes, frigates and sub­marines are parked in hangars and docks be­cause of a chronic lack of fuel. Much of the mil­i­tary’s equip­ment is ob­so­lete or bro­ken.

Mil­i­tary the­o­rists have a so­lu­tion: dou­ble the SANDF’S bud­get and re­or­gan­ise com­bat ser­vices.

Writ­ing in de­fenceweb, Hel­moed Römer Heit­man ar­gues the model for the SANDF should be “the Ger­man army be­tween World War 1 and World War 2”.

I have a better idea: get­ting rid of the en­tire SANDF. It’s a better so­lu­tion than spend­ing money we don’t have on some­thing we don’t need.

In­stead, the SANDF’S bud­get could be spent on disas­ter man­age­ment, emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices and up­graded clin­ics and hos­pi­tals.

Ul­ti­mately, mil­i­taries are ded­i­cated to one thing: slaugh­ter­ing peo­ple. An army is an in­sti­tu­tion cre­ated, at great ex­pense, to com­mit im­moral and heinous acts that have no place in the mod­ern world. The 100% guar­an­teed way for a coun­try to pre­vent its army from killing and as­sault­ing chil­dren — war al­ways falls heav­i­est on civil­ians — is not to have an army.

Moral phi­los­o­phy has moved on from the old ethic, pop­u­lar around the 8th cen­tury BCE, that virtue con­sists of glory in war.

One of phi­los­o­phy’s true heavy­weights was rather scep­ti­cal of war. In the 4th cen­tury BCE, Aris­to­tle ar­gued that only de­fen­sive wars are just. In our geopo­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion, this is ir­rel­e­vant any­way: no-one is go­ing to in­vade us, not even hy­per-ex­pan­sion­ary Le­sotho.

The truth is that the real threat to our safety is not from ex­ter­nal forces, but from each other. We don’t need Rooivalk at­tack he­li­copters; we need so­cial work­ers, de­tec­tives, pros­e­cu­tors, a work­ing prison sys­tem and a func­tion­ing econ­omy.

The SANDF is col­laps­ing and un­less we in­vest heav­ily — for which there are zero funds — there’s no hope for it. Better to sell off the Gripens, give the troops early re­tire­ment and save money. Mil­i­taries don’t cre­ate wealth, they con­sume it.

As for peace­keep­ing, we no longer have the air­craft to de­ploy troops and equip­ment north of the bor­der. Nor do we have the abil­ity to re­in­force our troops. The 2013 de­ba­cle in the Cen­tral African Repub­lic re­sulted in the fall of the Boz­ize gov­ern­ment and sol­diers com­ing home in coffins.

Con­trary to gov­ern­ment pro­pa­ganda, the SANDF hasn’t ex­actly cov­ered it­self in glory on peace­keep­ing mis­sions. Al­le­ga­tions of and con­vic­tions on sex crimes have dogged the army’s mis­sion in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo (DRC) for decades. In a 2015 ar­ti­cle en­ti­tled “An Army of Sex Pests”, The Times re­ported that the SANDF was the worst of­fender of gen­der­based vi­o­lence of all the peace­keep­ing forces in the DRC. And this hap­pened in a coun­try where mass rape was used as a weapon of war.

About R27m worth of mil­i­tary hard­ware went miss­ing dur­ing the SANDF’S 2006 de­ploy­ment in Bu­rundi. Some of the weapons ended up in the hands of the FNL Phalipe-hutu rebels who were at­tack­ing the largest city, Bu­jum­bura, at the time.

If we’re brave enough to imag­ine it, there could be a dif­fer­ent role for SA on the con­ti­nent, and one that doesn’t in­volve hurt­ing chil­dren (as our sol­diers were con­victed of in the DRC).

Civil­ian pop­u­la­tions in war zones or suf­fer­ing from nat­u­ral dis­as­ters need doc­tors, wa­ter spe­cial­ists, food aid and emer­gency ser­vices.

Let’s pro­vide that rather, there and at home.

Tay­lor is an as­so­ciate at Stel­len­bosch

The SANDF was the worst of­fender of gender-based vi­o­lence of all the peace­keep­ing forces in the DRC

Univer­sity’s depart­ment of phi­los­o­phy

Or you could be SA, where the econ­omy has been de­stroyed by theft and loot­ing un­der for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma. Then you have a pretty de­cent guy like Cyril Ramaphosa be­ing elected. Only, the man is shack­led by his party, its re­cent his­tory, his own com­rades and his own dif­fi­dence. Nice guy, very bad po­lit­i­cal de­tri­tus.

Then you have Zim­babwe. It’s nei­ther this nor that. It’s a dou­ble whammy. The place has ex­pe­ri­enced 40 full years of poor lead­er­ship, 40 full years of bad poli­cies and 40 full years of non­stop loot­ing.

Right now, it does not at all seem as if it’s about to emerge from its night­mare. While many of us in the

I hate to say I told you so, but when strong­man Robert Mu­gabe was top­pled in 2017 I warned: “It is so tempt­ing to jump up with joy and ul­u­late with the op­pressed peo­ple of Zim­babwe … it would be fool­ish to do so. Zim­babwe has been a coun­try of false dawns and dashed hopes since Mu­gabe took power in 1980.”

It still is. Zim­babwe’s econ­omy has com­pletely col­lapsed. Its lead­ers are loot­ing the coun­try and set­ting them­selves up off­shore. The coun­try is a dic­ta­tor­ship where op­po­si­tion ac­tivists and lead­ers have been ar­rested, de­tained, tor­tured and men­aced over the past 20 years, and par­tic­u­larly now that the coro­n­avirus has brought suf­fer­ing on the coun­try’s peo­ple.

The last elec­tion was a sham. The one be­fore that was a sham. Those who have been able to do so, have fled and are all over South­ern Africa.

Last week the mil­i­tary shut down the stock ex­change and sus­pended mo­bile money trans­ac­tions. Al Jazeera re­ports that un­em­ploy­ment has reached an es­ti­mated 90%. There is no fuel or food. Bloomberg re­ports that in­fla­tion is at 800%.

“Civil ser­vants earn a 10th of what they took home two years ago,” Bloomberg writes. “Most Zim­bab­weans haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced such pain since Mu­gabe led his lib­er­a­tion army to in­de­pen­dence from white mi­nor­ity rule in 1980.”

Mean­while, op­po­si­tion ac­tivists and civil so­ci­ety fig­ures are now rou­tinely ar­rested, tor­tured and charged with crimes as ridicu­lous as “un­der­min­ing the pres­i­dent’s author­ity”.

A few weeks ago se­cu­rity forces seized the op­po­si­tion’s head­quar­ters. Who does that ex­cept a dic­ta­tor­ship?

Zim­babwe is a text­book ex­am­ple of how not to do things and how to turn a coun­try of great po­ten­tial into a bas­ket case. It is ev­ery­thing we should avoid: think­ing that lead­ers are gods, not stand­ing up for our­selves and our cit­i­zenry, de­ify­ing lead­ers.

Most im­por­tant, it is the death of voice. Zim­babwe got to the hor­ri­ble state it is in be­cause our spine­less lead­ers — from Mbeki to Ramaphosa — used their voices not to help forge democ­racy in that coun­try but to em­power a mur­der­ous regime. They played pol­i­tics and en­abled a tyrant. The re­sult is there for all to see.

Oh, I know. There will be a lot of bleat­ing from a cer­tain tired bri­gade of peo­ple who love to en­no­ble dic­ta­tors such as Mu­gabe. The an­swer to their inane ar­gu­ments is to point them north and ask them: would you live in Zim­babwe your­self? Not one of them would say yes.

Zim­babwe is a text­book ex­am­ple of how to turn a coun­try of great po­ten­tial into a bas­ket case

Freddy Mavunda

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