Overseas readers of TAU SA’s bulletins have commented from time to time on the quirks of Africa, of how difficult it is to understand the ways, the mores, the thinking. Finding Africa unfathomable is not limited to people outside South Africa’s borders—since the ANC government came to power in 1994, the priorities of the country’s government have revealed the huge dichotomy between the various sectors of the country’s diverse groups, and how “never the twain will meet”.
One example of the many priority phobias of the government is the name changing of towns, streets and places. The name Pretoria, home of South Africa’s seat of government, is to be changed to Tshwane. Various ANC members have declared they are “claiming their right to the city” when in fact there was absolutely nothing where Pretoria is today. The whites of South Africa built Pretoria, and there was no African historical presence whatsoever. Despite the realities of heritage, billions of taxpayers’ funds will be thrown away on a meaningless gesture which changes nothing about the history of South Africa, and who achieved what.
Another ridiculous priority is the sending of SA Police Service and SA National Defence Force personnel to African countries as so-called peacekeepers. This week, a heart-wrenching story of farming against all odds gripped South Africans as the stress-etched face of a border farmer revealed how hopeless it is to try and understand the workings of the ANC mind. Mr. Hendrik Calitz farms next to the Lesotho border. He says “it is useless to plant. Lesotho’s animals are simply driven on to my farm and they devour my crops. The mealies (corn) are taken away using donkies”.
Another farming family has given up the ghost. The Doidge’s have farmed in the Bergville area for five generations. They have thrown in the towel. “We were running a takeaway business”, says Tony Doidge. “They would take our cattle, our fences, our crops, even the diesel and batteries from our vehicles”.
This is slow-motion Zimbabwe, and the SA government is doing nothing about it. In fact, it would seem they not only approve but encourage this destruction. Calls to the police right throughout SA’s rural agricultural areas are left unheeded. Support for Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is clearly evident, not only by the SA government but within the rank and file. Each time Mugabe appears in SA, he is given a standing ovation by black audiences.
Farmers on South Africa’s borders are particularly hard hit. Stock theft and harassment are forcing them off their properties. They are being driven insane, and many have given up. They have no government security protection. Lesotho border farmers must chase after their cattle into Lesotho. They must police their farms themselves. They must pay informants—and they must pay round-the-clock guards and lookouts to watch their properties. And then they must watch as their private protection forces are beaten to within an inch of their lives by the thieves.
Their crops and their animals are being destroyed in front of them. Game farms are a non-starter as game is hounded into the mountains and killed. Sheep farming near the Lesotho border (and in many other parts of South Africa) is a thing of the past.
Where then are South Africa’s security forces, the people who are supposed to protect this country’s borders, the personnel who are supposed to nip crime in the bud in our rural areas?
On July 24, 2002 it was announced that South African National Defence Force (SANDF) troops would be withdrawing from border defence posts. In October 2002, it was revealed that twenty one SADF members had been paid millions of rands to stay at home because of drawn-out negotiations over the payment of pensions to former liberation army members. In May 2002, the SADF was rapped over the knuckles for spending R203 million on consultants over two years
Then there were the expensive promotions. Figures presented to Parliament in October 2002 showed the SANDF had 206 generals, with 60 000 ordinary members, a ratio of 1:291. (The German army has one general for every 1 684 soldiers, and America’s ratio is 1:2 428.). The SANDF is top heavy and expensive. Despite promises to rectify the situation, in November 2003 nothing had changed.
A SANDF report for 2002/3 said that nearly half of the SANDF’s members took sick leave in one year, costing the taxpayers R45,6 million. Lt. General Gilbert Ramano told Parliament in March 2003 that only 2% of the SANDF was white, and that many soldiers “steal state property and misuse state vehicles. Many belong to gangs and syndicates or are corrupt and keep busy with illegal activities”.
The SANDF has continually stated that border protection is the duty of the SA Police Service and that there are not sufficient funds to provide backup. Yet a report dated February 1, 2005 announced the deployment of 300 SANDF soldiers in Sudan for “peacekeeping” reasons, at a cost of R80 million.
The SA Police Service has sent staff to the African Union’s mission in Darfur, Sudan. This hopeless country has experienced a 21-year-old civil war, with two million dead. It has a corrupt government which ignores the United Nations and makes promises it has no intention of keeping. It is now asking for $2,1 billion from the world body to “rebuild the country”, yet the country’s rulers have reduced the populace to misery and the economy to starvation level.
The twelve SAPS members will join the already-established SAPS “headquarters” in Darfur
In the meantime, Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota has asked Parliament for more money in order to fulfill “government’s African and domestic objectives”.
Lekota declared without ambiguity that the SANDF had been decreasing its involvement in internal security and becoming more involved in “international peacekeeping”. The SANDF had withdrawn from its country’s borders with states like Lesotho, said Lekota, because “it is not natural for armed forces to do routine police work in a normal democracy”.
So who will look after SA’s borders? Priorities are dangerously skewed, to the detriment not only of farmers but to all South Africans. As farmers abandon their threatened properties, who will produce the country’s food? Perhaps the rotund Mr. Lekota and his well-fed Cabinet colleagues have the answer.