Friends and Enemies with Attack as the Best Means of Defence

Perhaps you also read it and were similarly incredulous. I am, of course referring to the Weekend Post’s report of the meeting of the DIS Director with the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (May 21-27).

None of us, surely, could have read this article without wanting to know a great deal more. But instead of each one of us talking to ourselves, as has been the unavoidable pattern in the past, there must be a chance that Dithapelo Keorapetse can give us some answers.

He, at least, has broken entirely new ground by regularly telling us, as an MP and not just as a reporter, what actually happens in the National Assembly. And we have gained immeasurably from those reports.

Now, therefore, instead of all the usual navel gazing stuff, I am hoping that he will kindly explain to us how, in terms of policy and oversight, this security thing really works. Or doesn’t. Thus the DIS Director refused to answer questions about costs on security grounds. And could, I suppose, refuse also to answer questions from the National Assembly’s Intelligence and Security Parliamentary Committee, were it to meet, because it has no responsibility for finance?

If, for whatever reason, he cannot account to the two Committees, it would seem that Parliament itself has no role in respect of the country’s security?

Is this possible? Is ensuring the security of the people of this country so sensitive that even our elected representatives must not be allowed to know what measures have been taken, why they have been taken and at what cost? In theory, the National Assembly annually approves the budget for the DIS and the one and only means available to it to re-gain its lost control would be to refuse its approval. But would this work? Money now seems to be awash all over the place and the government appears to have no difficulty obtaining whatever it needs without need of Parliamentary approval.

But is the policy for defence and security also outside the responsibility of the National Assembly? The Director stated that, ‘we need more spending on defence and security firstly because the national budget on security organs including the BDF, Police and Prisons is very small and secondly because ,‘our friends can be our enemies tomorrow and we need to be prepared militarily’. Here then is a straightforward policy statement which embraces both the DIS and the BDF with concerns about defence and security being interchangeably used.

Is there, therefore, the possibility of overlapping responsibilities, of duplication, unjustified expenditure and a confusion of roles? But from where has this policy emanated? Is it something that has evolved from the DIS? Is it a policy that has been formulated together by the DIS, the BDF and Prisons? Or is it a policy adopted by the Office of the President with or without Parliamentary knowledge and approval?

The question does need an answer because both SADC and its member states, and indeed those beyond, must now be much concerned not just about this country’s determination to increase its military capability but its reason for doing so? How can this country be talking peace with its neighbours when it is convinced that it needs to up its defence capability in anticipation of their possible military aggression?

Would the BDF undertake joint military exercises with its neighbours if this is how it secretly regards them? Yet the DIS Director has spoken with authority and clarity on behalf of both.

What will happen if it is discovered that this alignment between the DIS and the BDF is not what has been suggested? Properly, it needs to be known if the two have different policy objectives and therefore different ideas as to how to back that up?

Is the BDF, as suggested, also preparing to defend the country from the possible aggression not just from neighbouring countries but perhaps of all those south of the Sahara? But then which comes first, the policy or the compulsion to arm which needs some sort of policy to justify it?

How many of those countries currently possess the military capability to attack this one? By narrowing down the possibilities, it would become easy to eliminate the kind of weaponry that would not be needed – such as long range fighter bombers - and the kind that would be essential.

The line between defence and attack is thin and most military weaponry can meet both needs. But then it may be, although I sincerely hope not, that our neighbours have also decided that the best way of defending is to attack. In contrast, it would make much sense for the 14-member countries of SADC to develop an integrated defence, security and intelligence policy and framework. Is it this government’s DIS, however, which has decided to go it alone?

Editor's Comment
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