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New security threats to the SADC region

Globalisation is a characteristic of crime as well as legitimate commerce. Improvements in transportation, computer and communications technology have made the world today much smaller than it was 50 years ago.

This globalisation has created a world virtually devoid of national borders. Unfortunately these changes have also made it easier for members of highly sophisticated and organised criminal syndicates to pursue a complex web of lucrative legal and illegal activities in the Southern African Region and worldwide. Criminal enterprises have become transnational, posing a difficult problem of cooperation to law enforcement agencies. In the past, crime syndicates were involved in illegal activities such as drug trafficking, prostitution, illegal gambling and these organisations generally controlled specific territories and did not usually attempt to operate outside their borders or spheres of influence and rarely cooperated with other syndicates. However this has changed dramatically since technological explosion and economic boom of the post second world war. Technological advances affecting the growth of businesses, the rise of commercial airline travel, telecommunication and the use of computers in businesses have contributed to increase in interactions and world population movements, mobility equally enjoyed by carriers of illicit commodities and illegally obtained currencies. Besides small or low level crimes of drug trafficking, prostitution, motor vehicle theft etc., Transnational Criminal Organisations have expanded their activities  to a quasi-corporate level where they are active in large scale insurance fraud, depletion of natural resources, environmental crime, bank fraud, and corruption.  These organisations are characterised by some certain trends that make their operations to be at times beyond the reach of the already overwhelmed and ill prepared security regimes of the SADC Region.

The use of cyber technology has emerged as a proven weapon in the arsenal of Transnational Criminal Organisations, (TCO) as the growth of global computerised financial networks has allowed them to launder profits of their illicit ventures quickly and easily through transactions that are instantaneous and virtually untraceable. They even use computer technology for hacking and cracking into computer systems of prominent corporations, accessing confidential and valuable information for their criminal activities. The other characteristic of TCOs is that they have always attempted with success to distance themselves from illegal aspects of their operations by involving themselves in legitimate business ventures which in most cases are funded by the almost bottomless profits obtained through criminal activities. Some of them even seek civic legitimacy by making donations to community hospitals, charities, universities and political parties. Cooperation with other criminal syndicates is a major factor in the new world order for Transnational Criminal Organisations. This is done through

partnerships, bartering arrangements and alliances. This helps them to better evade law enforcement agencies, share existing infrastructure and improve risk management. Sophistication is an important quality of transnational crime that has increased many folds over the years. For instance some members of TCOs have university education in the fields of business, accounting and law which better equips them for the complex world of transnational crime. They apply many of their criminal tactics in their illegal business operations, on most occasions never hesitating to use violence or murder to get ahead. In other words TCOs equipped with those characteristics are not afraid to work globally in any country where legal or bureaucratic loopholes allow them to take advantage of the system. Just like international corporations, these organisations are willing to work together, often bartering for the use of each other’s unique talents to accomplish specific tasks or to make long term arrangements when it suits their needs.

TCOs are also involved in the smuggling of ivory or rhino horn (poaching). This is very common in Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe which are blessed with a wide range of wild life. Poaching syndicates from Angola, Namibia, and Mozambique and from far beyond, armed with guns which are remnants from years of wars, have caused some destruction to protected wildlife through poaching. Poaching deprives the region of foreign direct investment. Human security is also under threat from TCOs. Klare and Chandran defines human security as the provision of a relatively safe and secure environment in which citizens do not fear harm or intimidation, and are able to pursue their right to life and property without danger of organised violence. However transnational organised crime, drug trafficking and other associated activities pose a real threat as there is a close connection between drugs and violence.

There are many crimes against people and property by drug users who need money to pay for illicit drugs and there is wide spread violence perpetrated by people under the influence of mind altering drugs. This is very common especially in townships. Furthermore TCOs are a potential threat at national levels of some SADC counties. They are a threat both to their home and host countries due to their willingness to use force against the state and its agents, and can be destructive and destabilizing. These new security threats are real.

Catch Solly Rakgomo@ 73904141

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