Government must show it cares about citizens

If a government is unable to control its own territory, safeguard its people and infrastructure, it is highly unlikely it can project credible hard power.

For a country to be taken seriously, it must be able to project credible and sustainable hard, soft, smart and sharp power – or at least credible parts thereof.

South Africa seems determined to flex its ever-increasing weak muscles by presuming it is able to project hard power across the continent in an attempt to appear influential and powerful.

But hard power projection must be supported with strong and decisive political will, and sustained with an efficient and robust logistical supply chain.

If not, it becomes an exercise in circus-like futility.

Hard power becomes floppy power. But, to project power of any type, or to give the appearance of having power, a government must be able to exercise control over its own territory and ensure its serves the nation.

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It must incentivise its people with good transparent governance, sound economic policies, reduce unemployment, develop infrastructure, eliminate marginalisation, generate inclusive polities, exercise law and order, and show the nation it cares for them through servant leadership.

The rise in ungoverned areas is an example of a collapsed policing system and an inability to govern.

If a government is unable to control its own territory, safeguard its people and infrastructure, it is highly unlikely it can project credible hard power.

It must also maintain its armed forces and their bases. When the military calls for R8 billion to “fix” existing bases, somewhere something is terribly wrong. Sustaining hard power also requires a country to have economic leverage.

With an economy close to collapse, and with domestic and international investors seeking safe havens elsewhere, we have none.

Hard power furthermore calls on us to have strong alliances and coalitions. With an ever-growing continental trust deficit, here too we are floundering.

To project hard power implies decisive political will and drive.

However, we are increasingly weak as the ruling party fragments itself with numerous powerplays and primary school spats behind the unified façade it tries to cling to and present.

Not only have they divided themselves, but they have also divided the nation that President Mandela unified in 1994.

What a disgrace. History will judge them harshly.

In recent weeks, South Africa, determined to play its self-imposed role of a superpower on the African stage, decided to deploy the SA National Defence Force alongside those of Malawi and Tanzania.

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Before anyone says something, I must add there’s nothing wrong with the man-material of our defence force.

Our soldiers are capable and willing to defend our country and its people. But there is no political will to back up or sustain our forces.

With little to no air, medical and logistical support, our soldiers are thrust into a conflict with both hands tied behind their backs.

With a withered defence force, lacking vital equipment and air support, our soldiers now have a target painted on their backs.

Even worse, they are in the Democratic Republic of Congo to defend our interests when their families, friends and loved ones at home are suffering and enduring daily hardships.

Rampant criminality, mass unemployment, a lack of basic services, rising costs of living, and an ever-greater lack of concern by the government, are not how one motivates soldiers to give their all for the country.

Or is there something deeper behind this poorly planned deployment? Was the intention to ensure our soldiers remain vulnerable in a foreign land?

Was this an attempt to appease both the DRC and a hostile neighbour?

A recent Botswana Defence Force communique reported that a South African soldier had sadly died due to injuries in the DRC.

Whereas war implies the loss of soldiers, it also implies that the government has a responsibility to ensure they are armed and equipped as best they can be.

With numerous reports on how corrupt an ex-defence minister and some of our senior military leaders have become, it is no wonder that South Africa is considered weak in the world of military affairs.

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But it is also indicative of why our troops are so poorly equipped and supported.

It is time our government stopped its weak military posturing, fixed what it stole and broke domestically, appointed the right people to defend our nation and its interests, and focus its attention on ensuring we are able to project true hard power.

If not, we will remain a joke, as the only power we will be able to project is floppy power.