The cash-in-transit heists, taxi violence and political assassinations in KwaZulu-Natal should worry us deeply. What they suggest is the possibility that both policing and our intelligence environment may be in a state of crisis. While it is critical that we avoid errors in analysis that may occur if we become unnecessarily alarmist, we must be concerned about the possible emergence of a state of dual power – the power of the State, on the one hand, and that of criminal networks, on the other. What should concern us in this respect is the possibility that State power and the power of well-resourced criminal networks may come into both competition and conflict.
I was shocked when I heard Robert McBride, the head of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, saying that ten police generals were under investigation for corruption involving billions of rands. While they must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise, if the allegations turn out to be true in all or some of the cases, this would suggest that corruption in the police service is either endemic or has become systemic. While the possibility of the former should worry us, the possibility of the latter should worry us even more because corruption is systemic when it has become the dominant culture in an institution or organisation. If it is endemic, we should take cold comfort from the fact that it is not systemic because, either way, there is a possibility that the upper echelons of the police service have been captured. If not, it is only a matter of time before what we fear becomes a reality.
In this scenario, we should ask questions about crime intelligence. Police Minister Bheki Cele told Parliament recently that 27 crime intelligence officers had criminal records. Twenty of these records are for violations of road traffic regulations, while the rest are of a more serious nature. While we must not cast aspersions on crime intelligence officers in general, it would be naive in the extreme to ignore the fact that some of the cash-in-transit heists, taxi violence and political killings are a function of failures in the intelligence environment and, therefore, constitute a threat to both national and State security.
As a civilian, there are certain assumptions I make about things such as cash-in-transit heists. First, they require careful planning and analysis on the part of those who are part of high-level criminal networks whose criminal activities extend to both criminal ventures and the penetration of legal business ventures in a diversity of sectors. Here, I am not talking about the copy-cat variety. Second, they require some kind of organisational infrastructure. Third, financial resources are essential and these can be sourced through legal and illegal means. Fourth, intelligence and counterintelligence capacity is essential. To the extent that some of the intelligence must be bought from actors within the State, risks to national and State security may come in the form of both the infiltration of State intelligence structures and the privatisation of State intelligence capacity. Fifth, some of the capacity may be transnational in nature, especially when it comes to the procurement of personnel with military and intelligence skills. Sixth, high-level actors must seek representation in the hidden hierarchies of multiple centres of power.
If my assumptions are correct, a coordinated response in the intelligence environment is critical. Our intelligence services – State security, crime intelligence, military intelligence, and so on – must work together to detect and neutralise threats, including threats from within the intelligence environment itself.
Some of these threats are located in the political sphere, as well as the interface between political, criminal, intelligence and business interests. Also, as a country, we must strike a healthy balance between the national interest, national security and the public interest. Because these interests are sometimes in conflict, difficult choices must be made inside and outside the State. These choices must be informed by two imperatives: first, the creation of a society that is the antithesis of apartheid society. Second, the creation of a society that is qualitatively superior to the antithesis of apartheid society. Some of the difficult choices we have to make will force us to traverse the sometimes thin line between illegality and the public interest. While we must commend those who have been leaking information from within State structures with the aim of arresting tendencies such as State capture, the questions we must ask are these: What else is being leaked? To whom? In whose interests?
We must ask these questions because some of the leaks had very little or nothing to do with the public interest, and every- thing to do with pursuing narrow political and economic interests.
I hope I have painted a sufficiently scary picture.