Thursday, September 1, 2011

South African Future

In Swedish press there has been many critical articles regarding the sales of Gripen to South Africa, a nation that need all its money to develop the country. But, who are we to decide what is best for other countries?

Of course there is a need for development in South Africa. There are a lot of poor people, many of them refugees from Zimbabwe, and the criminal activity is very high. When you drive your car around the neighborhoods of Pretoria you can´t avoid to notice the palisades and the barbed wire around every house together with signs stating that intruders will be shot. But at the same time there has also been many improvements. In Soweto the government has built new houses to reduce the "Shanty Town". Unfortunately as soon as one South African moves out of his barrack to a house a family from Zimbabwe moves in.

There are still internal conflicts in South Africa even after the removal of Apartheid. The racial problems are not yet fully solved. Today the white population feels threatened by new laws. The government has introduced new guidelines for accepting students to higher educations. Each ethnical group (white, black etc.) has a number of available spots at the Universities proportional to the percentage of the population. But since white students by tradition and due to the fact that they are more often from richer families, have better grades from the basic schools, they feel cheated since students with lesser grades get accepted when they are not. The South African president Jacob Zuma has also ideas about transferring the ownership of farms from the white to the black population. But the situation in Zimbabwe may have made him change his mind about this. Many whites, also in the armed forces, are leaving South Africa since they feel they have no future in South Africa.

ANC starting with Nelson Madela has done their best to make the different ethnical groups feel like one. Football and Rugby has done a lot to achieve this goal, but there is still a long way to go.

Maybe it should be enough for South Africa to focus on the domestic problems. But, one reason to why the criminal activity is high and to why Soweto still is expanding is the refugees from Zimbabwe. Africa is a turbulent region with many border conflicts. South Africa therefore need to stabilize its borders and maybe even the surrounding countries as well as stabilize the internal conflicts.

This is also the reason to why South Africa a few years ago decided to modernize its armed forces including buying the Gripen. However, lack of money in the defence budget has resulted in that the South African Air Force has not yet reached the number of yearly flying hours and trained pilots that was planned. But maybe this will be changed with the new South African Defence Review?

South Africa is carrying out its first defence policy review in 13 years in a bid to address new security threats such as shipping piracy, the defence minister said Tuesday.
Threats like piracy and border security were not included in the last review, in 1998, and significant portions of that report were "completely outdated", she said.
South Africa's annual defence budget currently stands at 38.4 billion rand ($5.4 billion, 3.8 billion euros), and Sisulu has been vocal in calling for an increase.
"I think all of what is happening today on the continent, in the north of Africa and in the Middle East, have to be part of what we need to take notice of as far as the forecast is concerned."
The new review, which has a 6.2-million-rand budget for the year, will be presented to President Jacob Zuma's cabinet and parliament.

I believe that the Armed Forces of South Africa are very frustrated to have all this new equipment and not being able to take part in the removal of Ghadaffi in Libya or the hunt for pirates in the Gulf of Aden. The South African Air Force has a long tradition and has taken part in many wars. Their experience in electronic warfare and Infra-Red technology are world class. Since South Africa was locked out from international cooperation (with the exception of Israel and France) during the Apartheid years, they needed to develop technology of their own. Very much in the same way as Sweden during the Cold War, but for other reasons. The South African/Brazilian A-Darter IR-missile is very closely related to the Israeli Python 5 since they both share their "ancestors". Unfortunately the new focus on the bribes involved in the armor deals may change all this to the worse.

South Africa want to be a local power south of the equatorial line. The African Union - AU has sent a lot of troops to different hot zones in Africa, but historically the will to remove dictators has been since many African leaders are dictators themselves. But Ghadaffi seems to have lost all his powerful friends in Africa. His family has fled to Algeria, but are not welcome.

Maybe the conflic in Libya will result in a more active AU? If so, then South Africa will most likely take active part. Maybe the mission in Libya will not be the last for Gripen fighters?

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