Strange things are happening in South Africa. Now there is a story that the defence establishment has rubber-stamped state of emergency draft regulations. South Africa has not had a state of emergency since the era of President PW Botha, in the dying days of the apartheid regime. The presidency has denied knowledge of the draft document, but things don’t look good.
Former Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils recently warned at the Cape Town Press Club that President Jacob Zuma’s faction in the ruling party is capable of doing anything to stay in power. They could upend this weekend’s African National Congress elective conference – by simply throwing chairs around.
What he did not think of was an internal coup much along the lines of neighbouring Zimbabwe, or indeed a state of emergency. It is obviously on the mind of Erika Gibson, a Rapport Sunday newspaper senior reporter, who said she started investigating the existence of the draft regulations in October.
Now the story has broken, that there is a 30-odd page document which is in “draft” form, not yet law, so to speak. It gives the security forces the right to switch off a person’s access to the internet, for example. States of emergency raise the powers of government and its attendant security agencies to detain people without trial.
The National Party government of the 1980s used this tool very effectively against their opponents during the 1980s.
So are we in for a state of emergency, a sort of mini-coup?
Gibson is reported on www.702.co.za as having been puzzled by the need to draft emergency regulations. She reported that the regulations were being drafted for the first time since the advent of democracy. They have been drafted in terms of the State of Emergency Act of 1997.
The draft regulations were sent to the South African National Defence Force “for its urgent input”, according to 702. The SANDF was reported to have “endorsed” the draft. Gibson was quoted as saying: “I was curious as (to) why now. Why would it be necessary to actually look at the regulations right now?”
Fears that the President himself may be behind the emergency regulations have been dismissed by the presidency. Spokesman Dr Bongani Ngqulunga said: “We heard about this for the first time… We have not seen the report of the review of regulations. The presidency is completely unaware of the process, so this definitely does not come from the presidency.”
That should be a relief to those who might think that the president is plotting a state of emergency.