South Africa must develop dedicated private security to protect its critical infrastructure

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South Africa is not the only country whose energy infrastructure faces security threats. There are many examples of attacks against critical infrastructure. These are usually related to cybersecurity. But physical attacks such as sabotage also occur. The Institute for Security Studies says attacks on critical infrastructure in developing countries, such as South Africa, could be “potentially devastating”. South Africa’s national security vulnerabilities, combined with security risks for a monolithic state entity without safeguards, could exacerbate the country’s electricity supply insecurities. Cyberattacks against Eskom’s critical infrastructure could cause serious damage. The result could be corresponding losses in production capacity and damage to the economy. National security vulnerabilities can be reduced by state security capabilities that are up to the task. A report by the expert panel on civil unrest in the country in July 2021 revealed serious capacity issues within the state security sector. The sector’s mandate is to warn the government and protect critical infrastructure and the public from hybrid threats. These include terrorism, subversion, sabotage, espionage and organized crime. This weakness was also highlighted in the 2018 High Level Review Panel on the State Security Agency. Protection of South Africa’s energy infrastructure falls under the mandate of the new Critical Infrastructure Protection Act 8 of 2019. These infrastructures are crucial for the efficient functioning of the economy, national security and public safety.

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