Are we really getting security services that serve us, rather than politicians? An important feature of the state of the nation address (Sona) was the promise that the days when the security machinery was used as a weapon of war by the head of the government are over. This seems to show that, despite claims to the contrary, President Cyril Ramaphosa is serious about trying to repair the damage of the past decade (if not necessarily to fix the deeper problems the country faces). What is not yet clear is whether the changes will live up to their promise. A key feature of the Jacob Zuma presidency was his use as political weapons of the police and security agencies that were meant to serve the country. Zuma headed ANC intelligence during the fight against apartheid and this gave him a base among security operatives. He and his allies politicised the security agencies, driving out people who were not loyal to him. This turned the agencies into political battlegrounds, and later into a s...

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