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South Africa Needs to Develop Dedicated Private Security to Protect its Critical Infrastructure

South Africa is not the only country whose energy infrastructure is facing security threats. There are numerous examples of attacks on critical infrastructure. These are typically cyber-related. But physical attacks such as sabotage also occur. The Institute for Security Studies argues that attacks on the critical infrastructure of developing countries, such as South Africa, could be “potentially devastating”. South Africa’s national security vulnerabilities, combined with the security risks to a monolithic state-owned entity with no backup, could exacerbate the country’s power supply insecurities. Cyber attacks on Eskom’s critical infrastructure could lead to severe damage. The result could be corresponding losses of generation capacity and damage to the economy. National security vulnerabilities can be reduced by state security capabilities that are equal to the task. A Report of the Expert Panel into civil unrest in the country in July 2021 revealed serious capacity problems within the state security sector. The sector is mandated to forewarn government, and to protect critical infrastructure and the public against hybrid threats. These include terrorism, subversion, sabotage, espionage and organised crime. This weakness was also highlighted in the 2018 High-Level Review Panel on the State Security Agency. The protection of South Africa’s energy infrastructure falls within the remit of the new Critical Infrastructure Protection Act 8 of 2019. Such infrastructure is crucial for the effective functioning of the economy, national security and public safety.