Editorial

Arthur Fraser’s true place in the SA prison system

By Daily Maverick 18 April 2018

Moving him to correctional services may be an effort to neutralise any support Arthur Fraser enjoys from among the shadowy world of spooks and spies, but such reasoning highlights the paradox that the true threat to the state comes from within. Fraser’s track record disqualifies him from serving as a senior most public servant. It also disqualifies him from being a free man.

There is a litany of dodgy dealings linked to Arthur Fraser, the spook and the businessman.

As a spook, Fraser has been involved in at best questionable, and at worst unlawful, practices. And this is not only over the Principal Agent Network (PAN) programme, effectively an unconstitutional parallel intelligence operation that between 2007 and 2010 chowed an estimated R1.5-billion of taxpayers’ money.

Various investigations, by both State Security Agency (SSA) and the independent intelligence watchdog, over eight years now, indicated irregularities worth criminal investigation: from a lack of financial controls to unlawful operatives’ activities.

Fraser popped up in many places: in a Spy vs Spy saga in the bugging of former Western Cape director-general Niel Barnard’s offices, as ventilated in the 2002 Desai commission of inquiry, or promising there would be no jail time for Andre Lincoln, the Cape-based policeman shafted by his own after being appointed to probe mafiosi Vito Palazzolo, as was ventilated in the policeman’s (unsuccessful) 2017 civil court proceedings for damages arising from his 2003 prosecution. When anti-drug vigilantes Pagad emerged in Cape Town, and clashed with gangsters and policy, some of Fraser’s operatives gathered information by pretending to be journalists at Pagad meetings.

Later, Fraser, by then NIA deputy director-general for operations and counterintelligence, was at the heart of the toxic mix of intelligence and ANC politics. He was part of a 2007 presidentially-appointed task team into the Browse Mole report that talked of foreign funding to oust Thabo Mbeki in favour of Jacob Zuma on the road to the hotly contested Polokwane ANC national conference.

Subsequently Fraser was dubbed the “spy who saved Jacob Zuma”, after it publicly emerged he was involved in the leaking of the so-called Spy Tapes, or NIA phone taps of the then Scorpions’ leadership, later used to drop the corruption prosecution of Zuma on the eve of the 2009 elections.

As businessman, Fraser has benefited from deals with state entities since leaving SSA in January 2010 until his reappointment as the spy agency’s boss in September 2016.

In June 2017 Daily Maverick exposed how Resurgent Risk Managers – founded by Fraser and his former spook boss, Manala Manzini – was accused of submitting a false tax certificate to clinch a R90-million contract from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa). This emerged from a National Treasury probe into various contracts, all worth over R10-million, that Prasa awarded between 2012 to 2015.

Resurgent Risk Managers in 2014 was also publicly linked to the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa), benefiting R14.3-million for a variety of security-related work, apparently without following due tender processes, but justified by the government entity CEO Virginia Petersen because of death threats. The company also bid for an “investigation services” tender at the Government Pension Administration Agency, according to the September 2015 Tender Bulletin.

Fraser’s track record disqualifies him from serving as a senior most public servant. Withdrawing the security clearance of the spook watchdog, the Inspector-General of Intelligence, who is investigating him, is, at best, a sign of Fraser’s arrogance of power. At worst, it is an obstruction of justice.

Moving him to correctional services may be an effort to neutralise any support Fraser enjoys from among the shadowy world of spooks and spies, but such reasoning highlights the paradox that – after years of regime-change rhetoric fingering opposition parties and civil society – the threat to the state comes from within.

An argument that because Fraser has no criminal convictions, he’s free to remain in government service, is the same contention put forward by State Capture defenders and denialists. It holds no water in a constitutional democracy, and cannot be the attitude of a state proclaiming to be committed to good governance.

It is now time to bring those criminal charges.

Fraser should be looking out from behind bars, not looking at them. DM

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