While the country’s desperately-needed tax revenue was being criminally rerouted – via Dubai, Hong Kong and the US (aided an abetted by high-ranking state officials and the private sector) – South Africa’s intelligence agencies were otherwise distracted by a deadly political battle raging inside the ruling party.
Or so found a High Level Panel Review into the State Security Agency, chaired by Sydney Mufumadi, and handed to President Cyril Ramaphosa in March this year.
While not specifically named, implicated former SSA DG, Arthur Fraser, has hit back in a 78-page response, labelling as “treasonous” the panel’s findings that several rogue intelligence operations had acted in the political interest of former president Jacob Zuma. The panel also found that the abuse of state resources possibly benefited senior government officials and ministers in Zuma’s cabinet.
In his response, garnished with much spook-speak like “forewarn”, “HUMINT” and “craft of intelligence”, Fraser poo-pooed the process the panel had embarked on to reach its findings. He accused the panel of relying on “selective information” and warned that it should “steer clear of personal vendettas”.
Seeking to school panel members, Fraser offered “even a report on intelligence and its review must be as rigorous as the craft of gathering intelligence itself. It cannot gloss over issues nor rely on rumour and fiction. At the heart of such a report, like the craft of intelligence, is to forewarn the Head of State, to alert him or her of external and internal threats, to alert him or her of his or her own conduct as it relates to the security of the State”.
Fraser, however, did not explain how Bosasa, the Guptas and various associates feeding at the trough of the country’s SOE’s (SAA, Transnet, Prasa, Eskom), aided and abetted by the financial sector, managed to operate unseen by the country’s intelligence services for over a decade criminally hoovering up billions.
Fraser, appointed by Zuma as SSA DG to replace Sonto Kudjoe in 2016, said the panel and the report, “seeks to, or has the effect of misleading those in charge of the State. It is the ultimate breach that can only be committed with the aim of deepening the very threats it seeks to defeat or expose”.
Fraser had previously served in various positions in intelligence including as Deputy Director General of operations in the former National Intelligence Agency (NIA). It was during his tenure there that Fraser is accused of establishing the Principle Agent Network (PAN), a covert, parallel structure which allegedly reported to him, circumventing the SSA.
With regard to the PAN, the panel found “it appeared…there had been instances of serious criminal behaviour which had taken place under the guise of conducting covert work and that this behaviour may have involved theft, forgery and uttering, fraud, corruption, and even bordered on organised crime and transgressions of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA)”.
Fraser in his reply wrote: “Having read the published report authored by the HLRP on the State Security Agency, I am in utter despair about how they have missed basic tools of providing a Head of State with an accurate, cold, and objective account on the state of intelligence. Its conclusions reveal a lack of understanding of intelligence work and what I view as the most fundamental, if not the most dangerous method of dealing with intelligence – relying on speculation and generalities.”
Fraser currently serves as Commissioner of Correctional Services, a position he was moved to in April 2018, after a run-in with current Inspector General of Intelligence Setlhomamaru Dintwe over Fraser’s blocking of his security clearance.
In his challenge to panel member’s understanding of their mandate, Fraser offered to “set out some of the unique features of intelligence in the free and modern world that I think the HLRP may have missed. Accordingly, the need to understand the uniqueness and nuances of state security must precede any attempt at restructuring intelligence services”.
It’s complicated people.
He said that, while historically, intelligence had played a critical role in protecting the sovereignty and security of a state and its citizenry, and to a large extent, still did “in recent times, it has become a front-line force, whose capacity must meet head-on the security challenges posed by global advances in technology, terrorism, and countries’ obligations to advance their own national interests. The nature of security threats in the modern world is more complex and ever-changing”.
And then “the task and obligation to forewarn political principals, the President and his Cabinet in particular, as well as relevant state institutions about potential security threats facing the state and all facets of society, falls squarely on their shoulders”.
Tell us, we know. All around us are commissions of inquiry.
“Having read the Report, I realised, with respect, the lack of insight and shortcomings of the HLRP as revealed in their approach to the task they were assigned. The superficial and simplistic outlook necessarily prejudices intelligence officers who may have been members, and/or supporters, of the African National Congress (ANC) before the amalgamation of the statutory and non-statutory intelligence services.”
Investigative journalist, Jacques Pauw, sets out in detail in The President’s Keepers Fraser’s role in the labyrinthine State Capture project.
Six years before Fraser was appointed by President Zuma to the SSA in 2016, the Gupta family had already been red-flagged by the country’s new intelligence structures.
In 2010, before Zuma’s first Cabinet reshuffle in October, Gibson Njenje (former head of NIA), Mo Shaik (then head of foreign intelligence) and Jeff Maqetuka (SSA DG), appointed in 2009, had warned of the family’s worrying influence over the president. Njenje also immediately initiated an investigation into Fraser’s PAN programme as well as the Covert Support Unit (CSU).
Njenje, Shaik and Maqetuka all resigned in 2011 citing a “fallout” with then Minister of State Security, Siyabonga Cwele. Three years later an aircraft carrying guests from India to a R30-million wedding (paid for by South African taxpayers) at Sun City landed at Waterkloof Air Force Base.
In February 2018, Njenje was appointed as an adviser to new Minister of State Security Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba.
In his response, Fraser accused the panel of being “committed to hurling every negative aspersion to the administration that came in 2009 (with the election of former president Jacob Zuma) at the cost of self-contradiction”.
The panel, he said, had “a very condescending view of other human beings, particularly those in the employ of the SSA; it only views them as puppets of other people; without integrity, and as people that cannot become independent-minded and professional”.
He accused the panel of delivering a finding that they had assumed President Cyril Ramaphosa had wanted instead of “a thorough analysis of what the President needs as he leads the state”.
Fraser also questioned the bona fides of several individuals employed in the secretariat for the HLPR who had, he said, previously investigated PAN. It was Njenje, he said, who in November 2010 had suspended and restricted his movements to Pretoria.
“This unlawful restriction was signed by Mr Maqetuka. Upon challenging the imminent suspension, I was summarily dismissed by Mr Njenje and my December 2009 resignation was unilaterally implemented and dated end of November 2010, although I was only informed thereof on 23 December 2010. Pursuant to numerous internal SSA investigations and an investigation by the Inspector General of Intelligence (IGI) I was never charged or found guilty of the allegations levelled against me. The latter was the only instance where I was afforded a right of reply.”
He protested that there had been “several attempts to align me with this or that Head of State when my obligations have always been to the office of the Head of State regardless of the personality. At all material times, in my professional career, I always strived to serve the Constitutional mandate assigned to intelligence and as such served the entire country, which I continue to do”.
Meanwhile, there is still the not-to-small matter of the missing R1.5-trillion with no arrests in sight, yet. Oh, and the alleged R5-billion in alleged irregular procurements in the SAPS, and, and, and… DM