South Africa

Days of Zondo

State Security Agency assault rifles still missing after Zuma years

Former State Security Agency director-general Arthur Fraser. (Photo: Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Jaco Marais)

There are firearms, including assault rifles, still missing from the State Security Agency armoury as a result of the illegal activities of the agency’s Chief Directorate of Special Operations (CDSO) during Jacob Zuma’s term as president. 

Every time there is a media report of an assassination, the State Security Agency (SSA) officials in charge of the armoury pray it is not from a bullet fired from one of the firearms supposed to be under their control, testified Ms K (name withheld) before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture on Friday. 

It has a been a week of startling testimony before presiding Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, revealing to what extent national security was undermined by Zuma enablers such as former SSA Deputy Director-Generals Sonto Kudjoe, Thulani Dlomo (also ambassador to Japan), and former Director-General Arthur Fraser.

The allegations of the formation of an unconstitutional and illegal parallel national security operation in the form of the CDSO, complete with its own parallel vetting procedures for operatives, were revealed in testimony by Chair of the High-Level Review Panel review into the State Security Agency Sydney Mufamadi, SSA Acting DG Loyiso Jafta, and an affidavit by a Mr Y (name withheld) who was one of the investigators in Project Veza, which investigated allegations of irregularities and criminality at the SSA between 2012 and 2018. 

While Mr Y was not present at the commission, his affidavit was corroborated by fellow investigator Ms K who was off-camera during the commission’s virtual proceedings. 

On Friday evidence leader advocate Paul Pretorius continued to go through details of how the CDSO, which was set up and then initially run by Zuma’s spook Thulani Dlomo in 2012, gave themselves carte blanche to use the cover of covert operations to loot the state coffers of an estimated R1.5bn for the benefit of Zuma and his cronies. The CDSOs actions also crippled the legitimate functions of the SSA, cutting the budget of its provincial offices in half. Much of this was detailed in Thursday’s hearing, including how Zuma used the security agency to undermine the judiciary. 

It was on Friday afternoon that information on missing SSA firearms came to light. Pretorius was careful to lead Ms K through the raft of regulations and controls governing the SSA’s storage, transport, and handling of firearms, all of which were bypassed and violated by the CDSO. Ms K corroborated Mr Y’s affidavit before the commission that irregular access to the SSA armoury began in late 2014 and early 2015 when 39 firearms were issued to CDSO members on the request of Dlomo as DDG counter intelligence. 

These included 11 R4 assault rifles, 10 pistols, four Glock 17 pistols, eight Glock 19 pistols, one 12 gauge shotgun, three VXP submachine guns, and two Uzzi submachine guns. These were taken out of the armoury without the necessary forms or assurance that they were being issued to agency employees with the requisite firearm training and handling certificates. Additionally, the purpose for which they were being issued – part of the SSA control regulations – were not provided, nor were the necessary assurance regarding their safe transport and storage adhered to.

Ms K corroborated Mr Y’s affidavit stating the requests to the armoury by Dlomo were made through a General Manager of Chief Directorate Intelligence Services, assigned the pseudonym Johan. Johan facilitated the handing over of firearms without the requisite safeguards, which created an environment in the armoury where they could not refuse irregular requests due to his involvement. 

Yet, stated Mr Y’s affidavit, Dlomo as a member of the SSA executive had “no just reason to make a request for firearms”. 

Additionally, CDSO was under covert operations and thus should have taken steps to ensure whatever firearms they used could not be traced back to the SSA. The Project Veza investigators also interviewed witnesses who said firearms were given to non-SSA members who had been recruited by the CDSO and deployed to sensitive areas around the president and deputy president. One such person was the “late Thula” who posted his SSA permit on his Facebook page following a fallout with Dlomo.

No controls over transport and storage of the firearms took place and in one instance firearms were kept in an unsecured hotel room where five went missing. Only two were retrieved by Dlomo in September 2019. They were not reported to the SAPS as missing, resulting in the Project Veza investigators opening a case for firearms missing since 2015.

In September 2014, Dlomo allegedly ordered, through Johan, that four R4s and six pistols be taken on the presidential plane to a foreign country which was at that time undergoing a coup d’etat. Although the firearms were apparently not used in the coup, they were seen there in Dlomo’s presence. 

“This incident was confirmed,” said Ms K.

Then in December 2016, the new General Manager was requested to return all firearms, but only 21 were returned. Additionally, of 1,635 rounds of ammunition, only 755 returned to date, and some of it is ammunition that never belonged to the SSA. 

A further 11 firearms were returned in April 2018. In one situation, SSA members were instructed to meet unknown individuals in possession of SSA firearms at the Durban airport. At the tense meeting at which they were armed, they only handed the weapons over once they contacted Dlomo who was in Japan. 

Two more firearms were retrieved from Dlomo in November 2019, with four firearms still unaccounted. Ms K said ballistic tests were being conducted on the recovered weapons to determine whether any have been used in a crime, and the results of these tests are being awaited. 

“Non SSA member were receiving firearms and ammunition with the assistance of senior managers in CDIS (Chief Directorate Intelligence Services), CDSO, and the office of the DG counter-intelligence,” stated Mr Y’s affidavit.

Earlier in the day, the commission heard how the CDSO, although officially closed in late 2016, continued working on projects under the Covert Services Unit (CSU) overseen by Director-General Arthur Fraser following his appointment to the position in late 2016.

Under Fraser there were attempts to infiltrate media houses, although not very successful as the price demanded by possible sources within the media were too high or media houses immune to influence. However, R20m was paid to the African News Agency, and at least a further R28m was withdrawn against what was called Project Wave and it seemed there were individuals in the media outside of ANA who received money. 

Pretorius said he would delve into this later in the day but failed to do so. 

While Fraser was in office there were also successful disinformation measures implemented against the #ZumaMustFall movement, as well as infiltration of civil society organisations such as the Right2Know campaign. 

Next week, the commission will hear evidence relating to parliamentary oversight, announced Zondo before adjourning for the weekend. DM


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  • Minister Ayanda Dlodlo, why did you try to stop the testimonies of Jafta and others? Was it to protect Ramaphosa, who would have known about activities at the SSA? And then the later went and appoint Arthur Fraser as National Commissioner at Correctional Services, and David Mahlobo as Deputy Minister. Why Mr. Ramaphosa? Both these people should be charged with treason, yet you appoint them in nice paying cosy jobs. Much that came out at the commission was already known, partly due to Jacques Pauw’s famous book, The President’s Keepers, way back in 2018