EDITORIAL

Mission unaccomplished: Dissolve the State Security Agency and create a new, accountable, expert organisation

By Daily Maverick 2 February 2021
Caption
From left, Atul Gupta, Arthur Fraser, former president Jacob Zuma, former minister of state security David Mahlobo, Ajay Gupta. (Photos: Gallo Images / The Times / Puxley Makgatho | Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Jaco Marais | Gallo Images | Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Simphiwe Nkwali | Gallo Images / Business Day / Martin Rhodes)
Atul Gupta, Arthur Fraser, former president Jacob Zuma

Evidence about the State Security Agency being heard at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture has revealed that a widespread network of traditional and off-the-books agents had unfettered access to billions in cash and was designed to protect Zuma’s ‘regime’. It must be brought to an end.

“It is hard to lose a game of cards when you can see the other fellow’s hand,” wrote one of the UK’s leading experts on intelligence, John Hughes-Wilson, in his 2017 volume On Intelligence – The History of Espionage and the Secret World.

Look around you. The decade-long attack on the Constitution by those protecting Jacob Zuma from scrutiny has damaged public trust in government, the ANC, the media, law enforcement and the judiciary. 

It attempted unlawfully to undermine trade unions and civil society and the right to protest and demand accountability, but not before causing irreparable damage to South Africa’s capacity to protect itself and its citizens from legitimate threats.

To say nothing of depriving the fiscus of billions which could have been used to rebuild a shattered country. 

Witnesses to the Zondo Commission last week confirmed what most of us have known, and published, all along: that Zuma managed to turn his side of the ANC into a sprawling private crime syndicate disguised as a political party.

The State Security Agency (SSA), whose duty was to protect our constitutional democracy, was subverted, co-opted and ended up aiding and abetting an attack on the South African state from within. This happened under the watch of three ministers of state security.

The rot began, make no mistake, before Zuma’s taking office. His predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, opened the way for the use of intelligence for “political and economic intelligence”.

Zuma just took it where leaders, from Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu (author of The Art of War) to Roman emperors, took it before to protect personal and political power at the expense of the greater good.

That the environment is fraught and unsalvageable is evidenced in the leaks and counter-leaks that have taken place in the lead-up to testimony on the SSA, aimed at discrediting witnesses.

There have been threats, there have been leaked identities of witnesses, with many wild allegations tainting their credibility whispered into the ether.

On Sunday, the ever-theatrical former spy boss Arthur Fraser lodged a criminal complaint at the Hillbrow police charge office against Zondo Commission evidence leader Paul Pretorius, the chair of the High-Level Review Panel, Sydney Mufamadi, witnesses Mr Y and Ms K, acting SSA director-general Loyiso Jafta and an advocate, V September, instead of submitting them to cross-examination when his time comes at the commission.

Last time Fraser appeared he asked for immunity should he be forced to “break his oath of office”. Zondo said he had not been blessed with such powers but that Fraser should come armed with his best.

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Fraser’s legal representative, Rapulane Kgoroeadira, himself a former SSA employee between 2004 to 2016, said “the falsehoods peddled during what our client considers the monumental compromise of the country’s intelligence by SSA officials have left him with no choice but to lay criminal charges against those who conspired to tell the nation blatant and deliberate falsehoods”.

Where there is smoke, there will be mirrors.

The relationship between the current Minister of State Security, Ayanda Dlodlo, and acting DG Jafta is reportedly “tense”, with Jafta commanding Ramaphosa’s ear.

Dlodlo is no intellectual jellyfish, but it cannot be overlooked that she supported Zuma and at some stage found herself in Dubai courtesy of the former First Family, the Guptas.

South Africa’s intelligence agencies, including SAPS Crime Intelligence, let us also not forget, had free access to the secret service account and have also been implicated in protecting Zuma and infiltrating the media.

The sprawl of the disease is too deep and too established to keep the SSA in its current form. Everyone is at everyone else’s throats while global state players are competing over Africa’s future, and international crime syndicates command economies among the poor and desperate.

Ramaphosa’s move to split the service again into foreign (headed by Robert McBride) and domestic (no permanent appointment has yet been made) might provide a fresh start, but there are too many devils deep in the system for it to remain untainted and beyond suspicion.

The appointment of a minister who would have enough gravitas and experience as well as the respect of the citizens to act in their interests and not that of a governing party alone would be a start. 

But who? Who remains unblemished?

Everyone knows there are no angels in the intelligence world. Not one.

There are only angels with lesser devils or who are able to fight back against their demons. 

The State Security Agency has become the problem itself. That is not the way things should be. It should serve and help us, the citizens of South Africa, not create a state of its own, whose prodigious appetite is unaccountably sated by an uninterrupted gush of taxpayers’ money. 

To clean up as best we can, we must start from scratch. There are many ethical officials at the SSA who know their stuff. We must start afresh, recruit talent, do lifestyle audits, institute proper security checks and clearances, bring on board trained professionals and above all, favour those who hold the country and our future dear.

There is no simple reboot possible for the SSA. It must be tossed on the trash-heap of history. We have no other choice but to build something new. State security must serve South Africa, not the other way around. DM

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All Comments 21

  • The Mufamadi Report has been on President Ramaphosa’s desk for over two years yet he has not to date done anything. What does this tell us? Either that he does not have the power, that the balance within the ANC was, and clearly still is, generally supportive of the “Zuma narrative”, or Ramaphosa supports it. If you want to continue to enjoy the benefit of the doubt, retain some level of respect and support for your Presidency, Mr Ramaphosa, it is essential that you now act, and act unequivocally, against not just the SSA, but also against Zuma and all his myriad of backers and supporters clearly still hobbling both our country and your efforts at reform. South Africans deserve a better future and the ball is clearly in your court, Mr President.

  • It would be great if this could happen but I honestly just don’t have the faith in our president anymore to do something like this.

  • For 5 years Ramaphosa sat at Zuma’s side, but he knows nothing of all of this? cANCer are ALL the same-same- same. Sadly SA has no hope. The vrot is everywhere. The Commission has hardly revealed the tip of the iceberg. Get out, or build your own bunker.

  • never mind create a new one, just disband the SSA. The last thing we need is a new place for crooks and spooks to unaccountably hide

    • South Africa has been without a functional SSA for at least 10 years. Why even bother creating a new “Spy Agency”? Just disband and be done with it. Those unblemished and ethical officials can take their credentials and apply for jobs within the NPA.

  • “Mission unaccomplished: Dissolve the African National Congress and create a new, accountable, expert organisation”. Vote for a democratic party with a positive record.

  • It is so so disappointing but what makes it harder to stomach is that the system has been milked with impunity (as Mark Heyward rightly comments today) and continues to be milked while we are all watching. It’s worse than the state giving the electorate the finger, it’s like they are laughing at us for voting them into power. Yes, we knew what Zuma had done but they are now saying we were stupid enough to trust there was some serious introspection and that they ever intended to close the chapter of Zuma’s looting. Clearly, they were right. We the electorate are completely off the wall for ever thinking anyone ever had any intention of self-correcting,ever, at any time. The people will one day rise again, against this unjust regime. Sadly, I doubt it will be in my lifetime. Sadly, because I think of the lives and livelihoods that could have been different with the billions and untold billions looted. But sadly too, because if we went to the ballot box tomorrow the vast majority would either choose not to vote or would vote in the same status quo. That’s the biggest sadness. 30 years wasted. Wasted because we are no nearer achieving solidarity of purpose; of closing the gaps between the have and have not; of deracialising universal franchise. That we have done all this under the very noses of those who fought hardest against apartheid, struggled longest, and carried most scars and so have effectively silenced all prophets. This is what is so scandalous. In SA we no longer stone the prophets, we don’t even jail them, we can’t even quote them out of context for there are none worth quoting. Those we haven’t buried are hiding. Ye God’s, have mercy.

  • I think the sentences….
    ” Everyone knows ….. no angels………
    There are only angels with lesser devils……
    are particularly apt…when viewed against the backdrop of what happened to Edward Snowdon and possibly Julian Assange also.

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