South Africa

DAYS OF ZONDO

This be treason: Ramaphosa acknowledges Zuma-era armed militia’s likely connection to July insurrection

This be treason: Ramaphosa acknowledges Zuma-era armed militia’s likely connection to July insurrection
From left: Thulani Dlomo | Former SSA director-general Arthur Fraser. (Photo: Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Jaco Marais) | Retired head of domestic intelligence at State Security, Advocate Mahlodi Muofhe. (Photo: Leila Dougan) | Former State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Moeletsi Mabe)

The President of the Republic of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, has acknowledged that agents irregularly recruited, appointed and armed by the State Security Agency could have played a role in the strategic economic sabotage of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng during the failed July insurrection. He also spoke about a process of “intense investigation” going forward.

This was the first public indication that a “discreet and private” force, hand-picked by Thulani Dlomo, former head of the State Security Agency’s (SSA’s) Special Operations Unit (SOU) and accountable only to former president Jacob Zuma, had not been decommissioned or tracked despite exposure of its existence.

It would suggest the private (paid for by public money, however) armed militia was still operational prior to and during the nine days of chaotic violence that gripped KZN and Gauteng.

On Thursday, the Zondo Commission heard that the canning of Project Veza – an attempt to clean up the SSA – by Minister of State Security Ayanda Dlodlo, as well as recently retired domestic head of intelligence, Mahlodi Muofhe, had resulted in these agents and arms, including automatic weapons, remaining outside the control and authority of the state.

“It is not unreasonable, therefore, to propose any failures at the heels of SSA in July 2021 were a logical and predictable outcome of 12 years of mismanagement and corruption, and a redirection of resources away from the true objective of the people as a whole, to service narrow and private interests,” evidence leader advocate Paul Pretorius put it to the president.

“It is not an unreasonable proposition,” Ramaphosa replied.

“There was a lapse and we now need to investigate and find out how it happened and how it manifested itself,” said the president.

It would be safe to assume that Dlodlo’s departure from the Cabinet is partly linked to the fatal failure of the country’s intelligence agencies to predict and prevent the over 300 deaths and around R50-billion lost to the economy as a result of the public violence.

Evidence was led on Thursday that soon after acting SSA Director-General Loyiso Jafta had testified at the commission in January 2021 (against the wishes of Dlodlo), his contract was not renewed when it came to an end. 

Jafta provided explosive evidence that Project Veza, an investigation initiated after his appointment as acting DG in 2018, had turned up billions of rands, either in cash or assets, that could not be accounted for by the SSA.

Jafta testified to staggering amounts of cash being carted out of the SSA’s headquarters in Pretoria, particularly in December 2017, the same month the life-and-death ANC leadership battle played out at its 54th elective conference at Nasrec.

Back then, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, reading aloud from Jafta’s statement, began listing amounts allocated to “operations” by the SSA during that period.

“R19-million, date given 15 December 2017. Then it says ‘collected R5-million’, R1.9-million, R900,000, R360,000. 18 December, R2.5-million, R2-million, R2.4-million, R1-million, R13,000, R1.3-million… cash just gets dished out!” Zondo looked up from the horror sheet.

Ramaphosa appointed Muofhe, with concurrence by Dlodlo, as head of domestic intelligence in August 2019. Muofhe retired from the position at the end of July and it remains vacant.

On Thursday, evidence was led that Project Veza had uncovered a list of names of agents and co-workers illegally appointed by Dlomo and the SOU, but that this was placed “under lock and key” by Dlodlo and Muofhe.

Also two witnesses, investigators attached to Project Veza, had been “taken off their jobs” after they had given evidence to the commission. 

As a result, none of these agents was recalled and lethal weapons that had been requested by the Chief Directorate of Special Operations in 2014 and 2015 remained unaccounted for.

Pretorius opined that it would be “very sad” if any relationship could be plotted between this list of “operatives in projects related to presidential security” as well as the arms released into circulation ahead of July’s violence.

Pretorius suggested to the head of state that there must have been more than enough evidence prior to July to indicate the threat to the integrity of the state. 

He suggested that the failure to act on this “is not a lapse… it is not a mistake, it is complicit action by a vast number of senior members in the executive”.

To which Ramaphosa replied that the country had “been through a period of State Capture” which had “debilitated a number of state institutions”.

While the SSA was one of these, he was compelled to respond that there were “a number of really good people who are there who serve the interests of our country and advance its developmental path”.

“But we must admit, it was one of those agencies that was compromised and operating under the milieu of State Capture and all these things that the evidence leader is asking about.

“It happened. Our task now as we move forward is to correct all those and to root out the malfeasance and the corruption.”

Ramaphosa admitted that the implementation of the 2018 High-Level Review Panel (HLRP) report into the State Security Agency had been “rather poor and is now going to gain momentum”, no doubt sending a rush of blood to the heads of those who have been implicated. 

These include former Minister of State Security David Mahlobo and former SSA DG Arthur Fraser (both continue to serve in the government).

The president said the shifting of the SSA into the presidency and the appointment of Dr Sydney Mufamadi, who chaired the HLRP, as security adviser “will help to reposition and rally the state agency”.

“We have gone through a horrible past… the future that beckons is one that will be a lot more different,” he promised.

Pretorius reminded the president that the State Security Agency and the security establishment were vital assets that existed to protect the people of South Africa, and not those of the party or the state.

He noted that investigations into those who had been involved in criminal conduct had been buried for years. This included allegations and investigations into former SSA DG, Arthur Fraser, who continued to serve “without consequence”. Fraser was appointed DG of Correctional Services in 2018.

“It is not something that could have gone unnoticed to those in power,” said Pretorius.

Ramaphosa said documents relating to Project Veza had been secured and were in “safekeeping” and they would now form part of a process of “intense investigation” going forward.

Pretorius reminded the president that the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence (JSCI) had heard a full presentation of matters relating to the agency, but had failed to call the two investigators who were part of Project Veza.

“It seems that even at the level of the JSCI there is an attempt to bury or push aside evidence that is truly embarrassing for the state,” Pretorius pushed back.

Ramaphosa responded that he had not been “alive” to this specific incident but that, flowing from the work of the Zondo Commission, “we look to a future where what the commission has unravelled and found will be dealt with and has to be dealt with, otherwise this has been a wasted effort”.

The president admitted on Thursday that law enforcement agencies had been captured and that the resulting damage had weakened capacity and the rule of law. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Miles Japhet says:

    His cabinet reshuffle is hardly a renewal – the ANC itself is captured. Civil society has to get even louder.

    • Gerrie Pretorius Pretorius says:

      Miles. I have posted it here before, but the cabinet shuffle was like having four punctures on your car, changing them around and believing it will be better.

  • Laurence Erasmus says:

    Cyril’s actions to date clearly show that he is not going to shake down the ANC tree to cleanse it. Only voting citizens will be able to ensure the end of state capture and the renewal of state governance by voting the ANC out of power. A coalition of civic society and opposition parties will be better than a half baked renewal of the ANC which is what Cyril will deliver.

  • Michael McLennan says:

    Ramaphosa is still playing both sides of the coin. He needs to make a number of tough decisions if he is to be seen as being serious on corruption, on building the economy, on holding government ministers accountable.

  • Roland Preitnacher says:

    ……..”who had been involved in criminal conduct had been buried for years. This included allegations and investigations into former SSA DG, Arthur Fraser, who continued to serve “

    Serve has a strange ring when used wth these despicable individuals.

    Has the ammunition “lost” by the police during or after the insurrection been found?

  • Memphis Belle says:

    The ANC is cooked and rotten to the bone. No amount of “reforming” can fix it. It’s too corrupt and too late. A coalition of responsible other parties would be infinitely better than the rotten ANC.

  • Ken Harley says:

    The ANC claims to uphold the principles of democracy. In truly democratic countries, ministers bow to accountability and resign when caught out in instances of egregious failure. Shouldn’t our President and his cabinet apologise to South Africa on behalf of the ANC and resign?

  • etienne van den heever says:

    NOT surprising, as we have known about this for ages, just the scale of it.
    So those who continue to say “We didn’t know” lack any credibility or respect and don’t deserve a single vote – ANC is way beyond hope of redemption

  • Brian Cotter says:

    If Ayanda Dlodlo fired Jafta after explosive evidence about Project Veza expect him back under Cyril’s wing to continue the exposure.

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    For a realistic take on Ramaphosa’s evidence, please read Piet Croucamp’s opinion piece in Friday’s Vrye Weekblad. It will hit you in the solar plexus and leave you breathless as you come to terms with the extent of State Capture, finally accepting that nothing, not even a change in government, can save us.

  • Carol Green says:

    Marianne, a bit of wishful thinking there when you referred to “Dlodlo’s departure from the cabinet” as she’s still there, just in a different ministry.

  • Jamie WHITELAW says:

    One would have thought that Ramaphosa would have acted years ago on the SSA as it was clearly acting illegally. In January Jafta gave detailed evidence of extensive theft and corruption in the SSA to the Zondo commission and later lost his job. Arthur Fraser and Mahlobo are still in government getting fat salaries and benefits many of us only dream of. Ramaphosa should have been cross examined by the Zondo Commission and taken apart. Certainly his giggles and that of Judge Zondo created a very bad impression. He gave the impression that he is waiting for all the reports to come to him before acting. Where has he been since coming into power?

  • Luan Sml says:

    The President could solve the state capture problem and save taxpayers a fortune by rather funding reputable NGO’s and investigative journalists and organisations to brief him on the depth and breadth of state capture!

  • Gerrie Pretorius Pretorius says:

    ““We have gone through a horrible past… the future that beckons is one that will be a lot more different,” he promised.” – liar liar pants on fire! cr has been a senior member of the anc since 1994 when things started going South. Why should anyone ever believe a single word that is spoken from his, or for that matter any anc member, mouth? cr is in it for the anc to stay in power and control the lives of all SAs, while eating at the trough until there is nothing left. Sies!

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