South Africa


Dramatis Personae: Some of the kingpins in the capture of SA government

Dramatis Personae: Some of the kingpins in the capture of SA government
Illustrative image | Sources: (Clockwise from top left) Former president Jacob Zuma. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images) | Former SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake) | Former spy boss Arthur Fraser. (Photo: Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Jaco Marais) | Zuma's leading spymaster and the former ambassador to Japan, Thulani Dlomo. (Photo: | Atul Gupta. (Photo: Gallo Images / The Times / Puxley Makgatho) | Former state security minister David Mahlobo. (Photo: Galo Images / Netwerk24 / Felix Dlangamandla) | Former State Security Minister Bongani Bongo. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

There are myriad names that have infiltrated SA households as suspected villains in the 10 years of voracious State Capture under former president Jacob Zuma’s watch. Few are better known at the moment than Arthur Fraser, former director-general of the powerful State Security Agency and later Commissioner of Correctional Services – a position he leveraged to ensure the convicted Jacob Zuma’s release on early parole. But he is not the only one in this gallery of alleged rogues.

On Wednesday, 15 June, the final report of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture was expected to be handed to President Cyril Ramaphosa by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Its release was delayed by a week, finally landing on the president’s desk on 22 June.

Arthur Fraser features prominently in those sections dealing with the State Security Agency (SSA). As does Jacob Zuma.

Here is a brief prepper on the life and times of Arthur Fraser, and a few other key figures cited in the last volume of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

Fraser joined the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in 1995. Before this, he was an MK operative.

Between 1998 and 2004, he was NIA head in the Western Cape. At the time, he was also seconded to the Truth Commission as an investigator.

In 2006, Fraser was transferred to Home Affairs as deputy-director general for national immigration. In 2007, he returned to the NIA as deputy director-general for offensive and counter-intelligence operations.

His boss was director-general Manana Manzini, appointed by President Thabo Mbeki. Manzini had been acting in the position since 2005.

Fraser and Manzini, at Fraser’s instigation, began to widen and unmoor the ambit of the already established legal Principal Agent Network (PAN), creating a parallel intelligence network and structure of spies. So found the High-Level Panel of review in the meantime.

Manzini and Fraser, as well as Prince Makhwathana, Covert Support Unit (CSU) manager, and Martie Wallace, financial officer, were co-signatories to a document launching the network. 

They forged then Minister of State Security Ronnie Kasrils’ signature. (Kasrils was replaced in 2008 by Siyabonga Cwele).

In 2007, Mbeki and the National Security Council appointed Fraser to investigate the “Browse Mole Report”, including its origin and leak. The ‘report’ ‘revealed’ a plot by African leaders to replace Mbeki and install Zuma, his deputy.

Fraser bugged the officials mentioned in the Browse Mole Report, including Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy. Leaks of the recordings found their way  to Jacob Zuma’s legal team – and the Spy Tapes were born. 

Fraser also testified against Vusi Pikoli at the Ginwala Commission of Inquiry in 2007.

In 2009, Zuma became the president of the Republic of South Africa.

That same year, the CIA first flagged the Guptas for their interest in acquiring Uranium One’s Dominion mine, later renamed Shiva Uranium.

Manzini exits the NIA and is replaced in 2009 by Jeff Maqetuka as DG.

Fraser exits the NIA a year later in 2010.

Manzini goes on to establish a security company, Resurgent Risk Managers (with Fraser), and receives R14-million from Sassa for a “risk assessment”, a Post Office contract to snoop on executives in 2013 and, eventually, in 2016, a R90-million Prasa contract. 

This is all set out by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela in her “Derailed Report”.

Back in 2010, after the US ambassador raised a red flag over suspected Iranian funding for the Guptas, Zuma’s new security heads, Gibson Njenje and Mo Shaik, alerted the president.

Zuma personally intervened, said Shaik, saying that no such thing has occurred and that they had best drop the investigation.

In 2010, Cwele was informed that SSA auditors investigating PAN had found evidence of massive corruption, nepotism and criminal behaviour – so much so that it amounted to possible treason. 

The auditors found that in three years, about R1.5-billion had been blown and was unaccounted for. Much of it went through the hands of Thulani Dlomo, former head of counter-intelligence and the man tasked with white-anting the SA Revenue Service.

Also in 2010, Maquetuka, Njenje and Shaik were summoned to Cape Town by Minister Cwele. He ordered them to drop their investigation into the Guptas.

Shaik says that the spy trio met Zuma at his official presidential residence in Cape Town the same week.

At this meeting, Zuma set out how his path had intersected with the Guptas, and how generous they had been to his son, Duduzane. But Zuma stopped short of instructing that the investigation be halted.

In 2011, it was made public that the Gupta family had informed Fikile Mbalula of his appointment to Cabinet before any official announcement had even been made.

In 2011, Anwar Dramat, then head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) met SSA investigators about PAN and their shocking findings and recommendation that Fraser be charged, alongside others.

The SSA and the Hawks determined that an SIU investigation would cost about R15-million – a figure whittled down to R6-million by Njenje. It all came to naught.

SARS also began to probe Fraser and other SSA managers implicated in the SSA internal investigations.

In 2012, the investigation was sent to former spook, Inspector General of Intelligence Faith Radebe. Later, two reports emerge.

Radebe’s “Report to the Minister of State Security on the OIGI Investigation into the Principal Agent Network Programme of the NIA” was issued on 12 December 2013, and was followed by a supplementary report, dated 25 April 2014, after Cwele extended the terms of reference of the investigation.

Radebe essentially found that PAN agents had been tasked with conducting illegal activities without proper authorisation.

The IG report also referenced findings and conclusions of several earlier SSA internal investigations (about eight). The findings all suggested Fraser and others should be investigated and charged.

In 2013, the Gupta family wedding entourage landed at a national keypoint, the Waterkloof Air Base, to attend a R30-million family wedding at Sun City paid for by South African taxpayers.

Former chief of protocol, Bruce Koloane, took the fall and was later rewarded with an ambassadorship to the Netherlands.

A committee of four from the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster investigated the landing. One of the members was Tom Moyane, later to be appointed SARS commissioner.

Radebe was IG between 2010 and 2015 and the position was left vacant for two years with no oversight of the intelligence service.

Cwele was shuffled out of the Cabinet in 2014 and replaced with David Mahlobo.

Mahlobo was presented with the SSA IG reports in June 2014. They were also presented to the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence in November 2014.

When Fraser was appointed by Jacob Zuma to head the SSA in December 2016, the rap sheet was known – eight investigations were piled up, steaming. Fraser later said that by the time of his appointment, he had resigned as a director of Resurgent Risk

Minister of Communications Siphiwe Nyanda, along with Njenje, Shaik and 27 former directors-general, called for an independent inquiry into the SABC and the increasing role of the Gupta family in the public broadcaster.

This, after Nyanda was fired for refusing to give the Gupta family access to the SABC. Duduzane Zuma had brought the Guptas to see him, said Nyanda.

Nyanda was replaced by Roy Padayachee who opened the door to Hlaudi Motsoeneng, New Age breakfasts and huge opportunities for graft opened up.

In 2017, a new IG was appointed. Dr Setlhomamaru Dintwe discovered, on taking office, that Radebe’s SSA reports had been ignored. Dintwe dusted off the file and found staggering amounts had been siphoned off. 

Dintwe informed Mahlobo of the dire findings and Radebe’s recommendation that Fraser be charged.

Mahlobo was replaced by Bongani Bongo as Minister of State Security, and in October 2017 Fraser attempted to have Dintwe’s security clearance revoked and have him removed from his job.

Dintwe disclosed later that, days before the ANC’s Nasrec conference in 2017, he had been called by Bongani (Bo) Mbindwane, special adviser to then police minister Fikile Mbalula. 

Mbindwane sought to rope Dintwe into a plan to procure a surveillance “grabber” at an inflated price, citing threats in the form of foreign spies who had come to SA to infiltrate the conference, but were disguised as tourists. 

Fraser survived 2017, and in 2018 was moved to Correctional Services “in consultation with President Cyril Ramaphosa” and where, three years later, in a parting act of loyalty before his exit in 2021, Fraser overruled a medical parole board and ordered Jacob Zuma released from prison where he was serving time for contempt. 

Fraser “rewards” Ramaphosa in June 2022 by leaking information about a 2020 break in and theft of foreign currency from the president’s game farm in Limpopo.

Fraser’s figures 

R125-million: The amount that could not be accounted for by the SSA during the 2017/18 financial year.

R1.5-billion over five years: How much the Principal Agent Network blew over five years.

R42-million 2016/17; R308 million in 2017/18: Budget for the SSA.

R20-million: Paid to Iqbal Surve’s African News Agency, known as “Project Apricot”, a subproject under “Project Wave”.

R9-billion: Identified in the Auditor-General’s 2017/18 report as being spent on “redundant assets”.

The Enablers

Siyabonga Cwele – Minister of Intelligence Services (2008/09);
Minister of State Security (2009/14)

Current ambassador to China. Accused in 2011 of stopping an investigation into the Gupta family by intelligence heads Lizo Njenje, Mo Shaik and Mzuvukile Maqetuka.

David Mahlobo – Minister of State Security (2014/17) 

Current Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation.

Mahlobo is alleged to have signed off on receipts for about R80-million in cash taken from the SSA between 2015 and 2017.

Towards the end of 2016, “Dorothy” – who gave evidence at the Zondo Commission – said that she was not certain Mahlobo was actually payng R4.5-million a month to President Zuma that he was supposed to be paying, already an extraordinarily illegal concept to start with.

A trusted Zuma ally and Russophile, it was Mahlobo who accused the former president’s wife, Nompumelelo Ntuli, of poisoning her husband. The Zondo Commission heard that she was removed and held against her will at Mahlobo’s instruction. This was paid for out of the SSA cash stash.

Mahlobo also features at the centre of allegations that he received large amounts of cash from the SSA that were channelled into various projects across society.

Bongani Bongo – Minister of State Security (2017/18) 

Currently suspended from the ANC and facing charges of corruption in the Nelspruit Commercial Crimes Court.

Cleared by Western Cape Judge President John Hlope on charges of corruption for allegedly attempting to bribe Parliament’s Eskom Inquiry evidence leader, Ntuthuzelo Vanara.

Currently faces multiple charges of corruption related to the purchase of two farms involving R74-million.

The accusation is that as head of the legal section of the DoHS, and part of the committee, he was appointed by the then head of the department to negotiate the purchase of the farms.

Thulani Dlomo

Current status: a free man, author of “The Encounter”.

Zuma’s “most trusted spy” began secretly recruiting members for the Presidential Protection Service in 2008.

This, while employed at the Department of Social Development in KZN. In January 2012, these members were absorbed into the SSA as Dlomo took up position as general manager for the Directorate for Security Operations. There, he sets up the Special Operation Unit, Zuma’s private intelligence service.

Dlomo had carte blanche running operations and targeted Sars in particular. Dispatched by Zuma as ambassador to Japan, he later returned to SA. In July 2021, he was accused of participating in the July 2021 uprising. Dlomo handed himself over, but was released.

Some claim that Dlomo is still connected to a network of spies and agents who have eyes and ears everywhere, including in the Presidential Protection Unit.

Testimony at the Zondo Commission by “Dorothy” was that Dlomo instructed her to withdraw R1.85-million and work with the ANC’s head of security to fund the MKMVA’s presence at Luthuli House in September 2016.

Sonto Kudjoe – SSA Director-General (2012-2016) 

Former ambassador to Sweden, current Secretary of Defence. 

Kudjoe stands accused of stealing, defrauding and laundering more than R150-million from the State Security Agency during her term as DG. 

Allegations are that R150-million was stolen to finance the campaign of a senior ANC politician ahead of the governing party’s 2017 conference at Nasrec.

Maruti (Stan) Noosi – Deputy Director-General: Law Enforcement in Government.

Managed all security and investigations-related functions in law enforcement, including Zuma’s Presidential Protection Service, which was armed and financed by the SSA and trained abroad. DM


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