South Africa


New intelligence oversight inspector under pressure to probe Ramaphosa Phala Phala saga

New intelligence oversight inspector under pressure to probe Ramaphosa Phala Phala saga
Inspector-General of Intelligence Imtiaz Ahmed Fazel. (Photo: Twitter / @SAgovnews)

Imtiaz Fazel will swap his role as director-general of public works for that of the Inspector-General of Intelligence, once President Cyril Ramaphosa makes the formal appointment.

After the ANC’s first choice for Inspector-General of Intelligence, anti-apartheid struggle veteran and ex-Presidency director-general Reverend Frank Chikane, failed to muster the constitutionally required two-thirds support in the House in mid-June, no such embarrassment hit Tuesday’s recommendation.

In a unanimous vote of 334 for and no abstentions, MPs approved Public Works Deputy Director-General Imtiaz Fazel as the next Inspector-General of Intelligence (IGI).

It’s the second time in the past seven years that the IGI post was not timeously filled. The previous incumbent, Setlhomamaru Dintwe, left when his contract expired in March. By the time Dintwe was appointed in 2017, the post had been vacant for two years as the governing ANC had failed to persuade opposition parties to back its choice, Cecil Burgess.

And this was on legislators’ minds on Tuesday. EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi announced that in the interest of stability it would not oppose the proposed candidate, and the DA talked of the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence’s (JSCI’s) pragmatism, so “it’s not going to be another three years’ delay”, according to DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard. 

“Today our number one choice is before the House,” she added. 

Fazel recently returned to his Public Works deputy DG post; responsible for governance, risk and compliance after acting as director-general since 2020, his second acting stint, since joining in 2014. The year before that he spent in the office of the State Security DG. He moved there from the Office of the IGI where he was the chief operating officer from 2004 to 2012, a position he got after a two-year acting appointment in 2002. From 1997 to 2002, he had been an intelligence ministry adviser.

On Tuesday, the ANC backed Fazel after its humiliating failure in mid-June to get Chikane appointed, who fell 35 short of the constitutionally required two-thirds, or 267, yes votes in the 400-strong National Assembly.

“[The IGI nomination] comes at a critical time in our country as our government is in the process of restoring and strengthening the capacity of intelligence to ensure peace and security,” according to ANC MP Masefako Dikgale. 

Phala Phala saga

But for the DA, EFF and African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) that nomination also meant investigating the Phala Phala forex robbery saga — immediately and without fear or favour. 

Ndlozi said Fazel’s “immediate task … is to look into the abuse of intelligence services … in executing the protection of Phala Phala farm of President Ramaphosa” to ensure no political abuse of the intelligence services. 

ACDP MP Wayne Thring put it bluntly: “In light of the Dollargate, or Phala Phala scandal, the ACDP calls on the offices of the Public Protector and the new, to-be-appointed IGI to fulfil their mandate in holding the President to account without fear, favour or prejudice.”

Kohler Barnard said the new IGI must hit the ground running. Among what she called “top of the investigations” would be the “Phala Phala dollar imbroglio”, tracking down “the millions looted via the SSA [State Security Agency] as revealed in the Zondo Commission” and why the recommendations of the 2018 High-Level Review Panel into the SSA remain unimplemented.

All MPs who spoke during the declarations on Fazel’s IGI nomination, except for Kohler Barnard, who recently moved to the communications committee, would have been part of the JSCI decision to ditch investigating Phala Phala.

The JSCI cleared Deputy State Security Minister Zizi Kodwa of involvement in “covering up” the Phala Phala robbery, saying: “No independently verifiable information to support the allegations against Hon NG Kodwa and the use of funds from the Secret Services Account of SAPS-CI [Crime Intelligence].”  

DA Chief Whip Siviwe Gwarube, in a statement on Tuesday, criticised that decision, highlighting how an ad hoc committee that does its work in the open was crucial.

“The committee’s assertion that they did not have enough evidence before them to continue with the investigation [into the involvement of State Security Deputy Minister Zizi Kodwa, abuse of state funds and abuse of Crime Intelligence undercover operational funding] proves exactly why the establishment of an ad hoc committee into this matter was crucial and should be urgently established.”

The matter was referred to the JSCI, which, as a rule, sits behind closed doors — MPs are security vetted and apparently not even allowed to take notes at the meetings — by National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula in turning down the DA’s June request for an ad hoc committee. 

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Gwarube said the Speaker had conflated the role of the JSCI as a parliamentary intelligence oversight entity, and the separate Section 89 presidential impeachment inquiry processes that are under way.

“The truth is that the Section 89 inquiry will only deal with the involvement of the President and the possibility of instituting impeachment proceedings against him. It would not be able to cover the involvement of other state institutions. This is why an ad hoc committee is required.”

The establishment of the independent panel to assess whether Ramaphosa has a case to answer over the Phala Phala forex robbery is imminent. Mapisa-Nqakula had told last Thursday’s programming committee it would be done by Monday, but no official announcement came that day.  

However, once the three-strong panel is instituted, it has 30 days to make its recommendations in a report that is published before being adopted in the House.

Ramaphosa, who in the disrupted 30 August Q&A session in the House told legislators he had been “advised and counselled” to await the outcome of the various investigations — by the Hawks, the South African Reserve Bank and the Public Protector — indicated he would also answer to the Section 89 independent panel. 

The President and his advisers must hope this panel clears him of wrongdoing in the farm forex saga. Its shadow continues to loom over Ramaphosa with less than six months to the ANC elective conference where he hopes to get a second term as governing party president ahead of the 2024 national and provincial elections. 

And while the JSCI, which was described as a failure in the State Capture report, declined to investigate and the requested ad hoc committee remains denied, questions in the House will continue to be asked. 

On 29 September, Ramaphosa will have to answer four supplementary questions on the Phala Phala saga as the 30 August Q&A session was left incomplete after he gave his scripted response — effectively, Parliament must wait for investigations to finish before he replies to legislators. That’s been the line since the June Budget Vote that saw the first serious parliamentary ructions in this scandal. 

For now, given the IGI’s unanimous approval in the House on Tuesday, it remains to be seen how long Ramaphosa will take to formally appoint Fazel to the constitutional intelligence oversight post. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Johan Buys says:

    While he looks at CR using security staff he should take some time to investigate what laws Fraser broke. The secrecy laws he signed did not terminate when he left office. Also ask Fraser why he waited and did not take action when first aware? We all know Fraser’s motives are aligned with the PP and RET faction fight, not doing the right thing.

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