South Africa


The Invisible Matrix — secrets of Zuma’s rogue SSA spies resurface in evidence at hearing

The Invisible Matrix — secrets of Zuma’s rogue SSA spies resurface in evidence at hearing
From left: Former president Jacob Zuma is seen at the Johannesburg High Court on 19 January 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / City Press / Tebogo Letsie) | Suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane on 19 December 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Phill Magakoe) | Then South African Revenue Service commissioner Tom Moyane on 3 April 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Rapport / Deon Raath)

The role of the State Security Agency and its off-the-books ‘rogue’ Special Operations Unit has again surfaced at Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s Section 194 impeachment inquiry.

The more than 42 volumes related to the long-standing attempt by Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, as Public Protector, to expose what she was determined to prove was a “rogue” unit at the South African Revenue Service (SARS) contains extraordinary evidence.

On Tuesday, evidence leader Nazreen Bawa took members through documents setting out a series of peculiar events that occurred in 2014 and involving State Security Agency (SSA) spy Yekani Monde Gadini, who formed part of Zuma’s secret inner circle at the time.

Gadini was married to Advocate Bonisiwe Makhene, Zuma’s former legal adviser who died at the age of 56 in August 2020. 

Her appointment in 2009 as Zuma’s legal adviser was seen at the time as an attempt by the ANC to drive judicial transformation. She had previously worked for the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Zuma’s state legal adviser, Bonisiwe Makhene-Gadini, takes secrets to her grave 

The committee on Tuesday heard how, in 2014, Gene Ravele, the then head of SARS Tax and Customs Enforcement Investigations, had been approached by Makhene and Gadini and informed of a plan to parachute Tom Moyane into the service as commissioner. 

“They were busy preparing for the appointment of a new SARS commissioner,” Bawa read from the affidavit.

This would indeed occur two months later, in September 2014.

We now know that as early as 2013 Jacob Zuma had had at least 12 meetings with consulting firm Bain & Company’s SA director, Vittorio Massone. 

The Duma Ndlovu connection

Their joint restructuring plan, Project Phoenix, included a contract with TV producer Duma Ndlovu, who was a fixer for Bain, linking Zuma and other politicians through his company Ambrobite.

Whistle-blower Athol Williams told the Zondo Commission that Project Phoenix had been designed by Bain to restructure the South African economy through state-owned enterprises.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Athol Williams: ‘I will continue whistle-blowing and making the corrupt uncomfortable’ 

The project had been launched at Telkom and was earmarked for Eskom and SARS. Evidence by Williams was that Bain had introduced a “president programme” aimed at stripping ministers of executive powers.

On 16 April 2023, the director-general in the Presidency, Phindile Baleni, announced that Ndlovu would be a recipient of one of the National Orders  to be handed out by President Cyril Ramaphosa on 28 April.

Ndlovu will receive the Order of Ikhamanga for “his sterling work in the television and film industry in South Africa. Even in exile, he was steadfast in his commitment to the development of arts and culture in our country.” 

The detailed affidavit by former deputy SARS commissioner Ivan Pillay which forms part of the copious records of the Nugent Commission, the Zondo Commission as well as various other court proceedings, set out the sequence of events that almost destroyed the revenue service.

Ndlovu was an enabler in that instance.

Ducks in a row

In May 2014, the ANC won the national election, with Zuma taking up a second term and shaking up his Cabinet to include David Mahlobo as minister of state security, a position he would occupy until 2017.

The approach by Gadini and Makhene to Ravele and the involvement of Bain, Zuma and the SSA in the operation expose the dark anti-democratic matrix underpinning much of the peak capture of the South African state from 2014 onwards.

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

Later, Mahlobo and Arthur Fraser, who would return as director-general of the SSA in 2016, rushed to implement a particularly dystopian “Vision 2035” contained in Fraser’s Strategic Development Plan.

This would have seen a future where South Africans would be held in check by a covert intelligence service — answerable only to the president.

Pillay, alongside Pravin Gordhan, former SARS commissioner and later minister of finance, as well as other senior officials at the tax service, were all obstacles to this future and other blurred visions and needed to be removed at all costs.

SSA rogues everywhere

With an electoral victory, Mahlobo heading the ministry and Thulani Dlomo as head of the Special Operations Unit, the unaccountable State Capture vanguard slipped deeper into place.

Sonto Kudjoe was director-general of the SSA at the time Dlomo’s special projects were conducted in secret, entrenching Zuma’s political and personal power illegally. They blew millions in the years they operated unaccountably.

Read more in Daily Maverick: SSA’s off-the-books projects — capturing media, making R54m a year for Zuma, and much more

Fraser was not around at the time. He had resigned in 2011 as deputy director-general in charge of “offensive and counter-intelligence” after being investigated for the parallel Principal Agent Network within the National Intelligence Agency.

Two confidential reports, by the former inspector-general of intelligence Faith Radebe and the former minister of state security Siyabonga Cwele — one issued in 2013, with a supplementary in 2014 — heavily implicated Fraser.

These reports were leaked to the media and were the initial reason Mahlobo had called for Radebe to investigate SSA activities at SARS in 2014. This would later form the basis of Mkhwebane’s July 2019 SARS “rogue unit” report.

Where it began

On 11 August 2014 City Press and journalist Jacques Pauw were the first to expose the SSA’s profligate criminality in relation to propping up Zuma and attacking opponents.

Read more in Daily Maverick: The Principal Agent Network (PAN) Dossier, Part 1: Zuma and Mahlobo knew about Arthur Fraser’s rogue intelligence programme 

Two months later, in October 2014, the Sunday Times began to run a series of “investigations” by journalists including Piet Rampedi, Mzilikazi wa Afrika and Stephan Hofstatter about a “rogue unit” at SARS that was targeting politicians. 

These were later withdrawn and the newspaper apologised for the harm it had caused to Gordhan and other SARS officials.

Zuma’s other special spy

Yekani Gadini was a busy man in 2014. In January as a member of the Special Operations Unit (SOU), he attempted to set up the Workers’ Association Union (WAU) in the Platinum Belt at Marikana.

It was investigative journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh who exposed the relationship between Gadini, the SOU, the SSA, the bogus union, the Guptas and Zuma in his 2017 book The Republic of Gupta.

In July 2o14, Gadini found himself stuffed in the boot of a VW Polo he had been driving in after meeting with senior SARS officials. His kidnappers were fellow SSA agents who had been under the impression he was in possession of documents related to a plot between SSA agents and tobacco companies.

He was taken to the Wierdabrug Police Station in Centurion where his wife and then SAPS commissioner Riah Phiyega, a good friend of Gadini, went to collect him. 

Gadini had been responsible for arranging and attending meetings with senior members of SARS where information about “enemies” of Zuma was gleaned exclusively for the president.

Those Gadini targeted included not only Gordhan, former SARS executive Johann van Loggerenberg and Pillay but also former Hawks head Anwa Dramat and former Gauteng head of the Hawks Shadrack Sibiya.

In January 2015, Sibiya was suspended from the police because of his alleged involvement in the “rendition” of Zimbabwean nationals in 2010. 

The Section 194 committee has been paused for a week. Meanwhile, there have been no further announcements with regard to Mkhwebane’s legal woes. She is due to be cross-examined by committee members at a future date. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Gazeley Walker says:

    Why is there no investigation into or action being taken against Fraser, what are the ANC scared of in his case? His name comes up repeatedly in a number of shady deal areas, the weakening of security structures, involvement in the Public Protectors office, |Bossasa scandal, and illegally releasing Zuma on parole to mention but a few. He is either the original teflon man, or he has so much dirt on all the senior ANC polititions that they are terrified to act against him. And to the country’s detriment, he is an out and out Zuma man.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    What a total farce the ANC is,bunch of thieves

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    This would make a brilliant movie!

    • Philip Wernberg says:

      Follow the ANC’s example who did not pay their employees PAYE to SARS (/news/government/395511-anc-cannot-pay-salaries-and-owe-sars-millions), we could do that and get it paid to a Trust.

    • Peter Dexter says:

      Agreed, but would have to be a series. Too much material for a movie 😉

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    “I want us, as a country, to move forward and heal. I don’t want Bain to not operate in South Africa. I want us to hold Bain accountable for what they have done, repair that and move forward. I want to see influential people in the country act in the interest of society. That would be a win for me.” Said Athol Williams. 18 months later, are we any nearer charging anyone for anything significant? Mkwebane owes the public an explanation for her absolute dereliction of duty to protect. She has not acted in the public interest, and her obfuscation of truth is criminal, given the consequences.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    Gazeley, which is more, why is Ramaphosa so positive towards Fraser? His role in state capture was already known well before Ramaphosa came to power if I am not mistaken. So why was he re-appointed as Commissioner of Correctional Services? So he could set Zuma free, according to an agreement between Ramaphosa & Zuma so Zuma could resign in 2018? Because why else did Ramaphosa publicly support the setting free of Zuma after his arrest? I am starting to think that all this “fighting against corruption” campaign of Ramaphosa is not to get rid of corruption, but only to put him in power at the expense of Zuma, and that this whole Zondo report is really heading for the dustbin! I saw something similar once in my lifetime – when the Erasmus commission investigated the Information scandal of the late 1970’s; of his findings also came nothing at all. It seems that nationalism (Afrikaner nationalism then, and African nationalism now) just can’t help themselves; they have to support criminality or they can’t live with themselves.

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