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SSA was critical tool for State Capture success — vital reform needed to prevent further illegal activity  

SSA was critical tool for State Capture success — vital reform needed to prevent further illegal activity  
From left: Rivonia Group of Advocates Advocate Vicky Heideman | Daily Maverick Senior Journalist Rebecca Davis | Intelwatch Researcher and Journalism Co-ordinator Heidi Swart. (Photos: Supplied)

A year has passed since Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s final report was released, detailing the State  Security Agency’s illicit use of funds, yet no legal action has been taken to prevent such illegal activity from happening again.

Senior Daily Maverick journalist Rebecca Davis hosted a discussion with panellists advocate Vicky Heideman, a member of the Rivonia Group of Advocates and evidence leader at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture; and Heidi Swart a research and journalism coordinator at Intelwatch. The discussion focused on ways to prevent future looting of the State Security Agency’s (SSA) Secret Service Account.

In his final report, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo noted that the capture of the SSA contributed largely to the broader crisis of State Capture in South Africa. SSA resources were used as a slush fund for factions within the ANC during former president Jacob Zuma’s tenure. It was reported that more than R1.5-billion was looted between 2008-2018.

Despite the lack of accountability, in paragraph 604, volume 5, part 1 of the Zondo report, witness Loyiso Jafta — former Acting Director General of the SSA from 2018 states, “The flow of money from the SSA used for a political party, the African National Congress, was disguised but in a laughable manner; it could easily be picked up.”

In discussion with Davis during the webinar, Heideman explains, “One of the values that was in our 1997 white paper on intelligence is that the Intelligence Agency should be politically neutral. But we heard evidence that the State Security Agency was used to further the interests of the ruling party and factions within the ruling party, so that was problematic on its own.” 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Smash the State Security Agency piggy bank – and its apartheid roots

According to the Chief Justice, the looting of the SSA was made possible by the lack of information about its activities being made available to the Auditor-General of South Africa, further enabling expansive amounts of money to be gulped out of the Secret Service account.

Outdated framework

During the apartheid era, security agency funding was used to violate human rights. Heidi Swart explains that the South African intelligence funding model is archaic and therefore obsolete in the context of South Africa, as it was inherited from the British government in the 1940s to curb communism.

“Basically they came here because they wanted to control in a subtle way and steer in a subtle way the way politics were going to move. They did this despite the fact that they are acknowledging their own internal writing that this might be or likely will be to the detriment of the already oppressed black South Africans. Today we are still stuck with that legacy”, said Swart.

SSA relevance today

Over the years, the UK has altered their reforms while South Africa has yet to reform this detrimental system designed for wartime and oppression. The burning question is “What is the SSA doing here and why do we need it in today’s world?”

Heideman suggests that if South Africa truly wants to detach its intelligence services from both the apartheid and State Capture eras it needs to “recalibrate the mechanisms by which the SSA operates”.

South African citizens remain unclear about the mandate and purpose of the SSA. However, the webinar panellists agree that the SSA’s role should be to protect the citizens of South Africa, yet there is little evidence that this is the case. The SSA apparently failed to alert the nation ahead of last year’s Sandton terror threat and appeared to be in the dark about the circumstances surrounding the 2021 July riots.

“If we think about what our security services should be, certainly what we thought our security services should be post 1994 back in the 90s, it’s about securing us as citizens of South Africa. Ensuring human security. Ensure that our constitutional rights are protected. That’s not what our state security agents seem to have been doing. What exactly have they been doing? I don’t know, I don’t think our parliamentary committee on intelligence knows enough about what our State Security has been doing and that really is the problem because if we were to subject the State Security’s projects and operations and aims to the cold light of day we might be shocked and horrified,” Heideman says.

The central crux is between transparency (so that South Africa does not suffer a captured service) and secrecy (so that agencies are able to do their jobs effectively and reliably) the mishandling of taxpayer money is not a foreign problem to South Africa. 

There needs to be confidentiality to a certain extent toward intelligence operations. But to ensure that state funds are not violated, there needs to be a balance in terms of accountability. 

“Intelligence services should be by the people for the people,” Heideman, says. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Karl Sittlinger says:

    “It was reported that more than R1.5-billion was looted between 2008-2018.”

    This number seems incorrect. Other sources seem to put the numbers at 500 billion to over a trillion…

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