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State Security Agency DG Thembi Majola resigns as bid to clean up ‘spook central’ continues

State Security Agency DG Thembi Majola resigns as bid to clean up ‘spook central’ continues
State Security Agency Director-General Thembi Majola. (Photo: Dean Calma / IAEA

The announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that State Security Agency Director-General Thembi Majola has resigned comes amid ongoing attempts to rehabilitate this key site of State Capture.

Thembi Majola, a former Deputy Minister of Energy and South Africa’s ambassador to Senegal, Mauritania, Cape Verde, Gambia and Guinea-Bissau, was appointed to head the State Security Agency (SSA) in March 2022 on a one-year contract.

President Ramaphosa, announcing her appointment at the time, said he had hoped she would “stabilise the intelligence services”.

This, in light of the failure of these services to not only predict but prevent the July 2021 attempted insurrection after former president Jacob Zuma’s incarceration, but also ongoing economic sabotage on several fronts.

This includes organised crime syndicates targeting long-haul trucks, illegal mining, construction sites, businesses and state-owned enterprises including Eskom and Transnet. The cost to the economy has soared into the billions.

Majola replaced former DG Arthur Fraser, who has featured as a central cog in the Zumafication of the intelligence services. The hotseat had been kept warm in the meantime by acting DGs Loyiso Jafta and Gab Msimanga.

Majola’s resignation on Wednesday was by “mutual consent”, according to a media announcement from the President’s office.

Tensions

Tensions between Majola and Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshaveni, are rumoured to have prompted her exit, as well as the appointment of former Ipid director, Robert McBride, to head the agency’s foreign branch in July 2020.

McBride was suspended in 2021 as a result of an alleged botched mission in Mozambique but returned to office in June 2023. He is regarded as a highly effective implementor of policy and mandates and does not necessarily endear himself to all.

The 2018 High-Level Panel Review into the State Security Agency, as well as the Zondo Commission, heard shocking evidence of how intelligence services were repurposed to serve the personal and political needs of Jacob Zuma.

Read more in Daily Maverick: The Invisible Matrix — secrets of Zuma’s rogue SSA spies resurface in evidence at hearing

Eye-watering amounts were syphoned out of Musanda, where the agency is headquartered, in cash and through internal fraud.

The panel had recommended the “total separation of South Africa’s spy agency into domestic and foreign”. The collapse of the intelligence services into a single body came about as a result of a “presidential decree” by Zuma, later set aside.

ANC veteran Sydney Mufamadi, who headed the High-Level Panel, was appointed as Ramaphosa’s national security adviser in 2021.

In February 2022, a panel chaired by Prof Sandy Africa, supported by Adv Mojanku Gumbi and Silumko Sokupa – established to investigate the July unrest – found that intelligence services had failed citizens.

As to whether the response by the security services was timeous, appropriate and sufficient, the panel responded with an unequivocal “no”. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Here You Go – Read the report from the Expert Panel on the 2021 civil unrest and looting that shook South Africa

Thulani Dlomo resurfaces

One of the key figures at the centre of Jacob Zuma’s off-the-books spy network which upheld the capture of the state is Thulani “Silence” Dlomo.

While Dlomo dropped off the radar after being implicated in the final Zondo Report into State Capture and the earlier High-Panel Report, he surfaced in the Gauteng Division of the High Court last month wanting his job back after being dismissed.

In July 2021, a News24 investigation revealed that Dlomo had been identified as a key person of interest concerning the instigation of the July 2021 insurrection in KZN and Gauteng.

Read more in Daily Maverick: EXCLUSIVE | Zuma’s ‘private spy’ Thulani Dlomo a prime suspect for instigating unrest | News24

He has been a free man ever since even penning a book titled, The Encounter.

“I am now the author of The Encounter, launched in October this year. All possible because of the guidance I receive from God, that is the reason I am grateful,” he said during an online launch.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Confessions of a dangerous mind, a ‘divinely inspired’ Zuma spy Thulani Dlomo

Dlomo was deployed by Zuma as ambassador to Japan when the kitchen got too hot. After his recall, he was requested by then Minister of State Security, Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba, to report to “the Farm”, as the SSA headquarters are known. 

When he failed to do so, he was subsequently fired.

On 23 October, the Gauteng Division of the High Court dismissed Dlomo’s attempt to be reinstated to his job and compensated for his sacking, which he regarded as unprocedural and unfair.

High Court Judge Annali Basson’s judgment makes for enlightening reading.

Dlomo had been employed by the SSA until 27 September 2019, when his contract was “formally terminated”, it reveals.

Basson noted that although Dlomo had been employed by the SSA, he had been deployed to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation as ambassador to Japan. 

In January 2019, Letsatsi-Duba instructed Dlomo to get back to the office. He just didn’t pitch up.

Dlomo argued that he had sent a medical certificate to his superiors about a “condition”. But by June 2020, when Dlomo was still a no-show, then-acting DG Jafta said there had been no alternative as “all efforts to engage” with Dlomo had been ignored.

And so he was fired.

Basson found that evidence before the court indicated letters written to Dlomo had simply been ignored. There was also no case “whatsoever” regarding the former ambassador’s claims that he had suffered “financial damages for the years at home”.

The cost of a rotten SSA

Preliminary analysis of evidence given about the SSA at the State Capture Inquiry had, Judge Raymond Zondo said at the time, “indicated “gross non-compliance with operational and financial directives, especially in the establishment of covert projects and the creation of special-purpose vehicles to syphon funds”.

This cost the state about R1.5-billion between 2012 and 2018.

Dlomo was appointed by Zuma to head the Directorate of Special Operations, which irregularly recruited and trained “co-workers” who travelled extensively.  

Recruits, often with no qualifications, earned up to R40,000 a month and were issued fake security clearance certificates by Dlomo.

These were run under Dlomo and “were the results of the politicised intelligence priorities”, said Zondo.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Investigate Arthur Fraser, David Mahlobo and Thulani Dlomo – State Capture Commission

It is not known at this stage who is in the running for the game of musical chairs at the SSA. DM

Gallery

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  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    The narrative about Thembi Majola whom I know very well as a very accomplished professional, dedicated public servant and a true patriot is completely wrong. When she took over the SSA one knew that she is going to be able to work with a variety of people and turn the institution around. Her resignation does not speak to the drivel that is in the article but a completely incompetent and unsuitable Minister of State Security. The comments of Cde Gibson Njenje aptly describes the useless and very silly Minister. The problem is that we have a lot of people in that Cabinet who are not fit for purpose and the basis for their appointment says a lot about the person who appoint the people. We had hoped that the arduous task of building a very competent intelligence service has earnestly begun under a professional and a very consummate professional, Thembi Majola. This means that the President does not care about state security by the very appointment of a delinquent and inappropriate Minister. Some of us who know Thembi Majola understand that it is a very tall order to work under a nothing Minister who wants to interfere with what she does not know and was never trained for. Khumbudzo Ntshavheni just like Bheki Cele are fit to run the parliamentary security than the positions they hold otherwise they are going to remain a liability to the country.

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    When I saw the article, I asked myself how can a person who has no clue about the administration, operations and protocols of intelligence services clean up the service? I wondered whether the journalist who wrote the article has a grasp of the subject matter of what she was writing about or the person who has resigned. I had received a WhatsApp from former MK Comrades who knew that I knew her very well. They also sent the comment of Gibson Njeje. The picture and character of Thembi Majola is that of a person who can reach a wide spectrum of people with her smile but strong professionalism and dedication. Her appointment I knew had to do with Sydney Mufamadi who advises a President well known for not taking advice from official channels but very funny elements outside the state. The appointments of Ministers and Deputy Ministers in State Security came as a surprise since the Zuma days from Mahobo, Kodwa and now Ntshavheni and all donkeys in my book in terms of intelligence. Thembi Majola could disarm you with her smile and her soft voice and affectionate laugh. Known in the ANC intelligence circles and by the professionals like Njeje, Maqethuka, Jacob Madikiza and other professionals in the field her resignation was shocking because the client of intelligence services is the President and in many countries there is no political appointee between the head of state and the DG of Intelligence except those who are from the field and are high political figures.

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