Spies trained in Russia raise double-agent fears

2014-08-31 11:25
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Johannesburg - South Africa’s State Security Agency has spent almost R10m on sending a group of spies to Russia for training - which has raised concerns that they could turn and become double agents.

According to the Sunday Times, a source with inside knowledge of the programme said that the Russians have allegedly recruited at least four local spies, which means “we are sitting with double agents”.

The newspaper reports that about 90 local spies went to Russia for training between May and November in 2012. In total, R9m was spent on the excursion. An agency source said the same training could have been conducted at home at a fraction of the cost.

This is the second time in a week that the spotlight has fallen on the agency. Last week, the Sunday Times reported that the SSA was employing the children of ministers and politically connected people.

According to Sapa however, the government issued a statement on Tuesday stating that the report was misleading.

"It was quite misleading for the newspaper to report on few children, compared to the size of the enrolment at the [State Security] academy," spokesperson Phumla Williams said in a statement.

"All citizens have the constitutional right to apply for any employment, as long as they meet the requirements - even if it is within the public service."

She said the report by the Sunday Times was mischievous because it insinuated that the agency had become an employment agency for the children of ministers and other high-profile officials due to political nepotism.

"This report actually misleads the public and creates an impression that most of the students attending the academy are the children of politicians. In fact, this faceless report is far from the truth," Williams said.

The newspaper reported that according to an intelligence document, the children of Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete were hand-picked for the intelligence academy.

An unnamed insider told the publication there was no recruitment process that allowed the agency to choose the best candidates.

Read more on:    sunday times  |  ssa  |  nosiviwe mapisa-nqakula

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