Spies cry foul

2017-04-30 06:00
Arthur Fraser

Arthur Fraser

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State Security Agency director-general Arthur Fraser has restructured spy services, eliminating the two director-general positions – for domestic and international services – and creating a new structure that has caused resentment among some of the staff.

In terms of the new structure, Fraser, whose post is nicknamed “Super DG”, literally becomes the superspy as a new layer of seven deputies will report directly to him.

The two scrapped director-general posts, which were not occupied, previously had five deputies reporting to them – three in the domestic branch and two in the foreign branch.

Each branch still has 16 general managers who report to the deputies. However, half of them have been shifted and replaced with new people.

The shake-up has led to dissatisfaction among affected staff, who point out that Fraser has, in effect, become more powerful by appointing new people who would be beholden to him.

Those who have been “demoted”, despite keeping their salaries and perks, claim to have lost respect in an environment where “command and control” are key.

“When you lose the respect, you lose the command and control,” said one.

“You cannot have senior people floating in the organisation. What message does it send to junior staff?” asked one.

“It is a simple illustration that the organisation is not holding.”

City Press heard that the casualties, among them experienced and long-serving members of the agency, had been “shifted to less significant posts that, in effect, render them redundant”.

By last week, talk of a fightback campaign against Fraser was in full swing, with the option to test the rationale of the changes in court having been given “serious consideration”.

However, not all those who are disgruntled have come on board and the lobbying continues.

Brian Dube, spokesperson for the State Security Agency, confirmed a restructuring process had taken place, but told City Press that there was no need for staff to be concerned.

“In 2009, a process ensued to merge the then independent intelligence organisations into a single state security agency.

"Upon his appointment in September 2016, the director-general spent his first 100 days assessing the organisation.

“After a lengthy process of ... consultation, the organisation produced a roadmap that will ensure a seamless organisation that is better able to respond to the challenges of the 21st century.

“Changes that will result from this organisational repositioning will be handled accordingly, and there should be no reason for concern.”

Spy tapes

Also under scrutiny is the outcome of the DA spy tapes court case. It is anticipated that Fraser could be compromised if the corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma are reinstated.

The disgruntled agency officials are preparing to probe the reasons behind Fraser’s previous departure from the agency back in 2010.

He had been appointed by former president Thabo Mbeki to head its operations division.

Fraser joined the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in 1995. He worked as an investigator for the truth commission and was the NIA’s Western Cape head between 1998 and 2004.

The Mail & Gurdian reported in April 2009 that Fraser had leaked secret recordings to Zuma’s lawyers, which saw criminal charges against him dropped. But the spooks have repeatedly denied this.

Zuma appointed Fraser as director-general in September last year, less than a month after his predecessor, Sonto Kudjoe, resigned.

Last week, following a query from City Press, Fraser allegedly held an urgent meeting with staff members, where they were warned not to leak information to the media because “proper consultation had been conducted before the changes were effected”.

At the end of January, Fraser called a meeting of senior staff, including those from other provinces, where the idea of the restructuring was hatched.

However, those who attended the meeting described it as a cover to legitimise Fraser’s power grab, under the guise that it was recommended by participants.

Fraser’s defenders disagreed, saying those who had been shifted were also implicated in allegations of abusing agency funds to sponsor their luxury lifestyles.

“Others had also become too lazy and too comfortable in their positions,” said a sympathiser.

Those who attended the January meeting said Fraser’s proposed changes could take away some of State Security Minister David Mahlobo’s powers by stealth and create a channel for him to report directly to Zuma.

But those close to Mahlobo said the director-general, as well as the head of special operations, had always reported directly to the president.

They also denied that there was bad blood between Mahlobo and Fraser.

In any case, it is the president who signs off on the appointment of directors-general and normally, they all have access to him, said another insider.

Read more on:    ssa  |  david mahlobo

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