State security or black comedy?

2015-03-03 18:00

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As Denel was busy putting the finishing touches to its R200?million Mokopa missile, a senior technician at the state arms manufacturer was finalising plans to sell the designs on the black market.

This is one example of the many security breaches in South Africa’s military, intelligence and government departments revealed in the so-called spy cables this week.

Denel’s Daniel Steenkamp and businessman Anthony Viljoen were arrested in December 2010 after trying to sell blueprints and software for the missile to undercover government agents.

Court papers say Viljoen flew to Mauritius to set up a bank account – the two planned to sell the designs to a foreign buyer – but when that failed they tried selling the designs at home.

At the time, prosecutors downplayed the incident, claiming the missile designs were incomplete and “the attempts to sell this technology did not materialise and the state was aware of this transaction from an early stage”.

But the spy cables reveal the missile designs were sold or given to a foreign buyer. Months before Steenkamp and Viljoen were arrested, the State Security Agency (SSA) was scrambling to get its missile designs back from Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence service.

An August 2010 cable from Mossad reads: “We have examined ways in which, at least, we can return the missile plans to you.”

But Mossad had one condition – South Africa’s assurance that an Israeli citizen involved in the deal “would not be prosecuted or involved in any legal issues in South Africa”.

It is unclear whether the SSA agreed to this, but plea agreements subsequently drawn up make no mention of the designs being sold or given to a foreign buyer.

Denel referred questions to the SSA.

This is not the only embarrassing security leak. The spy cables reveal that private security companies connected to foreign intelligence services and recruiting former intelligence members can lay their hands on sensitive information and “sell their services to whoever is willing to buy them”.

One example is the most recent assassination attempt on a Rwandan dissident general, Kayumba Nyamwasa.

In 2011, City Press reported how a private investigator was able to trace Nyamwasa to his safe house near Hartbeespoort in North West. Rwandan agents had tried to kill Nyamwasa twice before.

This week, another private investigator said he had been asked “by Rwandan agents ...?to assist them to obtain information about a safe house where Nyamwasa was being kept. It was clear they wanted him dead and I told them I couldn’t help.”

He said another private investigator was approached and Nyamwasa was traced from court to his safe house.

A leaked 2009 report on the state of the SSA reveals:

.?Investigations exposing “serious deficiencies in the security integrity” of government’s IT systems, making them “vulnerable to fraud and corruption, and?...?to espionage”;

.?Theft of government laptops with no password protection and poor controls over sensitive documents being copied or removed from government institutions; and

.?That government officials might be “cooperating with foreign intelligence services, whether by unwittingly providing them with classified information or by allowing them access to restricted areas”.

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