The men behind the Protection of State Information Bill

2011-11-26 18:32

This past Tuesday the ANC-controlled Parliament voted in favour of the Protection of Information Bill – a piece of legislation vehemently opposed by the media and civil society.

Siyabonga Cwele

His handling of the parliamentary report on the controversial Browse Mole intelligence report and his intense loyalty to both the ruling party and its sitting president seem to be the major factors in State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele holding down a sensitive and strategic cabinet position.

A medical doctor from Zuma’s home province of ­KwaZulu-Natal, Cwele may also have benefited from a perceived regional bias in appointments to the security cluster posts, according to insiders in the ruling party.

These factors may also have contributed to Zuma’s refusal to remove Cwele, who comes from Port Shepstone on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, after the conviction of his estranged wife, Sheryl, on drug trafficking charges earlier this year.

“I was highly surprised when he was appointed as minister,” said a long-standing ANC official who asked not to be named.

“All I can attribute it to is his handling of the parliamentary report on Browse Mole, which nailed the NPA bosses and the Scorpions over their campaign against Zuma and his loyalty to him. He has a reputation as a person who will wait to be told what to do by Zuma and not push on with his own agenda.”

It was shortly after Parliament’s formulation of the critical report that Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy resigned.

A member of the ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal provincial executive since 1990, Cwele is also a close friend and colleague of suspended national police commissioner General Bheki Cele, who worked with him in setting up ANC structures on the turbulent KwaZulu-Natal South Coast during the intense conflict with the IFP in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Cwele was appointed intelligence minister in 2008 and state security minister in 2009. – Paddy Harper

Dennis Dlomo
It’s ironic that Dennis Dlomo, special adviser to State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele and the public face of the secrecy bill, is himself a former political detainee held without trial in the late 1980s in terms of security legislation.

Dlomo (47), then the SRC deputy president at the University of Durban-Westville (UDW), was detained in 1988 with other student leaders, including SRC president Kovin Naidoo, and released the following year in terms of Section 29 of the draconian Internal Security Act under heavy restrictions.

At the time Dlomo was part of a network of ANC and United Democratic Front (UDF) activists in Durban and elsewhere in KwaZulu-Natal who fell under the control and influence of Moe Shaik, now head of the South African Secret Service, the external arm of the intelligence agency, and then a senior operative in the ANC’s counter-intelligence structures.

Dlomo was part of what was known as the Natal Indian Congress “cabal” in the UDF, which dominated the UDF’s political leadership through control of access to foreign funding and key ANC leaders in exile, among them President Jacob Zuma and his current spokesperson, Mac Maharaj.

He attended the University of Zululand, but was expelled for his political activities and moved to UDW in 1987, where he eventually completed a BA (Hons) in Political Science.

After a brief stint as a lecturer, Dlomo went to work for the then intelligence minister, Joe Nhlanhla, before becoming deputy coordinator of the National Intelligence Coordinating Committee in 2003. In 2005 he was seconded to the African Union, where he acted as executive secretary of the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He returned to South Africa last year and took up his current post. – Paddy Harper
Luwellyn Landers
Luwellyn Landers served as a deputy minister in the National Party Cabinet of PW Botha in the 1980s, something which veteran MP Koos van der Merwe saw fit to remind him of during Black Tuesday’s debate on the Protection of State Information Bill.

This came after Landers accused critics of the bill of still wanting the 1982 act of former apartheid ruler PW Botha to remain in the statute books. The bill is meant to replace this.

Landers was also the chairperson of the Labour Party, under the late Allan Hendrickse, in the tri-cameral parliament.

This institution was opposed by many progressives because it was still racially segregated and did not include black people.

He was one of several Labour Party MPs to join the ANC in September 1993, shortly before the April 1994 elections.

The Labour Party contested these elections under the ANC’s leadership, colours and symbols.

Landers was appointed chairperson of Parliament’s portfolio committee on justice at the beginning of the year, following last year’s Cabinet reshuffle.

Before that he was co-chairperson of Parliament’s ethics committee, where opposition MPs at times accused him of not acting firmly enough against MPs who committed fraud.

During this week’s National Assembly debate on the bill, Landers said classified information about events like the death of Ahmed Timol, who was killed under the apartheid government, could only be declassified if this bill became law.

Critics of this law refused to acknowledge this, he said.Landers, who has also served in the National Assembly rules committee, is considered to be an efficient worker with more parliamentary experience than most of his ANC colleagues. – Carien du Plessis

Cecil Burgess
Cecil Burgess started his political career with the Independent Democrats in 2004.

A lawyer by profession, Burgess was recruited by Patricia de Lille into her newly-formed party after helping with her investigation into the arms deal.

He was also her close confidante.

Barely a year later, he crossed to the ANC under the old floor-crossing legislation.

At the time he said it was because he believed he had been “under-utilised” in the ID.

“I’m particularly well-trained in the legal field, and I came to Parliament to make a contribution. I’ve been finding in the past year and a half that I haven’t been able to get down to work in the field and make the contribution I wanted to make.

“So I’ve taken the opportunity now to see if the ANC can’t utilise me in a much better position,” he said.

Since joining the ANC, he has been appointed chairperson of Parliament’s joint standing committee on intelligence and since 2009, has been chairperson of the Parliament’s joint standing committee on state security.

This position is reserved for MPs trusted by the party, and members of this committee are sworn to secrecy about sensitive state information.

In his capacity as chairperson of this committee, he was appointed to co-chair the special ad hoc committee dealing with the protection of state information bill last year tabled in Parliament by State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele.

In the National Assembly debate on the bill last week, Burgess attacked the media and complained that, in all the hearings, he had not once been quoted correctly by the media.Burgess is considered wise, if a bit long-winded, by his colleagues. – Carien du Plessis

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