‘We’re not meant to be spooks’

2014-03-09 14:00

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New firm headed by former intelligence heavyweights says it will not be used to weaken Zuma and dismisses this claim as ‘malicious gossip’.

The Marikana tragedy in which 34 mineworkers were shot dead could have been prevented if effective intelligence operations had been in place, says former spy Gibson Njenje.

He was speaking at the launch of his risk management company, Foresight Advisory Services, which he said was not supposed to replace state intelligence, but to supplement it.

The new outfit is a collection of intelligence heavyweights who were once on the government payroll.

The board of non-executive directors include former intelligence bosses Moe Shaik, Jeff Maqetuka and Neil Barnard, as well as former police commissioner George Fivaz.

“If companies like Lonmin had advisers like Foresight perhaps they could have averted the tragedy that occurred on the day,” Njenje told City Press in an interview on Friday.

A board member privately admitted that Foresight staff members were better skilled than state intelligence employees.

“We use much of the same software they use in state security, but our people are actually able to use it,” he said.

Foresight’s field of work includes risk management, vetting and forensic investigations and aims to do business with private companies, government departments and even political parties.

Njenje said his company started work in July last year on the eve of the first year after the Marikana shootings.

“There were a lot of expectations in the platinum belt that violence could reoccur,” he said.

Security companies had feared that they would not cope.

Lonmin, whose mines were at the centre of the Marikana tragedy, was mentioned as a company that could benefit from Foresight’s advice.

But Njenje said the company was not a client.

The number of former intelligence heavyweights on the board has raised eyebrows in intelligence circles and questions have been asked about the purpose of the company.

Njenje, Shaik and Maqetuka were previously part of Zuma’s “dream team” before they fell out with Minister of State Security Siyabonga Cwele who is considered to be a confidant of President Jacob Zuma.

One intelligence agent speculated that the company could provide economic intelligence.

“There have been many attempts to set up an economic intelligence division [in the State Security Agency], but this has failed every time.”

The last such attempt was when Njenje was director-general of the then National Intelligence Agency from 2009 to 2011.

But he did not want to respond, saying that the structure of the agency was a “state secret”.

Asked if he thought the well-connected Gupta family should still be investigated, he said “the issue was resolved”.

Njenje lost his job at state security in 2011 after insisting, among others, that such an investigation was proper.

“I’ve left state issues to the state and I’ve got no intention to interfere,” Njenje said.

He added that his company would not conduct any investigation unless it was asked and was paid for it?–?and it would not do anything illegal.

Asked about suspicions in some state circles that the company would be used to weaken Zuma, he said this was “malicious gossip”.

“If we wanted to do anything against Zuma, we would not form ourselves into a company and go and launch the company,” he said.

“There are many ways to cover actions. To announce yourself is not one of them. You go deep underground if you are going to conspire, you don’t show your hand. So we’re not conspiracists,” he said.

Staff members said Foresight had gone to see Cwele and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, who is responsible for intervening in the mining crisis.

Motlanthe’s spokesperson Thabo Masebe could not confirm this, but said he had seen Njenje at the office in the past.

The spokesperson for the State Security Agency, Brian Dube, said it was not prepared to respond to questions.

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