Security ministry silent over spy bosses

Johannesburg - The state security ministry on Monday said it would comment only at a later stage on Sunday press reports that Minister Siyabonga Cwele had asked the country's three top intelligence bosses to quit.

"We have taken a decision that we are not going to debate this in the media," spokesperson Brian Dube told Sapa.

"But the minister understands that he is accountable to the public and will later put out a statement to address these matters."

Dube could not say when a statement would be issued.

City Press reported on Sunday that Cwele had asked Gibson Njenje - the head of the State Security Agency - as well as the department's director general Jeff Maqetuka and the head of the SA Secret Service, Mo Shaik, to quit, but said they had refused and sought legal advice.

According to the Sunday Independent, Njenje, Shaik and Maqetuka recently complained to President Jacob Zuma about difficulties in their relationship with Cwele.

Shifting positions

Njenje was reportedly unhappy about "unauthorised" operations, including the surveillance of unnamed Cabinet ministers, that flew in the face of his efforts to ensure that the NIA was not exploited for political purposes.

City Press said Njenje was also unhappy about a decision to grant Cwele's wife Sheryl full intelligence protection throughout her drug trafficking trial. She was found guilty.

On Monday, Njenje's lawyer said he has not been asked to resign, but there has been talk of shifting him sideways.

"That's not correct (being asked to resign)," Jeff Bortz told SABC radio news in an interview.

"According to my client there have been discussions between him and the government regarding a possible alternative position for him in government.

"Those discussions have not been finalised and so at the moment, Mr Njenje remains in his position."

Bortz said he did not know the source of the weekend reports on Njenje's alleged resignation.

"One never knows where reports emanate from and how reports come to surface."

Asked whether the relationship between Njenje and Cwele was strained, he replied: "At the moment, I would imagine [the relationship] to be normal." The Sunday Independent quoted Njenje as saying: "I am in talks with the minister about things that I can't talk about. But I am not aware that I have resigned."

The Cape Times reported on Monday that Parliament's Joint Standing Committee was likely to discuss the issues raised in the weekend press when it meets on Wednesday.

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