Crackdown on spies under Zuma: Net closes in on 30 people but Kodwa keeps mum on Arthur Fraser

2019-08-28 21:13
Zizi Kodwa (Peter Abrahams)

Zizi Kodwa (Peter Abrahams)

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Deputy Minister of State Security Zizi Kodwa confirmed on Wednesday a number of actions the department had undertaken to tackle the years of alleged impropriety that characterised the State Security Agency (SSA) during the Zuma administration.

Among them are a multidisciplinary team to investigate administrative and criminal actions as well as the registration of an inquiry with the police and Hawks.

Kodwa was giving oral reply to questions to Minister Ayanda Dlodlo in the National Council of Provinces in Parliament.

DA MPL George Michalakis asked the minister whether the department had instituted any forensic and/or other investigations into the breaches of financial and other controls regarding the Principal Agent Network (PAN) project and special operations, and whether this had led to any disciplinary and/or criminal prosecutions.

The PAN, abolished in 2011, is described as another parallel intelligence structure that allegedly spirited away nearly R1bn in state funds over three years, and diverted the intelligence mechanisms of the state to the former director-general of state security, Arthur Fraser.

Most recently, the PAN became a household name with the release of investigative journalist Jacques Pauw's book, The President's Keepers.

According to an SSA report and Pauw's book, there was nothing sinister in setting up the PAN as it was initially envisioned.

According to Pauw, a "principal agent network" was simply jargon for spy handlers - people who engage and manage other spies on behalf of the intelligence agency.

News24 reported in March the high-level panel review report into the SSA described it as "accepted practice in intelligence agencies … principal agents are recruited outside the agency who in turn are trained … to recruit and handle sources or agents…" But the PAN "evolved" into a way in which employees could "bypass the procedural recruitment of staff, disbursement of funds and procurement", the report stated.

Pauw described it as "a parallel and detached intelligence network that operated independently of the NIA [National Intelligence Agency]".

With regards to special operations, the high-level panel review report said operations undertaken by the SSA's special operations arm under Zuma ally Thulani Dlomo included spying on unions and civil society organisations, the creation of a fake union in Marikana, influencing the media and conducting politically motivated projects.

Kodwa in his response on Wednesday said: "The State Security Agency has indeed instituted investigations since June 2018 to investigate apparent corrupt networks operating within the agency. The networks have been occurring over a period of years, resulting in serious economic losses to the state through illegal financial flows that severely affected the operational capability of the organisation to discharge its constitutional and legislated mandate.

"As a consequence of which, a multidisciplinary team has been established in this regard and both administrative and criminal actions are underway.

"An inquiry has been registered with the South African Police Services [SAPS] and Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation [Hawks] on both the PAN [Principal Agent Network] and activities of Chief Directorate Special Operations.

"Approximately 30 individuals, including current and former agency members as well as non-SSA members who were complicit in some activities, have been directly and indirectly implicated. Among the individuals were facilitators and beneficiaries including senior officials. In respect of the current members, a total of eight suspensions have been affected and disciplinary measures are underway," said Kodwa.

Michalakis, in a follow-up question, asked if Fraser was one of the individuals being investigated.

Kodwa responded: "... I'm not in any position to disclose the names of members except to answer the original question that indeed there are investigations underway both in terms of internally and investigations that we have reported with law enforcement agencies."

The March report did not name those implicated, but it was scathing about certain intelligence operations, and provided timeframes.

From these, it was possible to ascertain which individuals were responsible for the problem areas identified by the SSA panel.

The report said Zuma and ministers he had appointed, including Siyabonga Cwele and David Mahlobo, as well as senior staff at the SSA, violated the Constitution by overseeing and allowing the repurposing of the spy agency to serve their own personal and political interests, a process that started in 2005.

Responding to questions as to how the department planned to depoliticise the SSA, Kodwa said: "In her address of staff on July 16 this year, the honourable Minister Dlodlo reiterated the president's instructions of February 15 this year that neither the agency nor any of its members shall forthwith gather political intelligence to prejudice or further a political party interest.

"The imperative to keep the intelligence agency non-partisan is critical and ongoing. The high-level review panel looked into the matter and made important specific findings and recommendations.

"One of the measures we have put in place is restoring the corporate governance systems on controls and oversight over our operations. These have to ensure that all manner of illegal operations were terminated. In this regard, there are ongoing investigations and those found to be involved will face due consequences.

"A related factor in this regard is the measures we have put in place to limit executive overreach," Kodwa said.

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Read more on:    saps  |  ssa  |  hawks  |  zizi kodwa  |  corruption
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