Heavyweights Vusi Pikoli, Anwar Dramat and Gibson Njenje to join intelligence

2018-04-22 06:00
Vusi Pikoli

Vusi Pikoli

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Vusi Pikoli, Anwar Dramat and Gibson Njenje are lined up to join the State Security Agency (SSA), following this week’s departure of former director-general Arthur Fraser.

In a shake-up expected to change how the agency is run, at least one of the candidates is earmarked to become State Security Minister Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba’s special adviser.

Letsatsi-Duba triggered the process to absorb the trio into the agency earlier this month when she wrote to the police ministry requesting assistance with screening and vetting investigations.

The minister’s decision to use the SA Police Service (SAPS) instead of SSA for the security clearances has shocked some in intelligence circles who believe that the SSA was the appropriate body.

Insiders claimed that the SAPS’s screening and vetting processes were susceptible to manipulation.

Had the vetting been done by SSA, it would have been handled by Fraser – who previously crossed swords with Njenje, his former boss who fired him from the former National Intelligence Agency in 2010 before Letsatsi-Duba’s predecessor, David Mahlobo, brought him back in 2016.

Fraser was accused of running a parallel intelligence network during a previous stint at the spy agency before 2010.

According to feedback from the SAPS, all three were found clean, except that Dramat had a kidnapping case against him opened in Diepsloot in 2012.

But, reads a letter that City Press has seen, “the Constitution injuncts us to uphold the principle of innocent until proven otherwise by a competent arbiter”.

“Furthermore, that registered case, because of the time factor, is now prejudicial to the candidate, thus bringing to the fore the principle of justice delayed is justice denied”.

The trio’s clearance certificates will be issued once interviews with references have been concluded.

Letsatsi-Duba told City Press that she had acted “in full compliance of the law”.

“Vetting is conducted by the SSA, and intelligence divisions of the SAPS and SANDF [the SA National Defence Force]. Notwithstanding, the SSA may request the assistance of the SAPS in the performance of its vetting function,” she said, through SSA spokesperson Brian Dube.

The minister also said that she refused to be drawn into speculation on claims that she had a mandate to fire Fraser as soon as she was appointed in February. But she had started “warming up” to him, and that made a lot of interested people uncomfortable.

According to insiders, last week’s court case against Fraser by the Inspector-General of Intelligence Setlhomamaru Dintwe was used to achieve a predetermined outcome.

Also this week, Letsatsi-Duba quickly set aside Fraser’s withdrawal of Dintwe’s security clearance – over a finding that he shared sensitive information with political parties – despite the fact that Dintwe had not appealed.

Insiders said this was irregular because a specific procedure needed to be followed before the decision could be set aside, including the establishment of a panel to review the case and provide an opinion before the minister took a decision.

In a letter dated Wednesday, the minister conceded that Dintwe had not appealed, but still went ahead to set aside the decision.

She wrote: “Since you set out in your letter grounds upon which you rely in your request that I set aside the decision to withdraw your security clearance. I consider your letter as your appeal as per my invitation in the letter from our attorneys dated [April 17 2018]”.

Letsatsi-Duba lifted restrictions to Dintwe’s ability to access classified information, carry out duties and enter his offices. The above interventions notwithstanding, she said: “and in accordance with the injunctions of the relevant legislation, I still invite you to consider lodging a formal appeal as provided for in the legislation”.

Dube said the minister sought to provide relief to Dintwe in terms of resolving the matter “without ventilating it in court”.

Further, he said, the minister “calls on the [inspector-general] to subject himself to a process of reverting which the acting director-general will facilitate in terms of the law”.

The letter further asked the inspector-general to lodge an appeal, which the minister will consider.

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