Intelligence candidates grilled by MPs

2016-11-13 06:00
Cecil Burgess.

Cecil Burgess.

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Parliament this week interviewed 10 candidates for the position of inspector general of intelligence, a position it has tried but failed to fill on three occasions over the past 20 months.

The office has been without an accounting officer since March last year, when Faith Radebe retired, leaving no one to legally sign off on investigations or release documents to the public. Its complaints function is “operational to a certain extent”.

The position is provided for in the Constitution and in terms of the Intelligence Services Oversight Act, and is responsible for monitoring intelligence services and being a watchdog that investigates complaints against the spooks.

Parliament has tried but failed to fill the position as the ANC sought to push its favourite candidate, Cecil Burgess, a former ANC MP, but its attempts were thwarted by opposition MPs who would frustrate a quorum. Because it is a constitutional appointment, the successful candidate requires the support of two-thirds of National Assembly MPs.

The following candidates are being considered:

Bruce Watson, an information science and knowledge dynamics professor at the University of Stellenbosch, was grilled on his three passports – South African, Dutch and Canadian.

He was born in Zimbabwe to South African parents, but studied in Canada and the Netherlands.

He vowed that despite holding three citizenships, he was loyal to South Africa and was prepared to relinquish his citizenship of the other two countries if it jeopardised his chances of getting the job.

MPs did not appear convinced.

His areas of expertise include cyber security, data science as well as knowledge dynamics and algorithmics.

Jayashree Govender was the only female candidate to be short-listed and interviewed.

Before her interview, she appeared to be a frontrunner.

She is a legal adviser in the office of the inspector general of intelligence and has worked in that office for 12 years.

She has been interviewed for the position before, but Parliament abandoned those processes without finalising them.

Govender, who showed intense knowledge of the office and the job, appeared rattled as MPs questioned some of the functions she and her co-executive committee members have been performing in the absence of an inspector general.

Mampogoane Nchabeleng is a senior manager in the office of the inspector general.

He previously worked as a manager for employee relations at the National Intelligence Agency and before that he was a legal adviser to the ANC.

Like Govender, Nchabeleng seemed to have vast knowledge of the work of the inspector general. He is, after all, part of the executive committee that has kept the office running in the absence of its accounting officer.

But a DA MP was more interested in why Nchabeleng attached a referral letter from a Limpopo MEC, questioning his political independence.

Victor Ngidi had a breeze of an interview, nothing compared with other candidates’ experience in the hot seat.

This was further evident by how relaxed he appeared after the two-hour interview, even posing for cellphone pictures.

Ngidi is an adviser to KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu, a job he started in June this year. Before that, he was the director-general in the office of the premier between 2010 and May last year.

He was a member of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial legislature for eight years and has also worked as head of the crime analysis division in the erstwhile Scorpions.

Andile Kilifele’s CV shows that he was deputy chairperson of his high school debating society, but he showed none of it when he appeared for his interview
on Wednesday.

From the outset, Kilifele told MPs that he was terrified and had never felt more terrified in his life.

From there, he crumbled and was close to tears as MPs grilled him about how he left a previous job.

Kilifele is a stay-at-home father with a bachelor’s in social science from the University of Cape Town. He also holds a law degree from the University of the Witwatersrand.

Clinton Davids is a former Umkhonto weSizwe soldier and was the ANC’s intelligence unit commander in the Western Cape between 1991 and 1995.

In his CV, Davids states that he is an acknowledged best practice expert in managing, planning and implementing intelligence operations and investigations for special events.

But his claim that, in 2007, he led “a mock intelligence operation” in the event former president Nelson Mandela died drew several questions from MPs.

Some stated that he should not have bragged about such in his CV; others questioned whether there was any truth to the statement.

Smanga Phillip Jele is an oversight principal officer in the office of the inspector general and a member of the executive committee that has kept that office running in the absence of its accounting officer.

He has a long record in intelligence communities and was a lecturer before that.

Like his two colleagues, who were interviewed before him, MPs gave him a hard time about his work in that office, which they described as falling apart.

He is soft-spoken, but stood his ground.

MPs also seemed to have a problem that he has a certificate as an inspector general investigator from the US.

They repeatedly probed him about perceived ties with that country.

Brightboy Nhlakanipho Nkontwana is the head of the Gauteng’s cooperative governance and traditional affairs department.

Nkontwana has a long history in the public service, having worked in the national departments of cooperative governance and traditional affairs; and public service and administration, where he worked as acting director-general and also served as an adviser to Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.

His only link to intelligence was when he worked as a human resources and remuneration specialist at the Intelligence Services Council between December 2002 and June 2004.

Nyelisani Tshitereke has a PhD in political science from the Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada.

Tshitereke has worked at the Institute for Democracy in SA, the Institute for Security Studies, the presidency, University of Cape Town, University of Venda and Old Mutual, among others.

Between July 2004 and December 2007, he worked as a senior analyst for the National Intelligence Agency and National Intelligence Coordinating Committee.

Setlhomamaru Dintwe has a long history in the police. He holds a doctorate in police science with specialisation in forensic investigations, obtained from Unisa.

Dintwe has a string of other policing-related qualifications, including a bachelor of criminal justice (North West University), a bachelor of technology in policing (Technikon SA) and a master of technology in forensic investigations.

Dintwe is currently the head of the police practice department in the College of Law at Unisa.

Read more on:    anc  |  cecil burgess  |  parliament

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