A high-level review panel on the State Security Agency (SSA) has blamed former president Jacob Zuma for the mess in the intelligence community.
President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday released the final report of the review panel, which was led by former safety and security minister Sydney Mufamadi.
Ramaphosa established the panel last year to “enable the reconstruction of a professional national intelligence capability that will respect and uphold the Constitution”.
According to the report, the panel found that there had been a “growing politicisation and factionalism of the civilian intelligence community based on factions in the ANC from about 2005”.
“This has been partly aggravated by the fact that many of the leadership and management of the intelligence services have come from an ANC and liberation struggle background and have seemingly, in some cases, not been able to separate their professional responsibilities from their political inclinations,” reads the report.
This became progressively worse, the report notes, during the administration of Zuma, with parallel structures being created that directly served his personal and political interests and, in some cases, relevant ministers.
Former intelligence minister David Mahlobo was seen to be doing Zuma’s bidding by spying on the other factions within the ANC.
The report says on political interference: “All this was in complete breach of the Constitution, the white paper, the legislation and other prescripts. From about 2009 we saw a marked doctrinal shift in the civilian intelligence community, away from the prescripts of the Constitution, white paper and legislation and plain good practice.”
The report further states that this was reflected more seriously in the increasing turn to covert structures and projects and was taken to extremes in the proposals contained in the strategic development plan. “This was most publicly reflected in the change of the name from ‘national intelligence’ to ‘state security’.
“The amalgamation of NIA [National Intelligence Agency] and Sass [SA Secret Service] into the SSA was a monumental blunder.”
The report says that “apart from the fact that the amalgamation did not take place on the basis of a formal change of policy involving parliamentary and public consultation, it did not achieve its stated intentions of reducing expenditure, effecting better coordination and reducing duplication”.
“It might have achieved some of those in small measure, but it created more problems than it solved.
“There is a disproportionate application of secrecy in the SSA stifling effective accountability and facilitating serious non-compliance with controls, including blatant criminality.
“Due to the wide-ranging resource abuse, the SSA became in effect a ‘cash cow’ for many of its members and external stakeholders.”
In 2009 Zuma gave the ministers of state security, police, defence, home affairs, justice and correctional services the task of reviewing the structures of the civilian intelligence community.
This saw Zuma collapsing six intelligence branches under one structure, each with its own head reporting to the director-general. SSA was created as part of this review process.
Under the late former president Nelson Mandela, the deputy justice minister doubled as the political principal in intelligence services, guided by the overall vision to move away from state security under apartheid towards national security.
Zuma changed that and even changed the name from national intelligence back to state security.