Top spy Thulani Dlomo still AWOL eight months after being recalled to the SSA

Thulani Dlomo. (City Press)
Thulani Dlomo. (City Press)

Several months after he was recalled from his ambassadorship in Japan, deputy director general in the State Security Agency (SSA) Thulani Dlomo is still missing in action.

Nicknamed "Zuma's private spy" for his close proximity to the former president, sources close to the SSA have told News24 that Dlomo is yet to return to "the farm" – the SSA headquarters in Musanda in Pretoria – after he was recalled in January.

Questions about Dlomo's whereabouts which were sent to the SSA last week were largely unanswered.

READ | Criminal case against Zuma-linked ex-spy still 'pending'

The SSA did not respond to questions about what Dlomo is doing, whether he has returned to work since his return to South Africa from Japan, or what his role is, saying these are confidential issues related to the employer-employee relationship.

But an impeccable source told News24 that Dlomo has essentially gone AWOL.

'Served the political interests'

COLUMN | The curious case of Ambassador Thulani 'Silence' Dlomo

This follows a report by investigative journalist Jacques Pauw in Vrye Weekblad in April that Dlomo disappeared, amid fears that he was part of a campaign to undermine President Cyril Ramaphosa ahead of the May elections.

Dlomo, the former head of the SSA's Special Operations (SO) unit, was recalled from Japan in January.

Dlomo was heavily criticised by the High Level Panel Report into the State Security Agency. The Presidency released the report earlier this year.

The panel was headed by South Africa's former safety and security minister, Dr Sydney Mufamadi.

The report referred to the Special Operations unit, which was headed by Dlomo, as a "law unto itself and directly served the political interests of the executive".

The panel named a number of "illegal" activities undertaken by the SO under Dlomo's watch. It said that the SO became a "parallel intelligence structure serving a faction of the ruling party and, in particular, the personal political interests of the sitting president of the party and the country. This is in direct breach of the Constitution, the White Paper, the relevant legislation and plain good government intelligence functioning."

The panel further recommended: "The findings of the panel and of the current investigation of the (inspector general) and the SO and related matters should form the basis for serious consequences and for those involved in illegal activity, including, where appropriate, disciplinary and/or criminal prosecution."

News24 has been reliably informed that no action has been taken against Dlomo, and the SSA did not respond to questions about this.

At a press conference ahead of the Department of State Security's budget vote in July this year, the SSA' s acting director general, Loyiso Jafta, said Dlomo "remains a member of the SSA".

Forensic probe

Jafta would not be drawn on what action has been taken against Dlomo since the release of the High Level Panel Report.

But it has emerged that Dlomo has not been to work.

SSA spokesperson Mava Scott said: "Unfortunately, most of these questions relate to the confidential relationship between employer and employee and as such, we are unable to discuss in public."

Dlomo was one of five diplomats recalled from their overseas posting in January this year, by former intelligence minister Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba.

A spokesperson for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) told News24 at the time that Letsatsi-Duba asked the SSA to return all their senior staff who were deployed as diplomats to "strengthen their capacity in the agency".

Rapport and News24 revealed in 2017 that Dlomo was parachuted to the ambassadorship by Zuma after being suspended from the SSA under curious circumstances. He was reportedly suspended following alleged transgressions over his overseas travels, but was returned to the SSA shortly thereafter.

Dlomo's appointment in 2012 was equally shrouded in controversy. He was reportedly involved in tender corruption in KwaZulu-Natal during his tenure as head of security of the KZN Department of Social Development.

In March this year, it emerged in Parliament that the case against Dlomo was "still pending".

Reportedly, a forensic probe commissioned by the KZN provincial treasury found that Dlomo had allegedly received kickbacks worth R1m for securing tenders worth R45m.

The results of that probe were reportedly given to then Minister of State Security, Siyabonga Cwele, when Dlomo joined the SSA in 2012.

But Susan Shabangu told Parliament in March this year that although Cwele was "advised to implement the necessary action", stemming from the investigation, "to date, the MEC for Finance of Social Development had not received any response from the minister".

Asked what actions were taken to implement the panel's recommendations, Scott said last week: "With regard to progress on the implementation of the High Level Panel Report, a Bill is being drafted to create separate domestic and foreign civilian intelligence services as well as other recommendations emanating from the High Panel Report."

One of the panel's numerous recommendations was that the government should split the intelligence agencies into foreign and domestic agencies.

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