'What does Arthur Fraser have on Ramaphosa?' DA wonders after president defends former spy boss

Arthur Fraser (Paul Herman, News24)
Arthur Fraser (Paul Herman, News24)

The DA has suggested that former spy boss Arthur Fraser might have damaging information concerning President Cyril Ramaphosa after Ramaphosa contended that there was no evidence that the controversial former head of the State Security Agency (SSA) would not "discharge his duties as national commissioner of correctional services in accordance with the law and with due diligence". 

This according to Ramaphosa's responding affidavit to the DA's application to set aside Fraser's appointment as national commissioner of correctional services.

In April Ramaphosa moved Fraser – a central figure in investigative journalist Jacques Pauw's book, The President's Keepers – from the SSA to correctional services.

Before the move, Inspector General of Intelligence Setlhomamaru Dintwe claimed that Fraser had sought to revoke his security clearance and had interfered with his functions while he was investigating a complaint lodged against Fraser in his capacity as SSA director general.

Dintwe has been investigating Fraser following a formal complaint lodged by the DA over Fraser's alleged involvement in a parallel intelligence network.

Fraser described the investigation as "malicious and at the whims of political parties, aimed at discrediting me, the agency and the current political leadership".

DA argument rests on Simelane case

The DA initially asked the Constitutional Court for direct access to hear its application to set aside Fraser's appointment at correctional services, but this was refused. The party lodged an application in the North Gauteng High Court in early May. 

The DA's argument rests on the Menzi Simelane case – the DA's successful court bid to remove Simelane as National Director of Public Prosecutions where the court held that "ignoring prima facie indications of dishonesty is wholly inconsistent with the end sought to be achieved".

"I specifically deny that I failed to apply my mind, either to the prima facie allegations of dishonesty against Mr Fraser, or to the implications of Mr Fraser's withdrawal of the inspector general's security clearance," Ramaphosa's responding affidavit reads.

Ramaphosa concedes that "allegations of impropriety" have been made against Fraser, but that they were investigated and resolved before he was appointed director general of the SSA.

"There are now new allegations of impropriety against Mr Fraser," the affidavit reads.

"The previous investigation was concluded well before Mr Fraser's appointment as director general of the SSA. The only reason the allegations resurfaced in the public domain is because Mr Pauw wrote about them in his book."

'No facts' to suggest unlawfulness

Ramaphosa says Pauw's book motivated the DA's complaint to the inspector general, and that the DA cannot expect the court to "intervene on the basis of hearsay allegations made in Mr Pauw's book".

"I deny that there are prima facie indications of serious dishonesty concerning Mr Fraser," reads Ramaphosa's affidavit.

Ramaphosa also denies that Fraser is not of good character or unfit for the office of national commissioner.

Ramaphosa also contends that the facts, in this case, differ significantly from the Simelane case, as there is not a previous finding that Fraser is dishonest, as there was in the case of Simelane.

"In the case of a transfer from one government department to another, unless there is compelling evidence to the contrary, it is reasonable to presume that the incumbent is fit and proper. That was my view when I decided to transfer Mr Fraser. It remains my view," reads Ramaphosa's affidavit.

Ramaphosa also says there are "no facts available" to him that suggest Fraser's withdrawal of Dintwe's security clearance was unlawful.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen described Ramaphosa's "defence" of Fraser as bizarre and his contention that the allegations against Fraser "had previously been investigated and finalised by [Dintwe's] predecessor" is disingenuous. 

"An NIA (National Intelligence Agency) forensic investigation into Fraser and others' activities had found, inter alia, that criminal offences in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (Act 12 of 2004) and the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) (Act 1 of 1999) had been committed," reads a statement from Steenhuisen.

"The question that still needs to be answered is why no criminal charges were brought against Fraser and co and how he was reappointed to head the SSA in the first place.

"It begs the question: what does Fraser have on Ramaphosa that makes him so afraid to act against him?"

Steenhuisen said Ramaphosa was also being disingenuous by claiming the Inspector General of Intelligence's investigation was prompted by the publishing of The President's Keepers

"The DA had lodged a formal complaint against Fraser on 18 May 2017 – Pauw's book was released five months later, in October," Steenhuisen pointed out.

He said Ramaphosa's defence of his decision that there were no new allegations against Fraser was "feeble". 

"Fraser should be a tenant at one of South Africa's correctional facilities, not heading the department," Steenhuisen said.

Pauw's book revealed that Fraser was implicated in the running of a parallel intelligence network during his previous stint at the spy agency before 2010.

According to the book, an internal SSA probe concluded that Fraser should be charged with treason for his role in the running of the SSA's Principal Agent Network.

After its publication, Fraser's family demanded that Pauw retract his book and the SSA sent a cease and desist letter to Pauw and NB Publishers, claiming that the content of the book violated the Intelligence Services Act. Pauw didn't budge. 

Ramaphosa's full affidavit can be read here.

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