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Suspended crime intelligence boss Lieutenant-General Richard Mdluli and the division’s controversial finance chief, Major-General Solly Lazarus, have been operating without security clearance at the highest levels of the intelligence sphere, with access to some of the country’s most sensitive secrets.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the two generals – who are accused of pillaging the police’s secret service account, among other allegations – had been operating without clearance.
Their clearances had “expired” and both men had since “applied for renewal”, he said.
Mthethwa made the startling admission in a written response, dated May 29, to a parliamentary question from DA MP and police spokeswoman Dianne Kohler Barnard.
“It is unfathomable that a man – without having passed the necessary security tests – is allowed to oversee and control the police officers guarding the president, ministers and premiers when he is not allowed to go anywhere near them,” she said on Wednesday.
“The minister must also explain how a man without the requisite security clearance could be (suspended) and then reinstated into a position from where he oversaw the intelligence operations of the SAPS, including authorising the interception of communications in police and Hawks investigations.”
The Minimum Information Security Standards (Miss) – the regulations governing all aspects of security classification and security clearance – state that any person granted access to “secret” or “top secret” information should be “rescreened” every five years.
“This arrangement does not preclude rescreening before five years have elapsed in the case of occupational change or where something prejudicial has been established about an officer which may affect their security competence. Personnel in ultra-sensitive posts should be cleared every three years,” the regulations state. It is not known when the security clearances of Mdluli and Lazarus expired.
Police ministry spokesman Zweli Mnisi said on Wednesday that “the certificate indicating the exact date is in the confidential personnel files of the members”.
“A security clearance certificate is valid for between five and 10 years and on expiration, a member is required to apply for a new one,” Mnisi said.
Mdluli was suspended at the weekend for a second time, on the instructions of acting police commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi.
He has been ordered to return state equipment, including keys, vehicles, laptops and state-issued cellphones, and was barred from entering any police offices.
Gareth Newham, of the Institute for Security Studies, said Mdluli’s and Lazarus’s working without a security clearance was a “clear indication of a crime intelligence system that is falling apart because of poor (political) leadership and bad (operational) management”.
“It has been well known for some time by those working in the field that the (security clearance) system is in a shambles, so the latest revelations are not surprising.”
Asked what the implications were for the country, Newham said the pair’s “credentials and ability to access certain levels of information would have been illegal”.
“If your clearance level has expired, then your access would be unlawful,” he said.