Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo File picture: Nhlanhla Phillips/African News Agency (ANA)
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo File picture: Nhlanhla Phillips/African News Agency (ANA)

In whose interest is it to destroy South Africa’s intelligence capacity?

By Opinion Time of article published Jan 31, 2021

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BB Senokoane

After watching the Zondo Commission on the issues relating to the State Security Agency, I came to a wake-up call that we do not have state or national security, we are a vulnerable nation.

I am not here to justify the possible abuse and abuse of state agencies and resources, but rather I am moving from a view that state security and state secrets and must be protected by all cost and any means necessary. I want to qualify my statement by saying, if and when there is or might have been an abuse of State Security Agency, this must be made a private matter and in there should be a private tribunal or private courts to handle such matters.

I am equally disappointed at the Deputy Chief Justice because he should have used his intelligence or rather a common sense, to at least have a private session on this sensitive matter. In fact, the Zondo Commission is used to bypass and undermine our own laws. The matter pertaining to the State Security Agency should have been referred to the Inspector General of Intelligence as legislated by the Public Service Act. This would be done to protect the secrets of the country.

Many countries try so hard to protect their secrets while we are busy publicising ours. It is not a secret that other countries have an interest in the security of South Africa. The revelations at Zondo have not only exposed petty ANC internal attacks but also has compromised the operations of State Security Agency. I am sure none of us will even be comfortable to share our security features to anyone. We minimise telling it to anyone even if there is no immediate threat.

Our National Security and Intelligence cannot be a matter of public knowledge. As a reminder, the State Security Agency exists “to provide the government with intelligence on domestic and foreign threats or potential threats to national stability, the constitutional order, and the safety and well-being of our people”. And any operation within this agency must remain the state secret.

The state secrets privilege should permit the government to block the release of any information being it in a lawsuit or any other platform except parliament and executive that, if disclosed, would cause harm to national security. These state secrets naturally involve not exposing State Security Agency Operations including its personnel and entities it is doing business with.

President Ramaphosa would know this after protecting a mere funding of his ANC Election Campaign. After all, this is a man who ran to the court asking them to keep his bank statements secret. One can argue that it is his personal account yet the other is of the State. I would argue that the State is more a legal persona than a legal entity. However, more important is that if President Ramaphosa subscribes to the doctrine of secrecy in his personal space, why would he not have the same view in as far as State Secrecy is consent or is it because he is not affected as an individual?

I wish to declare that South African national security was left naked at the Zondo Commission. There was after all a revelation of how State Security Agency operate and who was involved.

What Ramaphosa administration is doing by claiming to be exposing the Jacob Zuma administration is not different as the intent or the motif of both remain the same, attacking the opponent using state agencies.

Thabo Mbeki was accused also for using state resources and organs to attack his opponents. The only difference with Ramaphosa is that he is using what in football can be labelled as a counterattack, yet the intent is the same.

It should be common sense that the State Security Agency uses certain personnel and entities to advance its operations. This will include ghost employees who might be put in other government departments’ payrolls and private entities yet working for State Security Agency. Media has for many years being used as a strategic and critical partner in advancing the State Security Agenda. This is because journalists have access to most states, entities and individuals. Media is also critical to push a particular narrative and for propaganda. It is unheard of, or at least it will be stupidity to not expect any media house to be used by the state or at least to open its doors for national interest.

But I must equally concede that South Africa as a nation was never indoctrinated to be patriotic. We do not love our county. After all, patriotism is the feeling of loving your country more than any others and being proud of it. However, the ANC are in love with their self rather than the country. They do not care whether the country is left naked and whether its secrets are made public as long as there is victory and benefit for a faction.

The ANC government understanding of State Security has put the nation into shame and embarrassment, in fact we are in a State of Treason and the ANC is guilty as accused. I am sure that the drafters of Ready to Govern are equally ashamed to realise that the ANC was Unready to Govern. As a general principle, ANC is in a mode of self-destruction and if not careful will be in the political cemetery earlier than we anticipated.

I would have thought that the ANC learned something in its relation and training in Russia (KGB) or at least should be learned from the US’s CIA, but clearly, I am optimistic for nothing. Maybe I was misled by a thinking that in the military training and operation of the ANC they could have been taught about military or security secrecy. But the likes of Sydney Mufamadi and many of Amaqabane ka Tambo have proven me wrong.

Let me conclude with a quote of Mary Alice Monroe, “Privacy is something that we maintain for the good of ourselves and others. Secrecy we keep to separate ourselves from others, even those we love”.

* BB Senokoane is an Associate Professor at UNISA in the College of Human Sciences.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.

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