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New intelligence IG must provide proper oversight

Dr Ntsikelelo Breakfast. Picture: Supplied

Dr Ntsikelelo Breakfast. Picture: Supplied

Published Feb 19, 2022


By Dr Ntsikelelo Breakfast

Post-apartheid South Africa has witnessed the inability of the ruling party to separate between the state and itself. This phenomenon in the light of the intelligence and security forces was similar to the rogue operations of the apartheid regime.

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The intelligence agencies have a history of being embroiled in factional battles of the ANC post-1994. For instance, in 2001 former minister of police, Steve Tshwete implicated three senior members of the ANC (Cyril Ramaphosa, Matthew Phosa and Tokyo Sexwale) in a plot to overthrow the government of former president Thabo Mbeki. This was part of the political dynamics and machinations of the ruling party and the validity of the allegation is still questionable. In the bigger scheme of things, was the upcoming conference of the ruling party to be held at Stellenbosch University in December.

Similarly, in the build-up to the 2007 National Conference of the ANC, an intelligence document known as the “Special Browse Mole Report” showcased how the intelligence agencies were used to spy on certain leaders of the ruling party, namely: Jacob Zuma, Blade Nzimande and Zwelinzima Vavi, inter alia.

During the State Capture Commission, chaired by Judge Raymond Zondo, evidence was presented by many witnesses, in particular Dr Sydney Mufamadi, that there had been abuse of the intelligence apparatus by getting involved in the operations and politics of the ANC. This line of thinking was also echoed (as a precursor to the Zondo Commission) by a panel of experts’ report (headed by Dr Mufamadi), titled: “High level review panel report on the state security agency”.

It is part of best international practises for the intelligence agencies to intercept security threats and protect their citizens from operations that are posing danger to the stability of their countries.

The role of the intelligence architecture is to protect national security, by being on the lookout, for internal and external security threats. The operations of the intelligence of the state are not related to the internal party activities. The intelligence wing of the country is also an aspect of the security forces that feeds into economic development. This speaks to the link between security and development.

No economic development in any country can take place without being protected by strong security forces. So, the operations of intelligence agencies have more than political implications. By contrast, they also have economic and developmental implications to the countries.

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A case in point is the outbreak of violence in July 2021 (in large parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal) because of the slow pace of intelligence operatives to gather data in advance about the possible social conflict and looting. This is despite the fact that there were early signs of conflict and social unrest. These protests have had a negative impact on food security, gross domestic product (GDP) and the whole economy of the country.

Again, the lack of the intelligence involvement in these operations of looting was caused by the factional battles within the ANC. Some of the intelligence officers in the state machinery have taken sides in the conflict between the Radical Economic Transformation (RET) forces and Thuma Mina/CR2022 faction and have opted not to be loyal to the government of the day. We have seen a number of candidates being interviewed for the position of Inspector-General of Intelligence.

The upcoming Inspector-General of Intelligence needs to uphold high standards of professionalism and be non-partisan. He/she needs to provide thorough oversight into all the intelligence agencies.

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This includes a clinical analysis of what has gone wrong into the intelligence community. By so doing, our intelligence agencies (with different mandates), namely: Defence Intelligence (DI), Crime Intelligence and State Security Agency can be rescued from the quagmire they find themselves in.

The team of experts appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa, comprised of Prof Sandy Africa, Advocate Mojanku Gumbi and Mr Silumko Sokupa, released a report, titled: “Report of the expert into the July 2021 civil unrest”. Among other things, the investigation found that the executive was at fault and did not do what it should have done.

Ramaphosa changed the Ministers of State Security (Ayanda Dlodlo) and former minister of defence Nosiviwe Mapisa- Nqakula but kept Minister Bheki Cele, though him and the National Commissioner General Khehla Sitole were not visible on the ground during the looting in the July protests. This begs the question about the sincerity of the president in getting the job done in the security cluster; in particular the intelligence agencies.

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* Dr Ntsikelelo Breakfast is a senior lecturer in the department of history and political science in the Faculty of Humanities at Nelson Mandela University.

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