LIVE FEED: State Capture Inquiry - January 26, 2021
Johannesburg – The alleged dubious operations of the State Security Agency’s (SSA’s) Special Operations Unit came under focus at the Zondo Commission on Monday, as its controversial projects were explained.
This as the former chairperson of the High-Level Review Panel, Sydney Mufamadi, took the stand before Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and testified on allegations of wrongdoing within the intelligence agency yesterday, with special focus on the Special Operations unit (SO).
Mufamadi described the SO within the SSA as having been a law unto itself and serving the political interests of the executive under former president Jacob Zuma through various projects.
Legal representatives of former minister of the SSA, David Mahlobo and Siyabonga Cwele, as well as those of former director general Arthur Fraser, were among other implicated persons.
According to Mufamadi, his panel had learnt of “Project Commitment” of the unit, whose alleged purpose was for the financial upkeep of Zuma, with millions of rand being covertly channelled in cash to him through Mahlobo for two years.
Mufamadi said that there was an identifiable individual agent for each of the operations, who “went to the window” to receive money disbursed for the project, and that the panel had secured representations from the agent who was responsible for Zuma’s funds.
“We were told that the project involved providing the then president with R2.5 million per month in the 2015/16 financial year and this amount was increased to R4.5m per month in the 16/17 financial year,” he said.
He said that the panel, however, had not received proof that Mahlobo had indeed given the funds to Zuma.
Mufamadi said the panel had found that the SO had initiated counter operations against President Cyril Ramaphosa’s presidential campaign as well as infiltrated and weakened the “Zuma must fall” campaign in 2016.
Mufamadi’s panel report had found that there had over the past decade been a growing politicisation of the SSA and South Africa’s civilian intelligence community based on the factions in the ANC.
He said the panel had also noted that a proclamation by Zuma to establish the SSA as a ministry in 2009 had triggered a doctrinal shift within the intelligence agency, adding that it was part of the deliberate repurposing of the SSA and enabled secrecy and wrongdoing.
Another project of the SO, “Project Justice”, was allegedly aimed at influencing the outcomes of cases against Zuma through the recruitment and handling of judges through bribes.
“Information provided to the panel indicated that amounts of R1.2m and R4.5m were routinely given from SSA and provided to Mahlobo, whom it is said was responsible for handling these sources. The panel was told that the project was necessitated by a perceived need to counter the influence of judges hostile to Zuma,” Mufamadi said.
Another SO project was allegedly hatched with a R24m budget by the SSA to infiltrate and influence the media, dubbed “Project Wave”, and had been set up in a bid to counter bad publicity for Zuma and the country, in South Africa and abroad.
Mufamadi said a further probe was important on the allegations, but warned that some of the operations could have been a ruse for money-making undertakings.
Commission chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, said the evidence told to Mufamadi’s panel was concerning, but pointed out that the commission had been confronted with serious allegations of financial propriety which were difficult to prove.
Evidence leader, advocate Paul Pretorius, said this week the commission would continue to hear oral evidence relating to the conduct of the SSA.