PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa says placing political responsibility for the State Security Agency within the Presidency aims to reposition the intelligence service to serve the country effectively.
This comes after DA leader John Steenhuisen had asked Ramaphosa about the move to put the agency into the Presidency after the Cabinet reshuffle in August.
Ramaphosa had scrapped the Ministry of State Security and put the agency into the Presidency under the deputy minister of SSA.
The intelligence agencies had received criticism for their failure to react effectively during the violent July unrest which rocked KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng.
Steenhuisen, who asked a written question in Parliament, questioned whether the centralisation of control of the SSA in the Presidency was a permanent arrangement, to which Ramaphosa responded: “This decision may be reviewed from time to time based on the circumstances, and another member of Cabinet may be designated to assume political responsibility as stated in our Constitution. Our objective is to implement the recommendations that have been set out in the High Level Review Panel (HLRP) Report.”
Asked whether the merger was supported by policy and what had motivated the decision, Ramaphosa said the Constitution provided that the president, as head of the national executive, could assume political responsibility for the control and direction of the intelligence services.
“The HLRP into the SSA also considered this matter in line with South African precedent on whether there is a need for a minister to oversee and drive the civilian intelligence services.
“Furthermore, international best practice was considered as many countries around the world do not have a minister for intelligence services, but rather have the heads of those agencies reporting to the head of government or head of state in certain instances.”
Ramaphosa added that the strategic intention was to enable the intelligence services to carry out the policy imperatives and objectives of a developmental state. “To this end, we want to instil confidence in the work of the SSA, to protect and to professionalise the intelligence services, and to enable it to perform its mandate in a non-partisan manner.”
The president said through a professionalised state security there would be surety that the service and its officers abide by and remain true to the Constitution.
“Furthermore, the process to strengthen the checks and balances as well as oversight mechanisms is ongoing to ensure further that the SSA is not vulnerable to ill intent.”