Spy agency millions used to exercise control over judiciary, witness tells Zondo commission
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Johannesburg - The Commission of Inquiry into State Capture on Thursday heard explosive evidence of how the State Security Agency (SSA) attempted to undermine the country’s judiciary using millions of rand of its funds.
A secret witness only identified as “Ms K” told the commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, that “Operation Justice” was set up to influence, recruit and handle sources within the judiciary. She said sources meant members of the judiciary.
According to Ms K, the purported aim of “Operation Justice” was to ensure harmony between the state and the justice fraternity and allegedly included influencing the outcome of cases.
”That’s what we were told, that’s why we say purported, we sent written questions to certain individuals and that’s the response we got,” she testified.
Ms K is the project manager of “Project Veza”, which is probing widespread malfeasance at the SSA and is at the commission to corroborate the evidence of another of the agency’s officials, identified only as Mr Y, who was expected to testify this week but was unable to due to indisposition after recently coming out of a coma.
She said Operation Justice was a continuation of an earlier project called Simunye.
”Project Simunye was intended to intensify and strengthen state authority within the judiciary system under which contact and relevant assets were to be acquired, utilised for the purpose of positive influencing state power and control over the judiciary,” read Mr Y’s statement, which Ms K confirmed.
Ms K said the SSA’s chief directorate for special operations managed to gain access to justice through what was becoming an alarming concern over the friction that existed between the state and the justice fraternity.
The chief directorate: special operations contributed largely to the rise in confidence in the justice by the public through its influential role in the media, reporting and utilising well-placed media personnel, stated Mr Y’s evidence.
Between R1.2 million and R4.5m was taken from the SSA and allegedly hand-delivered to David Mahlobo, who was reported to be the person directly making onward payments as part of Operation Justice, according to evidence presented at the commission.
Ms K said one of the implicated individuals confirmed that she had personally delivered R4.5m to Mahlobo’s office on at least three occasions.
She said Frank, a pseudonym, confirmed he was instructed to deliver money regularly to Mahlobo for Project Justice starting at R1.3m but extending upward to R21.8m.
”He was not aware of the details of Operation Justice beyond the general context that there was a complaint that the judges were colluding to overthrow the government so an operation was established,” the commission heard.
Frank’s cash deliveries to Mahlobo’s office, Ms K continued, were to deal with the issues of judges.
”Operation Justice, irrespective of whether it was indeed implemented, constitutes a fundamental breach of the separation of powers principle and an unconstitutional attempt to compromise the independence of the judiciary,” added Mr Y’s affidavit.
Ms K said investigations into Operation Justice were still ongoing but elected to postpone her full response and include it in her statement to be filed later.
She is scheduled to continue giving evidence on Friday.