Zondo commission hears spy agency had private protection unit dedicated to Jacob Zuma
Johannesburg - A former top State Security Agency (SSA) spy ran a parallel private protection unit for ex-president Jacob Zuma, the Zondo Commission of inquiry into allegation of State Capture has heard.
An unidentified witness only referred to as “Ms K” testified on Wednesday that Thulani Dlomo, formerly the SSA’s deputy director-general responsible for counter intelligence and South Africa's former ambassador to Japan, ran a private protection unit dedicated to Zuma.
Ms K said the unit usurped the functions of the SA Police Service’s presidential protection unit, which is responsible for the safety of presidents, their deputies and their families.
According to the secret witness, Dlomo reported directly to Zuma.
”It’s something that we deduced, not that there is evidence. Some of the people we interviewed did indicate that they were reporting directly to Zuma,” she said.
Ms K said one of the people involved in the unit even bragged that they felt very powerful because they reported directly to Zuma.
Dlomo, Ms K added, through the chief directorate: special operations, saw to it that the SSA assumed responsibility for Zuma’s food and toxin security, physical security and the static protection of his aircraft.
She said funds and other resources that should have been used for legitimate intelligence structures were channelled to this parallel structure serving Zuma’s interests rather than the national interest.
Ms K explained that the special operations chief directorate engaged in exponential overspending.
She also testified that Dlomo instituted another project for the protection of presidential aircraft, the guarding of which fell under the mandate of the SA National Defence Force.
”Pilots and crew members were bringing in unauthorised individuals to sleep in the presidential aircraft,” Ms K said. This was Dlomo’s motivation for the project.
She said members of the “Project Veza” investigation team, which is probing the rot at the SSA, gathered this information from an interview they had with a person.
Earlier this week, former Cabinet minister Sydney Mufamadi testified that the SSA established “Project Accurate/Khusela” to recruit toxicologists to test Zuma’s food and bedding, and that it had an initial monthly allocation of R500 000, which increased to R1.5m in the 2015/16 financial year.
The director of the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Public Policy and African Studies and chairperson of the high-level review panel on the SSA appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2018 said the project was part of the “weaponisation” of the intelligence services for partisan and factional purposes.
Ms K said “Project Khusela” cost the SSA R1.8 million a month and that Dlomo recruited a Dr Mandisa Mokwena to work with him in the toxicology unit.
A foreign international development agency for food and safety security was hired to train the unit’s members but it could not be established whether this entity existed, she said.
The commission did not identify the name of the foreign country in which the agency originated.
Former SSA director-general Arthur Fraser unsuccessfully objected to Ms K testifying in secret on Wednesday.
His lawyer Rapulane Kgoroeadira told the commission witnesses presented deliberate falsehoods that his client had been responsible for R125m unaccounted for in 2017/18 while assets worth R9 billion were also unaccounted for.
Kgoroeadira said it was the first time Fraser had heard about these huge amounts being unaccounted for and that the SSA was aware that no assets of R9bn are unaccounted for.
“The blatant omission fuels perceptions of bias on the part of the commission or its evidence leaders, especially in view of the facts that the right to cross-examine witnesses is not automatic,” he said.
Ms K will continue giving evidence on Thursday.