Director-general of the State Security Agency Jeff Maqetuka, who has been entangled in a never-ending war with minister Siyabonga Cwele, is expected to step down this week.
The Sunday Independent can reveal today that plans are afoot to expedite Maqetuka’s departure from the country’s intelligence infrastructure by placing him on summer leave and then making sure he would not return to work in 2012.
Three independent sources told The Sunday Independent that Moe Shaik, head of the foreign arm of intelligence, the SA Secret Service, was also under pressure to bow out – though no formal deal was in place. This follows the departure recently of State Security boss Gibson Njenje over fundamental differences with Cwele.
The three sources said Maqetuka who, according to the restructuring introduced by President Jacob Zuma, was made a super DG, with Njenje in charge of local, Shaik of international and Maqetuka, as the super DG, was made to feel redundant because of the snail’s-pace of restructuring that gave rise to the creation of his special post. “It’s bad. Morale has never been lower. The restructuring in terms of which Maqetuka’s post was created has all but ground to a halt. So a deal is being cooked up for him to leave quietly,” said one source. The source added that “the minister is interfering and he (Maqetuka) can’t do much about it”.
Another source said: “They’re giving him leave at the beginning of December and the plan is that by January, he will have concluded a deal and the same applies with Moe. Dennis Dlomo is likely to be acting boss. The reasons for Maqetuka’s departure are similar to the ones that led Njenje to go,” one source said.
Brian Dube, the spokesman for Cwele, initially said Maqetula was “considering early retirement”.
“The director-general of the State Security Agency, ambassador Jeff Maqetuka, is considering early retirement in January 2012 and the government is looking into the matter,” he said.
A few minutes later, he called The Sunday Independent to request that the word “early” be taken out of his statement. “I made a mistake. I put early retirement in the statement. It is retirement, not early retirement,” he said, adding that Shaik “is at work”.
The protracted fight between Cwele, Njenje, Maqetuka and Shaik took a dramatic twist in October after it emerged that the minister had asked his most senior spies to resign – and also confirmed publicly that Njenje had left office.
Njenje denied this, lifting the lid on what has since been described as a crisis in the intelligence services, the most sensitive part of the country’s security.
Speaking in the National Assembly last month, Cwele dismissed reports that Shaik and Maqetuka may soon lose their jobs.
“It would be appreciated if political parties abstained from making unconfirmed statements as these might have a negative impact on the morale of management and members within the State Security Agency,” he said.
Njenje recently left his post, reportedly after accepting a settlement that will see him paid out for the remainder of his three-year contract. It would have run until the end of September 2012.
Yesterday, Maqetuka refused to comment. “No comment, chief,” he said before hanging up.
Should Maqetuka bow out, as appears likely, Shaik would be, as they say, the last man standing.
The Sunday Independent reported in May that in 2009, former National Intelligence Co-ordinating Committee co-ordinator Silumko Sokupa and a group of intelligence chiefs including former crime intelligence boss Mulangi Mphego, briefed Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe about the investigation into drug-dealing which involved Cwele’s wife, Sheryl, convicted earlier this year.
Motlanthe was, at the time, caretaker president.
The paper also revealed earlier this year that Njenje, Shaik and Maqetuka recently complained to Zuma about difficulties in their relationship with Cwele. Njenje was reportedly unhappy about “unauthorised” operations, which included the surveillance of unnamed cabinet ministers.
This flew in the face of his efforts to ensure the SSA was not exploited for political purposes as was the case in the period leading to the ANC’s December 2007 elective conference. - Moffet Mofokeng