President Cyril Ramaphosa shared a high-level panel review report with SSA staff that revealed that unprofessional and unethical conduct were among several "challenges" within intelligence services. File photo: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - The country’s top spies could be prosecuted for conducting illegal activities in the State Security Agency (SSA) for more than 10 years.

This was part of the recommendations of the report on the SSA, released by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday after nine months of work.

The 100-page report made a scathing attack on some of the spies’ activities, saying the SSA was redirected to serve other interests and was fraught with factionalism.

It said both the SSA and police crime intelligence were knee-deep in the ANC’s factional politics. The report found that the SSA was politicised from the Presidency down to managers.

The panel said when former president Jacob Zuma was warned about the influence of the Guptas, there was a change in the leadership of SSA.

It said failure to deal with state capture and the controversial Gupta family “cost the country dearly”.

The report wants former agency head Arthur Fraser’s rogue intelligence programme, the Principal Agent Network project, investigated and those behind it prosecuted.

The report noted that hundreds of millions of rands were abused by the agency and this project.

In June Ramaphosa appointed a panel chaired by former cabinet member Sydney Mufamadi to investigate and conduct a review of the SSA.

In the report, the panel has recommended an overhaul of the SSA, saying it should be split into two units, a foreign branch and a domestic branch.

The report uncovered instructions from cabinet members to conduct illegal activities.

“Arising out of investigations following from this review and current or future investigations by the inspector-general of intelligence, there should be firm consequences for those who issued manifestly illegal orders and those who wittingly carried them out,” the report states.

It said ministers of state security and their advisors should undergo compulsory induction into the SSA to stop them from issuing illegal orders.

A further recommendation is that the National Intelligence Co-ordinating Committee be relocated to the Presidency to ensure compliance with prescripts of the intelligence units.

The report has also ordered an investigation into the withdrawal by Fraser of the security clearance of Inspector-General of Intelligence Setlhomamaru Dintwe. This resulted in a legal fight between the two men and Fraser was moved to Correctional Services.

The report also found that the merger of the National Intelligence Agency and SA Secret Service in 2009 to form SSA was illegal and had breached the White Paper process.

“Initial establishment of SSA through presidential proclamation was irregular due to the constitutional requirement that the president can establish an intelligence services through legislation,” read the report.

The panel was also concerned about the lack of financial controls on special operations at SSA, as cash was used in most of the transactions.

Concern was expressed about the theft of R17m from SSA’s head office in Pretoria in 2015 and a lack of action.

The report said the auditor-general had been forced to give the SSA a qualified audit opinion because he had not been given access to financial records.

Weekend Argus