OP-ED Opinions 

News24.com | Adriaan Basson: Mr President, intelligence cannot afford another rogue minister

2019-10-14 08:20

Fears about State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo weren’t unfounded. Six months into the job, she has been accused of issuing illegal interception orders and pushing her own allies to be appointed, writes Adriaan Basson.

President
Cyril Ramaphosa’s efforts to rid our intelligence agencies of rogues, crooks
and political interference are threatened by the fallout around State Security
Minister Ayanda Dlodlo.

When she was
appointed, I cautioned that Ramaphosa required a squeaky-clean and trusted ally
to head the troubled intelligence portfolio and that Dlodlo was not this
person.

Prior to the
announcement of his Cabinet after the May elections, two of the names floating
around for this portfolio were those of Senzo Mchunu and Pravin Gordhan.

This made
sense. Both are senior and trust allies of Ramaphosa with enough backbone to
clean up the mess left by the David Mahlobos and Bongani Bongos of the world.
Neither Mchunu, nor Gordhan are implicated in corruption or maladministration
(just because the EFF accuses you of something – without evidence – doesn’t
mean you are implicated) and would have been fit for the job.

READ | EXCLUSIVE: Intelligence Minister Ayanda Dlodlo told spy boss to ‘unlawfully’ hack calls

I was
puzzled by Dlodlo’s appointment. A close confidante of former president Jacob
Zuma, with solid Umkhonto we Sizwe credentials, Dlodlo was not an obvious choice
for the intelligence ministry and I couldn’t understand why Ramaphosa didn’t
stick to a “safe” appointment.

Ramaphosa
already had to get rid of his first intelligence minister, Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba
(who was appointed in February 2018), when he announced the post-election
executive. Letsatsi-Duba was another strange appointment, who came to the
Ramaphosa party late after backing Zuma during his first two terms.

My fears
about Dlodlo weren’t unfounded. Less than six months into her appointment, she
has been accused of issuing illegal interception orders, micromanaging the
State Security Agency (SSA) and pushing her own allies to be appointed.

She is up
against two spy chiefs who were appointed by Ramaphosa. Loyiso Jafta, the
acting director-general of the SSA, is an ex-Mbeki man who knows the SSA
inside-out. Advocate Mahlodi Muofhe, head of the SSA’s domestic branch, is a
good governance expert who cut his teeth in various government departments,
including the Special Investigating Unit.

Both were
brought in by the president to start the process of cleaning up and rebuilding
the SSA that was effectively hijacked by Zuma’s allies and turned into his
private army of spies. Last week, News24 revealed how the SSA’s Special
Operations Unit, under Thulani Dlomo, reported directly to Zuma and worked
outside of the agency’s structures.

This was all
laid bare in March when former police minister Sydney Mufamadi and his
high-level panel released their shocking report into the state of the SSA. The
report detailed how the SSA was abused by providing body guarding services to
politicians, spy on student leaders and thwart Ramaphosa’s campaign for the ANC
presidency.

The report
was referred to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), but no prosecutions
have been forthcoming.

The
appointment of Jafta (as acting head, because the SSA will be split into two
next year) and Muofhe signalled the beginning of Ramaphosa’s clean-up of the
agency. The president must act swiftly to ensure this process isn’t undermined
by Dlodlo’s actions.

They need a
minister who supports, not undermines, them.

Ramaphosa’s
office has been quiet since News24 revealed how Dlodlo instructed Muofhe to
illegally intercept the cellphone communication of a person allegedly involved
in the xenophobic violence of September.

Dlodlo was
unhappy with the quality of the work coming out of the SSA on the matter and
decided to personally get involved. Irrespective of her best intentions, it can
never be right for a minister (or anyone for that matter) to illegally
intercept the communications of another person.

That goes
directly against the values of the Constitution and against the rule of law.

The
existence of a judge to authorise interceptions isn’t a nuisance or “red
tape”. Tapping someone’s phone is an incredibly invasive measure and
should only be done when the state is absolutely sure they have the right
target.

Dlodlo and
her boss, Ramaphosa, owe the country an explanation.

– Basson is editor-in-chief of News24.

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