Spies loyal to Jacob Zuma ran an illegal and co-ordinated intelligence campaign and spent millions on dirty tricks in a failed bid to stop Cyril Ramaphosa becoming president of the ANC, a shock new report on the State Security Agency (SSA) has revealed.
The report exposes illegal activities in the service of Zuma, including:
● Physically stopping CR17 supporters from distributing regalia;
● Spying on civil society organisations that were critical of Zuma; and
● Fake news in the form of a media campaign for the 2016 local government polls.
The report confirms in stark detail an illegal and comprehensive intelligence-run attempt to prop up Zuma.
The report was compiled by a panel led by former minister Sydney Mufamadi, who was appointed by Ramaphosa last year to review the intelligence services.
The report said agency spies tried to prevent Ramaphosa’s supporters from distributing campaign regalia at the ANC birthday celebrations in Rustenburg in 2016.
“During the 2016 ANC January 8 statement in Rustenburg, the unit initiated three countering operations to impede the distribution of CR17 regalia, impede transportation system of dissident groups from GP [Gauteng],” according to the report.
CR17 was Ramaphosa’s campaign title in the election against ANC stalwart Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Zuma’s favoured candidate.
During the ANC’s 2017 manifesto launch in Port Elizabeth, when there were calls for Zuma to step down, the spy unit began a media campaign “to promote social cohesion”.
The Sunday Times has learnt that on the eve of the ANC elective conference in 2017, R20m was taken out of the agency. It is suspected the money was used to influence the ANC presidential race.
State security minister Dipuo LetsatsiDuba said there was “complete lawlessness and looting” at the agency.
“One of the DDGs [deputy directors-general] will say, I need R15m. No paperwork, nothing. The CFO will authorise and give the R15m.
“The first thing we did when we arrived is zoom into the financial department just to close the taps,” she said.
“It was bad. One practical example is that the R20m was exhausted in less than a month.”
The report revealed that the agency became “extensively embroiled in the politics and factionalism of the ruling party” and that there had been “naked politicisation of intelligence in recent years”. It said agents often undertook intelligence operations that were unconstitutional and illegal.
It said a unit of the SSA, special operations, was run by Zuma ally and top spy Thulani Dhlomo.
The panel recommended that Dhlomo, who served briefly as ambassador to Japan, be removed from state employ and be criminally charged.
“It is clear to the panel that the SSA’s special operations unit, especially under the watch of the member mentioned above [Dhlomo], was a law unto itself and directly served the political interests of the executive. It also undertook intelligence operations which were clearly unconstitutional and illegal,” the report said.
Letsatsi-Duba told the Sunday Times this week that “intelligence officials were political in their activities, aligning themselves to factions in the ANC”.
She said officials would abuse processes and report directly to Luthuli House.
“Right now some politicians are happy with the status quo. Those intelligence officials serve them. There is no way they are going to say ‘we are not going to allow them to interface with us or interact with us’ because it benefits them anyway.”
Some politicians used intelligence officers “for political reasons” and ignored the law because it served their interests, Letsatsi-Duba said.
The report detailed how state funds were used to monitor the activities of nongovernmental organisations such as SA First, Right to Know, SaveSA, the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, and Greenpeace, who were loud critics of Zuma. Trade unions that were critical of Zuma were also put under surveillance.
The special operations operatives trained and placed undercover agents as bodyguards for Zuma and for his close ally, Dudu Myeni.
Other officials who received such protection were Shaun Abrahams, while he was national director of public prosecutions, the ANC Youth League president Collen Maine, and former acting head of the Hawks Berning Ntlemeza.
The unit also infiltrated the #FeesMustFall protests, according to the report.
Some of the other illegal activities of the unit included infiltrating and influencing the media and forming a union to “neutralise the instability in the platinum belt”.
The latter is a reference to the Workers Association Union, which was formed to destabilise the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu). The report said special operations became a “parallel intelligence structure serving a faction of the ruling party”.
It said the SSA had become a “cash cow for many inside and outside the agency” and there was evidence that secret money was given to David Mahlobo when he was the minister of state security.
“The panel interviewed one member of the SSA who has previously served in the minister’s office during [Mahlobo’s] time as minister of state security who confirmed to the panel that he has from time to time been asked by a member of special operations to pass parcels containing cash to the minister,” said the report.
It recommended an overhaul of the SSA, restoring the National Intelligence Agency to deal with domestic intelligence, and the South African Secret Service to handle foreign intelligence.
The report recommended that the minister should “urgently institute forensic and other investigations by the competent authorities into the breaches of financial and other controls identified by some of the information available to the panel and other investigations … leading to disciplinary and/or criminal prosecutions.”
– Sunday Times