Parliamentarians question intelligence during Durban oversight visit


A major impression, apart from police and soldiers doing their best to keep a lid on possible further looting and violence in KwaZulu-Natal, is an intelligence failure contributed in no small measure to recent civil unrest.

Parliamentarians on the defence and police oversight committees are today (Wednesday, 21 July) in Gauteng after a day in Durban seeing the aftermath of looting and criminality (albeit from the safety of a 15 Squadron Oryx) and being briefed by senior SA Army and Police Service officers.

Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader Pieter Groenewald, an alternate on the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD), said the response he received to an intelligence question showed “a serious lack of co-operation between police and the State Security Agency (SSA)”. The alternative, according to him, is that either Police Minister Bheki Cele or his SSA counterpart Ayanda Dlodlo, are not bring entirely truthful.

“The Durban visit and my observations confirm South Africa’s intelligence institutions let the country down and government was caught off guard, just as President (Cyril) Ramaphosa admitted last Friday,” Groenewald said.

Kobus Marais, the Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentarian tasked with keeping a watchful eye on defence activities, deployments, missions, projects and general utilisation of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and how it uses funds allocated by National Treasury, echoed Groenewald on the intelligence – or lack of it – issue.

“I’m concerned the Commander-in-Chief (President Cyril Ramaphosa) is relying on different intelligence sources than his Minister of Defence (and military veterans),” Marais told defenceWeb after a briefing at the SA Police Service (SAPS) training academy in Durban.

“The clear and open expression of different points of view (as regards either insurrection or criminality) does South Africa no good. It can be interpreted as cracks and divisions in the executive. I believe we must know with what and who we’re dealing and what threats we’re facing, which DI (Defence Intelligence) and SS (State Security) should have predicted. The question must be answered, was credible information gathered and reacted on, was such intel absent, or did the security forces not respond proactively and effectively to information,” he said adding there must now be serious and honest concerns about the quality and credibility of intelligence.

“I believe the President as Commander-in-Chief must take responsibility and show leadership to assure we move in the same direction with agreed credible and timely information.”

On Monday,  Cele said police were working without intelligence from the SSA, with Dlodlo responding her department did provide intelligence to police to assist in curbing violence during a briefing on looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

While in the port city, along with Cape Town and Richards Bay, South Africa’s busiest harbours, the Parliamentary delegation was told 2 500 soldiers are on the ground, supporting police and more are expected.