At the apex of the South African government’s various intelligence operations is the State Security Agency (SSA) – since last August in the portfolio of responsibilities administered and overseen by President Cyril Ramaphosa following the dismissal of Ayanda Dlodlo as State Security Minister.
Her departure from Cabinet came in the wake of what is generally acknowledged as an intelligence breakdown in the lead-up to widespread insurrection, violence, looting and anarchy in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng a year ago.
The SA Yearbook, government’s premier publication on what it is and does, has the SSA mandate as providing government with intelligence on domestic and foreign threats or potential threats to national stability, the Constitutional order and the safety and wellbeing of citizens. Having this intelligence to hand “allows government to implement policies to deal with potential threats and better understand existing threats and thus improve policies”.
The publication notes five intelligence focus areas as “matters of national interest”. They are terrorism, sabotage, subversion, espionage and organised crime.
Terrorism is defined as “deliberate and premeditated attempts to create terror through symbolic acts involving the use or threats of lethal force for creating psychological effects that will influence a target group or individual and translate it into political or material results”.
Similar explanations cover the other four named focus areas with sabotage said to be “activities or purposeful omissions conducted or planned for purposes of endangering the safety, security or defence of vital public or private property, such as installations, structures, equipment or systems”.
Subversion includes activities “directed towards undermining by covert unlawful acts, or directed towards, or intended ultimately to lead to the destruction or overthrow by violence of constitutionally established systems of government in South Africa”.
“Unlawful or unauthorised activities conducted for acquiring information or assets relating to sensitive social, political, economic, scientific or military matters of South Africa or for their unauthorised communication to a foreign state” is the Yearbook’s take on espionage.
Organised crime, according to the annual publication, “includes analysis of the origins and reasons behind organised crime, identification of key role players, the nature and extent, as well as the modus operandi of organised crime syndicates”.
The SSA operates internally and externally via domestic and foreign branches with a specific functions and responsibilities.
With the events of last July in mind a responsibility quoted in the Yearbook seems apt. It states the NIA (National Intelligence Agency) domestic branch has to “fulfil a proactive, anticipatory or early warning role of scanning and assessing the total (economic, social, political and environmental) domestic security situation to identify and report to the policy maker or executive departments any signs or warning signals of threats or potential threats to the Constitutional order and the safety of the people”.