State Security to probe state business

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State Security is planning to launch a nationwide investigation into corruption, instability and leadership battles in crisis-ridden state-owned enterprises (SOEs). State Security minister Siyabonga Cwele says he wants to establish an early-warning system to detect instability in critical government institutions.

“We are having all sorts of challenges with our parastatals… We will try to investigate why they are unstable,” he told the Sunday Independent. At the heart of instability in most state-owned enterprises are lucrative, multi-billion-rand tenders, the paper says. Asked if investigations would include corruption and leadership crises in the parastatals, Cwele said he was looking at “general instability, including those things”.
“Some of the issues have to do with governance. We are not trying to direct departments on how to do their work, ours is to say these are critical parastatals, how do we make sure they operate optimally.” While he did not want to confirm that he advised President Jacob Zuma to convene an external panel to review the future of parastatals, Cwele has intimated that some could be shut down.
“What is quite clear in government is that sometimes we open these structures and we never close them … and we end up with structures that do the same thing,” he said. “And because they are using government resources they start competing and fighting, and causing all sorts of problems among themselves. So those are the things we are looking (at) … Some of them may need rationalisation.”

But Democratic Alliance intelligence spokesman Theo Coetzee called the comments disturbing and profoundly undemocratic. “It is not the job of the intelligence services to be investigating how well public servants are doing their job. It has nothing to do with state security or anything which in any way can be legitimately seen as falling into the ambit of the intelligence services,” he said in a statement.
“There is something deeply wrong when a government starts to use its spies and spooks to investigate itself. It is the sign of a government which is so profoundly corrupt and mismanaged it cannot rely on its own systems, structures and people to manage its administration. It is borne of distrust, motivated by control and power and runs against many of the principles and values contained in our Constitution.
“The problem here is the legislative mandate of the intelligence services. There is currently a recommendation that that mandate be changed so that the NIA has a narrow, national security-focused mandate. It is quite clear that, based on this story, this need is now more acute than ever before. We cannot have a situation where service delivery problems are met by state security action. That is profoundly undemocratic. If there is a problem with our SOEs, that problem must be addressed and fixed by the Department of Public Enterprises,” Coetzee adds.