Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Athol Trollip has asked Inspector-General of Intelligence Faith Radebe to probe the reported abuse of the intelligence services for party-political purposes. Trollip says despite State Security minister Siyabonga Cwele’s assurances to President Jacob Zuma that he did not want the intelligence services to be abused, “there is a strong sense that this is precisely what is happening.”
It is therefore imperative that the inspector-general investigate without delay,” Trollip said.
The Sunday press a week ago reported Cwele had asked state security department director general Jeff Maqetuka, National Intelligence Agency (NIA) boss Gibson Njenje and SA Secret Service (SASS) head Mo Shaik to quit. They refused and sought legal advice, the City Press reported on September 11. According to the Sunday Independent the same day, Njenje, Shaik and Maqetuka recently complained to Zuma about difficulties in their relationship with Cwele. Njenje was reportedly unhappy about “unauthorised” operations.
These included the surveillance of unnamed Cabinet ministers. This flew in the face of Njenje’s efforts to ensure the state security agency was not exploited for political purposes. City Press reported that Njenje was also unhappy about a decision to grant Cwele’s wife Sheryl full intelligence protection throughout her drug trafficking trial. She was found guilty.
The Sunday Independent yesterday reported President Jacob Zuma “was given an ultimatum” to choose between the three top spies and their boss – and he reportedly chose Cwele. Two independent sources told the paper Zuma had decided to cut ties with the spies, but had left it to Cwele to figure out how it should be managed. One of two independent sources claimed NIA boss Gibson Njenje threw in the towel when he realised that Zuma was “sitting the battle out”.
The source said: “Chief (Njenje) left on Tuesday and returned to the Eastern Cape for a break. After he gave us hope that he would fight it to the end, he decided to throw in the towel when he realised Zuma was sitting out the battle. My view is that he feels betrayed that he was part of the top three that went to see Zuma at the Union Buildings to complain about Cwele and now that matters are coming to a head, Zuma’s inaction means he sides with Cwele…”
The second source said: “The source of confusion is this: after telling the DGs to run a professional service and the DGs complaining to you that there are tendencies being introduced that run counter to what you instructed them to do, they expect you as head of state to come to their defence. So Zuma’s siding with Cwele, for them, is telling and very devastating. But they are not prepared to do the dirty tricks.”
Njenje could not be reached for comment, the Sunday Independent said. Zuma’s spokesman Mac Maharaj referred all queries on the matter to Cwele’s office.
Cwele’ spokesman Brian Dube said: “We note the distortions and speculation that are rife in the media. We will not be drawn to a debate on these. Internal agency matters will not be run through the media and as we have indicated, the minister will issue a statement at the appropriate time.”
Former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils said he could not comment on the latest developments, the South African Press Association reported. But he added: “I wish government would refer and take heed of the shelved Matthews Report of 2008 that talks about the necessity of reforming the country’s intelligence services. It has obviously not happened.”
The Matthews Report was commissioned by Kasrils and recommended tightening control over the intelligence agencies’ involvement in domestic political affairs after a number of messy scandals in the run-up to the ruling African National Congress’ elective conference in 2007 that saw Zuma oust then president Thabo Mbeki. The next ANC elective conference is set for late next year.
Kasrils said there were inherent and systemic problems in intelligence. Unless corrected, these would leave the institution in a problematic state.
Trollip said the DA wrote to Cwele about the matter on Sunday. It requested him to fully explain the controversy surrounding the intelligence chiefs. He also noted Cwele last week failed to appear before Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence. Radebe is mandated by the Intelligence Services Oversight Act to receive and investigate complaints from members of the public and members of the services. She therefore had the necessary powers and authority to conduct a full investigation into the claims of abuse by state intelligence services, the DA says.
Trollip said the Matthews Report’s recommendations are even more pertinent now. This was because of current fears about the impact of the Protection of Information Bill on the hegemony of the intelligence services. The intelligence services should be used to protect the security of the South African people, not the interests of political factions. “It is of national importance that the inspector-general investigates those allegations which suggest that this is not currently the case,” Trollip insisted.
The Daily News meanwhile reports Cwele has divorced his convicted wife Sheryl. The paper reported the divorce was finalised in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on August 23, four months after she was convicted in the Pietermaritzburg High Court of dealing, or conspiring to deal, in drugs. Citing court papers, the newspaper reported the two, who had four children, had been living apart since 2000. They were married in 1985. Sheryl Cwele is on R100 000 bail pending the appeal against her conviction and 12 year prison sentence.