South Africa’s state security minister has ordered three top intelligence officials to resign as divisions emerge in the country’s spy community ahead of crucial elections to select a ruling ANC leader next year, local media reported.
Siyabonga Cwele told the heads of the State Security Agency’s (SSA) foreign and domestic services and SSA head Jeff Maqetuka to quit after a row over government protection for his wife, a convicted drug dealer, City Press newspaper reported.
Media reports said the SSA announced on Friday the resignation of Gibson Njenje, head of the domestic intelligence gathering service. The Sunday Independent newspaper said his resignation was linked to the succession battle in the African National Congress (ANC), Reuters reports.
The Sunday Independent quoted Njenje as saying that he had not resigned. The state security ministry was not available for comment.
The ANC is due to elect a new leader at a party conference in December next year and the party’s king making youth league has already said it will not support President Jacob Zuma for a second term.
Zuma is at loggerheads with ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, who was locked in a party disciplinary hearing on Sunday which could see him expelled for sowing division and bringing the organisation into disrepute.
The Sunday Independent said Njenje’s relationship with Zuma and Cwele had been acrimonious for several months over the direction of domestic intelligence gathering ahead of the ANC conference.
This included allegations that some ministers and other people involved in the ANC succession race had been put under surveillance, the newspaper said.
Cwele’s relations with Njenje, Maqetuka and Moe Shaik — who is close to Zuma and heads the foreign intelligence agency — soured after the minister ordered officials to provide security for his wife Sheryl during her drug dealing trial which concluded in May, City Press reported.
Sheryl Cwele was sentenced to 12 years in prison after being found guilty of dealing drugs and enlisting drug mules who would travel abroad and bring back cocaine. She remains out on bail pending an appeal.