“National security” becoming a handy dodge: DA


“National security” is becoming a handy over-all for government officials who want to keep embarrassing facts secret, says Democratic Alliance state security shadow minister Theo Coetzee.



“The … government trots out ‘national security’ as a completely spurious excuse for not disclosing information every time it runs out of other excuses to keep shady dealings under wraps,” Coetzee said in reaction to State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele and Director General of the State Security Agency Jeff Maqetuka opposing a subpo
ena served on the former Intelligence Coordinator, Barry Gilder to testify in the corruption trial of former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi.


Selebi’s trial in the South Gauteng (Johannesburg) High Court was last week postponed until tomorrow to allow Cwele’s advocate, Marumo Moerane SC to obtain further instructions from the minister.


Moerane had asked that Gilder not be compelled to testify because the information concerned was privileged and classified. But Judge Meyer Joffe dismissed his application, ruling instead that Gilder testify in camera.


Coetzee said the move “gives off the disturbing impression that the (African National Congress) government is attempting to protect Selebi, or at least keep a lid on their dirty laundry.


“The Minister and DG brought an application against the State to object against the subpoena and testimony of Gilder which would ostensibly confirm the existence of a draft National Intelligence Estimate which alleged that Selebi had received payments from the Kebble family,” Coetzee added.


Brett Kebble was a flamboyant mining magnate who apparently built a pyramid-style mining empire using fraud and bribery. He arranged for an “assisted suicide” through the hands of alleged crime lord Glen Agliotti, whom Selebi famously called a “friend, finish and klaar.”


Agliotti has already given evidence in the trial.


Coetzee says Cwele’s view that disclosure parts of a draft 2005 National Intelligence Estimate will prejudicially affect the security of the state “comes across as dubious to say the least.”


He says this “is precisely the same modus operandi as was used by the ad hoc committee that recommended removing [former National Director of Public Prosecutions] Vusi Pikoli [from his post during the twilight of President Thabo Mbeki’s rule in January 2008]; and disturbingly, indeed, the same excuse was offered many times over by the apartheid regime of old.


“It is also staggering that Director General Maqetuka said that “the introduction of the National Intelligence Estimate as evidence… may prompt the calling of further intelligence witnesses in the trial”, as if this was some kind of legitimate excuse for opposing the subpoena.”


Coetzee says the “state security department has been characterised by a lack of democratic accountability or transparency in its dealings. It is all very well for this department to deal with sensitive intelligence issues, but this ought not stand in the way of them being held accountable for their actions by either the legislative or judicial branch.


“For instance, as yet, the Inspector General’s investigation into the alleged handing over of secretly recorded telephone conversations to Mr Selebi’s lawyers remains unresolved. The findings of this investigation must be tabled in Parliament and must be made public to ensure that if the State Security department taped conversations illegally, this does not go unchecked.


“Transparency is essential for accountability. The State Security Ministry ought not to stand in the way of holding anyone, including the former national police commissioner, to account for their actions; likewise the Inspector General must make the findings of the Selebi tapes public as the people of South Africa have a right to know whether the intelligence agencies of South Africa are infringing on the rights of its citizens.”


Pic: State security minister Siyabonga Cwele