State Security ready to tackle SA’s challenges


State Security will team up with others in the region to tackle challenges facing both South Africa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), says State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele.

Delivering his department’s Budget Vote in Parliament yesterday, the minister noted that as part of the SADC region, South Africa had to deal with the challenges of illegal migration and other transnational organised crime, including human smuggling.
“We continue to work within the SADC framework together with our neighbours to collectively address this global challenge in our region. The business case for the establishment of the Border Management Agency by 2014 will be processed by the Cabinet Committee in this current financial year,” he added according to the state BuaNews agency.

On the local front, State Security has continued integrating its intelligence technology platforms in order to improve service delivery and to reduce the turnaround time, Cwele said. He noted that the storage capacity for the lawful intercepts has been upgraded. This has resulted in a faster and more efficient monitoring system, leading to an improvement of the delivery of lawful intercepts to law enforcement agencies.

Significant progress has also been recorded relating to the restructuring process. “Commendable progress has been made, since last year, with regard to the restructuring, consolidation and establishment of a professional State Security Agency (SSA),” he said. Once the restructuring had been completed, vacancies would be filled through internal transfers and external recruitment.
“In the current financial year, we will focus on reviewing the remuneration management system in order to complement the changes in the organisational structures and align with changes in employee taxation legislation and address the changing employee needs,” Cwele said. This was expected to help in the recruitment, motivation and retention of high calibre members while also improving organisational effectiveness and the sustainable use of financial resources.

Training was of particular importance to the restructuring programme with the aim to re-skill, refocus, empower and energise employees. “Particular attention will be placed on tradecraft as well as language training. We will establish a Centre for Foreign Intelligence Service Training while on the other hand, our members will continue to receive specialised training from our strategic partners abroad,” he noted.

The flagship Cadet Program was being reviewed in order to attract loyal, dedicated and disciplined members to the agency, he said. This year, 150 South Africans were recruited to the agency’s college as part of a three-year plan to inject 540 new recruits. Cwele said his ministry was in an advanced stage of developing the National Security Strategy and the National Interest Doctrine.
“The National Intelligence Coordinating Committee Team has developed a Draft National Security Strategy, following consultations with critical role players in and outside the security structures to enrich the concept. “The Draft Strategy is to be further refined with the involvement of stakeholders, including Parliament, before it is finalised into a composite strategy document,” he explained.

Efforts to ensure closer cooperation between veterans and the State Security Agency were on-going, the minister added. “We have completed the draft constitution for a State Security Veterans Association, which will enable the sharing of intelligence knowledge, experiences and expertise with current members. In addition, it is envisaged that the association will promote the history of heritage of the State Security Agency,” he said.

Business Day newspaper reports Cwele says the security vetting of all supply-chain officials in the public service as part of the state’s fight against corruption should be completed within six months .

Both President Jacob Zuma and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan promised earlier this year that all officials who handle state tenders and the procurement of goods and services would be vetted as part of an intensified fight against corruption.
“Part of our objective as state security is to be able to conduct vetting for all government departments in a user-friendly and speedier manner. This is in line with our counterintelligence mandate that ensures that we create conditions of security that enables government and critical state entities to do their work. In this respect, we have prioritised the appointment of managers in the critical areas of vetting and ICT security. When delivering his state of the nation (speech), the president called for the screening of all supply-chain personnel in government, this was one of the interventions aimed at curbing corruption. This is critical given government’s bold infrastructure development programme. In this regard, we have prioritised this project and remain ready to implement it,” he said, noting that it involved 8000 officials.

The SA Press Association, meanwhile, adds Cabinet members have asked that their offices be checked for phone-tapping devices. While acknowledging that concerns about illicit phone-tapping were rife, Cwele downplayed suggestions that the requests sprang from a climate of political paranoia created by power struggles in the ruling party. “No, they are not in panic mode. Yes, we do receive requests from ministers to sweep their offices. It is part of our mandate, particularly for those who are involved in key policy departments and key economic departments.”

Speaking to reporters before his budget vote speech yesterday, Cwele said his ministry was being unfairly implicated in political infighting ahead of the ANC’s elective conference in December.
“The intelligence community is blamed for all the political woes people might face, and we appeal to the public not to abuse intelligence, because lots of those things that are being reported in the media, our agency has nothing to do with them. We don’t interfere in the internal political processes of any party.”

He said there was only one case of suspected illicit tapping by a member of the intelligence community, and an investigation into it was at an advanced stage. “I’m aware of only one such investigation of alleged tapping in my agency. The report is being finalised and we will take action; we will not hesitate.”

However, Cwele was sharply criticised by Congress of the People MP Nick Koornhof, who said all new appointments to the State Security Agency had been described as the “Zumafication” of the intelligence community so that they could spy on the president’s political enemies, Business Day continued. He also cited reports in the press of illegal tapping of phones and highly suspicious raids on the offices of lawyers. “The spies should be left out of politics.”

Democratic Alliance MP Dirk Stubbe said: “The past year was marred by negative publicity for the intelligence services, in particular crime intelligence and the State Security Agency.
“The one moment we hear Minister Cwele requesting support for the three directors-general of intelligence, and the next moment the relationship between the minister and his three members of top management sours to such an extent that one after the other leaves the department. First we hear that it all has to do with the restructuring of the State Security Agency, but what we are not told is that the minister … has lost touch with Jeff Maqetuka, Mo Shaik and Gibson Njenje.”

He accused Cwele and Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa of ignoring the joint standing committee on intelligence, making this parliamentary oversight committee largely ineffective.