Minister of State Security Siyabonga Cwele has appointed his trusted adviser as acting head of the country’s intelligence services, the Sunday Times reported last month. Dennis Dlomo will take over the powerful State Security Agency (SSA) from Jeff Maqetuka, who finally quit as head of intelligence after an acrimonious battle with the minister, the paper said.
Maqetuka’s exit should also signal the end for embattled foreign branch head Mo Shaik. Cwele’s spokesman, Brian Dube, confirmed that Dlomo had taken over. He could not say how long Dlomo was expected to act in the position. Dlomo – who worked in the office of the ANC’s first intelligence minister post-1994, Joe Nhlanhla – was intelligence attaché at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
He is also Cwele’s point man with regard to the Protection of State Information Bill and has been selling the controversial draft law to the media and other stakeholders. He was also dispatched by Cwele to present the bill to the ANC’s national executive committee. But some senior intelligence sources who spoke to the Sunday Times questioned his capabilities, saying he had no experience in leading a 7000-strong organisation, which includes thousands of field operatives stationed in and out of the country.
“He once headed NICOC (National Intelligence Coordinating Committee) and was in charge of about 20 people there. How do you put him in charge of an agency with over 7000 people?” said an SSA insider who asked to remain anonymous as he is not the agency’s spokesman. Dube refused to comment. “I’d rather not comment on people’s views,” he said.
Earlier this year, Gibson Njenje, who headed the domestic branch of the SSA, quit after agreeing to a settlement believed to be around R3-million. His battle with the minister was said to have been triggered by the former’s refusal to spy on certain ANC leaders.
Cwele, who is said to have the backing of President Jacob Zuma, is finally winning his fight for total control of the intelligence services, the Sunday Times said. There are fears that the latest tensions among the spooks could mirror the events that shook the spy world before the ANC’s Polokwane conference, when there were indications that leaders were using intelligence agencies to advance their careers. Shaik’s relationship with Cwele has been at a low for months, with the minister unhappy at what he perceives as Shaik disrespecting his command. Cwele wants to charge him with insubordination. Shaik is now said to be negotiating an ambassadorial posting in possibly Canada or Japan.
Speculation is also rife that Cwele is talking to former intelligence boss and ANC NEC member Billy Masetlha to return to return and take over the running of the agency. Masetlha left the intelligence services in a huff when his relationship with former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils and former president Thabo Mbeki turned sour in 2006. Masetlha told the Sunday Times on Friday that nobody had contacted him with a proposal to recruit him back to the agency. He said he had met Cwele recently and that the two chatted about the Protection of State Information Bill.
He said he had also held discussions with Zuma and ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, but none of those discussions were about him returning to the fold. “Right now I am a member of the ANC national executive committee, and I am busy with other projects. I have not held discussions about going back to the agency,” he said. Dube said he was not aware of any discussions with Masetlha.