South Africa: EXPLAINED: Nine Things You Must Know About the Bombshell Report into Spies

President Cyril Ramaphosa visits the State Security Agency offices in Pretoria on February 15, 2019.

 

The office of President Cyril Ramaphosa this weekend published a bombshell report by the high-level review panel into the State Security Agency, revealing damning evidence of how the SSA was repurposed to serve the political interests of former president Jacob Zuma and his cronies within the ANC. The panel was headed by Dr Sydney Mufamadi and drew on mounds of documents and interviews with former and current ministers, staff and operatives to conduct its review of the SSA. In essence, the panel attempted to answer a simple question: "What the hell happened?" Here are nine things you need to know about the report:

1. Former president Jacob Zuma and ministers he appointed, including Siyabonga Cwele and David Mahlobo, as well as senior staff at the SSA, violated the Constitution by overseeing and allowing the repurposing of the spy agency to serve their own personal and political interests, a process that started in 2005.

2. The core purpose of the SSA was changed by Zuma, Cwele and others as part of their faction within the ANC since 2009 when Zuma became president. This shift was removed from the purpose envisaged in the Constitution and legislation.

3. The report found widespread abuse of funds, in violation of regulations, and has recommended increased access to financial information for the Auditor General and chief financial officer as well as sweeping forensic investigations to determine who should be charged and/or disciplined for the misuse of funds.

4. Recommendations include criminal prosecution for Zuma, Cwele, Mahlobo and SSA staffers for the blatant disregard of legislation that governs the operation of intelligence agencies and the Constitution.

5. The creation of the SSA, through the amalgamation of the National Intelligence Agency and South African Secret Service, was irregular in terms of the Constitution as it was not established through legislation but rather a presidential proclamation signed by Zuma.

6. Operations undertaken by the SSA's Special Operations arm under Zuma ally Thulani Dlomo, including spying on unions and civil society organisations, the creation of a fake union in Marikana, influencing the media and conducting politically motivated projects are to be investigated by a multi-disciplinary task team with an eye on criminal prosecutions.

7. The SSA should be split into two agencies, each focused separately and independently on foreign and domestic intelligence, as it was before Zuma's "monumental blunder" in amalgamating the NIA and the SSA.

8. The report recommends changes to outdated legislation governing intelligence agencies to narrow their mandates and effect changes to powers and decision making privileges given to ministers and agency bosses.

9. The SSA relied far too heavily on the application of secrecy to stifle effective accountability and non-compliance which includes "blatant criminality".

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