On Thursday, August 12, President Cyril Ramaphosa appeared before the Zondo Commission to take up his testimony.
Test leader Paul Pretorius SC mentioned the events that have unfolded over the past 10 to 12 years, related to state security issues:
- During the period 2007 to 2011 Ramaphosa was a member of the National Executive Council (NEC).
- In 2007, the Principle Agent Network (PAN) program was established under the then director general of national intelligence of the state security agency (SSA), Manala Manzini, and his deputy director of national operations, Arthur Fraser.
- Establishing such a network outside the agency was the international norm, “but implementation became problematic.”
- “A series of investigations uncovered widespread illegality, circumvention of procedural requirements for hiring staff and illegal disbursement of funds, and a number of illegal activities.”
- It’s all summed up in the report (the 2018 high-level review panel report) that Ramaphosa has, especially now that state security is under his watch.
- The SSA audit concluded that there was sufficient basis to initiate criminal investigations against a variety of individuals, including Fraser.
- There is evidence before the commission that by 2011 the internal investigation had advanced to a significant degree, and that this was taken to the SIU and the NPA. The SSA’s formal internal investigation “is replete with references to crimes such as the illegal acquisition of assets.”
- The investigation team approached the SIU and the NPA: there was sufficient basis to initiate criminal proceedings.
- Witnesses before the commission have testified that after the evidence was turned over to the SIU, Siyabonga Cwele, the then intelligence minister (and now SA’s ambassador to China) told them that they needed to stop the process that would result in the prosecution of Fraser. . Apparently there was a direct instruction from former President Jacob Zuma to Cwele. This evidence is contested by other witnesses.
Ramaphosa said he only found out about this through the High Level Review Panel’s report on the SSA.
[The High Level Review Panel into the State Security Agency (SSA) was established by Ramaphosa in June 2018, began its work in July 2018 and was given six months to submit its report. The High Level Review Panel was chaired by Dr Sydney Mufamadi, and was released by Ramaphosa in March 2019. The report is available on www.gov.za/sites/files/gcis_document.]
Pretorius replied that all he knows is that the investigation died and asked “how could this have happened?”
Ramaphosa said it is inconceivable and incomprehensible, but it happened. Ramaphosa later said that the state will be cleaned through a washing machine process.
The choice of the Ramaphosa analogy is unfortunate, as a washing machine is used as an analogy for cleaning dirty money (and hiding the origin of the crime), and it is never used in a good way.
Pretorius summarized that the 2011 allegations against those involved in criminal conduct were buried for seven years.
Pretorius said that the multidisciplinary investigative team established by the commission, Veza, testified before the commission. “What is most worrying, in addition to what happened before 2018, is what happened after 2018”:
- The recommendations had two essential parts: first, addressing criminal investigations and working in collaboration with law enforcement agencies, and second, conducting criminal investigations.
- The Veza Project was established to attend to internal matters and also to obtain the necessary evidence for criminal proceedings.
- This investigation focused on the Directorate General for Special Operations, the Deck Support Unit and operations run from the office of the CEO, at this time, Arthur Fraser.
- Fraser survived without consequences from the 2011 term, and is now back in the second term. “It is not something that could have gone unnoticed by those in power at the time.”
Pretorius described events that were “particularly worrying and related to the consequences of the commission’s work, the sentence and imprisonment of the former president, and the events of July this year”:
- In December 2011, the Presidential Security Service was established within the General Directorate of Special Operations (CDSO). He was given responsibility for the various needs of the former president, including his physical safety.
- Zuma had his own protection service at his disposal; financed, controlled and armed by the SSA. They reported and were accountable to former ‘spy chief’ and ambassador to Japan Thulani Dlomo, who had worked with the former president in KwaZulu-Natal. The evidence conducted alleges that this protection service possibly performed intelligence functions.
- In 2008 and 2009, under the auspices of the SSA, these individuals were trained and armed. They did not go through normal investigative procedures. According to witnesses, Dlomo asked them to collect weapons from the armory and hand them over to him.
- In 2014 there was a new series of events that led to the hiring of people to provide security for the former president and then vice president (Ramaphosa). These non-SSA members were called co-workers. They did not undergo formal selection or selection processes.
- Firearms, including automatic weapons, were handed over to them. These firearms are still missing.
- This evidence came from Veza’s investigation conducted with Mr. Y and Ms. K and others who gave testimony to the commission. This was also alluded to by the then acting director general of the SSA, Loyiso Jafta.
- Urgent intervention is required, but the investigation was “hampered” and “sabotaged”.
- Under the auspices of the former Minister of State Security, Ayanda Dlodlo, many of those implicated in irregularities in the previous period have been reinstated.
Pretorius emphasized that “rocket science” is not required to see that “something is very wrong and if there is a clear and present danger to the security of the country.”
Ramaphosa said that he is aware of this and that it is “precisely the reason that motivated [me] to bring the SSA to the presidency ”.
Pretorius said that the events described are simply antecedents, and what happened after that is “much more serious”:
- The investigation was stopped.
- Y and K were removed from their jobs and marginalized after they had presented evidence to the commission. Jafta’s acting contract expired. The Veza Project has effectively been closed.
- “Lawyer Mahlodi Muofhe was tasked with continuing the investigation, but was stopped.” The evidence and documentation were kept under lock and key.
Ramaphosa replied: “To my knowledge, these documents are in custody and will be part of this intensive investigation process in the future.”
Pretorius asked if the evidence is relevant to the July events, as “anyone with an inquisitive mind would at least raise red flags.” [i.e. the looting, destruction of property, and attempted insurrection].
- Evidence has been presented to the commission regarding the existence of Project Justice and that, with Ramaphosa’s approval, this evidence may be made available to law enforcement agencies and investigative agencies in due course.
- For Dlodlo to publicly state, “without the apparent backing of any investigation, that this is all fake news, is alarming.”
- The NPA issued a subpoena for documents and the documents were not served. “The minister and Muofhe must have been instrumental in this.” [Minister of State Security?]
- Access to the documents has been denied to the Inspector General of Intelligence. “They are under lock and key under the instructions of Attorney Muofhe, who is now ‘retired’.”
Ramaphosa said he was aware of the lack of cooperation with law enforcement agencies.
Pretorius asked Ramaphosa if: “It is manifestly illegal to interfere in the operations of the National Prosecutor’s Office and the powers of the IGI in relation to State security.”
Ramaphosa said: “We are determined to deal with all these things. We have just fallen into an abyss and we are working our way back to the top and in doing so we are determined to succeed and we will succeed. ”
Those involved in irregularities put back into service
Pretorius referred to David Mahlobo, who has denied the accusations made against him, “but the evidence is overwhelming.” Pretorius told the commission that Mahlobo was Minister of State Security from 2014 to 2017. He was transferred to Minister of Energy in 2017. He was not included in Ramaphosa’s first cabinet. The findings of the high-level review yielded serious findings regarding Mahlobo. However, Ramaphosa appointed him deputy minister in May 2019, “despite the findings of the high-level review panel.”
Ramaphosa said he will await “the outcome of the commission’s report and I think that’s all I can say on that issue at this time.”
President Zondo warned Ramaphosa that we could end up with a situation where “no action will be taken for several years” because of this or that process that must take place first and those who must make decisions do not.
Ramaphosa reassigned Fraser to Correctional Services during April 2018.
The current SSA failures are a logical and predictable outcome
Pretorius asked Ramaphosa if “it is not far-fetched, therefore, to propose that any failure after the SSA in July 2021 and during this period of state capture was a logical and predictable outcome of the 12-plus-year history of bad administration, institutionalized corruption, factionalism and a reorientation of the capacity and resources of the security establishment away from its true objective, the interest of the people as a whole to serve narrow political, sectional and private interests ”.
Ramaphosa replied that he would not use a thick brush, “yes, quite a bit of evil happened”, but that “they will reposition the SSA … that will serve the interests of the people of South Africa.”