Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Ramaphosa And State Security Agency (SSA)

Cyril Ramaphosa silently contesting with rivals that trying to retain control over the SSA.
Cyril Ramaphosa inherit a number of headaches from Jacob Zuma, including extensive corruptions, economy failure and as well as polical divisions within the ruling party. His to-do-list include the country’s intelligence service, the State Security Agency (SSA), the most heinous obstacle in the way to consolidate indefinitely power.

The SSA is not only became highly politicized during Zuma’s reign, but it has also declined in the performance by several implications. Should the Ramaphosa Presidency still feel the need for such a capacity, it will have to cleanse the organisation and initiate a systematic refocusing exercise.
With Cyril Ramaphosa now a South Africa’s president, he inherit the State Security Agency (SSA) and everything that goes with it. As we all know, Jacob Zuma spent most of his time in exile in ANC intelligence structures – the Department of Intelligence and Security (DIS). Within ANC circles it was known as iMbokodo (the grindstone) and Zuma was head of counter-intelligence, where he was known for his ruthless pursuit of perceived enemies and spies within the ANC.

Ramaphosa has none of this intelligence prowess beside the business entrepreneurship skills he possessing and mere politics. Ironically, as a prominent leader of the former Mass Democratic Movement, which included trade unions and the United Democratic Front (UDF), he might have been a target of ‘monitoring’ by DIS for long time, as some exiles were worried that the UDF would be vulnerable to “counter-revolutionary” influences, including from the West, and such believed targets needed to be supervised and directed in order to prevent the hijacking of the first phase of the revolution or acquisition of political power.

The point is that Ramaphosa is surrounded by highly contentious intelligence elements, with Bongani Bongo as a former minister of ( SSA) who substituted by Dipuo Letstatsi-Duba. And the agency being now headed by an acting director-general;
Loyiso Jafta as of 2018. All the ex-members and their shadow aides of the intelligence services are known to be Zuma loyalists, and still serving him good. Many members have been mentioned in the probes of corruption, state capture and their inner deeds exposed by Jacques Pauw’s The President Keepers.


Former President of South African Zuma and Putin bid on $76 billion Russian nuclear deal.
The former Minister Bongo of State Security Agency reportedly that he was hand picked by his predecessor, ''Mr Nuclear'' David Mahlobo as famously was known within ANC circles before Ramaphosa made it clear that the country can’t afford Russian Rosatom’s nuclear energy facilities. The nuclear energy deal between South Africa and Russia has been at the center of much of South Africa’s political uncertainty as well as corruption allegations under former president Jacob Zuma, who resigned in February. The deal, which would have cost South Africa $76 billion to build a Russian-run nuclear energy plant, would have gone ahead.

Surely Ramaphosa inherited a highly politicized intelligence organization. This is, of course, nothing new. The former Bureau of State Security (BOSS), with General Hendrik van den Bergh in charge, was little more than a blunt instrument in the hands of the apartheid government to terrorize its opponents. Its successor, the National Intelligence Service (NIS), under Niel Barnard, was more sophisticated and since it was like a quasi-academic political think-tank serving for presidents PW Botha and FW de Klerk, but still has a deadly goal to spy on the ANC structures and to disrupt “the enemy”. Cyril Ramaphosa was one of these enemies, as NIS had a dedicated unit spying on trade unionists in South Africa. Unsurprisingly, NIS was almost exclusively dominated by white Afrikaans.
Unfortunately, the SSA has fallen into a similar trap. It has become an unthinking instrument in the hands of the ruling party, especially Zuma and mafias.



A second problem is the professionalism of the SSA leadership. The SSA served by bunch of director generals over the years. Some were world class like Mo Shaik (who, notwithstanding his historic links with Jacob Zuma, was the first, together with Gibson Njenje, to raise the issue of the Gupta family’s cancerous influence on the state) and Barry Gilder. Others were Stasi-like in their approach, for instance Hilton Dennis (aka Tim) and Manala Manzini; while a few were simply expendable political tools, for instance Simon Ntombela. Neither president Thabo Mbeki nor Zuma allowed any minister responsible for intelligence to serve for the longer period. This has created a disruptive impact on the structure of the National Intelligence Agencies. The as a result about seven ministers and more than 10 director generals have appointed since 1994. No intelligence service can afford such volatility and instability that produce some cascading effect on other appointments (not to mention motivation) within the SSA.

The consequence has been a decline in performance and professionalism. Other intelligence services, including some of the top services in Africa, complain bitterly about the lack and poor quality of intelligence being liaised by the SSA. As a result, foreign services have become less willing to provide intelligence to the SSA, thereby depriving South Africa’s domestic intelligence structures of one of the basic “sources” of information. Another sign of the decline of the SSA has been the minister’s annual report to the Parliament. These statements have become nothing more than poorly executed cut-and-paste jobs – leaving the country with an unintelligible and unsystematic account of what threats it is facing and what is being done to counter them. 

Parliamentary and preferably civil society oversight will need to be expanded and improved. The current system is ineffective and has contributed to the blatant politicisation of the SSA and intelligence in general, including crime intelligence, which is part of the SAPS mandate. (It should be noted that all indications are that the Police’s crime intelligence structures are in an even worse state than that of the SSA.) Well-respected intelligence services, for instance Australian and Canadian, are much more transparent about their priorities and performance, but under Zuma’s Presidency, and especially during the time of Minister Mahlobo, intelligence interaction with Russia’s Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti (FSB) became prevalent. Lastly, the SSA’s new leadership need to do a systematic reassessment of the state’s intelligence priorities.




 Presently the SSA gets away with generalizations, like declaring its focus on terrorism, sabotage, subversion, espionage and organised crime (yes, really!), while the minister also refers to the cyber-threat faced by the country in his annual reports to parliament. The reality is a much more complicated world, with political, economic, social, technological and security aspects interacting in a dynamic and often difficult way to predict. As a result, intelligence has to be focused on both the short (real-time, tactical threats) and the long term (trend changes and even futuristic predictions).

Some of our contacts warn that the Zuma faction is trying its best to retain control over the SSA. They add that “knowledge” about former apartheid spies might be used by pro-Zuma elements to try and ‘’rule from the grave’’. It is therefore clear that a Ramaphosa presidency – focused on modernizing South Africa and restoring the country’s international economic competitiveness, as well as its attractiveness as an investment destination – will need a new intelligence leadership and architecture that is small as well as smart; one that is apolitical, fearless to convey unpopular messages and respected by its international peers.

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