On Thursday, August 12, President Cyril Ramaphosa appeared before the Zondo Commission to resume his testimony.
Evidence leader Paul Pretorius SC brought up the events that have unfolded over the past 10 to 12 years, to do with issues of state security:
- During the period 2007 to 2011 Ramaphosa was a member of the National Executive Council (NEC).
- In 2007 the Principle Agent Network (PAN) programme was established under the then director-general for domestic-intelligence at the state security agency (SSA), Manala Manzini, and his deputy and national operations director, Arthur Fraser.
- The establishment of such a network outside of the agency was the international norm, “but the implementation became problematic”.
- “A series of investigations uncovered widespread illegality, the bypassing of procedural requirements for the recruitment of staff and the unlawful disbursement of funds and a range of illegal activities”.
- Everything is summarised 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 institute criminal investigations against a range of persons, including Fraser.
- There is evidence before the commission that by 2011 the internal investigation had progressed to a significant degree, and that this was taken to the SIU and the NPA. The formal SSA internal investigation “is replete with references to criminal offences such as the unlawful procurement of assets”.
- The investigative team approached the SIU and the NPA – there was sufficient basis to institute criminal proceedings.
- Witnesses before the commission have testified that after the evidence was handed over to the SIU, Siyabonga Cwele, the then minister of intelligence (and now SA’s ambassador to China) told them that they needed to halt the process that would result in the prosecution of Fraser. There was allegedly a direct instruction from former president Jacob Zuma to Cwele. This evidence is contested by other witnesses.
Ramaphosa said he only became aware of this through the High Level Review Panel 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 can be read here.]
Pretorius replied that all he knows is that the investigation died, and asked “how could this have happened?”
Ramaphosa said that it is inconceivable and incomprehensible but it did happen. Ramaphosa then said that the state will be cleaned through a washing machine process.
Ramaphosa’s choice of analogy is unfortunate, as a washing machine is used as an analogy to cleanse dirty money (and hide the origin of crime), and is never used in a good sense.
Pretorius summed up, that the 2011 allegations against those involved in criminal conduct were buried for seven years.
Pretorius said that the multi-disciplinary investigations team established by the commission, Veza, gave evidence before the commission. “What is of great concern, in addition to what happened before 2018, is what happened after 2018”:
- There were two essential parts to the recommendations, firstly, to deal with criminal investigations and to work in collaboration with law enforcement, and secondly, to conduct criminal investigations.
- Project Veza was established to deal with internal matters and to also obtain the evidence necessary for criminal proceedings.
- This investigation focussed on the Chief Directorate Special Operations, the Cover Support Unit, and the operations run from the office of the director-general, at this time, Arthur Fraser.
- Fraser survived without consequences from the 2011 period, and now he is back in the second period. “Not something that could possibly have gone unnoticed to those in power at the time.”
Pretorius described events that were “particularly concerning, and it relates to the consequences of the work of the commission, the sentencing and imprisonment of the former president, and the events of July this year”:
- In December 2011 the Presidential Security Service was established within the Chief Directorate Special Operations (CDSO). It was given responsibility for the former president’s various needs, including his physical security.
- Zuma had at his disposal his own protection service; financed, controlled and armed by the SSA. They reported to and were accountable to former ‘spy boss’ and ambassador to Japan Thulani Dlomo, who had worked with the former president in KwaZulu-Natal. Evidence led alleges that this protection service possibly performed intelligence functions.
- In 2008 and 2009, under the auspices of the SSA, these persons were trained and armed. They didn’t go through the normal vetting procedures. According to witnesses, Dlomo requested them to collect weapons from the armoury and deliver them to him.
- In 2014 there was a new series of events which resulted in the employment of persons to provide security for the former president and the then deputy president (Ramaphosa). These non-SSA members were referred to as co-workers. They did not go through formal recruitment or vetting processes.
- They were given firearms, including automatic weapons. These firearms remain unaccounted for.
- This evidence came from the Veza investigation conducted with Mr Y and Ms K and others who gave evidence to the commission. This was also alluded to by the then acting director general of SSA, Loyiso Jafta.
- Urgent intervention is required but the investigation was “hampered” and “sabotaged”.
- Under the auspices of former State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo, many of those implicated in wrongdoing in the earlier period have been reinstated.
Pretorius emphasised that it doesn’t require “rocket science” to see that “something is seriously 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 is “precisely the reason that motivated [me] to bring the SSA into the presidency”.
Pretorius said that the events described are merely background, and what happened after that is “far more serious”:
- The investigation was stopped.
- Y and K were taken off their jobs and sidelined after they had presented evidence to the commission. Jafta’s acting contract expired. Project Veza has effectively been shut down.
- “Advocate Mahlodi Muofhe was tasked with continuing the investigation but it stopped”. The evidence and documentation was locked away.
Ramaphosa responded: “To my knowledge those documents are in safekeeping and they are going to form part of this process of intensive investigation going forward”.
Pretorius asked if the evidence is relevant to the events of July, as “anybody with an inquiring mind would at least raise red flags” [i.e. the looting, destruction of property, and attempted insurrection].
- Evidence has been led before the commission about the existence of Project Justice, and that with Ramaphosa’s approval, this evidence can be made available to law enforcement agencies and to 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 has issued a subpoena for documents, and the documents were not turned over. “The minister and Muofhe must have been instrumental in this”. [Minister of State Security?]
- The Inspector General of Intelligence has been refused access to the documents. “They are under lock and key under the instruction of Advocate Muofhe who is now ‘retired’”.
Ramaphosa said that he was aware that there was a lack of cooperation with law enforcement agencies.
Pretorius asked Ramaphosa if: “It is manifestly unlawful to interfere with the operations of the National Prosecuting Authority and the powers of the IGI in relation to state security”.
Ramaphosa said: “We are determined to deal with all those things. We just went into an abyss and we are clawing our way back to the top and, in doing so, we are determined to succeed and we will succeed”.
Those implicated in wrongdoing brought back into service
Pretorius referred to David Mahlobo, who has denied the allegations made against him, “but the evidence is strong”. Pretorius told the commission that Mahlobo was minister of state security from 2014 to 2017. He was moved to minister of energy in 2017. He was not included in Ramaphosa’s first cabinet. The high level review findings made serious findings in relation to Mahlobo. However, Ramaphosa appointed him as a deputy minister in May 2019, “despite the findings by the high level review panel”.
Ramaphosa said that he will wait for “the outcome of the commission’s report and I think that is about all I can say on that question right now”.
Chairperson Zondo cautioned Ramaphosa that we could end up with a situation of “no action being taken for a quite a number of years” because of this or that process that has to take place first and those who should take decisions don’t.
Fraser was redeployed by Ramaphosa to Correctional Services during April 2018.
Failures of current SSA a logical and predictable outcome
Pretorius asked Ramaphosa if “It is not unreasonable, therefore, to propose that any failures at the heels of the SSA in July 2021 and during this period of state capture were a logical and predictable outcome of the history of over 12 years’ of mismanagement, institutionalised corruption, factionalism and a redirection 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 interest.”
Ramaphosa replied that he would not use a broad brush, “yes quite a lot of maleficence did happen”, but they will “reposition the SSA… that will serve the interest of the people of South Africa”.