Spy boss quits with a golden handshake

02 October 2011 - 02:57 By CAIPHUS KGOSANA
Gibson Njenje has accepted a settlement
Gibson Njenje has accepted a settlement

Embattled intelligence boss Gibson Njenje has quietly left the agency after accepting a settlement that will result in him being paid out for the remaining three years of his contract.

Njenje, who headed the domestic branch of the State Security Agency, confirmed to the Sunday Times that he had left the department after accepting a settlement from Minister of State Security Siyabonga Cele.

"Yes, I am leaving. I am not happy about it, but I have to leave," he said.

Last month, Cwele's office announced that Njenje had resigned, but he denied it, saying he was still negotiating a proper settlement.

With Njenje out of the way, Cwele has won round one of his acrimonious battle with his intelligence chiefs. The ones who remain - State Security Agency head Jeff Maqetuka and Mo Shaik, who heads the agency's foreign service, formerly known as the Secret Service - are likely to follow suit.

Cwele, who is said to have the backing of President Jacob Zuma, has made it clear that he wants them out. Intense behind-the-scenes negotiations are now taking place.

The shake-up was sparked by a breakdown in the minister's relationship with the three men.

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 political careers.

Njenje, whose closeness to the ANC Youth League and ANC heavyweight Tony Yengeni caused unhappiness in senior government circles, said he was disappointed that he was being forced out.

"I had been working and putting all my energies into it, but it's not the same atmos-phere as when we first arrived."

He said he was still bewildered by the effort that went into facilitating his departure and said there was no evidence that he had been negligent in his duties or had performed an act of gross misconduct.

"I still don't know, because there were no reasons given as to why I was asked to leave. I was not asked to leave because of some misdemeanour or ill-advised action on my part. I left because I didn't agree with the proposal made to me."

He refused to go into detail about the "proposal" made to him, but some reports have suggested that he had refused an order from Cwele to place a number of senior ANC leaders under surveillance.

He said the minister had not made it easy for any of the intelligence chiefs to do their work. "I doubt if any of the top executives had any meaningful relationship with him. This didn't aid the purpose of our being there, to develop an institution that we were asked to set up."

State security spokesman Brian Dube said he could not confirm or deny Njenje's departure.

Njenje said he would take a year off before deciding on his next move.