National Security Council is back, cabinet confirms

17 December 2019 - 15:52 By Bekezela Phakathi
The reformed National Security Council will be chaired by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The reformed National Security Council will be chaired by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Image: GCIS

The cabinet has approved the re-establishment of the National Security Council to streamline the co-ordination of all the security-related work of the country, minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu said on Tuesday.

BusinessLIVE reported that the council last existed during the tenure of former president Thabo Mbeki.

Its re-establishment can be seen as a move to clear the rot at the State Security Agency (SSA), which has been dogged by allegations of professional misconduct and graft. The agency became a tool of political factionalism and corruption in the era of former president Jacob Zuma.

A well-functioning security agency is crucial in ensuring stability in the country, as well as in the fight against crime.

In a post-cabinet media briefing on Tuesday, Mthembu said the council would be responsible for the approval of the country's national security strategy, intelligence priorities and intelligence estimates.

The reconstituted council will be chaired by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his capacity as the commander-in-chief of the armed and security forces.

Other members of the council will be deputy president David Mabuza; state security minister Ayanda Dlodlo; defence and military veterans minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula; home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi; police minister Bheki Cele; finance minister Tito Mboweni and co-operative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Ramaphosa first announced plans to re-establish the council during his state of the nation address (Sona) in February.

“On the basis of the report and recommendations of the high-level review panel on the SSA, which was chaired by former minister Sydney Mufamadi, I will soon be announcing a number of urgent steps to enable the reconstitution of a professional national intelligence capability for SA,” said Ramaphosa at the time.

“Among the steps we will take to reconstitute a professional national intelligence capability will be the re-establishment of the National Security Council, chaired by the president, to ensure better co-ordination of the intelligence- and security-related functions of the state, as well as the re-establishment of two arms of our intelligence service - one focusing on domestic and the other on foreign intelligence.”

One of the main findings of the high-level review concerned the politicisation of the SSA, which was established out of an amalgamation of the domestic and foreign intelligence structures after Zuma came into office in 2009.

The panel found that from about 2005, when Zuma was axed as deputy president by Mbeki, there had been growing factionalisation in intelligence, mirroring those within the ANC.

This was partly aggravated by the fact that a large portion of the upper management of intelligence services had come from ANC struggle backgrounds, and in some cases were seemingly unable to separate their professional responsibilities from their political inclinations.

This became “progressively worse” during Zuma’s nine years in office, with “parallel structures being created that directly served the personal and political interests of the president and, in some cases, the relevant ministers”.

The panel said this was in complete breach of the constitution.

Siyabonga Cwele first held the post of state security minister during Zuma's first term of office. David Mahlobo, who was Zuma's staunch ally, took over from 2014 until 2017.

Zuma’s move to amalgamate the National Intelligence Agency and the SA Secret Service, was described as a “monumental blunder”, as it did not achieve its stated intentions of reducing expenditure, effecting better co-ordination and reducing duplication.


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