Zuma, Dlomo turned SSA special ops into 'parallel' intelligence, security unit

'Mr Y' lifts lid on unit's 'diversion of mandate' at state capture inquiry

19 February 2020 - 19:50 By ZINGISA MVUMVU
Former president Jacob Zuma used Thulani Dlomo to turn the State Security Agency (SSA) special operations unit into a parallel structure to protect him and his political allies. This is according to testimony delivered in camera at the state capture inquiry on Wednesday.
Former president Jacob Zuma used Thulani Dlomo to turn the State Security Agency (SSA) special operations unit into a parallel structure to protect him and his political allies. This is according to testimony delivered in camera at the state capture inquiry on Wednesday.
Image: Picture: Thuli Dlamini

The former boss of the State Security Agency (SSA) special operations unit, Thulani Dlomo, allegedly turned the unit into a factional structure meant to protect former president Jacob Zuma and his political allies.

This is according to a "Mr Y", a SSA member testifying in camera at the state capture commission on Wednesday.

According to Mr Y, some 200 people were recruited for the unit from KwaZulu-Natal and received intelligence training overseas.

This should not have happened, he said, as only permanent members of the SSA were legally allowed to be members of the special ops unit and receive such training.

Mr Y told the commission that the unit used to solely "deal with strategic projects that are very sensitive".

"That was the position until 2012, when the mandate of the structure was changed. It became more about counter-intelligence, VIP protection services and support of former president Jacob Zuma," said Mr Y.

"It happened with the appointment of Mr Thulani Dlomo. All the members of the unit were informed that they would no longer be working on identified focus areas, for instance transnational organised crime [and] counter-terrorism. It was decided that they would now be doing risk assessment and security directly related to the president at the time, Mr Zuma."

It was at this point, claimed Mr Y, that only between 20 to 30 members of the unit were retained, while 200 new recruits were brought in - sourced directly by Dlomo, exclusively from KZN.

Their primary task, he said, was to protect and guard the interests of Zuma and his allies in the ANC, the government and state-owned companies. 

In line with this, said Mr Y, former SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni was also protected by members of the unit.

As a result of the "diversion of mandate" of the unit, said Mr Y, the special ops unit under Dlomo "duplicated" lots of functions already delegated to other security cluster department - such as VIP protection services, which is the mandate of the SA Police Service (Saps).

The unit had in fact become a "parallel" intelligence and security wing for Zuma and his loyalists, he said.

"The structure duplicated functions that were part of other units within SSA or other stakeholder departments - for instance technical surveillance counter measures (TSCM), which was brought together under the command of Mr Dlomo, although the function actually resorted with another SSA structure," said Mr Y.

"The unit took over functions relating to other government departments.

"One would be [the] South African Military Health Service. The police service ... is the only department with the mandate to do physical protection, but special ops members were trained as VIP protectors. In the air force, special operations unit members were designated to guard former president Zuma's airplane.

"All of these were functions that were duplicated on behalf of other departments."

Mr Y said the fact that the likes of Myeni also received protection from the unit - despite not meeting the requirement - was proof that the unit had become embedded in a faction of the governing party, led by its president.

"We have found no paperwork that indicates a request or instruction from the agency [relating to the protection extended to Myeni]. Any request highlighting that Ms Myeni thought her life was in danger could have been channelled to the SA Police Service. The SSA's mandate is in the area of counter-intelligence."


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