SA’s intelligence chiefs at war as Muofhe fights back to clear his name

21 February 2021 - 08:12
By Makhudu Sefara
State Security Agency acting director-general Loyiso Jafta at the state capture inquiry in Johannesburg in January.
Image: Veli Nhlapo State Security Agency acting director-general Loyiso Jafta at the state capture inquiry in Johannesburg in January.

A low-key but intense war seems under way among the country’s intelligence chiefs ahead of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s keenly-awaited decision on who the country’s spy super will be.

Sources close to the presidency and State Security Agency (SSA) said acting overarching director-general Loyiso Jafta’s contract is believed to have ended late last year.

“So, when he took the stand at the state capture commission three weeks ago, he was on a month-to-month contract. His relationship with the SSA minister [Ayanda Dlodlo], who had not seen his [Jafta] affidavit to the commission, is at an all-time low,” said the source.

A recommendation to Ramaphosa by a high-level review panel on SSA — led by Dr Sydney Mufamadi — that the SSA should do away with its current three DGs system, will have the effect of rendering Jafta’s position obsolete.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Tyrone Seale said: “We are unable to discuss contracts publicly. With regards to the SSA structure I must refer you to the ministry.”

Mava Scott, who speaks for Jafta and the SSA, had not returned messages at the time of publishing.

This week, SSA domestic director-general, Adv Mahlodi Muofhe, slapped inspector-general of intelligence Dr Setlhomamaru Dintwe with a strongly-worded lawyer’s letter, demanding his withdrawal of what appears to be a “badly-timed smear” against him.

Dintwe confirmed to TimesLIVE that Mongezi Ntanga, Muofhe’s lawyer, sent him the letter on Wednesday, in which Dintwe’s bona fides are questioned.

Dintwe survived a bruising battle with former spy boss Arthur Fraser, with the latter withdrawing Dintwe’s security clearance — a move that effectively was meant to render him unemployable by the country’s security cluster.

A source close to Muofhe said: “Look, everything looks normal on the surface, but there is a major war under way in the intelligence community. My view about Jafta’s performance at the state capture inquiry is that he was trying to make it hard for CR [Ramaphosa] to release him permanently from his current acting post. Projecting himself as a crusader against wanton corruption at the SSA ... how does CR just let him go? That seems, on one hand, a plain strategy.

“On another, Dintwe questioning Muofhe’s qualifications appeared [to be] a badly-timed smear tactic to render him questionable in the eyes of CR, who nonetheless seems set to elevate Muofhe to be the overall DG if Jafta’s contract is not renewed.”

While Muofhe is the DG for the domestic branch of SSA, which is the main branch of intelligence, Robert McBride was recently appointed to head the intelligence foreign branch, called the SSA Secret Service.

“The view, initially, was that Jafta would occupy the post now occupied by McBride. Now the question is, does he [Jafta] become a DDG [deputy director-general], which is his substantive position anyway? Is the well-timed questioning of Muofhe’s qualifications, which can be checked quickly, a strategy to rule him out?

“Muofhe believes knives are out for him. I believe Dintwe is not just dragging his feet on Muofhe’s qualifications — that investigation is supposed to be pending until the president makes up his mind. So this qualification story is a smokescreen for bigger battles under way at the farm,” said the source.

Muofhe wished not to comment, referring questions to his lawyer, Ntanga.

Writing to Dintwe, Ntanga said: “You did not have the courtesy, decency and civility of at least informing our client that you were going to speak about him on national television. Neither did you have the decency to inform him as far back as August that there is a so-called anonymous complaint against him.”

Dintwe did not want to comment about claims about his lack of “decency and civility,” but said to TimesLIVE that his actions were meant to protect Muofhe’s “privacy rights” by not rushing to question him.

“When a person writes a complaint to our office, it is in rare circumstances that we rush to ask the accused, because I may as well be accused of harassing him,” said Dintwe, explaining they must first establish the veracity of the facts in the claim.

But the letter from Muofhe suggests he was unhappy that he had not been asked any questions three months after his name was dragged through the mud.

“It seems exceedingly strange that you [Dintwe] would not have the decency to contact the person supposedly at the centre of the investigations, namely our client, but you would instead rely on information from somebody who is anonymous to perpetuate and abet falsehoods against [Muofhe]. What you have in effect done is to condemn our client’s integrity in the public arena by suggesting that he has falsified his qualifications and is involved in irregular or unlawful conduct.” Asked to comment on this, Dintwe said he would rather not.

Muofhe’s lawyer, suggesting that the investigation is more than meets the eye, said: “The records of our client’s admission as an advocate are publicly available at the high court. Our client has obtained degrees from universities in SA and it does not take much effort to verify this with them.”