Siyabonga Cwele, David Mahlobo and Bongani Bongo collapsed SSA, says witness

An unidentified witness says abuse of the agency’s mandate to enrich Jacob Zuma occurred under their leadership

27 January 2021 - 17:33
By mawande amashabalala AND Mawande AmaShabalala
Former minister of state security David Mahlobo is accused of being among those who collapsed the State Security Agency.
Image: Trevor Samson FINGERED Former minister of state security David Mahlobo is accused of being among those who collapsed the State Security Agency.

Three ministers were on Wednesday fingered for actively aiding the collapse of the State Security Agency (SSA) during former president Jacob Zuma’s years.

Former state security ministers Siyabonga Cwele, David Mahlobo and Bongani Bongo were accused at the state capture commission of using the agency to advance the interests of Zuma.

This was the testimony of an SSA operative who was granted permission to testify anonymously.

The trio, said the witness, “Ms K”, enforced Zuma’s political interests in the running of the SSA.

On the ground at operational level, charged Ms K, the implementers were then special ops boss Thulani Dlomo, Moruti Nosi and former SSA director-general Arthur Fraser, among others.

Said Ms K, reading from an affidavit of another anonymous witness: “At the executive level, the abuse of SSA’s mandate occurred primarily under the political leadership of minsters Siyabonga Cwele, David Mahlobo and advocate Bongani Bongo. And this was executed and implemented primarily, although not exclusively, by Mr Moruti Nosi, ambassador Thulani Dlomo and Mr Arthur Fraser.”

Ms K also confirmed most of the evidence led on Monday by former High-Level Review Panel chairperson Sydney Mufamadi, including abuse in setting up operations to fulfil functions that were already catered for by other departments, such as the SA Police Service (SAPS) and SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

Essentially, said Ms K, SSA created a “private force” for the protection and advancement of Zuma’s interests. 

This force comprised operatives who were recruited by Dlomo before he was employed at SSA.

None of the agents were formally employed by the agency.

“The evidence at our disposal is that these people were given contracts, but when we analysed those contracts no-one had signed on behalf of SSA. I am not sure if that is legal. I do not think they were formally employed by SSA,” she said.

Despite this, the agency financed and armed this group at taxpayers’ expense. They reported to Dlomo, who sometimes gave them the green light to report to Zuma directly.

“Some people that we interviewed said they reported directly to president Zuma. One of them even said they felt powerful,” said Ms K. 

Meanwhile, state security minister Ayanda Dlodlo vowed to keep a close watch on developments at the Zondo commission after her unsuccessful bid to block her department’s acting director-general (DG) from leading damning evidence against the institution.

In a statement on Wednesday, Dlodlo said she “has decided to reserve the right to file a formal substantive application to the commission”.

This was after the commission of inquiry into state capture, headed by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, on Tuesday threw out an application by Dlodlo to block SSA acting DG Loyiso Jafta from presenting evidence before the inquiry, arguing that allowing him to do so would compromise national security.

Zondo rejected that argument and allowed Jafta to proceed with his evidence, which painted a grim picture of the state of the SSA and how its resources, including hundreds of millions of rand, were abused for the alleged benefit of Zuma, his cronies and members of his ANC faction.

Dlodlo on Wednesday said she attempted to block Jafta from testifying because she wanted him to brief her first so she could inform President Cyril Ramaphosa on the situation. She said it was not an attempt to frustrate the commission’s work.

“Ms Dlodlo will continue to observe the proceedings of the commission as it relates to the evidence of state security personnel,” her spokesperson Mava Scott said.