Lifetime of working in the shadows
Joseph Lebone Pooe is a man used to operating in the shadows. "I was always a spook, from my time in exile," the Umkhonto weSizwe veteran said in an interview this week.Pooe, 57, was a teacher when he went into exile in 1983 under the nom de guerre Tolly Nkunda. In Angola he reported to Mbokodo, the ANC's intelligence organ."I worked with Oliver Tambo. I left Angola after the [ANC] mutiny and went to Tanzania." There he worked as a teacher while continuing clandestine work for the ANC.story_article_left1He joined the military when he returned to South Africa in 1994 with the rank of lieutenant. "I was in the military police, doing investigations," he says.Although President Jacob Zuma was Mbokodo's head of counter-intelligence, Pooe says he met him for the first time in 2005.Pooe later joined the Department of Public Service and Administration and in 2010 was appointed to head its anti-corruption unit."I was still reporting to individuals in intelligence," he says."I was responsible for investigating very serious crimes. These were top-secret operations. I investigated DGs [directors-general] and ministers for corruption."When the unit was shut down in 2013 he became the department's head of information security before being transferred to labour relations, but continued doing intelligence work, he says.Pooe insisted this week the covert operation to buy the grabber had been officially sanctioned to infiltrate crime syndicates, but would only disclose who had done so "at the right time".mini_story_image_hright1"If we had bought it through the official channels we would have been exposed. The covert funds were compromised. It was my initiative as the head of the anti-corruption unit [but] there is no way we could do this on our own. There is no way I could have travelled to Israel to get that machine without intelligence knowing."He confirmed writing e-mails to Israeli firm Verint's Sam Rabin about buying the grabber to "serve the sitting president" and ruling party. "It's not about Zuma. It's about protecting whoever is holding that office. If there is a threat, that person must be protected."He said he had received a precautionary suspension letter two weeks ago. "I resigned with immediate effect."He claimed to have presented the project to several high-ranking members of the security cluster, but declined to provide details. "They never told me it was illegal."