ANC conference: a party event, but state spy agency plays leading role
The use of State Security Agency staff for the ANC national conference has raised questions about the possible abuse of state resources by the ruling party.
SSA officials vetted and registered service providers, the media, support staff and guests, using what appeared to be state equipment.
The system used to vet guests and journalists was the same as that used for national events such as the state of the nation address and the presidential inauguration.
ANC national spokesman Zizi Kodwa said government security agencies had to be involved to ensure the safety of VIPs including the president and cabinet ministers."I can't discuss ... what they are doing because they don't even tell the ANC what they are doing, they meet every morning at all points. I only know what ANC security does," he said.
Registration of the more than 6000 delegates and special guests on Friday degenerated into a logistical nightmare, with the process running into the early hours of yesterday morning, just hours before the conference was due to start.
A member of the ANC conference support staff, who asked not to be named because he was not allowed to speak to the media, said there was only one machine capturing details and printing name tags for the thousands of delegates and special guests at the venue at the Soweto campus of the University of Johannesburg.
"Even myself as support, it took me close to six hours to obtain my tag," he said.
Another official, who also declined to be named, said: "How do you have one machine capturing all these people? Where you guys [journalists] are captured things are different because state security is in charge."
Approached for comment, SSA spokesman Brian Dube said the agency had a duty to ensure the "safety and security of major and international events" in the country.
However, he denied that the agency was involved in the registration of ANC delegates.
"This is tired rhetoric that is brought up now and again by those who seek to politicise the work of security agencies in general and the SSA in particular," said Dube."It's baseless and devoid of any truth. The entirety of the security services of this country gets involved in securing major national and international events ... as part of their mandate to ensure the safety and security of such events. This has been so since the dawn of democracy.
"In relation to the SSA in particular and in keeping with our counterintelligence mandate, our role, among others, is to ensure the integrity of certain stakeholders.
"The governing party does its own separate processing of its delegates and other participants, and the SSA has no role therein."
There was tight security at the conference, with journalists confined to the media centre and not allowed to interact with delegates.
Police Minister Fikile Mbalula was booed and heckled by delegates on Friday night when he tried to address them at the registration centre.
People who were present said Mbalula had arrived just after 8pm with a contingent of police officers.
They said that when he tried to speak ANC members, mostly from Gauteng, North West and Mpumalanga, shouted him down, telling him it was not a government event.
Kodwa said the ANC had its own security contingent that was ready to eject any delegates who tried to disrupt proceedings.
"We will hit them hard. When we take you out of the plenary, we'll take you out without touching the ground.
"We've got security ready to make sure that this conference runs smoothly," Kodwa said.