We mustn't be spooked by the spooks

17 March 2019 - 00:00 By SUNDAY TIMES

We can't say we didn't know. We have always known that our intelligence services were manipulated by powerful political figures in dirty battles.
In 2009 there was the leak of the secret recording of a conversation between former National Prosecuting Authority boss Bulelani Ngcuka and ex-Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy, discussing the timing of charges against Jacob Zuma on the eve of the ANC's Polokwane conference. Those recordings formed the basis of the illegal decision by Mokotedi Mpshe to drop corruption charges, paving the way for Zuma to become president.
It's not that we didn't know Zuma kept a tight grip on the intelligence network, changing its composition and placing in charge apparatchiks who functioned on his behalf, and not on behalf of the South African people. One of those, Arthur Fraser, was the spy who is said to have leaked the recording to Zuma's legal team.
We cannot say we didn't know that once in charge, Fraser ran a parallel investigation network - the Principal Agent Network - that gave unfettered access to his cronies to loot the intelligence slush fund.
This is why the findings of a report compiled by a panel led by former security minister Sydney Mufamadi, who was appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa last year to review the intelligence services, should not come as a surprise. The report found that the State Security Agency (SSA) and the police's crime intelligence unit were knee-deep in ANC factional politics.
It has recommended that the SSA be overhauled, splitting it into domestic and foreign branches, as was the case before. It also recommends that those found to have taken part in the looting of agency coffers be brought to book.
The Mufamadi report has not told us anything we didn't know. Years of investigative journalism had revealed the extent of the spy rot under the Zuma administration.
The question is, what is Ramaphosa going to do about it? Will he take lessons from it and refrain from manipulating intelligence services for his personal and political benefit? We all know how our spooks went rogue. How are we going to turn them around?

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