Where were SA’s spy services when the Marikana shooting began?
UNCERTAINTY in SA’s intelligence services has been cited among the reasons why the police were unable to anticipate the threat from protesters at Lonmin’s Marikana mine in Rustenburg, 34 of whom were shot dead.
The State Security Agency (SSA) continues to operate with its top three positions vacant following the resignation of its top executives, allegedly in protest over political interference.
In addition, police crime intelligence has no substantive head after the North Gauteng High Court interdicted Richard Mdluli from performing any duties pending the review of a decision to withdraw criminal charges against him.
Policing expert Dr Johan Burger of the Institute of Security Studies said yesterday this "chaos" within the intelligence services had failed to establish the severity of the Lonmin threat. "My view is that the state intelligence was unable to be very helpful, partly due to the mess that the intelligence services are in."
Due to all the suspensions and resignations, "probably crime intelligence was not able to play the role it should have", he said.
Dr Burger also said that, just as with the 2008 xenophobic violence in which more than 60 foreign nationals were killed, the intelligence authorities were caught completely off guard at Lonmin.
The SSA has existed in its current form since its creation in 2009, when the intelligence services were restructured under current minister Siyabonga Cwele to incorporate the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the South African Secret Service and the South African National Academy of Intelligence. The NIA and Secret Service each have their own heads and report to a director-general.
President Jacob Zuma, who is responsible for making senior government appointments, has not indicated why the intelligence service positions have yet to be filled. His office did not respond to questions sent by Business Day last week.
Secret Service head Mo Shaik, State Security director-general Jeff Maqetuka and NIA head Gibson Njenje quit within months of each other between September last year and March this year. The trio had clashed with Mr Cwele, allegedly over a request to place several senior ANC leaders under surveillance. But the SSA still cannot say when the posts will be filled or what the reasons for the delays are.
"The vacant posts are filled in an acting capacity in order to ensure continued service and the minister is attending to the matter accordingly," Mr Cwele’s spokesman, Brian Dube, said last week.
The chairman of Parliament’s joint standing committee on intelligence, Cecil Burgess, said it was "unaware of abuses that were politically motivated".
He said "careful consideration is necessary in this process for security reasons" and that the parliamentary committee was monitoring the performance of the SSA.
Dennis Dlomo, believed to be a close friend of Mr Cwele’s, is acting director-general of the SSA
Strategic security expert Prof Mike Hough said while there was nothing unusual about government departments delaying the appointments of senior staff, this was a sensitive case because it dealt with state security.
However, Prof Hough said not much could be read into the delays for now as the ministry’s restructuring, currently under way, and the passing of the Protection of State Information Bill were considered greater priorities.
Democratic Alliance safety and security spokesman David Maynier said the delays in filling the posts were a concern. The fact that there was no permanent appointment meant there was a strong chance that no proper controls were in place and the ministry could then be abused for political reasons.
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