State Security Minister David Mahlobo. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
State Security Minister David Mahlobo. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

A BRAZEN robbery, possibly involving tens of millions of rand, at the offices of the State Security Agency has raised questions about the effectiveness of the organisation tasked with keeping South Africans safe.

The robbery took place in the early hours of December 26, but by Sunday the agency was unable to say how much had been stolen; why its Pretoria headquarters were so insecure that a safe with cash could be broken into; and the reason for it keeping cash on the premises.

Brian Dube, head of communications at the agency, said the stolen amount was "undisclosed". But the Sunday Times reported that the stolen money, made up of foreign currency, amounted to more than R50m and was the security agency’s slush fund.

Mr Dube said the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) was investigating the matter.

Hawks spokesman Hangwani Mulaudzi, said: "We are investigating a theft case as per the incident. Investigations are sensitive and we are not in a position to share information until the national head is fully briefed on what transpired."

The theft caused a stir on Twitter, with many people expressing alarm at the ridiculousness of the incident. Under State Security Minister David Mahlobo, the SSA is being revamped.

Chairman of the Institute for Security Studies’ board of trustees Jakkie Cilliers said the incident was "extremely disconcerting and alarming".

He said he believed that the robbery could have been an inside job. "If they (agents) are stealing from themselves, what else are they doing?"

There needed to be a cleanup of the agency and its role needed to be revisited, Dr Cilliers said.

The intelligence service has been mired in controversy several times in recent years. At last year’s opening of Parliament it jammed cellphone signals. Then there was an "intelligence" report released last year that was seen as a smear of Treasury officials. The report made reference to "Project Spider Web", a brainchild of the apartheid government to retain control of the Treasury.

Axed finance minister Nhlanhla Nene had said he did not regard the report to be credible.

It was similar to the Browse Mole report which claimed that President Jacob Zuma’s African National Congress succession battle was funded by the Libyan government.