Hefer: Intelligence agencies 'appalled' at security lapses
The country’s intelligence community took a hard line on Friday in response to the requested disclosure of their files to the Hefer Commission.
This was despite head prosecutor Bulelani Ngcuka and Justice Minister Penuell Maduna offering to waive all rights regarding confidential information being kept on them.
Advocate George Bizos, SC, for the various agencies, warned that unauthorised disclosures of classified information during the commission was a “serious offence”.
He directed this to particularly current and former intelligence agents.
When asked, Bizos contended that former intelligence operatives of the apartheid government and African National Congress (ANC) from before 1994 were similarly restricted.
Members and former members of the country’s security services owed a “perpetual duty of confidentiality” to these services, he said.
This restriction applied to all information they acquired during the course of their employment.
Bizos quoted from a wide range of legislative measures that prohibited the disclosure of intelligence information without permission.
He insisted that the commission and its witnesses must first apply for this from the heads of the various intelligence agencies. They would not receive blanket permission, Bizos indicated.
Vanessa Brereton, who this week reportedly confessed that she was apartheid agent RS452, was among those restricted, Bizos said. It also applied to her former handler, former security policeman Karl Edwards, and former police commissioner George Fivaz.
Bizos represented an impressive list of clients: The ministers of defence, intelligence services and safety and security, the defence secretary, the national police commissioner and the directors general of the National Intelligence Agency and the SA Security Service.
He added that his clients were even entitled to refuse to confirm or deny the existence or non-existence of requested information.
He said they were “appalled” by the “dropping” of an NIA name in testimony before the commission on Thursday.
This comment referred to Letha Jolobe’s testimony that senior NIA manager Ricky Nkondo earlier arranged contact between him (Jolobe) and Mac Maharaj.
The former minister is one of Ngcuka’s two main accusers. Jolobe told the commission on Thursday that Maharaj inquired from him about the national director of public prosecutions’ past.
Neither the commission nor “defence” lawyers at its hearings received Bizos’ submission kindly.
Advocate Norman Arendse, SC, for Justice Minister Penuell Maduna, said it just served to add more intrigue around the matter. He called the presentation particularly unhelpful, with little substance.
“All we heard was obstruction,” Arendse said.
He maintained there was no reason why the commission could not summon the heads of the agencies to testify.
“All we want to know is whether they have information on apartheid spies, and whether Mr Maduna and Ngcuka are on that list.” - Sapa