Two more Zuma allies lined up for key state positions

ANC MP Cecil Burgess was appointed to two important ad hoc committees: Nkandla and the committee that adopted the Secrecy Bill. (Liza van Deventer, Gallo)

ANC MP Cecil Burgess was appointed to two important ad hoc committees: Nkandla and the committee that adopted the Secrecy Bill. (Liza van Deventer, Gallo)

Two key allies of President Jacob Zuma are in line to take up important positions – the inspector general of intelligence and the head of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

Former ANC MP Cecil Burgess tops the list of eight shortlisted candidates for the inspector general position, and Parliament’s portfolio committee on home affairs on Tuesday recommended the appointment of Zuma’s adviser on special projects, Glen Mashinini, as commissioner of the IEC. Mashinini will succeed former chairperson Pansy Tlakula.

Rumours about Burgess’s possible move to the State Security Agency (SSA) started spreading as soon as it became clear he had been excluded from the list of MPs after last year’s elections.

With barely any deliberation and minimum fuss, Parliament’s joint standing subcommittee on intelligence has whittled down the more than 50 applications for the intelligence position to just eight. Burgess, who chaired the joint standing committee on intelligence until last year, is up against seven little-known candidates, including Clinton Davids, Mathe Diseko, Smanga Jele and Jayashree Govender, the only woman.

Diseko is the former coordinator for the National Intelligence Co-ordinating Committee. 

Both Jele and Govender work in the inspector general’s office, Jele as a principal oversight officer, and Govender as the legal advisor.

Shortlisted eight to be pre-screened
Chaired by ANC MP Connie September, the subcommittee started with 57 applications. This included current inspector general, Faith Radebe, who later withdrew her application.

September said the list that was agreed to on Tuesday would be taken to a closed joint standing committee on intelligence, and the candidates would be subjected to a pre-screening before being invited for interviews for the position.

“We are recommending to the full committee that we shortlist the eight. This recommendation is subject to the joint standing committee on intelligence having received [the] report and is subject to a pre-screening of the names,” September said.

“We want to do [the interviews] as soon as possible. We can do it within the next week, but only if the pre-screening is fine.”

United Democratic Movement leader and MP, Bantu Holomisa, suggested that the full committee should whittle down the eight shortlisted candidates before the pre-screening.

“Why would we screen eight people? Can’t we limit the screening to after we have engaged with all eight of them? Select two or three, then screen,” he said.

Position on Nkandla and Secrecy Bill
Holomisa withdrew his suggestion when ANC MP Dumisani Gamede pointed out that the eight would have to be questioned about intelligence during the interviews, which made the pre-screening necessary.

In addition to chairing the intelligence committee in Parliament, Burgess was also appointed to the ad hoc committee that looked into the spending of taxpayers’ money on upgrading Zuma’s private Nkandla home. That committee saw no wrong on Zuma’s part or how he benefited from the upgrades. 

Burgess also led an ad hoc committee of Parliament that adopted the controversial Protection of State Information Bill, popularly known as the Secrecy Bill.

If he is appointed inspector general of intelligence, he will be expected to protect South African citizens from any abuse of SSA powers.

His candidacy for the post was first revealed in a City Press report this weekend, but the former MP refused to discuss the matter, and said information from the joint standing committee was not supposed to be leaked to the media.

Imtiaz Fazel, Andile Kilifele and Mampogoane Nchabeleng were also shortlisted for the position. Fazel was the former chief operating officer in the inspector general’s office during former inspector general Zolile Ngcakani’s term, while Nchabeleng, like Jele, is a principal oversight officer in the inspector general’s office.

Hit the ground running
Recommending Mashinini for the IEC could also raise some eyebrows because of his history of working closely with Zuma.

The home affairs portfolio committee said it chose Mashinini as a top contender because of his experience with the IEC. He served as deputy chief electoral officer from 1998 to 2001.

“The committee is of the view that his vast institutional memory will ensure that he hits the ground running, especially as the commission is preparing for the 2016 local government elections,” said a statement by portfolio committee chairperson, Lemias Mashile.

Before taking up his role as special adviser to the president, Zuma had appointed Mashinini to the presidential state-owned enterprises review committee in 2010.

“Should the House agree to this recommendation, the committee is convinced that he will strengthen the overall functioning of the commission as it endeavours to deliver credible elections, which remains the bedrock of South African democratic dispensation,” Mashile said.

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