SSA haul raises security concerns

Reports say the stolen cash included several currencies used to pay informants and to fund overseas intelligence operations. (Flickr)

Reports say the stolen cash included several currencies used to pay informants and to fund overseas intelligence operations. (Flickr)

One of two State Security Agency (SSA) officers arrested on charges linked to the theft of R17-million from the agency’s Pretoria headquarters is the close protection officer of Batandwa Siswana, who heads the agency’s foreign branch.

Before President Jacob Zuma appointed Siswana to the agency in 2013, he was the accounting officer in the presidency and the deputy secretary of the Cabinet.

Suspect William Nyaku Mmotong (39) was previously identified, apparently mistakenly, as the driver and protection officer for the agency’s director general, Sonto Kudjoe. But SSA spokesperson Brian Dube told amaBhungane this week that the arrested man was Siswana’s, not Kudjoe’s, protector.

Dube would not be drawn on questions over the possibility of a serious blunder in internal security vetting procedures, given Mmotong’s close proximity to one of the SSA’s most senior officials.

Mmotong and his alleged accomplice, 48-year-old Khayalethu Mgatyelwa, have both appeared in court briefly on charges linked to the brazen Christmas-period theft. They are to appear again next week.

Hawks spokesperson Brig­adier Hangwani Mulaudzi this week said the crime was carried out “between the night of 26 and 27 December 2015” in a “well-organised fashion”.

According to reports, the stolen cash included several currencies used to pay informants and to fund overseas intelligence operations.


” ... knew exactly where and how to gain entrance into the building … and the safe location”


Mulaudzi said in an email the suspects “knew exactly where and how to gain entrance into the building … and the safe location. Their entrance and escape routes were at the backyard of the SSA premises, a quiet place. They cut the fence and used routes where it was probably difficult to be captured by the CCTV cameras. They were [in] the group of six men when captured by CCTV camera inside the crime scene [cash office] wearing balaclavas.”

The Hawks arrested Mgatyelwa and Mmotong earlier this month.

Mulaudzi said police were notified of the theft by “one of the SSA employees who is the complainant in the case”, and the police were still searching for four possible suspects who are not employees of the SSA.

Mgatyelwa, a security guard based at the SSA’s Musanda complex in Rietvlei, appears to have been employed by the then National Intelligence Agency (NIA), now the SSA’s domestic branch, from 2005, and Mmotong appears to have been employed by the then South African Secret Service (SASS), now the foreign branch, since about 2009.

Although little is still known about the two accused, information published in December 2006 in the Government Gazette shows that Mgatyelwa applied for financial rehabilitation in terms of the Insolvency Act.

The SASS and NIA were amalgamated in 2009 to form the SSA, which followed a review of “civilian intelligence community” structures whose aim was to develop “a more effective and efficient intelligence architecture”.

Despite this, the intelligence community continues to be plagued by scandal. On Sunday,  City Press reported that, around the time of the SSA theft, at least 50 new computers were stolen “in batches” from defence intelligence’s headquarters, also in Pretoria.

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This article, published in the Mail & Guardian on January 15 2016, originally misspelt “Musanda” as “Masonda”. It has since been corrected.

The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.

 
Sally Evans

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