Who are the silly buggers
NIA spying row: Police accuse Dirk Coetzee of being ordered to spy on them—Coetzee denies all and wishes he’d never exposed Police hit
THE stand-off between police and the National Intelligence Agency over allegations that it was spying on senior policemen has sparked fears that co-operation between police and the agency—essential if the crime rate is to be curbed—may be jeopardised.
A record of understanding concluded between police and NIA late last year provides for NIA capabilities and assets to be used to assist police in tackling the greatest threat to the country’s stability and economic growth.
Both the police force and the NIA are feeling the stresses and strains of transition and the lash of criticism that they are failing to come to grips with their task of combating
The affair could also further impact adversely on the morale of intel
ligence operatives and bedevil working relations between them and police-force members at lower levels.
Said one source: “Morale is bad. Guys are saying aren’t we all supposed to be working together now? Yet the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same.”
Former Vlakplaas police base commander and NIA operative Dirk Coetzee denies he told Superintendent H Moodley, who was questioning him on his self-confessed role in the murder of Durban lawyer Griffiths Mxenge, that he had been tasked by Deputy Minister for Intelligence Services Joe Nhlanhla to spy on top policemen.
But the ramifications run wider than the issue of who is lying to whom. “What worries us is the co-operation between the services is put in jeopardy,” said ANC MP Lindiwe Sisulu-Guma, chair of Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence.
Established in terms of legislation passed last year to effect greater accountability and civilian control over the intelligence services, the committee launched its own investigation into the affair this week.
“We were shocked beyond belief by the allegations. Both the NIA and the police have been asking us to amend legislation to make it easier for them to co-operate more fully. The country’s national interest is at stake.
‘Either the story is true, in which case the public must be told why and how the bugging happened, or it is not—in which case, we must find out why it came out, whether anyone is causing mischief and what their agenda is.”
The committee’s inquiry would probably dovetail with any inquiry launched by Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, Sisulu-Guma said.
The executive arm of government had to do its own investigation, “but we have a responsibility to explain to the public just what the hell is happening with public funds”, she said. “There will definitely be co- operation at some stage in our investigations to avoid overlap.” Police and the NIA have just under two weeks to make full reports to the committee, which will start its formal inquiry on February 12 and eventually submit a report and recommendations to Parliament.
But intelligence sources this week indicated any investigation would be unlikely to uncover the truth of the matter: “Bugs don’t have names on them,” said one. “For any officially planted bug there are likely to be 200 unofficial ones.”
Deputy co-ordinator of intelligence Mo Shaik said it was possible both Coetzee and Moodley would undergo lie-detector tests in a bid to establish the truth. He said relations between police and NIA at senior management level were good and did not believe operatives’ morale would be affected unduly.
But he conceded NIA concerns at the bad press it was receiving: last year saw the Director- General of Intelligence, Sizakele Sigxashe, in the headlines when a police report—later denied—said he had pulled a gun on his wife during a domestic dispute, casting doubts on his fitness for the post. The NIA’s second-in- command, Muziwendoda Mdluli, was found shot dead in his car, with a question-mark over whether it was suicide. And there have been reports on factionalism within the NIA as it comes to terms with integrating operatives from radically different traditions.
Democratic Party spokesman on security Kobus Jordaan this week called for Nhlanhla to be replaced, saying he wasn’t up to the job. But Shaik defended Nhlanhla, saying he had made parliamentary history by steering through a triad of new intelligence Bills, overseeing the amalgamation of six different intelligence services and setting up crucial checks and
“Jordaan is hitting below the belt. He’s an opposition politician, but you don’t play political games by casting aspersions on the integrity of the deputy minister.”
All civilian intelligence services—the National Intelligence Service, the African National Congress’ Department of Intelligence and Security, as well as those of the Pan Africanist Congress and the bantustans Venda and Transkei—went into the amalgamation process with existing budgets, totalling just over R400-million. Cabinet last year approved a R200-million increase to finance the needs of NIA and the South African Secret Service (SASS), which deals with external threats.
But, like any other state department, the intelligence services are now engaged in zero- base budgeting: determining expenditure on what they actually do rather than simply increasing previous allocations. They are also required to rationalise their staffing, which will lead to retrenchments. Sigxashe has denied the services have become bloated by amalgamation, but intelligence sources said this week there were operatives who found themselves with little to do.
l Meanwhile, Deputy President Thabo Mbeki announced on Thursday that President Mandela has decided to appoint a judge to head up an independent judicial inquiry into the bugging
Mbeki also announced that the country’s intelligence services—the National Intelligence Agency, the Department of Military Intelligence, police intelligence, and Foreign Affairs’ secret service—will run their own separate inquiry through the National Intelligence Co-ordinating Committee
These initiatives follow an announcement that Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence would also conduct an urgent investigation into the bugging saga, bringing to seven the number of agencies involved in trying to solve the mystery of the bugs.
At the press conference, Mbeki said all the intelligence agencies had informed his office they were not involved in the bugging. “There was no tension among these services as a result of which any one of them would have undertaken such an operation.”