I’m cleaning up spy town, says Cwele

State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele has told President Jacob Zuma he does not want the intelligence services to be abused, saying rogue spies would not be tolerated.

“I told everybody, including the president, that we want to run a professional intelligence service,” he said on Tuesday after a briefing of the international cooperation, trade and security cluster.

Asked whether he could give guarantees that no Cabinet minister had been placed under surveillance, Cwele said this was the intention, but he could not rule out abuses by “rogue elements”.

“It is for us to ensure that it is not happening, but if there are rogue elements we cannot say.”

He said the department would act against wrongful intelligence gathering.

“We don’t tolerate such people,” the minister said.

The Sunday press reported at the weekend that there was a breakdown of trust between the minister and the country’s three top intelligence officials. This reportedly involved concerns on their part over the abuse of the system for political gain.

According to City Press, Cwele had asked for the resignations of the head of the State Security Agency, Gibson Njenje; the director general of state security, Jeff Maqetuka; and the head of the South African Secret Service, Mo Shaik. However, according to the newspaper they refused and sought legal advice.

The reports said the three had complained to Zuma about Cwele.

Njenje was reportedly unhappy about “unauthorised” operations, including the surveillance of unnamed Cabinet ministers.

Njenje’s lawyer subsequently said the domestic intelligence boss had not been asked to step down, but there had been talk of moving him to another post.

Cwele told Sapa he had not been asked to appear before Parliament’s joint standing committee on intelligence to discuss the reports of strife in the top intelligence structures — but would do so if invited. — Sapa

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