/ 6 September 2014

SSA defends Zuma’s axing of spooks

Siyabonga Cwele's bid to get things moving in the migration to digitally broadcast TV signals was stalled in the Cabinet.
Siyabonga Cwele's bid to get things moving in the migration to digitally broadcast TV signals was stalled in the Cabinet.

The Mail & Guardian reported on Friday that barely three years after a massive purge of senior intelligence managers, three more top spies have been removed

State Security Minister David Mahlobo confirmed on Wednesday that head of the national intelligence co-ordinating committee Dennis Dlomo, director of the domestic branch of the State Security Agency Simon Jabulani Ntombela and deputy director general of domestic collection Nozuko Bam have been “redeployed” to the department of international relations and co-operation.

In a press statement issued late on Friday, the State Security Agency (SSA) said the redeployment of the three as ambassadors was nothing untoward.

Several sources told the M&G that the main reason for removing the senior state security officials is said to be President Jacob Zuma’s concern that they are too loyal to former state security minister Siyabonga Cwele.

“The deployment of senior intelligence officers and senior public servants to the department of international relations and cooperation is standard practice over the years, which is done in compliance with public service laws,” said SSA spokesperson Brian Dube. He said it was a “collective decision”.

Adequately skilled
Dube echoed Mahlobo’s sentiments that intelligence officials were adequately skilled to be ambassadors.

He added that “contrary to speculation by faceless sources, it has been done with the full co-operation of the people concerned.”

The M&G report said all three initially resisted the foreign postings, citing logistical reasons.

After several meetings, compromises were reached. 

That they were informed of their impending move “by comrades” rather than through the official channels of the SSA or by the minister apparently added to their dissatisfaction.

Mahlobo said this was a “small administrative error” that could not be conflated with other concerns. 

He said they were politically appointed and being redeployed by the ANC.

Instability denied
In the rebuttal to the story, Dube appeared to further deny that there was a sense of instability within the organisation.

“The State Security Agency has within its ranks other appropriately skilled, qualified and experienced intelligence officials who will assume the responsibilities of the outgoing officials, in an acting capacity until the positions are filled,” he said.

The agency will once again have acting officials at the helm.

The member of the national executive who spoke to the M&G said the positions are likely to be filled by Zuma loyalists. The president will have the last say about who heads up the spy community.

Follow Qaanitah Hunter on Twitter @QaanitahHunter.