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09 Jun 2015 16:41
Cecil Burgess. (David Harrison, M&G)
With all discussions of “national security” banned
from interviews for the position of inspector general of intelligence,
candidates had to sell themselves to members of Parliament on Tuesday without
mentioning any classified work history or divulging what made them suitable for
The joint standing committee on intelligence (JSCI)
conducted a round of interviews for the position in Parliament on Tuesday, with
questions and answers ranging from the mundane to the bizarre.
This was the
second set of interviews, after numerous appeals for transparency from lobby
groups, when a round of secret interviews was held in March.
The inspector general investigates complaints of alleged
maladministration or abuse of power by the country’s spies, and the five
candidates were grilled on how they would remain non-partisan as well as their
views on transparency and why they had applied for the position.
Advocate Andile Kilifele, one of the candidates, had MPs
laughing and befuddled when he quoted John le Carre’s fictional character
George Smiley in answering a question.
Kilifele said the inspector general dealt with issues of
interception and surveillance.
” ... My job is to ensure that, if for argument’s sake
they are intercepting, I must ensure that whatever they are doing is in line
with the Interception Act. Secondly, I need to ensure ... that must be ratified
by a designated judge, including the duration of the interception. Secondly ...
there have been members of the public who have been complaining about
surveillance. I’m afraid surveillance is part and parcel of the community.”
‘For as long as the hungry look for food, we shall spy’
Kilifele then quoted from The Secret Pilgrim by Le Carre
“There is a fellow called George Smiley, I’m sorry to quote
this, but he once said, ‘As long as there are rogues who become leaders, we
shall spy. For as long as there are politicians who deceive, we shall spy. For
as long as the nations compete, we shall spy. For as long as there are bullies
and liars in the world, we shall spy. For as long as the hungry look for food,
we shall spy.’ In a nutshell, they can do anything really, as long as whatever
they do is in line with the Constitution, the Interception Act and also section
52 A of the criminal procedure.”
Asked if he believed the quote, he insisted that spying was
necessary, as long as it was in line with the various acts.
“Almost everybody can be intercepted and surveyed,
provided it is in line with the Act. It is applicable to this matter, because
nations compete, and we do spy on them. And there are bullies and liars in the
world, we do spy on them. And that’s an adage that all intelligence officers
are aware of.”
Kilifele was one of five candidates interviewed on Tuesday,
a list which included Jayashree Govender, Mathe Diseko, Imtiaz Fazel and
Six more candidates are still to be interviewed on
Wednesday, including Clinton Davids, Smanga Jele, and former ANC MP Cecil
Burgess, who is seen as the most likely candidate to get the job.
Committee chairperson Connie September said once the
interviews were completed, the JSCI would recommend a candidate to the National
Assembly, but President Jacob Zuma would have the final say.
With lobby groups calling for the interview process to be
conducted in an open and transparent way and the Democratic Alliance walking
out of the secret interviews in March, the normally secretive committee opened
its meeting to the public and shortlisted three extra candidates, Mahlubandile
Radebe, Desiree Fouche and Annelize Gerber, which it added to a list of eight
it had already interviewed before reopening the process.
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