As of 2015 the Mail & Guardian was not being investigated by the State Security Agency (SSA), and journalists’ communication was not being intercepted, inspector-general of intelligence Setlhomamaru Isaac Dintwe said last week.
The M&G “has not been the subject of any investigation” Dintwe said, and M&G journalists “were not the subject of any interception by the SSA and its electronic collection structures”, seemingly referring to the state of affairs during 2015.
His three-paragraph letter did not provide any other detail, including whether the M&G had been subject to interception in the years since, or whether his office had relied on assurances by the SSA.
Dintwe was replying to a request for investigation lodged by the M&G with his predecessor in January 2014.
While the investigation had been “concluded during 2015, the outcome thereof could not be communicated due to the absence of an Inspector-General for a period of nearly two years,” Dintwe said in an apology for the delay.
Dintwe was appointed in March.
The M&G’s request for an investigation had been based on a statement by the spokesperson of the then minister of public works and confirmed by the SSA that it was investigating the leak of a draft version of a public protector report into the Nkandla scandal.
At the time various departments and ministers insisted that Nkandla was a matter of national security, at one point claiming that publishing pictures of the Zuma-family compound taken from a public road was illegal.
The threat of using spying apparatus to track leaks “prompts the suspicion that this is a heavy-handed attempt to deter leaks and whistleblowing by state officials,” the M&G said in an editorial shortly before requesting an investigation by the inspector-general.
Dintwe’s predecessor Faith Radebe first said it was “not feasible” to investigate what may have been illegal interception across the entire M&G. The M&G then provided the details of three employees and seven members of the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism that could have been subject to surveillance – but asked Radebe not to limit her investigation to those individuals.
“As you have entrusted us with the investigation, kindly desist from directing the manner in which the investigation should be conducted,” Radebe responded in March 2014. She, and her office, then fell silent for more than three years.
In December, Parliament heard that the SSA had investigated SABC staffers after the leak of information from the broadcaster. In January, SA Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner Tom Moyane asked the SSA to investigate the leak of information from that organisation.