During the Zuma era, the State Security Agency (SSA) fought factional battles in the ANC, provided covert election support to the governing party and served the personality cult of the president to the point of unlawfully detaining one of his spouses suspected of poisoning him.
This emerged from testimony before the Zondo commission from the acting director general of the SSA, Loyiso Jafta, who recounted that the agency had lost R9-billion in assets without a record, because proper controls were routinely disregarded.
The sum left Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo aghast.
Jafta added that the entity’s losses included firearms, some of which remained missing despite scrupulous attempts at recovery. The fear that these may have been used to commit crimes caused him considerable anxiety, he added. “It would again be one of those abuses of due process and assets,” he said.
Jafta said there were times between 2009 and early 2018 when Zuma was in office, that state security ministers had directly managed projects — a situation he termed “inherently unlawful”, because the executive may not involve itself in intelligence operations.
“There is evidence, certainly presented to me, where members of the national executive or at least the ministers responsible, regularly ran operations,” he said.
“That would mean they handled sources, they tasked them, they will debrief them, they must obviously generate reports, analyse and do all the processes that are done in the intelligence cycle — and then possibly advise themselves, because they are in the policy area, and possibly advise the president and or their colleagues,” Jafta said. “There is no question in my mind that this did happen.”
Jafta did not implicate any of them by name and said he believed this executive overreach level was not limited to the SSA, but played itself out in parallel at state-owned enterprises.
Jafta was appointed in 2018 after Zuma was forced to resign, and his testimony corroborated that given on Monday by former minister Sydney Mufamadi, who headed a review panel appointed to probe abuses in the intelligence service.
But whereas Mufamadi said he had no evidence that the SSA bribed judges, as planned in an operation code-named “Project Justice”, Jafta suggested there was circumstantial evidence that at least one judge received the money.
Incontrovertible proof was hard to obtain, he added, because bribes were customarily paid in cash. He said an investigation into the matter was ongoing and the judge would eventually be questioned.
Jafta was unequivocal that money had flowed to some quarters of the ANC as the SSA was instrumentalised in factional hostilities.
“There are monies that left the agency for the purpose of funding political activity, principally within the African National Congress, and often when you read into it, [it] is not funding the African National Congress credibly, it is to fund activities of a particular faction within the African National Congress,” he testified.
At times, this would translate into running smear campaigns against rivals within the governing party.
As he detailed how this unfolded, Zondo asked Jafta to state which head of state he meant, so there could be no confusion. Jafta did so and said he believed Zuma might not directly have ordered the transgressions, or been aware of them, but that it could have been a case of operatives breaking the rules in a bid to please him.
Jafta also told the commission that intelligence funding was subverted to boost the ANC’s performance in elections.
In the Western Cape, this involved nongovernmental organisations being given covert support to shift the political landscape ahead of polls. And in the platinum belt in North West and Limpopo, the money was to fund “an alternative union” when the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union was drawing support away from the National Union of Mineworkers.
The Zondo commission has been hearing evidence on events at the SSA, with a witness identified only as “K” taking the stand.