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Spy boss tells how agency was used to detain Zuma’s wife after poisoning claims

State Security Agency (SSA) funding was flagrantly abused to support a particular faction in the ANC, and further former president Jacob Zuma’s personal and political whims, the acting director general of the intelligence service told the Zondo commission on Tuesday.

Loyiso Jafta, who has held the post since 2018, said it was “fact” that the SSA had been politicised and this was plain in the nature of the funded and pursued projects.

“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, 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.

“So there would be monies disbursed for that purpose, there would be operations intended to, if you will, break the credibility of those who were not in the faction, that is within the African National Congress.”

Jafta did not at this point expand as to which faction had abused SSA funding to undermine another faction, but ventured that even semantically the amalgamation of the National Intelligence Agency and the State Security Services into a single body responsible for local and foreign intelligence in 2009 did not bode well.

“For me, several of the wrongs that were witnessed, derived from moving from national security to state security,” he said. 

“Once you say ‘state security’, by definition, you are gravitating close to the person of the head of state, and that is always the risk. If there is politicisation and there is this shift, then inevitably and maybe inadvertently you could easily end up with ‘regime’ security instead of ‘national security’,” he said.

Jafta then detailed how the SSA ended up serving the interests of the head of state and was pointedly asked by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo to name the president in question, for the sake of clarity.

Jafta noted that Zuma might not have directly ordered transgressions, but that several agents broke the rules in a bid to please him.

For example, after the president complained that individuals’ security vetting was taking a very long time, the process was sped up to issue clearance within mere days in some cases. And when he suspected one of his wives of poisoning him, the SSA was roped into the investigation and subsequently detained Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma.

“She was in remand detention without having gone through the due processes” Jafta said.

Zondo expressed shock and said this was both illegal and “very serious”. Before testifying how the SSA served Zuma’s interests, Jafta told the commission that intelligence funding was subverted to boost the ANC’s performance in elections, to influence members of the judiciary, and to give money to a local news agency to influence media reporting.

“You then have another situation, particularly when we go towards an election, there would be projects that would be intended and funded to enhance the political fortunes of the ANC, and these projects were prosecuted [sic],” he said.

Jafta’s testimony was delayed for several hours on Tuesday after lawyers for State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo argued that he should not be allowed to take the stand because he had not consulted with the minister as the executive authority on intelligence matters.

Zondo dismissed the arguments, saying Dlodlo’s lawyers could raise their concerns with the team of evidence leader Paul Pretorius.

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