/ 29 June 2023

Despite Zondo’s recommendations, intelligence services will remain secret

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File photo: Chief Justice Raymond Zondo hands over the Zondo report on state capture to President Cyril Ramaphosa. Members of the cabinet and ANC members were implicated in the report. Photo: Alet Pretorius/Gallo Images

South Africa’s intelligence services, found by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s state capture report to have misused millions of rands, will continue operating in secret, despite recommendations that parliament provide greater oversight. 

Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told a briefing on Thursday that no new amendments to the country’s legislation would be enacted regarding overseeing the intelligence services.

Zondo had recommended that the Intelligence Services Oversight Act be amended to ensure that outgoing parliamentary members sitting in the intelligence committee report to parliament and provide an account of the work done in the previous five-year term. 

Currently, this is not the case, and work and reports presented to the joint standing committee on intelligence remain unavailable to citizens and MPs not in the committee. 

“After careful consideration, the joint standing committee on intelligence concluded that no amendments to current legislation are necessary, as the existing law already addresses the commission’s concerns. 

“To ensure consistent and regular reporting, the committee’s support has been reinforced with requisite administrative capacity,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.

She did not elaborate on the requisite administrative capacity.

Zondo, in his report, found that because the State Security Agency’s work was shrouded in secrecy, it had abused the country’s resources, and that its budget had spiked from R42 million in the 2016-17 financial year to R303 million in 2017-18. 

The speaker also said that parliament had taken note of the Zondo commission’s recommendation to consider passing electoral reforms enabling a constituency-based electoral system, alongside the existing proportional representation system.

This hybrid model is used for the local government elections, but not the national and provincial ballots. Zondo stated in his report that the direct election of parliamentarians and the president by the public, instead of the current arrangement where political parties select MPs, would foster greater accountability.   

Mapisa-Nqakula said: “The recently enacted Electoral Amendment Act of 2023 established the electoral reform consultation panel, which will consult and make recommendations on potential electoral systems reforms.” 

She did not indicate a timeline for the reforms. South Africans will vote when general elections are held next year. 

On the recommendation that parliamentarians and members of provincial legislatures should be protected from losing their seats should they differ from the positions of their parties, Mapisa-Nqakula said the Constitution and legislation already protected members from this. “Therefore, no new legislative interventions are required in this regard.” 

She said parliament had researched international best practices in 12 countries to evaluate comparable laws, including mandatory accountability, after Zondo’s report found that the lack of parliamentary oversight had enabled corruption in the state. 

“The rules committee concluded that, while certain legal reforms relating to parliamentary reforms advocated by the commission may not be desirable at present, they could be considered in the future if necessary,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.    

She said parliament acknowledged that sufficient funding was required for effective parliamentary oversight of the executive. 

“Besides budgetary constraints, parliament is actively engaging with [the] national treasury to secure additional resources that align with its constitutional mandate. Parliament is also actively engaging with the commission’s recommendation to establish an oversight and advisory section within parliament, which will provide necessary technical support for committees.”

In total, the state capture commissions made 19 recommendations relating to parliament.Mapisa-Nqakula said 11 had been implemented while “eight [are] on the way”.