/ 4 February 2021

Good offer for a bloody agent

Fbl Wc2010 Fra Training
Eye on the media: The State Security Agency thought the 2010 World Cup would be just the right carrot to entice our columnist onto its payroll. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP


It’s day 315 of the Covid-19 national lockdown. 

The first three days back at work passed in a bit of a blur, but not as a result of the head of state reopening alcohol sales on Monday night. A week off to look after our second Covid-19 patient of the pandemic — she’s well on the road to recovery, thankfully — means there’s no time to think this week, never mind hitting the bottle to celebrate the win. 

There’s also no money for beveraging. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa has made it clear that there will be no more cash forthcoming from the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme to make up for the shortfall caused by the Covid-19 salary cuts and layoffs, so it looks like beer will be off the menu for a while. 

Fair enough. 

The country, like most of us, is broke, courtesy of those who once led us, and some of those who still do, so Ramaphosa can’t really give us what he doesn’t have. If the state does come up with any relief money, it needs to go to the R350-brigade first, rather than to those of us who, although broke, still have something coming in.

Tough, but it is what it is.

The week off work was hard graft, but it did mean pretty much unlimited time to watch, or listen to, the Zondo commission’s hearings on the looting of the State Security Agency (SSA). Rough viewing, but, in a way, a bit of an assist in terms of understanding why we’re broke and where the money went, or at least some of it.

The evidence from SSA acting director general Loyiso Jafta and the spooks involved in cleaning up the mess that the intelligence services became during former president Jacob Zuma’s reign was fascinating. 

Sickening, but not at all surprising. 

It was pretty evident during uBaba’s terms of office — and before then for that matter — that the former number one had the intelligence services at his beck and call; that Nxamalala had continued to run a parallel, and personal, off-the-books network inside and outside state intelligence agencies.

What wasn’t clear was the extent of Zuma’s capture of state security; who was acting as his paid — or unpaid — agent, and where. Neither was just how bad a condition the SSA’s coffers are in; who stole what to pay for which ANC conference; who funded which factional rally; how the agents operating in the media were bought and paid for.

It was a little disappointing when Zondo’s evidence leader Paul Pretorius pulled the plug on Ms K, one of the SSA investigators tasked with dismantling Zuma’s private networks, just before she could name names, to allow the SSA agents operating in the media and other sectors of society to be served with their Section 33 notices that they are about to be implicated. She should have outed them then and there, in time for the president opening the bars again, so we could at least get them to buy us a drink, or tap them for a loan.

The delay is unnecessary. 

Surely they know already? They are spies, after all. 

Agents masquerading as journalists, so they should know that Ms K is busy burning them.

Perhaps they’re not very good agents, lacking in intelligence-gathering ability and analytical skills and other basic tools of the trade. 

Perhaps they need the Zondo commission to draw them a picture, to tell them, formally, in writing, that the shit has hit the fan.


Perhaps they didn’t know they were getting paid by the state while working in media houses? Perhaps they thought those monthly SMS notifications on the second bank account, the one in the name taken from somebody’s dead child’s gravestone, were a bank mistake, month in, month out?


I nearly became an agent. 

Well, not nearly, but I did get an offer, not long after the 2009 elections. 

They sent another comrade who I worked with in the late 1980s and early 1990s to recruit me. 

The offer was low key.


R60K a month in a bank account, complete with card, PIN number and alternative ID book, in return for “keeping an eye on the foreign media for us” during the 2010 World Cup.  

Nothing heavy. 

Appealed to my sense of patriotism.  

Our history. 


World Cup tickets.

The offer was tempting, especially the football tickets. I also needed the money. 

I still do.

There was one snag. A big one. 

This wasn’t about the World Cup and the foreign media. This was about neutralising a potential threat. Putting me on the payroll, for when I became a problem again.

Owning me.

I passed on the R60K. 

Kept my integrity. 

And my freedom.

I ghosted the comrade every time he called to follow up. He was a friend, so I didn’t see a need to be rude about things. 

After the third attempt, he got the memo.

Left me alone.

And R60K a month poorer.