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Ramaphosa lifts the lid on South Africa’s Zuma-era spying

By Crystal Orderson, in Cape Town
Posted on Tuesday, 12 March 2019 19:09

A former ANC intelligence chief, Jacob Zuma turned his knowledge to ill use. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

One by one, President Cyril Ramaphosa is "fixing" his problems. His predecessor’s use of spies as tools is the latest.

An explosive report emerged on Saturday from the presidency, highlighting the politicisation of South Africa’s intelligence services and the role Jacob Zuma played.

It details how Zuma:

  • breached the Constitution
  • played a pivotal role in the factional politics of the ANC
  • undermined Cyril Ramaphosa’s ANC presidential campaign

It also outlines
how agencies spied on the trade unions, civil society groups like Right2Know, anti-Zuma groups like South Africa First Forum, Save SA and media organisations.

Many fear the report could intensify factional battles within the ANC ahead of a crucial election in May.

Zuma has hit back: “I have never been asked any questions by this committee. This committee has 2 well-known Apartheid spies. I’ve never sold out, I feel nothing when Apartheid spies call me corrupt. I hope people are not opening a can of worms which they might regret,” he said on Twitter.

Security expert David Africa from the African Centre for Security and Intelligence Praxis told The Africa Report the report contains nothing new, but that the rudderless nature of the intelligence services should be “of concern”.

  • South Africa finds itself at a critical geopolitical moment with regional and local dynamics that could result in serious threats to its national security.
  • “Look at what is happening on the Indian Ocean coast in Mozambique and Kenya, and the US Africa policy poses a serious threat to national security,” he said.

In addition, Africa thinks “Ramaphosa could simply have instructed the Minister and Director General to compile organisational diagnostic and strategic analyses” rather than spending public money on yet another panel.

Others point to the ultra-cautious Ramaphosa approach in preparing the ground for incoming ministers under his control.

Ramaphosa has been measured in his response to the report. On the sidelines of the election campaign in Johannesburg, he said it was a step in the right direction.

  • “It is good to be transparent and let these things come out so that we can repair whatever damage has been done in the past. I am really relaxed that we are on a really good and strong path and this is how we continue to build the state.”

Ramaphosa said the report was currently being discussed within the intelligence community before the implementation of its recommendations.

The trade union federation, Cosatu, has also entered the fray. Spokesperson Sizwe Pamla issued a statement saying: “Cosatu is against any use of state apparatus against private citizens and civil society organisations for political purposes.”

In particular, Cosatu wants the former state security minister David Mahlobo – a close Zuma ally – to be held accountable for the deterioration, corruption and anarchy that took place at the State Security Agency under his watch.

A rare timing error for Ramphosa: Abuse of state power is a worthy goal, but with the election two months away and the ANC still heavily factionalised, is this really the fight that Ramaphosa wants to be picking?

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