South Africa’s Intelligence Services Are Politicized – Parliament Told.
Meddling politicians continue to plague SA’s intelligence services, and the office of the inspector-general of intelligence (IGI) is investigating questionable appointments which sought to politicise the spooks.
This was revealed by advocate Jayashree Govender, who works as a legal adviser in that office. She was responding to MPs’ questions during her interview for the position of the IGI, the country’s intelligence services watchdog.
“The simple answer to that Honourable Mmoiemang is ‘yes’,” she said, responding to ANC MP Kenneth Mmoiemang’s question on whether she had ever encountered politicisation of the intelligence services.
“With regards to the issue of politicisation, sir, it is clear cut. One of the obvious examples of politicisation is appointments, which is something that the IGI office is dealing with … an investigation into a complaint of such. That goes directly to politicisation,” said Govender, without elaborating on the investigation.
She said another area of politicisation was executive overreach, where ministers got involved in operations and decided on issues they should not be involved in.
“Also, you have situations whereby people were appointed in certain positions and against the reporting lines, they would report directly to a president, for example,” she said.
“Those are issues of politicisation which I have seen in my 17 years there,” Govender added.
Govender was the first of 10 candidates who will be interviewed for the statutory position. The position is provided for in the constitution and in terms of the Intelligence Services Oversight Act, and is responsible for monitoring intelligence services and is a watchdog that investigates complaints against the spooks.
The incumbent Dr Sethlomamaru Dintwe’s term comes to an end next month. He is in the running for a second term.
Govender was, however, unclear whether the “politicisation” went as far as the ombud’s office. She could not be reached for comment.
Govender has been a legal adviser to three inspector generals, having worked in the office for 17 years. She said, based on her stay at the office, she had “a very good idea” of what works and what doesn’t.
The office of the inspector-general of intelligence was established in 2004 and Govender joined in 2005.
“We started from the beginning, looking at the laws, and looking at oversight and seeing what works and what doesn’t.
“There are definitely challenges and one of the issues that I think we should look at is amendments to legislation,” she suggested to MPs.
Unlike the public protector, the IGI doesn’t have power of remedial action; it can only make recommendations.
Govender that said in the short term, the office needed to strengthen partnerships with the public protector and auditor-general, specifically because the public protector has the power of remedial action.
In the long term, the Intelligence Services Oversight Act could be amended to include remedial action, she said.
Govender suggested the IGI’s office was sometimes used as a shield to prevent matters from being investigated by the public protector.
“We can look at ways in which we can strengthen those investigations and the most effective way is that the inspector-general has powers to disclose information subject to conditions in section 78 of the Intelligence Services Oversight Act.
“If those powers are able to be exercised proactively when it comes to the public protector’s office, I think we can ensure that certain matters go there instead of being diverted to the IGI office for the reason that people know, we just have powers of recommendation,” she said.
The parliamentary committee interviewed Govender for the position but recommended Dintwe at the end of the process.
The interviews continue.