Former president Jacob Zuma oversaw the creation of parallel structures within the intelligence service to serve his personal and factional ANC party political interests, breaching the Constitution in the process

This, according to the findings of a high-level review panel report on the State Security Agency (SSA), which revealed that not only was the SSA repurposed to serve Zuma’s interests, but was created irregularly in terms of the Constitution, which requires intelligence structures to be set up through legislative changes and not presidential proclamations.

By amalgamating the National Intelligence Agency and South African Secret Service, Zuma also effectively decimated the efficient functioning of their successor, the SSA.

The bombshell report, published by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office on Saturday afternoon, is a damning indictment on how factions within the ANC, led by Zuma, subjugated the intelligence capabilities of the state since 2005, a key year in Zuma’s rise to power.

Under Zuma, the SSA spied on unions and civil society organisations such as Right2Know and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC). It also influenced the media, established fake unions in Marikana, abused funds and conducted illegal intelligence gathering operations.

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The report recommends:

  • A forensic investigation into the finances of the SSA to make a full determination of abuse of secret funds to establish basis for disciplinary charges and/or criminal prosecution;
  • Changes to financial controls, including giving wider access to finances to the Auditor General and chief financial officers and alternative methods of payment to cut down on cash uses;
  • Sweeping legislative reforms to seek a clearer mandate for envisaged return to two separate agencies focused on foreign and domestic intelligence and stricter controls on governance of agencies;
  • The legislative changes should include decentralisation of decision-making powers held by the director general and minister, and suggests a change in the appointment processes of spy bosses;
  • Disciplinary action and/or criminal prosecution for Zuma, ministers, SSA bosses and staff who wilfully violated laws in issuing and executing illegal orders;
  • Giving the Inspector General of Intelligence independence, to enable the office of the IG to conduct its work without interference;
  • And the establishment of a task team and restructuring team to deal with the proposed restructuring into two agencies and to undertake an extensive review of current legislation, with an eye on implementation.


The panel, which was led by Sydney Mufamadi, handed its report to Ramaphosa in December, and a redacted version was released on Saturday.

“From about 2005, with the emergence of the divisions in the ANC, there has been a growing politicisation and factionalisation of the civilian intelligence community based on the factions in the ANC. This has been partly aggravated by the fact that many of the leadership and management of the intelligence services have come from an ANC and liberation struggle background and have seemingly, in some cases, not been able to separate their professional responsibilities from their political inclinations”, the report concludes.

“This became progressively worse during the administration of the former president, with parallel structures being created that directly served the personal and political interests of the president and, in some cases, the relevant ministers. All this was in complete breach of the Constitution, the White Paper, the legislation and other prescripts.”

The year 2005 was a seminal year in Zuma’s rise to political power. He was fired from his position of deputy president by then-head of party and state Thabo Mbeki, shortly after his friend Schabir Shaik was convicted of fraud and corruption relating to the multi-billion rand “arms deal” saga.

‘Overwhelming support’

Months after his 2005 axing, the ANC’s National General Conference expressed overwhelming support for Zuma, eventually leading to his election as ANC president at the party’s now infamous 2007 National Elective Conference, held in Polokwane.

By the time of his election, Zuma had already turned to the National Intelligence Agency, whose then-deputy boss Arthur Fraser had already allegedly handed over the so-called “spy tapes” to Zuma’s lawyers. The tapes, which included intercepted phone conversations between former NPA head Bulelani Ngcuka and then-Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy, were the main reason behind the NPA withdrawing corruption charges against Zuma.

This paved the way for Zuma to stand for election, while Fraser was later appointed as the director general of the SSA. He is accused of operating the Principle Agent Network (PAN).

PAN, abolished in 2011, is described as another parallel intelligence structure that allegedly spirited away nearly R1bn in state funds over three years, and diverted the intelligence mechanisms of the state to Fraser.