Government continues to strengthen intelligence services

Government is working tirelessly to strengthen intelligence services and the coordination of the intelligence community so South Africa can avoid the recurrence of the July 2021 civil unrest and other similar incidents.

The widespread violent and civil unrest that engulfed parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July 2021 resulted in thousands of people being injured, an estimated 354 dead and over R50 billion lost to the economy.

“Fellow South Africans, it is a fact that we cannot build a developmental State when our security and intelligence services are not modernised and capable.

“One of the key commitments of the 2022 State of the Nation Address (SONA) was to address weaknesses identified by the Expert Panel into the July 2021 civil unrest,” Minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele, said on Tuesday.

Addressing the debate on this year’s SONA at City Hall in Cape Town, he said the weaknesses identified include coordination between intelligence structures and bringing critical stakeholders together to tighten the working relations in the intelligence community.

“Since then, the [State Security] Agency has been hard at work meeting stakeholders like Provincial Executive Members, Mayors and Law Enforcement Agencies in an attempt to strengthen the working relations in this sector.

“The Agency continues to work within the National Intelligence Coordinating Committee (NICOC) early warning systems so that we avoid the recurrence of July and other similar incidents.

“This approach ensures that the intelligence communities, including the Agency, produce coordinated intelligence products, which are timeous, relevant, credible and reliable,” Gungubele said.

Other weakness identified by the Sandy Africa Report include capacity constraints, especially at leadership and management level in the State Security Agency (SSA).

“In this financial year, a lot of progress has been made in the filling of vacancies at senior management level. This is steadily assisting the Agency to stabilise and to perform at its maximum.

Upon receiving the Judicial Commission of Inquiry on State Capture Report, the SSA developed an implementation plan on those recommendations, which are of relevance to the Agency.

“A significant number of the recommendations of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry on State Capture and of the HLRP have been implemented. For instance, the process to disestablish the Agency into Domestic and Foreign Branches is at an advanced stage.

"The Bill, which seeks to amend the National Strategic Intelligence Act no 39 of 1994, Intelligence Services Act, no 65 of 2002 and other relevant Intelligence laws so as to, amongst others, disestablish the SSA will be submitted to Parliament before the end of the financial year.

“In the same period, in addition to the finalisation of the General Intelligence Laws Amendments Bill, the Agency will also introduce the Interception Bill and finalize the Cybersecurity Bill," said Gungubele.

During 2023/2024 financial year, the SSA will continue to implement remaining recommendations of the HLRP and of the Judicial Commission of Enquiry into allegations of State Capture.

“The perception that nothing has been done to implement these recommendations is not accurate because out of the 73 recommendations from that report, 39 have been fully implemented and the rest are work in progress,” the Minister said.

Building an ethical and capable developmental State

Gungubele said government has placed public accountability at the centre of building an ethical and capable developmental state as set out in the National Development Plan, Vision 2030.

“To advance accountability the President has appointed various commissions to deal with corruption, to restore public trust and to restore the credibility of key institutions.

“The Commissions of Inquiry into Tax Administration and Governance at the South African Revenue Service resulted in an overhaul of SARS, and it being turned into one of the most efficient and well-performing public entities in this country,” the Minister said.

Last year, SARS broke revenue collection records, collecting over R1.2 trillion in revenues.

The Commission of Enquiry into the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) highlighted widespread abuses and governance failures at the PIC, and ongoing reforms are rebuilding the institution.

“The National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) Investigating Directorate (ID) has already begun preparing for trial cases emanating from the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, and last year several arrests were made.

“The ID has enrolled 32 matters involving 187 accused persons. Six new matters, involving 22 accused have been enrolled since the President tabled his response to the State Capture Commission in October 2022,” he said.

The Presidency continues to work closely with the Special Investigation Unit to (SIU) improve the monitoring and coordination of referrals arising from SIU investigations.

“These SIU interventions are bearing fruit with some of the looted money being returned by multinationals and others. The SIU investigation into COVID-19 procurement (Proclamation R23 of 2020) has to date resulted in 456 referrals to accounting officers for disciplinary action.

“Sixty-three officials have been found guilty. [A total of] 476 referrals have been made to the NPA for possible criminal investigation and prosecution. Eight matters are currently in court, and two guilty verdicts have been handed down so far,” the Minister said.

In the current financial year, 16 new Presidential Proclamations have been issued to authorise new investigations by the SIU.

Cabinet has also approved the National Anti-Corruption Strategy that seeks to give more impetus to the ongoing work to address any weaknesses in programmes designed to fight corruption.

“All these are concrete examples that we are a government at work. We are strengthening the capacity of the state qualitatively and quantitatively,” the Minister said.

Source: South African Government News Agency