How Zuma used ‘intelligence reports’ to get away with whatever he wanted

FILE PICTURE:  Former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS

FILE PICTURE: Former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS

The finance minister lifted the lid on some of the favoured strategies employed by the former ANC intelligence master.

Whether it was flushing out opponents, finding a way to fire ministers or reshuffling Cabinet, using dodgy intelligence reports gave Jacob Zuma the ammunition he needed when he was president, a political analyst says.

Somadoda Fikeni, an academic at Unisa said this in reaction to this week’s revelations by Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Nene before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

Nene testified that Zuma had used an intelligence report called Project Spider Web to warn that Treasury was being “infiltrated by spies” in 2015.

Fikeni said: “Zuma’s entire life in the struggle has been in the military and the intelligence space. So it’s no coincidence that intelligence was used as a weapon during his tenure as president.

“We saw the securitisation of the state and disproportionate deployment of ministers chosen mainly from Umkhonto weSizwe. Take [former finance minister for a few days] Des van Rooyen, who has no financial pedigree.

“Using intelligence reports, it is easy to cast aspersions on people without backing them up.”

This led to some ministers and senior civil servants who disagreed with Zuma being branded “spies”.

Nene also disclosed that Zuma – in the presence of an Engen-Petronas official – gave the finance minister a dressing down for his hesitancy in approving a PetroSA guarantee to raise funds to buy a refinery from Malaysia.

The “spies” cited in Project Spider Web were respected senior civil servants who constituted the backbone of Treasury. They included then deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, then director-general Lungisa Fuzile, then chief procurement officer Kenneth Brown, then deputy directors-general Andrew Donaldson, Anthony Julies and Ismail Momoniat and Public Investment Corporation CEO Daniel Matjila.

According to the document, they were all bent on influencing economic and fiscal policy and the appointment of key leaders in the Reserve Bank, Treasury, the trade and industry department and state-owned enterprises “that fall under their ministries”.

Nene said: “According to the report, I was being handled by [Absa CEO] Maria Ramos … Fuzile would not extend his contract ending in August 2015, but would join the University of Stellenbosch – a catalyst for big changes inside Treasury. Avrit Halstead would be promoted to director-general. Michael Sachs, then deputy director-general, would be transferred to an SOE. Tumi Moleke would be transferred to another ministry as deputy director-general working with Treasury.”

Zuma’s discredited intelligence report turned out to be “a pretext by those behind him who wished to raid the public coffers”.

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