Thapelo Lekabe and Siyanda Ndlovu
4 minute read
29 Jan 2021
2:00 pm

Zuma’s millions, anonymous spies identified – the week that was at the Zondo inquiry

Thapelo Lekabe and Siyanda Ndlovu

It was a week filled with drama involving South Africa's spies, billions in theft, bribery of judges and another Constitutional Court setback for the man supposedly behind it all.

Former president, Jacob Zuma leaves the State Capture Commission in Braamfontein after hearing that Judge Raymond Zondo will not recuse himself, 19 November 2020. Picture: Neil McCartney

It has been an eventful week at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, with bombshell testimony given by various witnesses into the affairs of the State Security Agency (SSA).

Spook money for Zuma’s benefit

The revelations started on Monday with the appearance of former safety and security minister, Sydney Mufamadi, who headed the High-Level Review Panel on the SSA that was established by President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2018.

Mufamadi told the commission’s chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, that former president Jacob Zuma was the beneficiary of millions of rands from the SSA’s special operations unit.

He said an agency operative testified to the panel that Zuma was supposed to receive cash payments of R2.5 million per month in the 2015-2016 financial year from former state security minister, David Mahlobo.

It was, however, unclear whether Zuma did in fact receive the money as the agent didn’t personally witness the payments.

Mufamadi also went on to detail claims that the SSA funded several projects that were meant for Zuma’s personal benefit, such as Project Construcao that involved the training of undercover agents in VIP protection who were assigned to provide protection to the then-president and his political allies.

The other project ran by special ops was Project Justice, which supposedly involved recruiting and handling sources in the judiciary in order to influence the outcome of cases against Zuma, while Operation Lock provided a safe house and protection to apartheid state assassin, Eugene de Kock, when he was released on parole in 2015.

ALSO READ: Zuma pocketed spy money, spent millions on positive media spin, Zondo hears

Stop, start and go

On Tuesday, it was the turn of the acting director-general at the Department of State Security, Loyiso Jafta to take the stand.

Before his testimony could take begin though, State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo attempted to halt his testimony citing national security concerns. Justice Zondo, however, dismissed the minister’s application on the grounds that Jafta’s testimony would not compromise national security.

Jafta told the commission that the SSA lost R125 million during the 2017-2018 financial year without anyone taking responsibility for this.

He said the money was allocated to operations in the office of former SSA director-general Arthur Fraser, who was appointed as the new commissioner for Correctional Services in 2018.

Spooks in the spotlight

On Wednesday, it was the turn of some of the SSA’s spooks to tell all at the commission.

An anonymous witness, known as Ms K – an active agent working for the SSA – gave her testimony and referenced the content of an affidavit by Mr Y, who could not testify due to his state of health.

Ms K revealed that the deep rot, maladministration and abuse of the agency at an executive level happened under the political leadership of ministers Siyabonga Cwele, David Mahlobo and Bongani Bongo.

She revealed that they had even overseen the creation of a dodgy parallel force, using SSA funding, that took over all aspects of assuring Zuma’s personal safety.

She said this force extended to a toxicology unit that ran at a cost of R1.8 million per month, at the expense of taxpayers.

Compromised judiciary

On Thursday, Miss K continued with her testimony, adding to allegations that there had even been bribery of judges.

ALSO READ: SSA had no respect for Constitution, Jafta tells Zondo commission

She claimed that former state security minister David Mahlobo was at at one stage given a sum of R21.8 million to “deal with judges”, as there was a belief within the Zuma camp that judges were colluding to overthrow the government.

She went on to reveal that a sum of R17 million that was stolen at the SSA complex was an inside job, and that the people behind it were still working for the agency.

This was just the tip of the iceberg as more drama was to unfold towards the end of Thursday.

It emerged that her safety had been compromised as screengrabs of her and Mr K was making the rounds on social media, allegedly containing details linked to them.

Zuma’s hand forced

Also on Thursday, Zuma suffered a significant setback in his bid to evade the commission.

The Constitutional Court handed down judgment on whether Zuma would be legally obliged to give evidence before the Commission.

The court ruled that Zuma has to obey all summonses and directives issued by the commission. He must appear before the commission on the dates determined.

He does not have the right to remain silent before the commission, but he retains the right not to incriminate himself.

Media houses recruitment

Many of the media houses that State Security Agency (SSA) operatives tried to recruit for its “Project Wave” either wanted too much money, or were alert to such approaches and rebuffed them, the commission of inquiry on state capture heard on Friday.

Evidence leader Advocate Paul Pretorius said this was revealed in a progress report found in an SSA safe which listed its “challenges” and “achievements” under the project.

One of Project Wave’s “challenges” was listed as the recruitment of media houses to work with SSA operatives.

The media houses’ cash demands were either too high, or they had their own security alerts against such approaches, and so were immune to being recruited.

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