South African spy chiefs fired as political turmoil deepens
September 13, 2011 3 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The heads of South Africa’s three major intelligence departments have become the latest casualties in a major political battle waging within the ruling African National Congress (ANC), which threatens to engulf the entire country. Several South African news outlets report that Siyabonga Cwele, the country’s Minister for State Security, summarily fired the three senior intelligence officials late last week, after a major row over providing government protection for his wife, who has been convicted of drugs smuggling. The three officials, who have stepped down, are Jeff Maqetuka, Director of the State Security Agency (SSA), and Gibson Njenje and Moe Shaik, respective heads of the SSA’s domestic and external intelligence services. According to press reports, the three officials unanimously objected to Cwele’s order to provide his wife Sheryl with secret service protection during her May 2011 trial for drugs smuggling, in which she was sentenced to 12 years in prison. But there are signs that Sheryl Cwele’s case was simply the last drop, which came on top a series of turf wars and bureaucratic conflicts between various factions of the ANC. Specifically, there is speculation in South African intelligence circles that Gibson Njenje resigned partly in protest against so-called “unauthorized operations”, namely telecommunications and physical surveillance of ANC cabinet ministers. The surveillance operations are reportedly being conducted in preparation for a showdown between rival ANC factions in December of 2013. At that time, ANC President Jacob Zuma is expected to face off the party’s Youth League leader, Julius Malema. The latter, favored by an increasingly disaffected segment of the ANC’s working class supporters, is seen as representing the radical populist wing of the party. South African government spokesman Jimmy Manyi told a news conference that the firings of the three senior spy officials were considered “a departmental matter” and that a statement would be issued “at some point”. Reports of civil wars between various units and offices within the SSA (previously known as the National Intelligence Agency), are not new. In July of 2009, a ministerial Review Commission on Intelligence warned that the factionalism, coupled with a steadily declining culture of accountability in South Africa’s spy services, threatened the country’s constitutional order.