Civil war continues in South African spy agency

Arthur Fraser

Arthur Fraser

In July of last year, South Africa’s ministerial Review Commission on Intelligence warned that a steadily declining culture of accountability in South Africa’s spy services threatened the country’s constitutional order. In October, the government’s minster for state security, Siyabonga Cwele, cited the Commission’s findings and policy suggestions in announcing a “major restructuring” of South Africa’s security services. Several months later, the “restructuring” process resembles a major civil war between rival political factions of the African National Congress. An entire generation of pro-ANC intelligence officials, who staffed the post-apartheid South African intelligence apparatus, has already been purged. The wave of purges was completed with the resignation this past week of Arthur Fraser, until recently director of the South African National Intelligence Agency’s Operations Division. Until his resignation, Fraser was the only remaining senior NIA official appointed by the government of Thabo Mbeki, whom Jacob Zuma beat in the 2008 elections to become South Africa’s current President. Fraser has refused to comment on his resignation, and the government says he was “not fired or pushed into resigning”, but rather “resigned out of his own free will to pursue personal endeavors”. But there are rumors that Fraser was deliberately squeezed out in a brutal turf battle, which included withholding funds required by one of the NIA units under his supervision, which is responsible for compensating about 100 high-level informants. The latter have remained unpaid since December –a situation which may jeopardize “key intelligence-gathering operations including those relating to possible terrorist threats to the 2010 World Cup”, according to one informant who spoke to South African daily The Mail & Guardian. As if all that wasn’t enough, Sheryl Cwele, estranged wife of state security minister Siyabonga Cwele, was arrested last week for alleged involvement in drugs trafficking.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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