SPIES CRY FOUL

State Se­cu­rity Agency of­fi­cials, an­gry at hav­ing been side­lined, have ac­cused their boss of or­ches­trat­ing a power grab and are em­bark­ing on a fight­back cam­paign

CityPress - - Front Page - SETUMO STONE setumo.stone@city­press.co.za

State Se­cu­rity Agency di­rec­tor-gen­eral Arthur Fraser has re­struc­tured spy ser­vices, elim­i­nat­ing the two direc­torgen­eral po­si­tions – for do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional ser­vices – and cre­at­ing a new struc­ture that has caused re­sent­ment among some of the staff.

In terms of the new struc­ture, Fraser, whose post is nick­named “Su­per DG”, lit­er­ally be­comes the su­per­spy as a new layer of seven deputies will re­port di­rectly to him.

The two scrapped di­rec­tor-gen­eral posts, which were not oc­cu­pied, pre­vi­ously had five deputies re­port­ing to them – three in the do­mes­tic branch and two in the for­eign branch.

Each branch still has 16 gen­eral man­agers who re­port to the deputies. How­ever, half of them have been shifted and re­placed with new peo­ple.

The shake-up has led to dis­sat­is­fac­tion among af­fected staff, who point out that Fraser has, in ef­fect, be­come more pow­er­ful by ap­point­ing new peo­ple who would be be­holden to him.

Those who have been “de­moted”, de­spite keep­ing their salaries and perks, claim to have lost re­spect in an en­vi­ron­ment where “com­mand and con­trol” are key.

“When you lose the re­spect, you lose the com­mand and con­trol,” said one.

“You can­not have se­nior peo­ple float­ing in the or­gan­i­sa­tion. What mes­sage does it send to ju­nior staff?” asked one.

“It is a sim­ple il­lus­tra­tion that the or­gan­i­sa­tion is not hold­ing.”

City Press heard that the ca­su­al­ties, among them ex­pe­ri­enced and long-serv­ing mem­bers of the agency, had been “shifted to less sig­nif­i­cant posts that, in ef­fect, ren­der them re­dun­dant”.

By last week, talk of a fight­back cam­paign against Fraser was in full swing, with the op­tion to test the ra­tio­nale of the changes in court hav­ing been given “se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion”.

How­ever, not all those who are dis­grun­tled have come on board and the lob­by­ing con­tin­ues.

Brian Dube, spokesper­son for the State Se­cu­rity Agency, con­firmed a re­struc­tur­ing process had taken place, but told City Press that there was no need for staff to be con­cerned.

“In 2009, a process en­sued to merge the then in­de­pen­dent in­tel­li­gence or­gan­i­sa­tions into a sin­gle state se­cu­rity agency. Upon his ap­point­ment in Septem­ber 2016, the di­rec­tor-gen­eral spent his first 100 days assess­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

“After a lengthy process of ... con­sul­ta­tion, the or­gan­i­sa­tion pro­duced a roadmap that will en­sure a seam­less or­gan­i­sa­tion that is bet­ter able to re­spond to the chal­lenges of the 21st cen­tury.

“Changes that will re­sult from this or­gan­i­sa­tional repo­si­tion­ing will be han­dled ac­cord­ingly, and there should be no rea­son for con­cern.” Also un­der scru­tiny is the out­come of the DA spy tapes court case. It is an­tic­i­pated that Fraser could be com­pro­mised if the cor­rup­tion charges against Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma are re­in­stated.

The dis­grun­tled agency of­fi­cials are pre­par­ing to probe the rea­sons be­hind Fraser’s pre­vi­ous de­par­ture from the agency back in 2010. He had been ap­pointed by for­mer pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki to head its op­er­a­tions di­vi­sion. Fraser joined the Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Agency (NIA) in 1995. He worked as an in­ves­ti­ga­tor for the truth com­mis­sion and was the NIA’s West­ern Cape head between 1998 and 2004. The Mail & Gur­dian re­ported in April 2009 that Fraser had leaked se­cret record­ings to Zuma’s lawyers, which saw crim­i­nal charges against him dropped. But the spooks have re­peat­edly de­nied this.

Zuma ap­pointed Fraser as di­rec­tor-gen­eral in Septem­ber last year, less than a month after his pre­de­ces­sor, Sonto Kud­joe, re­signed.

Last week, fol­low­ing a query from City Press, Fraser al­legedly held an ur­gent meet­ing with staff mem­bers, where they were warned not to leak in­for­ma­tion to the me­dia be­cause “proper con­sul­ta­tion had been con­ducted be­fore the changes were ef­fected”.

At the end of Jan­uary, Fraser called a meet­ing of se­nior staff, in­clud­ing those from other prov­inces, where the idea of the re­struc­tur­ing was hatched.

How­ever, those who at­tended the meet­ing de­scribed it as a cover to le­git­imise Fraser’s power grab, un­der the guise that it was rec­om­mended by par­tic­i­pants.

Fraser’s de­fend­ers dis­agreed, say­ing those who had been shifted were also im­pli­cated in al­le­ga­tions of abus­ing agency funds to spon­sor their lux­ury life­styles.

“Oth­ers had also be­come too lazy and too com­fort­able in their po­si­tions,” said a sym­pa­thiser. Those who at­tended the Jan­uary meet­ing said Fraser’s pro­posed changes could take away some of State Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter David Mahlobo’s pow­ers by stealth and cre­ate a chan­nel for him to re­port di­rectly to Zuma.

But those close to Mahlobo said the di­rec­tor-gen­eral, as well as the head of spe­cial op­er­a­tions, had al­ways re­ported di­rectly to the pres­i­dent. They also de­nied that there was bad blood between Mahlobo and Fraser. In any case, it is the pres­i­dent who signs off on the ap­point­ment of di­rec­tors-gen­eral and nor­mally, they all have ac­cess to him, said another in­sider.

Oth­ers had also be­come too lazy and too com­fort­able in their po­si­tions

SPY BOSS Arthur Fraser

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