Business Day

Mbalula tightens his grip on police intelligen­ce unit

Directive beefs up capacity to spy on citizens Imposes tighter control on R700m slush fund

- Stephan Hofstatter

Police Minister Fikile Mbalula has ordered a huge shake-up at the South African Police Services’ (SAPS’s) crime intelligen­ce division.

Business Day has seen a directive sent by Mbalula on September 12 to newly appointed acting head of crime intelligen­ce, Maj-Gen King Ngcobo, which institutes sweeping changes, tightens his grip on the division and beefs up its capacity to spy on citizens.

The directive imposes tighter ministeria­l control on its R700m slush fund that often faces allegation­s of being looted or used to fight factional political battles.

Sources at crime intelligen­ce, who cannot be named because they are not authorised to talk to the media, said the spy division’s top brass had met this week to implement the changes. This included suspending slush fund chief Maj-Gen Obed Nemutanzhe­la on Monday and rescinding the promotion of Col Feroze Khan, who had allegedly been appointed irregularl­y to the rank of major-general in charge of surveillan­ce.

Police spokeswoma­n Sally de Beer declined to comment on the suspension and referred questions to Mbalula.

Mbalula confirmed he had sent a directive to Ngcobo to remove “those people who use state resources for things other than for the safety of our people”, his spokesman Vuyo Mhaga said. He denied purging supporters of former crime intelligen­ce head Richard Mdluli, to replace them with officials loyal to him. “The minister is not in the business of purging anybody,” Mhaga said.

In his directive, Mbalula stresses the need to rid the division of rogue spies. “Intelligen­ce informatio­n is not to be used for

political reasons, blackmail or other nefarious witch-hunting against any other citizen,” or political party, he said.

The sources said they welcomed Mbalula’s efforts to clean up the division, but warned that his directive was also aimed at ensuring his loyalists were in control at the ANC elective conference in December.

“This happened in 2012, but this is more like 2007,” said one, referring to the ANC conference in Polokwane that led to Thabo Mbeki’s removal as president. “It’s all part of the same game.”

Mbalula is said to be clearing out a group of agents loyal to Mdluli, who has been on suspension for six years.

“Mdluli is still calling the shots,” said one source. “But if you want to get rogue elements out of CI [crime intelligen­ce] you must first appoint a permanent national and divisional commission­er. He hasn’t done that.”

Mdluli could not be reached for comment.

Mbalula wants crime intelligen­ce to “enhance its data mining of all citizens and residents in SA”. His directive stresses that crime intelligen­ce has to be depolitici­sed and abide by the Constituti­on to restore public trust. “We are aware the intelligen­ce machinery can abuse its powers and infringe on rights without good cause, or unlawfully interfere in lawful politics and favour or prejudice [one] politician against the other…”

But the reforms grant new powers to the minister that are likely to prove controvers­ial. He wants to be supplied with a budget analysis for 2017 that is aligned with his directives. He also directed Ngcobo to supply an audit of all registered and unregister­ed intelligen­ce operations, including their cost and for legal advice to be sought on approval of covert operations.

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