CROSSING A LINE
Why was SA’S former top spy moved to the post of national commissioner of correctional services instead of being suspended? It may be because, in politics and intelligence, trade-offs must be made
Irrational and unreasonable, illegal and unconstitutional. Gross abuse of public office in order to achieve improper ends. This was the description given for the conduct of SA’S former top spy by the intelligence watchdog shortly before he was unceremoniously moved to head the prisons as national commissioner of correctional services.
It was a really bad week for Arthur Fraser. The known Jacob Zuma ally, who has been accused of running parallel intelligence networks within the State Security Agency (SSA), was swiftly shifted out of his position of power after he overstepped a line which few others would dare to cross.
In unprecedented fashion the dirty linen of the intelligence agency was hung out in court papers and in a media statement in which Setlhomamaru Dintwe, the inspector-general of intelligence (IGI), accused Fraser of revoking his top-secret security clearance as a way of thwarting an investigation in which Fraser himself was directly implicated.
Usually the underbelly of SA’S covert operations is known only through leaks and limited and clinical communication.
Even parliament’s joint standing committee on intelligence (JSCI), to which the IGI has to account, does not disclose the finer details of what it knows and committee members are required to have top-secret security clearance.
The urgent application, which has been dropped, was set in motion by Fraser’s decision to revoke Dintwe’s security clearance. The move to revoke the clearance blocked him from gaining access to his office and executing his constitutional and statutory obligations.
It was only by the intervention of state security minister Dipuo Letsatsi-duba, in consultation with president Cyril Ramaphosa, that the details weren’t interrogated in an open court.
The papers show how Fraser acted brazenly, as if he were untouchable, even in a political dispensation where his key ally, former president Zuma, was not there to protect him.
Dintwe’s version tells a tale of him begging for information, and asking for money and access merely to be able to do his job, which included an investigation of the shadowy structures allegedly created by Fraser. Threats against him, which included a change in his security detail, also highlighted some of his fears.
Dintwe plays it safe and only refers to the allegations that have already been made public, which he was investigating at the time that Fraser started asking questions about his security clearance and indicated that he would be re-vetted.
These allegations include a claim that Fraser allegedly fraudulently copied the signature of the then minister of intelligence Ronnie Kasrils when establishing an illegal intelligence programme known as the principal agent network (Pan).
He says it is also alleged that Fraser, through Pan, improperly awarded tenders and contracts to people associated with his family and to other individuals.
It is also alleged he was party to the establishment of an intelligence-gathering unit outside the provisions of the statute that governs intelligence gathering.
He attaches, as part of the court documents, extracts of Jacques Pauw’s book The President’s Keepers, in which Fraser is directly implicated.
Fraser’s family had indicated shortly after the release of the book — which they rubbished — that they would brief lawyers to set the record straight. But Pauw’s attorney Willem de Klerk tells the Financial Mail that almost six months after the book’s publication, neither he nor Pauw have received as much as a letter of demand from the Fraser family.
Dintwe’s investigation into Fraser was not prompted by the book, but by a complaint laid by DA chief whip John Steenhuisen, months before the release of the book. Dintwe says it was already public knowledge in May 2017 that the DA had lodged the complaint of which Fraser was the subject.
Fraser disputes this, and indicated in his court papers that he did not know about the investigation.
Dintwe says it was only in November
2017 that Fraser sent a “threatening letter” to him, in which he tells Dintwe that he was aware that Dintwe had classified information submitted to his office by the DA. This was, according to Dintwe, illustrative of the extent of the abuse by Fraser as the information was prima facie evidence of his own misconduct. The drama surrounding Fraser and Dintwe has, however, highlighted the systemic issues that affect the office of the IGI and its independence.
Dintwe has not dropped his court bid in which he asks the court to declare that the DG of intelligence has no authority to grant, revise or revoke the security clearance of the IGI, and that some of the regulations envisaged in the Intelligence Services Oversight Act be declared unconstitutional.
He asks the court to, among other things, declare that, pending changes to the legisla