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Lies, threats, plots as climate of paranoia & disinformation dominates at state security

2019-11-10 19:19

Claims of plotting and threats, resistance to change, and even the accusation that a minister is bent on assassinating a staff member – these are the conditions that State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo has had to contend with and try to fix for months.

In an interview with City Press, Dlodlo has laid bare her frustration with what she describes as lies, gossip, challenges to her authority and the wall she has come up against while trying to restructure the State Security Agency (SSA).

Last month, City Press reported on the heightened conflict between Dlodlo and two of her senior colleagues: SSA’s acting director-general (DG), Loyiso Jafta, and the head of the domestic branch of the SSA, Mahlodi Muofhe.

READ: Security minister at war with spy chiefs

According to Dlodlo, about seven deputy directors-general (DDGs) were earning salaries but not doing the work required of people in their positions. As a result, they had been “displaced” from their posts, with other senior managers having been appointed as acting DDGs in their place – costing the state millions of rands.

They are unplaced but are getting paid. They have employment and job titles, but are not doing the work
State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo

A DDG in the public sector is on a level 15 salary structure, making them the second-highest earners in government. Their annual salary starts at R1.7 million.

“We have quite a number of DDGs in the organisation, as picked up by the Auditor-General,” said Dlodlo. “They are unplaced but are getting paid. They have employment and job titles, but are not doing the work. And you have people at lower levels acting as DDGs, which really does not make sense.

“This comes at a cost to the state. The minister of finance has spoken at length about the wage bill and putting measures in place to mitigate its increase, yet this is what we are dealing with.”

Dlodlo said that when she began working at the agency with her deputy, Zizi Kodwa, they set to work to end this “acting regime”.

“We spoke to staff about ending this dispensation. There are also people who have been suspended over a long period of time, without their cases having been finalised.”

City Press has learnt that tension at the agency is so high, rumours are being spread that Dlodlo is intent on planning to kill one of the senior officials.

Dlodlo refused to comment on the allegations, but people close to her say these claims have been completely fabricated and attest to the prevailing climate of paranoia and disinformation at the SSA.

Dlodlo has expressed her determination to press ahead with effecting change at the agency, despite facing resistance. The SSA was supposed to have a restructured organogram from the beginning of October and to have placed individuals into positions, but this was put on hold.

The machinations of government in running an effective administration is something I know well
State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo

“What a lot of people do not appreciate is that I may be a minister today, but I was an administrator before,” said Dlodlo. “I was national deputy head of the Scorpions. I come with a lot of experience when it comes to administration. I was a previous minister of public service and administration.

“So, the machinations of government in running an effective administration is something I know well.

“And I am unapologetic about implementing the prescripts of the law in terms of the Public Service Act and the Public Finance Management Act, and any other legislation designed to ensure that administration runs effectively.”

Dlodlo emphasised that she was in the process of developing a strategy for the institution that would clearly show who was responsible for what – a restructuring process that landed her in conflict with Muofhe and Jafta.

“For a start, the Public Service Act is very clear on who is the custodian of the strategy in any department,” said Dlodlo. “It is the minister. Therefore, the process of developing a strategy is the minister’s responsibility.”

Behind her determination to see the restructuring happen, she added, was her fear that if vacancies were not filled over a certain time period, Treasury would freeze the posts and take the money elsewhere. “So, for how long are we going to be patient with these irregular things?”

The climate of paranoia and disinformation was at play during the tenure of Dlodlo’s predecessor, Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba, who also complained about “idle hands” at the SSA who spent their time concocting “files” against political office bearers.

An anonymous complaint, lodged with Parliament’s joint intelligence committee, accused Letsatsi-Duba of employing three family members and chartering a private plane at the state’s expense. Her response at the time was that she would not be derailed from her work of rooting out corruption in the SSA. However, she was removed from her post following the May elections and replaced with Dlodlo.

Sources at “the farm”, as the SSA’s headquarters are called, say the procrastination over restructuring and developing a new management strategy could be a stalling tactic by Dlodlo’s critics, until she, like her predecessor, is moved out of the portfolio by Cyril Ramaphosa.

Dlodlo confirmed that she and her two DGs were butting heads on some management issues. “Regarding the issue of staff in acting positions, yes, it is true that my DGs are not in sync with what I am trying to do. Well, what prevails is the minister. I am placed in that organisation to effect change and to ensure that it flourishes. Structure is the responsibility of the minister, and I cannot abdicate my responsibility.”

I serve nobody but the people of this country
State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo

Dlodlo pleaded to be given the space to do her work. She broke down when remembering what former ANC president Oliver Tambo had always expected of ANC members in exile. “I always remind comrades that every time OR Tambo came to the camps, without fail, he would ask: ‘Who do you serve?’ And in unison, we would all say: ‘We serve the people of South Africa.’ I serve nobody but the people of this country.”

Dlodlo has also had to shake off allegations that she remained loyal to former president Jacob Zuma and was therefore ill-suited to serve under Ramaphosa. “Anyone who knows me knows that I do not operate along factional lines. Nobody tells Ayanda that this is the direction, when Ayanda knows she is going in a different direction. I do not beat anybody’s drum. I have got my own drum. That must be very clear.

“I have not seen former president Zuma in a long time and I do not even have his number. The only time I can be accused of having been in his faction was at the conference in Polokwane, when we all agreed that we did not want a third term [for then president Thabo Mbeki]”.

While Dlodlo was loath to bring Ramaphosa into her issues, she pleaded for support. “As a government, we need to make hard choices about whether we want a weak or a strong intelligence service. A strong intelligence service does not tolerate the peddling of lies, the distortion of facts, rampant gossip, complete fabrications and rumour-mongering. Otherwise, the organisation will never flourish. If we want to be strong, we must get rid of all these things. We must adopt a zero-tolerance attitude to all these things.”

Dlodlo said a number of factors needed working on to ensure that the SSA was a world-class provider of intelligence. “We have in that entity people with skills and vast experience, but we need to ensure that these skills are put to good use and that the experience that people have does not lie idle and is fully utilised.”

The key starting point, she said, lay in formulating a clear communication strategy, outlining where state security was going. “That communication strategy is supposed to be understood by everyone. On the one hand, we cannot effect fundamental changes or an organisational overhaul without a change management strategy to help the organisation move from where it is to where we want it to be.”


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December 8 2019