A storm is brewing around the South African State Security Agency (SSA) after an undisclosed sum in foreign currency was stolen from the department’s Pretoria headquarters on Boxing Day. Media reports have put the amount stolen at roughly R50 million, while there are some suggestions of a possible inside job.
The incident has brought about questions around the effectiveness of the SSA, especially considering the organisation is mandated with monitoring foreign and domestic threats before they occur.
Jakkie Cilliers, chairman of the Institute for Security Studies’ (ISS) board of trustees, says the robbery has done little to boost the credibility of the country’s national intelligence group in terms of public faith.
“What concerns most South Africans is that a theft can occur within the SSA, which is responsible for the security of the state. One would expect that this needs to be an inside job. It also points to all kinds of challenges with regards to what’s happening within the (South African) intelligence community,” he said.
The theft marks the most recent in a series of scandals to have hit the SSA in recent years. Referencing last year’s spy cables saga, Cilliers says there are suggestions the intelligence group are conducting illegal bulk interception of mass surveillance in South Africa.
“These things all build up, and are a cause of concern at a time when there has been quite a reorganisation of the intelligence community since 2009, when President Zuma came in,” he said.
Cilliers has also expressed concern at allegations that the SSA are effectively being used by different factions within the ruling government to aid internal disputes and rivalries.
“This is really a cause of concern, that what we see is the abuse of the intelligence community for factional disputes within the ANC. This is what has the official opposition and others up in arms,” he said, adding that the SSA need run above party political competition.
The case is currently being investigated by the Hawks. VOC