Thulani Dlomo, the man who has been called “Zuma’s private spy” was fired or should I say recalled from his position as ambassador to Japan in January 2019. But he did not return to the State Secret Agency headquarters in Pretoria, also known as “The Farm” where he headed the controversial Special Operations Unit before his posting to Tokyo, and was subsequently also fired by the SSA. But it turns out Dlomo was not “missing” after being absent without leave for months since his recall. Dlomo told a journalist from the Daily News that he was off sick and said he would challenge his dismissal in court. Dlomo is believed to be the head of the SSA rogue actors loyal to Jacob Zuma who were not only behind the “rogue unit” narrative at SARS, but were also said to be involved in the cleaning up of evidence that could implicate Zuma in the arms deal scandal. Marianne Thamm details in this report in the Daily Maverick the intriguing story of how Zuma, Dlomo, the SARS rogue unit narrative and the Public Protector are tied together. It sounds like a spy novel; the problem is that it is not. It is the remnants of a chapter in the history of South Africa that we are not able to shut and is still a danger to our fragile democracy. Added to that; these former state employees who are implicated in state capture are using our courts to ensure that the taxpayers keep on paying their salaries. – Linda van Tilburg
Disappeared: Crucial documents fingering SSA spies who infiltrated SARS
Thulani “Silence” Dlomo, seriously implicated in findings of the High-Level Panel Review into the State Security Agency (SSA) has, it turns out, not been AWOL since his recall in January as ambassador to Japan. He has been hanging out at “a secret location” right under our noses all along.
While a special SSA “team” was out “hunting” Dlomo, Minister of State Security Ayanda Dlodlo dismissed him for not pitching up back at work. Then on the weekend of 4 November Daily News journalist, Sihle Mavuso unsurfaced Dlomo, who agreed to speak from “a secret location” to “set the record straight.”
Dlomo told Mavuso that he “rejects claims that he was in hiding and had absconded from work”, but said instead that he had been booked off ill and had sent sick notes to Dlodlo.
The sick notes clearly did not make it onto Dlodlo’s desk because the minister confirmed to Daily Maverick on 15 October 2019 (just the other day) that Dlomo’s “dismissal letter” had been finalised.
“The letter is there. Whether he’s received it, I do not know,” Dlodlo confirmed to Marianne Merten.
In the meantime, Dlomo told the Daily News that he approached the Labour Court to challenge his dismissal. (Get popcorn)
An important part of the “record” Dlomo forgot, however, to “set straight” are the damning findings that he ran an unconstitutional parallel rogue intelligence structure that served the political needs of Jacob Zuma.
He also did not set straight whether he would challenge Inspector-General of Intelligence Setlhomamaru Dintwe’s claim in January 2019, that he, Dlomo, as well as former SSA DG Arthur Fraser had been spotted hot-footing it with a pile of files and documents to the shredder at SSA headquarters in Musanda.
Dintwe made the admission to Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane when she popped in to discuss “rogue unit” matters. Dintwe told the public protector that his office had been tipped off about Dlomo and Fraser’s alleged attempt to destroy evidence.
The Inspector-General had, acting on the tip-off, organised a raid on Musanda but said he had had to give the SSA notice. (One would assume the Inspector-General, empowered by law, could walk into any office anywhere and demand to see documents. Sending an advance note is by default opposite to the very meaning of the term “raid” – Ed.)
Dintwe admitted to the public protector that he had “received a call from Parliament” asking him to call off the raid. He didn’t reveal who it was on the other end of the phone that had subverted the law and the Constitution. (Failure to report such apparent law-breaking is illegal itself – Ed.)
This top-level political interference is indicative of the high stakes in the post-Zuma era of clearing out rogue elements from the well-and-truly captured SSA. (These are the findings in the High-Level Panel review.)
In this life-or-death battle, the importance of former Inspector-General of Intelligence Faith Radebe’s 2014 report into the State Security Agency’s alleged involvement in destabilising SARS is a crucial (albeit fundamentally flawed) piece of the puzzle.
It is the subject of court battles between the public protector, Pravin Gordhan and the Economic Freedom Fighters. The EFF made the classified document public by appending it to an affidavit in the Equality Court “dog of white monopoly capital” case brought by Gordhan.
This resulted in Gordhan seeking an interlocutory order preventing its public dissemination.
This is the same report that mysteriously “found its way to the reception area” of the public protector’s office. It is the same report that Mkhwebane was trying to get the Inspector-General or the minister to release as part of her tenacious ongoing investigation into SARS and Gordhan.
In the meantime, Daily Maverick has reliably learned that Dlodlo – who is the legal custodian of Radebe’s report – has released a redacted version to the public protector’s office. The names of all state security operatives listed in the supposed original have been removed.
This leaves the public protector with only the findings – that Gordhan should be charged – with no crucial sight of the list of SSA witnesses who formed the core of Radebe’s report, its direction and findings.
One of the key witnesses was Dlomo himself.
Daily Maverick has emailed the ministry for confirmation that the redacted report had been handed to Mkhwebane, but had not yet heard back at the time of writing.
It is highly likely that the redacted findings will soon be made public – but forget about being informed about who it was exactly who gave the evidence that was relied upon in the report.
When Ivan Pillay and Johann van Loggerenberg were first interviewed by Radebe, Govender and others at the Inspector-General’s offices in 2014, they brought with them substantial evidence that SARS was indeed under attack by rogue SSA agents. They lodged 34 complaints with 64 names of agents – one of them was Thulani Dlomo.
Van Loggerenberg was accompanied in 2014 by two lawyers from SARS for the interviews with Radebe. The sessions were recorded by an Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence (OIGI) sound technician on a “sophisticated device” belonging to the Inspector-General’s office. Van Loggerenberg was formally told that the meeting was being recorded and he agreed.
How do we know all this?
It is all part of the public record, attached to the thick wads of affidavits that have been filed in various court battles between Gordhan, the EFF and Mkhwebane.
Letters between the Office of the Inspector-General and Pillay and Van Loggerenberg’s legal representatives are attached to Pillay’s responding affidavit opposing the EFF’s application to have the Radebe report made public and filed on 29 September 2019 with the Pretoria High Court.
The correspondence details Pillay and Van Loggerenberg’s attempts to access records relating to the 2014 interviews with Radebe. Dintwe responded that while his office could confirm that Van Loggerenberg had been interviewed by the former Inspector-General on 25 August 2014 and again on 15 September 2014, there was no trace of the recorded interviews.
Dintwe said, “after a thorough and diligent search for the record, we could not locate any records except relevant notes and other documents in the investigation file”.
Dintwe asked Pillay and Van Loggerenberg’s legal representatives to appreciate that “I only assumed office after a period of 21 months following the departure of my predecessor. The Intelligence Services Oversight Act does not provide for an acting IGI and there was not a proper handing over.”
This not what Pillay and Van Loggerenberg’s lawyers wanted to hear, clearly.
“It is of great concern that these 34 complaints and the list of names and explanations given by Mr Van Loggerenberg as recorded on 25 August 2014 by the Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence audio expert have now mysteriously disappeared despite a ‘thorough and diligent search’.”
Even worse, said the lawyers, the Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence was the “oversight body of the nation’s secrets”.
“Therefore the OIGI premises, records, classification and activities are subject to the same security and controls as the entire state intelligence community in law and in practice.”
It was, noted the lawyers, “simply inconceivable that two separate audio recordings of Mr Van Loggerenberg’s interviews containing complaints of such importance and which were specifically recorded with high-end equipment by a specialist of the OIGI, as well as transcripts for these interviews have simply and by accident ‘disappeared’ from such a top-secret and tightly controlled intelligence environment such as the OIGI.”
But hey, it happens. Sometimes things appear at Mkhwebane’s reception. Things disappear from the face of the earth too. Funny how all of them help one specific side, though.
Remember that break-in at the SSA’s own offices in December 2015 when someone made off with R17-million in foreign currency? If the SSA’s offices are vulnerable, then why not the Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence?
But we digress.
Back to the crucial 2014 IGI ‘investigation’ into SSA shenanigans at SARS.
Thanks to the EFF, which posted the (unverified) IGI report online, we learned exactly whose testimony Radebe relied on, in the end, to make her findings against SARS – over which she had no mandate in law.
Radebe relied on evidence from a gallery of SSA rogues, all of whom have subsequently been discredited, including SSA agents Belinda Walter, Dlomo, Mandisa Mokwena, Inzo Ismael, Chris Burger, Ferdi Fyer, Graham Minaar, Madeleine Schlenter, the Department of Priority Crime Investigation’s Brigadier Casper Jonker, SAPS Crime Intelligence operatives Lieutenant-Colonel Hennie Niemann and Peerie Spangenberg.
In a 16 September 2019 letter to Dintwe, Pillay and Van Loggerenberg wrote that during their meeting with Radebe and Govender in 2014 they were clear that the focus was about “implicated state intelligence operatives and the illegal undermining of SARS as an institution, its audits, and investigations and its officials… in particular with respect to the tobacco industry and other SARS projects.”
It gets worse.
Both men say in legal papers that they testified back in 2014 that the SSA was “spying and running disinformation and disruption campaigns against political and societal formations and organisations, politicians, senior officials of the SAPS, the DPCI, the NPA to name a few”.
They set out the “abuse, looting, corruption and theft relating to the Secret Services Account funds to the extent the SARS and some of its officials came to be aware of”.
(All of this has, of course, been subsequently confirmed in the High-Level Panel Review as well as the SSA’s own investigations into the agency way back in 2009, after Arthur Fraser’s turn there between 2007 and 2009).
Pillay and Van Loggerenberg’s lawyers lay it down:
“Having regard to that which had been presented to the OIGI as broadly set out above, it is clear that the OIGI was placed in the possession of, notified of, and received complaints including being offered facts, evidence and witnesses and the location of such, that relates directly to State Capture and crimes against the state and the capturing of state officials and capabilities to advance various agendas outside the Services.”
The Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence, said Pillay and Van Loggerenberg’s lawyers, seemingly “decided to ignore this. Instead, it would appear that the OIGI at the time aided and abetted various state intelligence operatives who were in fact implicated in some of the [original] 34 complaints”.
In July 2019, Van Loggerenberg wrote to the IG asking him to reopen the investigation into the complaints that had been lodged.
This time he added a few more names to the list of 64 including Monde Gadini, Arthur Fraser, Riana Peach, Thulani Dlomo, Peter Salinga, Jay Govender, Barnard Mokwena, James Ramabulana, Jonas Makwakwa, Tom Moyane, Gene Ravele, Bob Mhlanga, Morris Bavuma, Manzini Manala, Piet Rampedi, Mzilikazi wa Afrika, Martin Welz, Jack Lundin, Colonel Herbie Heap, Colonel Frik Smit, Warrant Officer Willie Schreiber, advocate Johan van Heerden, BAT, BATSA, Forensic Security Services and advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
While the IG had earlier responded to Van Loggerenberg that the office would be revisiting Van Loggerenberg’s original 34 complaints featuring the 64 names, there has been no indication he will cast the net as wide as Van Loggerenberg’s attorneys have requested.
Essentially, as far as Van Loggerenberg and Pillay are concerned, and based on the evidence they state they handed to the IG in 2014, Radebe’s report, in the end, was a stitch-up. She turned on SARS and let the SSA off the hook.
And so the “rogue unit” narrative was born and has been with us since.
In the words of their legal team:
“Had the then OIGI (Radebe – Ed) conducted a proper investigation and considered the complaints by Mr Van Loggerenberg and allowed him to provide the evidence to the OIGI as he had suggested, much of the hardship that befell SARS as a consequence, and as a result the economy, government’s ability to raise taxes and ultimately every single South African, could have been prevented, halted and the perpetrators exposed. The OIGI failed the nation.” DM