The state security department is supposed to keep the country safe from any threat, internal and external, but that ministry has been the political battleground — with factions in the ruling ANC using state resources to wage their war.
A number of rogue elements have also allegedly used their positions in the department to enrich themselves, with no accountability.
Dlodlo, like her predecessor Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba, started with a vow to clean up the department; some R600-million has gone missing, taken through fraudulent invoices for services purportedly rendered. Dlodlo’s vow has set her on a collision course with senior officials there.
President Cyril Ramaphosa created a review panel, led by ANC veteran Sydney Mufamadi, to help to fix the rot in the department. (Moves like this have put corrupt officials under pressure. The tension has become so bad that it was rumoured that the minister was plotting to kill one of the officials.)
It found that there was no accountability and that, because there were no audits, money was taken and used for projects that had nothing to do with the State Security Agency’s mandate.
Dlodlo has demanded answers and is trying to implement the panel’s recommendations. She told Parliament that there were about 30 individuals inside and outside the State Security Agency (SSA) who were involved in corrupt activities. The minister has gone to the Hawks to get them to investigate this group.
Another of Dlodlo’s investigations found a sophisticated listening device that had been sourced by the SSA and went missing from the “Farm”, the agency’s headquarters. The device was apparently used just weeks before the ANC’s elective conference in Nasrec in 2017. Secrets are the currency of politics.
This is how deep the abuse of power and state resources has been in state security. Dlodlo’s predecessors, David Mahlobo and Bongani Bongo were so loyal to former president Jacob Zuma that few people know exactly what they did in the department.
The minister finds herself facing a mammoth task of cleaning up and turning around the department and its agency.
But the resistance by senior officials is making her task much more difficult. There is a tussle over what powers she has in the SSA’s operational matters. Some officials regard her as just a ceremonial head of the department who can’t be involved in operations. Dlodlo went public and spoke out against what she said was “perceived interference” by officials, who don’t want to account to her as the political head of the department.
Given how she performed in her previous portfolio as public service minister, it would be fair to think that Dlodlo can turn around the department and agency around.
She needs to ensure that her department is protecting the people of South Africa and not collecting secrets so politicians can blackmail their way to power.