The illegal outflow of cash from South Africa amounts to about R80-billion a year, so one would expect the State Security Agency (SSA) to have a firm grip on how it is done.
And that would include the money being moved by those friends of President Jacob Zuma, the Guptas. The public protector’s State of Capture report stands out as the national issue of the year, but it’s near impossible to tell where the State Security Minister David Mahlobo was when all that was contained in it was happening.
It seems he was having his nails done at that Mpumalanga parlour belonging to some self-confessed rhino-horn smuggler.
Mahlobo threatened to sue Al-Jazeera over that exposé but, at last check, no papers have been filed. It’s probably a hard case to argue with a picture of yourself next to the lovely Wei Chelsea. And with the parlour in question being investigated by the Hawks, this represents a significant intelligence failure.
Mahlobo’s office declined to participate in this year’s report card so other opinions were canvassed.
One person said: “Your finance minister is being tackled in what is nothing but a malicious prosecution being driven by those with a vested interest in controlling the purse strings at treasury and you don’t see it coming? The minister of intelligence is supposed to be the man looking out for the nation, but where was he?”
Mahlobo may as well have been the minister of foreign affairs with the amount of travelling he did in 2016, mainly in the company of Zuma.
There was Ethiopia in November, Angola in October, New York and India in September, and Niger, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda and Swaziland between April and August.
Meanwhile, the war between key state institutions exploded into the public domain, triggering court battles and calls for the president to step down.
It appears Mahlobo deemed some of it mere “political contestation”, although he wasn’t so happy with nongovernmental organisations, the one’s with the “funny names”, working with “foreign forces” to destablise the country.
The minister did finally start the process of appointing an inspector general of intelligence. This crucial position, a watchdog for the public to turn to if the state security structures abuse their power, has been vacant for more than 18 months.
He also deserves a pat on the back for the move to verify the credentials of all senior managers in the civil service and those in supply chain management, according to his budget vote speech.
And it is comforting to know that the SSA will drive a “lifestyle audit” to check income against wealth accumulation of those in public service. The objective should be to eliminate chancers wanting to abuse the system for financial gain and not to build up dossiers that can come in handy to settle political scores down the line.