The final chapter of the Zondo report recommends the resumption of the criminal investigation by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) into the activities of the Principal Agent Network run by Arthur Fraser, halted at the wish of former president Jacob Zuma, a favour later repaid in the form of medical parole.
“It might be that whoever were involved, including Mr Fraser, get absolved, but the investigations should be allowed to take their normal course,” chief justice Raymond Zondo said.
It was plain, he found, that illegal counterintelligence operations had been rife and that classification was used to obscure criminality.
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Fraser ran the spy network, which was in operation between 2006 and 2011. But when its operations became the subject of criminal investigation, Zuma intervened through then state security minister Siyabonga Cwele to spare the man he would later appoint as director general of the State Security Agency (SSA).
“It is the commission’s finding that minister Cwele did say that president Zuma gave instructions that the investigation should stop,” Zondo found.
“The picture that emerges was one where Zuma put a stop to an investigation that could well have led to Mr Fraser’s arrest, prosecution and maybe imprisonment and Mr Fraser put a stop to Mr Zuma’s continued incarceration, despite the fact that Mr Zuma’s incarceration was in terms of an order of the constitutional court.”
Fraser risked prosecution for corruption after evidence emerged that some R600-million had been diverted from legitimate operations to buy property registered in private names and cars parked in warehouses across Gauteng.
Troublingly, the technology nerve centre of the spy network was located at Fraser’s home and reports did not reach head office.
“It boggles the mind why the matter would be taken away from the Hawks who were ready and willing to proceed,” Zondo said. “The allegations are serious. They point to a massive abuse of the assets of the SSA, such as the purchase of some 300 vehicles now idling all over Gauteng and many houses registered in the names of individuals.”
He remarked wryly that his inquiry into state capture may not have been necessary had an investigation started by three senior intelligence officials — Gibson Njenje, Mo Shaik and Jeff Maqutuka — into the activities of the Gupta family and their influence over the former president not been halted, in a similar manner in which Fraser was shielded.
Cwele had accused the three of pursuing the investigation in bad faith.
The commission found that “Zuma did not want the Guptas to be investigated”, and that it was clear that Cwele was seeking to protect the president.
“The stopping of the investigation into the Guptas was not a small matter,” Zondo concluded.
“In all probability, considering all the evidence relating to, for example, their involvement in the businesses of state-owned enterprises such as Eskom, timeous investigations could have prevented at least some of their activities that led to state capture, and by all indications, the loss of billions of rands.”
“That is, of course, if the SSA was allowed to do its job properly.”
The commission accepted testimony that David Mahlobo, as state security minister under Zuma, involved himself directly in operational matters of the SSA and that large amounts of cash were delivered to him on several occasions.
It also found that the Special Operations Unit of the SSA, especially under the direction of Thulani Dlomo, was a law unto itself and that it conducted operations that went against the constitution. Dlomo handled large amounts of cash, the destination of which remained obscure, Zondo said.
So did Fraser, said Zondo, noting that R225-million flowed through his hands as the director general of the SSA in a single year.
The interference with criminal investigations into wrongdoing in the intelligence realm apparently continued, Zondo said, as was clear from what transpired after the commission heard evidence from operatives involved in efforts to expose the subversion of the SSA.
“There is a discernible pattern, one which is reflected in recent events at the SSA, that investigations into wrongdoing at the SSA are interfered with and eventually stopped.”
The commission noted that after the testimony of officials working on Project Vega, then state security minister Ayanda Dlodlo placed the project under the command of advocate Mahlodi Muofhe, who swiftly termed it a “rogue” operation.
Zondo said the commission found no evidence to justify this conclusion, but to the contrary believed that the officials whose work was thus halted had performed it diligently.
Dlodlo adopted an “entirely adversarial stance, which she has maintained”, to attempts by the Investigative Directorate of the National Prosecuting Authority when it sought to obtain documents needed to investigate wrongdoing by intelligence officials.
Zondo’s recommendation that the investigation into the Principal Agent Network be restarted comes three weeks after Fraser dropped a bombshell by walking into the Rosebank police station and laying a complaint of money-laundering against President Cyril Ramaphosa, based on the theft of foreign currency from his game farm in Limpopo.
In 2020, just months after the theft happened, when Fraser appeared before the Zondo commission he threatened to reveal damaging information about “presidents past and present”.
Fraser’s charges come six months before Ramaphosa will seek re-election as leader of the ANC.[/MEMBERSHIP]