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Strong spy service good for SA

FILE IMAGE: A vehicle belonging to the disbanded Scorpions.
FILE IMAGE: A vehicle belonging to the disbanded Scorpions.
Image: Simon Mathebula

The announcement of a new Scorpions-like unit to fight corruption, and the splitting of Eskom into three, dominated the news following President Cyril Ramaphosa's State of the Nation Address last week.

While these were indeed crucial decisions, ones that would go a long way in turning the country's economic and political fortunes around, there was an equally important announcement that went almost unnoticed.

Ramaphosa told parliament that, on recommendations of a panel chaired by former police minister and ANC stalwart Sydney Mufamadi, wide-ranging reforms would soon be introduced within the state intelligence community.

Among these would be the reconstruction of the State Security Agency into two separate agencies - one dealing with domestic intelligence and the other handling the foreign arm.

He also announced that the National Security Council, which coordinated the activities of all intelligence services - ranging from police crime intelligence to the military - during the first decade of our democracy would be re-established. These are positive steps as a strong and well-functioning intelligence community is crucial in ensuring stability in the country as well as in the fight against crime.

By fixing the intelligence agencies, Ramaphosa would be reversing one of the negative legacies of the Jacob Zuma administration.

Himself an intelligence man, the former president was expected to build a strong spy service through which he was to run the country. Instead, under his watch, the intelligence services were constantly destabilised through unnecessary changes to its structure and the chopping and changing of directors-general.

At face value, it all didn't make sense. But with all the information that has come out about the extent of state capture and how state institutions were crippled for the purposes of corruption, it is clear that it was all part of an evil agenda. Hence it is essential that the intelligence services are reconstituted and made professional again if they are to function optimally.

That restructuring should include the appointment of directors-general who are not interested in party politics.

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