Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI

All top-secret security clearances needed for the state-capture commission of inquiry will be completed by no later than September 21, according to State Security Minister Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba.

The commission, which finally kicked off on Monday, has been plagued by delays to such an extent that its chair, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, had to bring an urgent application to have the time it has to conduct its work extended.

Part of the reasons cited for the delay is the issuing of security clearances, which saw Zondo writing to President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene in the matter. Ramaphosa’s office says he has intervened in the standoff between the inquiry and the State Security Agency (SSA), and has been assured that the agency will “prioritise” granting crucial security clearances to commission staff.

The inquiry's secretary Dr Khotso de Wee has said the SSA’s failure to process the “top secret” clearances was “unacceptably delaying” the commission’s work. The SSA, in turn, laid the blame for clearance delays firmly on unidentified inquiry staff who were “not taking this exercise seriously and making lots of excuses”.

Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko told TimesLIVE on Wednesday that Ramaphosa’s office “has engaged theSSA to prioritise completion of the process ... The SSA has committed to [the] same. The presidency urges both parties to fully co-operate with one another, including ensuring all necessary information [is] provided to the SSA by all commissioners.”

On Wednesday, Letsatsi-Duba said she has provided a breakdown of the security clearances issued, and those still outstanding, including "some of the delays occasioned by the applicants, some of whom have flatly refused to subject themselves to the process".

"In this regard, I have shown on the record that all requests received for ‘confidential’ security clearance have been completed and what remains are the higher level ‘top secret’ security clearances. I have also given an undertaking that the remaining work shall be completed by no later than September 21 2018," she said.

"I wish to reiterate that we remain committed to assisting the commission to fulfil its mandate and will ensure the completion of the outstanding work in this regard."

Zondo first flagged the security clearance problems experienced by his inquiry when he went to court last month to seek an extension of his commission’s timeframe from six months to two years, saying the inquiry had been delayed in getting off the ground by‚ among other things‚ ongoing problems with staff obtaining security clearances.

“This process is managed by the SSA. There have been delays in the completion of the process‚” Zondo said. “I am told this is because of staff changes in the SSA as well as requirements of members of the investigation team‚ and possibly other members of the commission‚ to have top-secret clearance.”

SSA spokesperson Brian Dube previously stressed that the agency has put processes in place “to ensure all members of the commission discharge their responsibilities‚ notwithstanding the challenges‚ some of which have been beyond our control.

“From the 77 cases received‚ 98% of requests for provisional clearances have been dealt with. We are currently busy with upgrades and recent cases. It should be noted that we are experiencing challenges from some of people we are dealing with‚ with some not taking this exercise seriously and making lots of excuses thereby hindering the pace at which we would have liked to accelerate this effort.”