Tight security slows state capture inquiry’s proceedings
Less than half of the top-secret security clearances needed by the inquiry into state capture have been granted, with the commission into its second month of hearings.
This is despite an undertaking by minister of state security Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba to President Cyril Ramaphosa and the commission’s chair, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, that it would be completed by September 21.
Top-secret security clearance would be crucial for the commission to do its work as it looks into malfeasance in which high-profile politicians, including former president Jacob Zuma, have been directly or indirectly implicated. Some of the information the commission is dealing with is classified, such as cabinet meeting information.
Zondo had to ask Ramaphosa to intervene in the matter earlier this year. He revealed in an application to extend the work of the commission to two years that one of the reasons for the extension was that the State Security Agency (SSA) had not issued the commission’s investigators and other possible employees with the security clearance needed.
In a replying affidavit filed earlier in the application for an extension, Zondo said that even after he had written to Ramaphosa, he "did not detect any change on the part of the SSA in regard to the pace at which they were processing the request for, for example, top-secret clearances".
The SSA on Wednesday said 36 out of the 82 confidential clearances applied for were requested to be upgraded to top-secret clearances.
Of the 36, only 13 had been issued, while none had been denied. A total of 20 of the top-secret clearances were still in progress, while three of the applicants were "not co-operative", the agency said.
Of the 82 requests for confidential clearance, 66 had been issued so far, seven had been denied, seven were still in progress and two had to be withdrawn, the ministry said.
Minister Letsatsi-Duba reiterated that the "SSA remains committed to assisting the commission in fulfilling its mandate and will ensure the finalisation of the outstanding work in this regard".
The commission said Zondo was in communication with the presidency and the SSA about the issues surrounding the security clearances, and that it was being attended to.