As President Cyril Ramaphosa looks to scale down the size of his cabinet, state security is one obvious ministry to slash.

Nelson Mandela’s first cabinet did not have a minister of intelligence. Those who envisaged the new government did not deem it necessary to have a political head of the intelligence services. The work was operational, not political.

However, in 1995, the ANC’s former intelligence chief, Joe Nhlanhla, was appointed as deputy minister of intelligence under the justice ministry. In 1999, then president Thabo Mbeki changed the intelligence portfolio to a full ministry.

The high-level review panel on the State Security Agency (SSA) states in its report released at the weekend that this was prompted by the need for a policy maker to drive the transformation of civilian intelligence on the basis of the constitutional principles. The review panel, headed by ANC veteran and former minister Sydney Mufamadi, considered the question of whether there was still a need for a minister to head the intelligence department. While they did not pronounce on the matter categorically, the panel said the role and powers of a state security minister should be reviewed. The constitution states that the president “must either assume political responsibility for the control and direction of [the intelligence services], or designate a member of the cabinet to assume that responsibility”. In the course of their investigation, the panel found that “there has been a serious politicisation and factionalisation of the intelligence community over the past decade or more, based ...

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