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South African Intelligence Services, Budget Vote address by
Minister Ronnie Kasrils, MP
MEETING THE CHALLENGES OF THE 21ST CENTURY: SPIES, SOOTHSAYERS,
Traversing 'the backstairs of history'
In reflecting on the role played by intelligence agents one may
liken their endeavours to the ups and downs in the game of snakes
and ladders, traversing as they do '…the backstairs of
history, century after century, affecting the future of great and
small nations and the lives and happiness of multitudes'
Throughout the ages examples abound of the importance of
intelligence as indispensable to a nation's security and interests.
Leaders not only gathered information on conditions at home but
were also concerned about events in distant lands as these impacted
on their ability to safeguard domestic security.
King Shaka's relationship with the first European traders is
illustrative of this where it is related that '…when the
white people came…Shaka wanted to find out everything they
knew about battles, weapons and their way of life…' how
their King ruled, how they had managed to cross the sea
'…how their coin money worked, what medicines they had to
cure illnesses…what made their weapons spit
Like his contemporaries he skilfully used his amakhangela and
izinhloli - his look-outs and spies - as his eyes and ears to
collect the information required.
Interconnectedness of the world and the threats we face We can
learn from the wisdom of old, even in today's complex world, where
the threats confronting us are so interconnected.
A United Nations report on Threats, Challenges and Change 33
states: security threats do not respect national boundaries - from
invasion, war and conflict within states they extend to poverty,
infectious diseases and environmental degradation. They encompass
the spread and possible use of nuclear, chemical and biological
weapons. They include terrorism and transnational crime.
While differences in power have historically determined the gravest
threats to survival, the fact remains that the mutual vulnerability
of rich and poor nations has never been starker.
Today's threats - 'where more than one in every six human beings,
live on less than a dollar a day' 44 - encapsulate the
inextricable link between development and security. A more secure
world is only possible if poor countries are given a real chance to
develop as there can be no security without development and no
development without security.
The challenge of prevention This interconnectedness requires every
state to co-operate with others to make themselves secure, so as to
prevent far off threats becoming imminent and those imminent
becoming destructive. And the key to prevention is to a large
extent dependent on the capacity and role played by intelligence
agencies in forewarning nations and bolstering their efforts in
responding to them.
The South African Intelligence Services have long recognised the
interconnectedness of the world and have actively been engaged in
preventative action in co-operation with other security
There shall be peace and friendship Their efforts are guided by the
vision contained in the Freedom Charter, the fiftieth anniversary
of which we celebrate this year. The clause in the Charter
declaring 'there shall be peace and friendship', is central to what
we are attempting to articulate. Not only does it highlight the
link between our own struggle for democracy and that of freedom
loving people world-wide, but it also enjoins us to work in
co-operation with other nations to secure 'world peace and the
settlement of all international disputes by negotiation and not
This is illuminated by the Allied victory over Nazi Germany sixty
years ago. That lesson should not escape the international
community: unity of purpose on the basis of just objectives will
prevail in the determined struggle against any adversary.
And given that our own national security and well-being is so
closely linked to Africa's renewal, the work of our services has
been tied to furthering peace, stability, democracy and sustainable
development on the Continent.
From Burundi to the Democratic Republic of the Congo; from Cote
d'Ivoire to Sudan, we have been at the forefront of supporting our
nation's peacemaking efforts.
Whilst the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region and
Africa is our external priority we remain an international
role-player of note. This includes a contribution to the resolution
of conflict and concern for prolonged and dangerous disputes such
as those afflicting the Middle East, which cannot be resolved by
illegal settlements, military occupation and unilateral
There shall be houses security and comfort Honourable Members, our
services have also long recognised the interconnection between
threats. They are guided by another clause in the Freedom Charter,
which asserts that 'there shall be houses, security and comfort',
affirming the indivisibility of the relationship between security
and development. And our national security doctrine places freedom
from want, together with freedom from fear, at the core.
This is reflected in our actions to identify those institutional
impediments that impact on our efforts to push back the frontiers
of poverty. This is illustrated by the Protection of Constitutional
Democracy against Terrorism and Related Activities Act that comes
into effect on 20 May and forms part of our preventative measures
in the fight against terrorism, and the review of the Regulation of
Foreign Military Assistance Act in order to strengthen it.
Although there has been much media speculation over the possible
effects of international terrorism on our country, we can say that
we do not discern any imminent threat. Since no country can claim
immunity from this scourge, we remain vigilant.
Maintenance of human rights and the rule of law The measures are
broad and comprehensive. They place the maintenance of human rights
and the rule of law at the centre, for this is the basis of our
democracy and these are the very values that terrorists often
target. And in utilising these measures no section of our community
will be victimised simply by virtue of their culture and
Our vigilance has yielded results. We have seen the capture of
mercenaries plotting the overthrow of the Government of Equatorial
Guinea and the arrest and deportation of wanted international
terrorists seeking to hide in our country. Other significant
breakthroughs include the disruption of urban terror activities and
the exposure of a network involved in nuclear proliferation.
We will use our powers where necessary, but these will not be
abused as was the case under apartheid. Today's intelligence
operatives are inculcated in the spirit of our democratic
Honourable Members, while we have achieved the most remarkable
political stability in South Africa's history I draw your attention
to some local trends which need attention.
I refer particularly to the increase of violence in KwaZulu-Natal,
the taxi violence and recent instability at municipal level at a
number of localities around the country. Legitimate protest is a
healthy facet of any true democracy but those instigating violence
must know that the law will deal with transgressors.
Foreknowledge While we have performed well, we must examine the big
question: at a time when intelligence agencies are faced with
complicated challenges - are we making a difference? A Canadian
review on intelligence reform 55 illustrates that despite
the fact that practitioners are 'spies and not soothsayers', never
before have intelligence services come under such public scrutiny
for their limited capacity to prevent looming threats.
If we are to strengthen capacity, we need to consider the
limitations. Let us consider the phrase 'spies are not soothsayers'
or 'sangomas' 66 by way of illustration. What do we learn
from the soothsayer's warning to Caesar 'beware the Ides of March'
or the sangomas warnings in the times of Shaka of the intentions of
the Europeans? They may have reinforced their prophesies by
invoking the spiritual world - in ancient Rome they read the
entrails of a chicken and here we threw the bones - but they kept
their ears close to the ground and keenly studied human behaviour
and distant events. A Khoisan incantation reflects '… a
dream talks false … it can mislead you but the
premonition talks the truth; the pulsing awareness which says:
somebody is coming…' 77.
While we do not advocate premonitions or using the medium of
spirits, the sangoma analogy reminds us that the crux of
intelligence is foreknowledge. It is not about describing events as
journalists do in reporting that 'Caesar has been assassinated' but
rather to indicate that 'Brutus and the Senators are plotting to
kill Caesar on March 15th'.
So where does foreknowledge come from. The father of intelligence,
Sun Tzu, living in a period when belief in the gods was all
pervading insisted that foreknowledge must be obtained not from
'…the spirits… but…from men and women
88' who know the enemy situation.
Importance of capacity This illustration focuses on the requirement
for enhanced capacity in today's world: the need for highly
trained, skilled and fearless officers who are able to utilise the
modern technology and master the environment in all conditions;
possess the ability to collect, process and interpret both covert
and open-source information from the mind-blowing data with which
we are bombarded; and remain true to the integrity of a service
where nothing but an objective product is presented to leaders in a
timely fashion, telling them what they should know not what they
want to hear.
The extensive reports on the failures to foresee the 11 September
2001 catastrophe and the pre-war intelligence assessment on Iraq
make for instructive reading. We now know that the 9/11 attacks
could possibly have been prevented by piecing together information
at hand. But the dots had not been joined; the pieces of the jigsaw
puzzle had not been put together.
A United States Senate Commission Report states 'the
failure…to accurately analyse and describe the intelligence
on Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq in the National Intelligence
Estimate, was the result of a combination of systemic weaknesses,
primarily in the analysis of trade craft, compounded by a lack of
information sharing, poor management and intelligence collection'
Enhancing our core business Those words focus on enhancing core
business capacity; what I refer to as the holy trinity - the
collection of quality information; its sophisticated evaluation and
analysis; and timely dissemination to decision makers. Collectors
must find the gold nuggets in the gravel; analysts must see the
wood and not just the trees; decision makers must be empowered with
Partnerships and the need to share The Report also reflects the
importance of co-operation and partnerships, both at home and
abroad, in overcoming the resistant bureaucratic cultures to
information sharing, which has often left intelligence services
uncreative and out of touch with the situation.
A former Spanish Prime Minister recently stated that if a dozen or
so leading intelligence services put on the table everything they
had on terrorism we would have 95% of the picture 1010.
Indeed we have been urging our international colleagues that the
time-honoured 'need to know' principle should be replaced, where
possible, with the 'need to share'.
Anticipating the threats It bears repeating: while we are neither
soothsayers nor sangomas, anticipation must be our holy grail. To
meet the challenges we must strengthen collection, analysis and
dissemination through mutually beneficial partnerships.
This goes to the heart of President Mbeki's injunction in his State
of the Nation address last year, where he committed Government to
enhance the capacity of the Intelligence Services. His statement
speaks directly to the Ten Priorities for action that I announced
during last year's Budget Address, aimed at focusing on our core
business and strengthening our capabilities in order to bolster and
sustain the quality performance of the Services for the 21st
Century. And I am pleased to report progress here today; contending
that we are making a difference and give value for money.
Progress on the ten priorities Key to our aims was optimum
utilisation of resources by ensuring the allocation of sufficient
funds to core business and the necessary adjustment in personnel,
operating and capital allocations. Of particular concern was that
our salary bill was rapidly overtaking our budget allocation, with
the consequent negative impact on what is available for operational
and capital expenditure.
Our senior management has been working hard to achieve the
necessary realignment through a range of judicious measures. I
would like to commend the Directors-General of the National
Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the South African Secret Service
(SASS), whose dedicated approach to resolving this challenge has
helped us turn the corner.
While we have just opened a new headquarters for the National
Communication Centre (NCC) and continue to invest in high-tech
equipment, they have also managed to make their contribution
without detriment to their operational activities.
We have also made considerable adjustments with regard to the
functions of COMSEC - the envisaged electronic security equipment
provider - by housing it within the NCCs ambit and thereby avoiding
costly external property expenditure.
We acknowledge the co-operation of the South African Academy for
Intelligence (SANAI), in agreeing to trim their sails and forgo the
major building construction programme they had envisaged. This was
not only necessitated by our financial realignments, but also by a
need to focus on creating capacity for core training. In the
meantime tertiary qualifications where necessary will be catered
for through partnerships with other institutions. This approach
will provide a greater concentration of effort and enable us to
provide quality training to the many African Services knocking on
With respect to the National Intelligence Co-ordinating Committee
(NICOC), measures adopted will boost analytical capacity and
development of the National Early Warning Centre as our flagship
geared to anticipating key developments.
I am very pleased to announce that we are able to embark on the
long awaited and much needed implementation of the Non-Statutory
Force pension dispensation as a direct result of our financial
adjustments. This together with the exit strategy that it enables
will create greater flexibility by freeing up posts.
Time does not allow us to interrogate all of our ten priorities,
but in dealing with our central budgetary challenge, which links to
all the priorities, I believe that we provide insight into the
extensive progress underway. This relates to adjustments in favour
of targeted recruitment and training, capacity building at all
levels including the provinces and abroad, obligations in Africa
and the partnerships we are developing both domestically and
To complete the picture I need to report that there has been
progress in the area of co-ordination with our domestic Services.
This is being facilitated through the relevant Ministers and
officials, with links to Crime and Defence Intelligence, Justice
and Home Affairs, the Directorate of Special Operations, Financial
Intelligence Centre, South African Revenue Service, and of course
greater synergy on the ground where it matters most. However, while
much has been achieved much more remains to be done. We must
continue to focus efforts in a shared and co-ordinated manner. We
must ensure that we eliminate unnecessary rivalry and turf
Cabinet has been pre-occupied with overseeing the strengthening of
security at our ports of entry, of which the new National
Immigration Branch of Home Affairs is an important development. I
am proud to be able to disclose that we have transferred high level
intelligence officers to strengthen this capacity.
As Honourable Members are aware we have been grappling with
strengthening the Minimum Information Security Standards (MISS) and
our vetting capacity. NIA's new Director-General, Mr Billy
Masetlha, has been reviewing the various proposals that were before
us. As a result our approach to the MISS is to draft regulations
that will ensure enforceability throughout Government
In respect of vetting, there has been an improvement by NIA in
turn-around times. The key route being proposed, however, is that
instead of having to invest in an enormous Directorate in NIA,
vetting capacity up to elementary levels of clearance will be built
within each government department under NIA's supervision. These
and other proposals will soon be presented to Cabinet and we will
naturally be consulting with the Joint Standing Committee on
Our new National Co-ordinator, Mr Barry Gilder, has met with some
of his counterparts abroad and is engaging his staff on the
challenges of improving the intelligence product. This week he
hosts representatives of the business community and civil society,
in a consultative conference on the development of the National
Security Framework. Chairperson, permit me to welcome all leaders
of business, academia, religious and civil society here today.
Their appreciation of the threats and opportunities we face is
important in furthering our national interests.
Director-General: SASS, Mr Tim Dennis, has taken me at my word
regarding a focus on international partnerships. He has had me
travelling in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Middle
I particularly wish to highlight his contribution to the building
of the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa
(CISSA). May I take this opportunity to welcome all the
representatives from African missions present with us as well as
those from other continents, who truly grace this event.
The need for dedication and discipline There are other honourable
members of the Services who traverse the 'backstairs of history'.
They deserve recognition but this cannot happen in public. I
pointedly use the term 'honourable'. Voltaire described them as
'intriguers', but it is after all an honourable profession - where
for the good, patriotic and honest souls of a democracy - the
calling is of noble service to ones country and people.
Today we honour the backroom men and women of our Services in this
the tenth Anniversary year established as they were on 1st January
1995. They played a key part in our negotiated settlement and
creation of a democratic South Africa. Theirs is not an easy
profession - the dedicated work long hours often at considerable
risk. Yet when things go wrong they suffer in silence as do their
loved ones. A grateful nation must never forsake them.
These are the effective, vigilant, accountable intelligence
personnel whom we stated last year our country needs. What we
expect of them is the discipline and dedication of inspired and
courageous professionals on whom we can rely. We expect fortitude
and the best of their abilities and cannot demand anything less. We
will do everything to enhance their skills and careers but we will
not tolerate any shirkers nor accommodate disreputable
Together with senior management I say that we expect of our
Services the work ethic exemplified by the President of this
country, if we are to achieve the excellence we seek! In
appreciation We have strong oversight in the intelligence community
and it is with gratitude that I acknowledge the Inspector-General,
Mr Zola Ngcakani, and the Chairperson of the JSCI, Dr Siyabonga
Cwele, and Honourable Members.
My appreciation to the Directors-General of NIA and SASS; National
Co-ordinator of NICOC; the Principal of SANAI, Mr Mphakama Mbete;
the Chairperson of the Intelligence Services Council, Dr Sizakele
Sixgashe; the NCC management; and indeed all committed men and
women of our Services. In addition, I salute the Head of my
Ministry, Ms Sandy Africa, and ministerial staff who cannot begin
to imagine how much I appreciate their efforts. My gratitude to
former Director-General: NIA, Mr Vusi Mavimbela, and former NICOC
Co-ordinator, Mr Jeff Maqetuka, now Director-General: Home Affairs,
for the sterling service they rendered.
In conclusion, I wish to acknowledge the contributions of the late
Dullah Omar, Joe Nhlanhla and Lindiwe Sisulu - the former Ministers
responsible for Intelligence. They have played a significant role
in enhancing 'the lives and happiness of multitudes', of providing
'houses, security and comfort' and advancing 'peace and friendship'
amongst the nations and peoples of the world, and of building a
South Africa that truly 'belongs to all'. Honourable Members, I am
sure you can agree that we exempt them from Voltaire's colourful
characterisation! I ask you to adopt the budget allocation for the
civilian Intelligence Services. 11 Richard Wilmer Rowan with
Robert G Deindorfer, Secret Service 33 Centuries of Espionage,
Hawthorn Books, New York, 1967
22 Phinda Mzwakhe Madi, Leadership Lessons from Emperor
Shaka Zulu The Great, Knowledge Resources (Pty) Ltd, Johannesburg,
33 Report of the Secretary-General's High Level Panel on
Threats, Challenges and Change, A More Secure World: Our Shared
44 Report of the Secretary General, In larger freedom:
towards development, security and human rights for all, United
Nations General Assembly, March 2005
55 Reid Morden, Spies, not Soothsayers: Canadian
Intelligence After 9/11, Commentary No.85, a Canadian Security
Intelligence Service Publication, November 26, 2003
66 Zulu term for soothsayer
77 Antjie Krog, The Stars Say 'Tsau', /Xam premonitions,
Kwela Books, Cape Town, 2004 88 Quoted in Ralph D Sawyer,
The Tao of Spycraft, Intelligence Theory and Practice in
Traditional China, Westview Press, United States, 2004
99 Senate Committee Report on the US Intelligence
Community's Pre-War Intelligence Assessments on Iraq
1010 Statement by Felipe Gonzales, at the International
Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security, Madrid, 2005
Issued by: Ministry for Intelligence Services
17 May 2005