Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni: State Security Agency Dept Budget Vote 2023/24

Budget Policy Statement of the State Security Agency Presented by Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni to the National Assembly – Budget Vote Debate of 2023-2024, in Parliament, Cape Town

Theme: Keeping South Africa Safe

Honourable House Chairperson
Honourable Deputy Ministers in the Presidency, Nomasonto Motaung and Kenny Morolong
The Chairperson and Members of the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence, Honourable Jerome JJ Maake
The Deputy Chief Whip, Honourable Doris Dlakude
Honourable Members of the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence
The Coordinator of the National Intelligence Coordinating Committee (NICOC) Ambassador Tony (Gab) Msimang
Honourable members Distinguished Guests Ladies and gentlemen

Ndi Matsheloni

As I take this podium to table Budget Vote 8 of the State Security Agency, I am reminded of the journey our national security system has traversed over the years, I am reminded to pay tribute to the men and women who have endeavored to overhaul our intelligence agency from a repressive state security system into a democratic intelligence community.

In this regard, allow me to express, on behalf of the South African intelligence community and my own behalf, our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Ambassador Billy Masetlha who passed away on Sunday, 14th May 2023. He was a South African intelligence officer, and he served this country as the second Director- General of the South African Secret Service in a democratic South Africa (1996 -1999) and also served as the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency.

A freedom fighter – who led the student and youth movements as a founding member of the Congress of South African Student (COSAS) that was instrumental in the formation of the South African Youth Congress (SAYCO) and a former leader of both the ANCYL and African National Congress National Executive Committee (NEC). I have many anecdotal stories to tell about the late Ambassador Billy Masetlha and the democratic intelligence community. However, my memory of him is invoked because we are tabling this Budget Vote when events of the past, some of it recent, have thrown us back to grapple with the question, what are the expectations for a democratic intelligence community?

Institutional arrangements

Florina Cristiana Matei and Carolyn Halladay when writing about the Role and Purpose of Intelligence in a Democracy contend that “Even the most successful democracies face a conundrum in regard to the intelligence function [because] whereas democracy calls for political neutrality, transparency, and accountability, effective intelligence agencies must operate in secrecy”. It is the balance between transparency and accountability on the one hand, and the effectiveness of the State Security Agency that we seek to restore. To manage the trade-off, we are resetting frameworks to manage the work on the State Security Agency at three levels: first being the process
by which certain types of information, for example security threats, strategic threat estimates/ national intelligence estimates, future capabilities projections, indication and early warning etc, are required and requested, collected, analysed, and disseminated to decision- and policymakers. Second, it the organisation or units that execute the intelligence functions including inter-agency arrangements. We will give attention to the distinction between strategic units, operational units and tactical ones. And third, being the product that is distributed to decision- and policymakers.

General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill (2022)

To give effect to these and to put place the requisite institutional arrangements, Cabinet will in the coming week consider the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill for submission to Parliament. Amongst others the Bill seeks to:
(a)    restructure the intelligence services to provide an institutional architecture that enables effectiveness and efficiency by establishing the domestic intelligence agency and the foreign intelligence service;
(b)    remedy the defects on the functioning of the Signals Intelligence Capacity as confirmed by the Constitutional Court;
(c)    address the weaknesses identified through FATF process including measures to combat money laundering and terrorist financing by the empowering the national security structures to investigate and conduct security assessment if a person or institution is of national security interest.
(d)    Strengthen measures to regulate and coordinate the private security industry as part of a broader national security approach; and
(e)    put in place measures to regulate the conduct of former members of the service and others with access to intelligence information.

The proposals in the Bill were benchmarked with legislations in other jurisdictions whilst upholding the context and principles of our Constitution.
In addition, and in acknowledgment of the critical and central role of NICOC in matters of national security, it remains our priority to strengthen and appropriately align the capacity of the Office of the Coordinator for Intelligence, in line with the recommendations of the High-Level Review Panel as well as the Expert Panel Report on the July 2021 Unrest. Such intervention will drastically buttress NICOC’s ability and capability to deliver on its mandate.

The Security Environment

As we are re-organising the institutional arrangements including through the legislative amendment process, I have just referred to earlier, our country is faced with multiple challenges that may pose national security threat.

(a)    Crime and corruption

Crime and corruption are threatening to reach endemic levels. These ranges from organised crime, petty crime and threats to community safety as characterised by high levels of gender-based violence and femicides. The nature of the crimes in South Africa point to a problem that must be addressed holistically and not only through law- enforcement measures. The partnership with communities to rebuild a societal framing that is anti-crime and corruption has become urgent. As the police service and community leaders work to establish Community Policing Forums at every village, township and suburbs, the community must frown upon the celebration and hero- worshipping of criminals in communities and refuse to pay bribes to receive a government service, including the paying of cold drink to the traffic officer when we have violated road traffic laws.

At a law-enforcement level, we have learnt many lessons through the events of July 2021 riots and paramount to this, it is the value of integrated law enforcement and partnerships with both private sector and communities. The capacity of an integrated law enforcement service and effective partnerships was demonstrated during the 20 March 2023 protest action. In this regard, we are integrating law-enforcement
operations to become intelligence-driven and prosecution-focused, whilst the police lead the execution. Our priority in this regard, it is to urgently combat organised crime in all its form and content, improve community and public safety, and restore a conducive environment for industry to conduct business without fearing the possibility of extortionists.

In addition, the SSA continues to work with other law enforcement agencies to implement the National Anti-Corruption Strategy, and we will support the work of National Anti-Corruption Advisory Council (NACAC) as it relates to our mandate.

(b)    Electricity shortage or Load-shedding

Regular load shedding at high stages will continue to have a severe impact on the economy and any other government initiatives aimed at advancing the developmental agenda. It also puts a dent on government’s efforts of attracting and unlocking much needed foreign and domestic investments to revitalise the sluggish economy. Furthermore, continued severe load shedding creates an environment for criminal elements to operate in the cover of darkness. The combination and effect of these negative factors have the potential to lead to a socially and politically unstable environment, by making communities and civil society at large susceptible to mobilisation against government by elements with nefarious agendas.

Given the centrality of Eskom to South Africa’s electricity generation, transmission, and distribution, a negative impact on its operations poses a grave threat to the economic security of the country. Thus, any threat to the viability and the operations of Eskom is accorded the requisite priority from our service. It is against this backdrop that the security structures have identified key threats against the performance of Eskom requiring urgent attention or intervention under the auspices of National Energy Crisis Committee (NECOM).
I must emphasise that the establishment of the NECOM, the activation of the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structures (NATJOINTS) on energy, and the appointment of a Minister responsible for electricity provides a direct response to the challenge of energy security, which should soon yield tangible results. Whilst these, and the assurance by Eskom that the country will not face an electricity blackout, signify an improvement to the threat picture, the intelligence services has advised that a permanent solution to the electricity crisis is required urgently.

(c)    Unemployment

There is an old proverb that says, “an idle mind is a devil’s workshop”, more so when the idleness is a result of lack of opportunities for young and energetic members of society. It is important to note that initiatives to address unemployment are starting to bear fruits. For the sixth consecutive quarter, the Quarterly Labour Force Survey has reported an increase in the number of employed persons and with more provinces and sectors contributing to the employment creation.

(d)    Economic infrastructure sabotage

We have also noticed trends in economic infrastructure crimes which can be deemed deliberate acts of sabotage. We continue to both monitor and work with other law enforcement agencies to prevent them.

(e)    FATF Greylisting

While the grey listing of South Africa by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is a cause for concern, it has however, assisted the government to intensify its efforts towards strengthening interventions against money laundering and terrorism financing. Amongst noted measures undertaken is the finalisation of the National Risk Assessment (NRA), approval of the National Counterterrorism Strategy, the enactment of the Anti-Money Laundering and Combatting Terrorism Financing General Laws Amendment Act, as well as the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorism and Related Activities Amendment Act. Through the coordination of the intelligence security structures at the NICOC level, these interventions have
significantly improved the threat picture, particularly on matters of illicit economy, terrorism and money laundering amongst others. Furthermore, State Security Agency together with other law enforcement agencies continue to develop and implement other measures to ensure that South Africa’s territory is not used to plan, facilitate or carry out acts of terrorism and acquire, move, store and use funds in support of terrorism.

National Intelligence Estimates

While there are these threats facing our country, the NICOC through the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) has assured us that the various government’s response continues to mitigate against the threats and drastically altered the threat landscape in a positive way. In addition, law enforcement agencies have their finger on the pulse of any situation that may threaten national security.

However, more still needs to be done to assure conditions of safety and security, particularly on the levers that drive economic growth such energy security, food security and water security in the backdrop of disasters that befell our country since 2020 such as Covid-19 pandemic, July 2021 unrest, catastrophic floods, the energy crisis and the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Cooperation with the USA Intelligence Services

In my language they say, kholomo dzi tshi lwa, hu fa hatsi. There is a false impression that is created that this government has adopted an anti-USA posture. I must clearly indicate that we have cooperation agreements with the USA on areas of intelligence sharing, training, cyber security, counterterrorism amongst others. As recent as March 2023, a high-level delegation – represented at the highest level – was in the USA and this was a follow-up to the visit by the US counterparts in November of 2022. We must also assure South Africans that genuine intelligence from the US or South Africa,in each other's territories, is shared through proper channels and at all material times. South Africans must remember that the USA remains South Africa’s largest trading partner and we value that relationship highly.
A Better Africa

The African Union’s aspiration for a silencing the guns remain threatened with the resurgence of conflicts in Eastern DRC, Mozambique, Sudan. In addition to derailing the economic development of our continent, these conflicts pose a threat to South Africa’s national security as this will exacerbate our immigration challenges and increase the burden on the services the state provide to citizens and refugees. We must also acknowledge that the movement of refugees also include the movement of unsavoury elements – such as criminals and terrorists.

We are continuing to work to ensure that we protect the territorial integrity of South Africa, and the activation of the Border Management Authority (BMA) to operate as an independent entity as from the 1st April 2023 is major progress in the effective management of immigration in our country. The collaboration of the BMA with the intelligence structures has intensified our strategic response to challenges of border security and migration in order to safeguard our sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In addition, the intelligence service continues to support the efforts of our government in dispute resolution initiatives in pursuit of our objective to attain our goal for a better Africa. We have also supported the initiatives to evacuate our citizens whenever it is necessary.

Transformation and Professionalisation of the Agency

Honorable members, in trying to respond to the challenges of the 21st century, the Agency has a duty to evolve through innovation and modernisation, and to invest in skills and resources that are commensurate with the challenges of the times.
It is important to internalize and appreciate the fact that the State Security is the first and the last point of security of any country. As a result, we have begun with the process of professionalizing, repositioning and building the capacity of the Agency to mitigate against global and domestic security threats and be on par with our global counterparts.
This process will entail, modernizing of our systems, improving our services and operations, skills training and development, address capacity challenges through recruiting young professionals and broaden our skills base.

Our staff is our main assets, we will improve staff wellness to ensure that the agency remain the employer of choice within government. This includes amongst others adopting new technologies, investing in state-of-the-art infrastructure and adopting new and innovative methods of conducting our tradecraft.. These initiatives will also include the recruitment and training of young people into the fold of intelligence because as the saying goes “the future is young”. Our focus on young cadets is predominantly in the areas of skills of the future such data mining, analytics and artificial intelligence.

The Inspector-General of Intelligence

I am honoured to report that Inspector-General of Intelligence has assured me that their office has put measures in place to ensure effective oversight of the services. He is finalising methodologies and frameworks to strengthen oversight of all the services without hindrances and resistance that once sought undermine the Inspector- General’s functioning.

House Chairperson,

We return to this house to re-emphasize our commitment to the imperative of national security and the safeguard of the integrity and security of our citizens. We remain committed to our Constitutional duty of safeguarding the territorial integrity of our Republic and the safety of our citizens.
Cooperation with other Foreign State Agencies

To advance and protect our national interest, proactive and responsive intelligence its key to ensure the safety and the wellness of our citizens. The global security threats are multifaceted and dynamic and require cooperation amongst nation states, to mitigate trans-national threats such as terrorism, cyber security, organized crime such as human trafficking, illicit financial flows, trans border crimes such as vehicle theft, illicit cigarette smuggling, wildlife crime and drug trafficking, amongst others. We will continue to strengthen our cooperation with our regional, continental and global counterparts.
We have Memoranda of Agreement (MOU) and bilateral cooperation agreements with a number of countries globally including Italy, Germany, the United States of America (as already alluded to) and China and Russia – without any bias towards the latter.

The GEO-Political Outlook

In the coming years and decades, in addition to the raging wars and conflicts around the world, humanity will face more intense and cascading global challenges ranging from disease to climate change, to the disruptions from new technologies and financial crises. These challenges will repeatedly test the resilience and adaptability of communities, states, and the international system, often exceeding the capacity of existing systems and models, unfortunately South Africa is not immune to these threats.

This calls on Nations around the world not only to collaborate in programs to respond to these challenges but to find new ways and strategies to mitigate against the escalation and proliferation of the catastrophes.

Honorable House Chairperson,

As part of the global community, we must continue to monitor such global events to ensure that our national interest including our security is protected and advanced. The global transition from unipolar to the multipolar world also remains our focus area and
the attempts to re-shift the multilateral system to a unilateral one, this affects our very survival as a nation state and the protection of our sovereignty as a state and Republic. In this regard, we will ensure that we position ourselves and our national interest in a manner that, whatever outcomes of these global shifts, we remain ahead of the curve.

The ongoing war in Ukraine presents a number of challenges globally and South Africa has not been spared from it. In the past few months since the outbreak of the war on 24 February 2022, South Africa has been impacted by the rise of energy prices, food, and inflation and negatively affecting the cost of living in our country and region and continent. South Africa will continue to support efforts to end the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and as a country and a global player, we believe that such a conflict should be ended through peaceful negotiations and engagement.


I would like, in conclusion, to quote the late President Nelson Mandela “Safety and security don’t just happen; they are the results of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear”.
I also want to express my appreciation to members of the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence for the continued support.
Let me take this opportunity to also thank the the DG, the Coordinator, senior management and staff of the Department and the Security Cluster for their dedication, support and cooperation.

We repeat our clarion call that national security is a patriotic duty and responsibility of the State and its citizens. We all have a responsibility to protect and keep South Africa safe.

I thank you!

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