YONELA DIKO: Has Arthur Fraser broken a decades-long norm for State Security?

OPINION

The decision by Arthur Fraser to lay charges against the President of the Republic for possible breach of the countries laws in response to a robbery at the President Cyril Ramaphosa's farm in February 2020 was in principle a correct
one. Correct decisions should never be delayed because there is a looming election that might be influenced by such a decision.

This is particularly important for bureaucrats, especially those in Intelligence and law enforcement, who must always be guided by their integrity and ability as they discharge their duties in order to uphold the countries
lofty values which ensures collective acceptance of their decisions, even in the most sensitive of times.

Integrity and ability as consistent values of our bureaucrats gives us confidence in the decisions they make as both credible, honest and in the interest of the people.

It is when such bureaucrats have not shown any consistent integrity in their work over time, even as they may show ability, that the consequential decisions they may take are treated with great suspicion and may ultimately be seen as using their past and present State Security privileges for political gamesmanship.

That Arthur Fraser has not shown any integrity in his career as a State Security agent is well understood. Like previous employees of the farm however, he had never gone as far as eroding the long-standing norms of the agency of high loyalty and sworn confidentiality on all information one would have encountered by virtue of his privileged position long after they have left the service.

Arthur Fraser has crossed the Rubicon

The politicisation of the State Security has been long in the making in our country and one Arthur Fraser has been at the centre of it. While Fraser began his career as a trusted Agent, particularly by the celebrated former director-general of State Security, the cerebral and erudite Vusi Mavimbela (now ambassador to Egypt) by appointing him head of the Western Cape branch of State Security Agency (then the National Intelligence Agency ), and what commendable work he might have done to diffuse Pagad, Fraser did not, like Mavimbela, choose to join the private sector when it was clear that political leaders were encroaching on the independence of State Security. He chose to be at the centre of such encroachment.

As a result, Frazier is not some nonpartisan Don Quixote ready to swim against the prevailing tide in order to save the republic against a dangerous President too good at hiding his tracks.

Fraser has decided to use his closeness and possible friendships with people he could only have known because of his old privileged position at SSA to trust him with information only because of this carry-on privilege - if not to blackmail them because of the very same privileged position he once held - to attack a sitting President he does not favour.

While Ramaphosa must answer why two years later a robbery at his house was still not reported to the police, it begs a question why Fraser also waited two years to lay the charge in the year of ANC presidential elections.

Fraser must have known that from a State Security position, it might possibly be a security risk to publicly announce a robbery at the President's farm and the ease with which this was done and most importantly, any insinuation that a President occasionally has such sums of money in his possession (rightly or wrongly) would make the President a 'bank on wheels' and it would not be too long that some foolhardy and brazen thug would think he can take on the Presidents home or envoy.

Keeping the matter within the Presidential Protection Unit would most likely have been a prudential advice taken by the security detail, for security reasons and how this was handled, rightly or wrongly would have been a well considered security decision given the future security of the President as the primary consideration. Such a decision on how to handle the matter would not have been taken lightly or by the President alone without security advice.

For political gamesmanship however, knowing all these possible scenarios and risks, Fraser has decided to break all norms and risk compromising an institution that has always been a critical cover for the State and President, where sensitive matters are shared without fear of future abuse and breaking of trust.

Fraser and political gamesmanship

More critically, such accusations against the President align with the counter-accusation from those facing possible jail time for their role in State Capture and corruption from renewed institution by the same President, people who have always wanted to prove, not their innocence, but rather that the President himself is not a saint as he may portray himself to be.

Fraser has therefore broken the decades-long norm for State Security personnel of never using their privileged position downstream to gain political advantage for themselves or their preferred candidates.

Fraser's actions place the SSA on a dangerous path of being seen as aligned to particular political interests
instead of protecting the State from enemies domestic and foreign. What happens when the political party or leader they are aligned to is the one threatening the security of the State?

This behavior effectively means current and former SSA could, by virtue of their privileged position, tilt the political scales in favour of their chosen political leaders and decide who should be President. This makes SSA no longer a protector of our sovereignty and laws but a political pawn that uses its access to collect damaging information to
decide who rises and who falls.

Conclusion

It is now upon the current administration and State Security head to review its rules applicable to both current and retired agents who may have access to various states confidential information and may be inclined to use such information to feed what exaggerated grievance they might have against one political leader or another.

It is a State security risk itself for a former director-general of the country's state security to be using information at his disposal which he is likely to have gotten by virtue of the privileges of his past lofty office to run amok harassing politicians of the day.

Fraser must be disciplined and reigned in before those opposed to him who may also be former members of State Security come out of the woodworks in the name of stopping him and we find ourselves with a battle of State Security agents which may bring our Republic to its knees, something that seems to clearly be the goal of what beneficiaries of State Capture.

Yonela Diko is the former spokesperson to the Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation. You can follow him on Twitter: @yonela_diko