The Minister for State Security, David Mahlobo, is in all out damage control mode following the signal disruption scandal at the State of the Nation Address on 12 February 2015 at Parliament.
The Minister is following a “rogue official defence” which has become standard operating procedure for dealing with major scandals that have broken out under President Jacob Zuma.
Ultimately a few officials will be made to walk-the-plank in order to firewall members of the executive from political fallout.
An investigation is already underway into officials who were allegedly responsible for an “operational error” which resulted in the signal disruption.
The real issue is that State Security Agency (SSA) should never have played any role in the proceedings surrounding the State of the Nation Address in Parliament.
The SSA appears to have been involved in several operations including conducting threat assessments, the accreditation of guests, the accreditation of the media, and the disruption of the signal at the State of the Nation Address.
However, the SSA’s counter-intelligence mandate was recently amended by way of the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Act (No. 11 of 2013) and specifically excludes “lawful political activity, advocacy, protest or dissent”.
The SSA could only have become involved in the proceedings surrounding the State of the Nation Address if there was a credible threat or potential threat of:
• Hostile acts of foreign intervention directed at undermining the constitutional order of the Republic;
• Terrorism or terrorist activities;
• Exposure of state security matter with the intention of undermining the constitutional order of the Republic;
• Exposure of economic, scientific or technological secrets vital to the Republic;
• Sabotage; and
• Serious violence directed at overthrowing the constitutional order of the Republic.
The SSA should therefore have played no role whatsoever in the State of the Nation Address in Parliament.
The SSA’s role in the State of the Nation Address, and the signal disruption scandal, illustrated the paranoia that has accompanied the rise of the securocrats under President Jacob Zuma.