Well, at least Cyril likes the former spy boss who Jacques Pauw fingered
Nothing suggests there's anything untoward about Arthur Fraser, Ramaphosa says in court papers
President Cyril Ramaphosa says there is no evidence that controversial former spy boss Arthur Fraser is “not of good character”, despite the inspector-general of intelligence accusing Fraser of revoking his security clearance to block him from investigating him.
In court papers filed on September 21, in response to a DA challenge to his decision to appoint Fraser as national commissioner of correctional services, Ramaphosa says he “considered” whether to suspend Fraser after Inspector-General of Intelligence Setlhomamaru Dintwe took him to court for revoking that clearance.
But he decided against it.
“In my view, there was no basis for me to suspend him at that time. He was an incumbent director-general. During his tenure as director-general he had not faced any charges of misconduct. There was no new allegation of wrongdoing against him.
“The inspector-general’s investigation was a revisiting of old allegations, which predated Mr Fraser’s appointment as director-general of the SSA [State Security Agency], and which had been investigated by the previous inspector-general,” he said.
Ramaphosa added: “The only reason the allegations resurfaced in the public domain is because Mr [Jacques] Pauw wrote about them in his book [The President’s Keepers] ... The DA has produced no evidence of new allegations against Mr Fraser. In the absence of such new allegations, it is unreasonable of the DA to expect me to have suspended Mr Fraser from the public service.
“On the facts available to me, I accepted that Mr Fraser was a fit and proper person to continue serving as the head of the Department of Correctional Services.”
In his court challenge to Fraser’s revoking of his security clearance, Dintwe has, however, rubbished Fraser’s argument that he was “re-investigating” fraud and corruption accusations that had already probed four years ago, and that his doing so was a consequence of a “malicious”, politically motivated campaign to discredit him, the State Security Agency and the current government.
Dintwe confirmed that the Principal Agent Network, and Fraser’s involvement in it, was previously the subject of an IGI investigation, with two allegedly damning reports released in 2013 and 2014. The SSA’s own investigations reportedly found that Fraser was one of 15 people against whom “there is sufficient proof to institute criminal investigations”.
Dintwe said: “However, nothing precludes any member of the public from lodging a complaint regarding the PAN Programme, allegations of fraud against the director-general or any person, including allegations of the fact that no action was taken by executive authority to bring those implicated to book.”
In other words, Dintwe claims he was probing why no action had been taken against Fraser when Fraser revoked his security clearance and left him unable to complete that investigation.
But Ramaphosa argues that Fraser has claimed he was justified in revoking Dintwe’s security clearance because Dintwe had unlawfully disclosed classified documentation and posed a threat to national security.
“Regarding the withdrawal of the security clearance, there were no facts available to me to determine whether Mr Fraser was justified in acting as he did. Nor was I in a position to doubt the inspector-general’s denial that he had acted unlawfully ... The relevant facts had to be established,” Ramaphosa says.
He added: “I specifically deny that I failed to apply my mind, either to the prima facie allegations of dishonesty against Mr Fraser, or to the implications of Mr Fraser’s withdrawal of the inspector-general’s security clearances."
As a consequence of his decision to transfer Fraser to the correctional services department, Ramaphosa further argues that Dintwe – whose security clearance was restored the day after that transfer was announced – could continue his Fraser investigation. The acting director-general of the SSA could in turn investigate Dintwe.
“There is no evidence Mr Fraser will not discharge his duties as national commissioner of correctional services in accordance with the law and with due diligence. In the event that allegations against him surface that warrant action being taken, that will be done.
“But until then, the DA cannot expect the court to intervene on the basis of hearsay allegations made in Mr Pauw’s book,” Ramaphosa said.
Fraser was appointed by then president Jacob Zuma in September 2016, and has been referred to as “the spy who saved Zuma”, after being named by the Mail & Guardian as the man who leaked to Zuma’s lawyers the secret “Spy Tapes” recordings that led to his corruption case being dropped in 2009.
At the time, Fraser was the deputy head of the National Intelligence Agency.