Jacob Zuma set up illegal unit to spy on opponents – report

Former SA president accused of ‘serious breaches of constitution, policy and law’

Former South African president Jacob Zuma: hit back at the report on Twitter. Photograph: Mujahid Safodien/AFP/Getty Images

Former South African president Jacob Zuma: hit back at the report on Twitter. Photograph: Mujahid Safodien/AFP/Getty Images


Former South African president Jacob Zuma is facing a new wave of corruption allegations following the release of a report that claims an illegal spy network that served his interests was created in government during his presidency.

The explosive report, published on Saturday by the office of South Africa’s current president, Cyril Ramaphosa, says the State Security Agency (SSA) was illegally repurposed during Mr Zuma’s presidency to fight his political battles as well as to spy on unions and civil society groups opposed to his rule.

The report of the High-Level Review Panel on the State Security Agency (SSA) details a range of “serious breaches of the constitution, policy, law, regulations and directives” that allegedly took place at the intelligence agency from 2005 to late 2017.

Mr Zuma, who first became president in 2009, was forced from office in February last year over allegations that he was involved in high-level corruption.

Since then further allegations of bribery and fraud have been levelled against him at an official inquiry into public sector corruption.

Illegal activities

The report says a special operations unit (SOU) in the State Security Agency whose head reported directly to Mr Zuma as president was used to carry out much of the illegal activities.

“It is clear from the information available to the panel that SOU had largely become a parallel intelligence structure serving a faction of the ruling party and, in particular, the personal political interests of the sitting president of the party and country,” the report reads.

The agency was also looted to fund Mr Zuma’s factional battles in the African National Congress (ANC), the report says.

The report outlined how the SSA tried to undermine Mr Ramaphosa’s campaign to become the ANC’s president in the run-up to the party’s national elections in December 2017 by running counter-operations to impede his supporters’ lobbying efforts.

Mr Ramaphosa won the race to become the ANC’s next leader at the elective conference in 2017, narrowly beating Mr Zuma’s preferred candidate for the job, his former wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.


Some high-profile former ministers and SSA officials have also been implicated in the report. However, according to the presidency, their identities have been withheld because the individuals cannot be named at this time.

State security minister Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba assured South Africans on Monday that anyone implicated in the scandal will face the full force of the law.

Mr Zuma, who was head of the ANC’s intelligence structures towards the end of white minority rule in South Africa, hit back at the report on Twitter, saying some of those who produced the report were “well-known apartheid spies”.

“I feel nothing when apartheid spies call me corrupt. I hope people are not opening a can of worms which they might regret,” he wrote in a tweet on Sunday.