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A national security and intelligence assessment: Building safer communities

Concept note 5/2021

Copyright © 2021

Inclusive Society Institute

50 Long Street

Cape Town, 8000

South Africa

235-515 NPO

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form

or by any means without the permission in writing from the Inclusive Society Institute.


Views expressed in this report do not necessarily represent the views of the

Inclusive Society Institute or those of their respective Board or Council members.


Author: Stephen Langtry


1. Introduction

2. The problem

3. Objectives

4. Activities


1. Introduction

The Inclusive Society Institute and In Transformation Initiatives hosted a series of panel discussions to assess the state of crime intelligence in South Africa. These discussions were held on 19 July 2021 and 6 October 2021. They arose from a general concern about the negative impact that high levels of crime had on the social and economic development trajectory of the country. Critical was the lack of intelligence to combat high levels of crime.

Particular areas of concern were:

  • A vast number of arrests do not result in court action;

  • The poor prosecution rates through the judicial system;

  • The lack of preparedness of the security services to deal with the riots and looting from 9 to 18 July 2021 in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, which resulted in more than 300 deaths and billions of Rands worth in damage to infrastructure (Harper, 2021).

The hostage-taking of the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Thandi Modise, Minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele, and Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Thabang Makwetla, on 14 October again illustrated the breakdown of crime intelligence (Haffajee, 2021).

The panel discussions reflected on the politicisation of crime intelligence and how it has affected the effectiveness of the intelligence and security community. The consensus view of panellists was that there was an urgent need for a comprehensive assessment of national security and intelligence.

2. The problem

None of the six National Commissioners of Police since 2000, have completed their terms of office. Notably, Jackie Selebi was arrested and convicted of corruption in July 2010. The former Head of Police Crime Intelligence, Lieutenant General Richard Mdluli was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for kidnapping and assault in July 2020. These incidents have had a serious impact on the crime intelligence environment resulting in low morale and many experienced officials leaving the service.

The result has been low levels of capability, with little to no capacity to collect intelligence. In addition, there has been a lack of coherence in the intelligence and security community. The panel discussions found underperformance and dysfunctionality within the intelligence services.

This state of affairs is not satisfactory and seeks to undermine South Africa’s social and economic development as well as its political stability. All this does not auger well for the growth trajectory envisioned in the National Development Plan.

This problem and the threat that it presents is well known. If we do not solve the problem, we could face in the coming months a much bigger threat than what we saw in July 2021. There have been several attempts in the past, and currently, to address this. These include the following interventions:

  • The appointment of the Mufamadi Committee of Inquiry into the State Security Agency in 2018.

  • The establishment of a joint parliamentary committee to probe the violence of July 2021. This committee is an initiative of the Portfolio Committee on Police and will consider what relevant information and intelligence were available to the security agencies prior to, during and after July’s deadly unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

  • The Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence has embarked on an inquiry into allegations of intelligence failures by the intelligence services.

  • There are reports that the Presidential Economic Advisory Council has established a working group on policing and public safety in the economy.

  • Within both the Hawks and SAPS Crime Intelligence there was renewed interest to revisit the late Lieutenant General Sindile Mfazi’s idea to establish an investigative academy.

  • The appointment of Dr Sydney Mufamadi as the National Security Advisor.

  • The appointment of the expert panel, chaired by Professor Sandy Africa, to probe the violence and security lapses in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July 2021.

In the light of these interventions, it can be asked whether a national assessment is necessary. It is worth repeating the following excerpts from the report of the first discussion on Assessing Crime Intelligence in South Africa.

The Mufamadi Committee of Inquiry into the State Security Agency (SSA) found:

  • There had been a serious politicisation and factionalising of the intelligence community over the past decade or more. These factions were largely based on factions within the ruling party, resulting in an almost complete disregard for the Constitution, policy, legislation and other prescripts. It turned what should be a civilian intelligence community, into a private resource to serve the political and personal interests of particular individuals.

  • A doctrinal shift away from the prescripts of the Constitution, the White Paper on Intelligence, and from the “human security” philosophy, towards a narrower, “state security” orientation.

  • That the cumulative effect was the deliberate re-purposing of the SSA.

  • Excessive secrecy stifled effective accountability.

  • Abuse of resources.

  • Involvement of Ministers in operational matters.

Based on these findings, the Committee recommended that:

  • A comprehensive review of the architecture of the South African security community (community-wide architecture) and legislation be done, which should include a review of intelligence coordination and the National Intelligence Coordinating Committee (NICOC).

  • The mandates of the intelligence departments, including crime intelligence, be refined, and that clearer and more focused definitions of mandates be developed.

  • The national intelligence training and education capacity for the intelligence community be reviewed.

  • South Africa’s intelligence doctrine, policies and prescripts, which should be oriented towards the Constitution, and based on the revised White Paper, be confirmed.

  • Options for and consequences of repealing the Security Services Special Account Act, No. 81 of 1969, and the Secret Services Act, No. 56 of 1978, be explored. (Inclusive Society Institute, 2021)

Participants in the panel discussions noted that there was no known progress on the implementation of the recommendations. In addition, the question of to what extent the findings and recommendations of the Mufamadi Committee were still relevant had to be addressed. Furthermore, if they were still relevant, what needs to be done?

The panel also noted that where structures had been established to conduct this work they struggled to get up and running in terms of administrative support. Work in this area also seemed to be piecemeal and not done in a coordinated and coherent way. In addition, investigations and reviews by different structures were often met with scapegoating, political grandstanding, resistance, secrecy, and hostility. This does not allow for honest reflection.

3. Objectives

On the basis of recent events and various interventions, there is an urgent need to reconsider the overall intelligence architecture to improve the fight against crime. Due to national financial constraints, it is important that the security and intelligence architecture be optimised. The two panel discussions form a good basis from which to do a scoping exercise and to further conduct the assessment.

Through the proposed National Security and Intelligence Assessment it is hoped to achieve an understanding of:

  • What the mandate is of the various security and intelligence organs. This will entail a review of the composition, structure and mandate of the security and intelligence establishments in South Africa. These structures include the police, the SANDF, the various intelligence agencies, the Border Management Authority, and the entire criminal justice and the judicial system itself.

  • How the various national security and intelligence organs interact with each other.

  • What are their specific responsibilities?

  • How do they communicate with each other?

  • How to optimise our security agencies, for their roles and functions by looking at the overlap in the intelligence systems; between the military, the police, and state security.

4. Activities

In order to achieve the objectives stated above it is necessary to:

  • Put together a portfolio of things to be looked at as part of the assessment.

  • Find a political champion from within government, who is trusted and who really wants to put time and effort into starting a process, which will involve a dialogue with both civil society, academia, practitioners, and current and former members of the various agencies.

  • Engage the expert panel, chaired by Professor Sandy Africa, and the National Security Advisor, Dr Sydney Mufamadi.

  • Initiate closed, small group discussions with people, in order to create a safe dialogue process that will enable people from both the public sector and civil society to reflect, and think innovatively about how practically we can deal with what we are faced with now.

This concept note forms the basis from which the institute will develop a comprehensive scoping exercise for the research aimed at assessing the National Security and Intelligence Services in South Africa. It is imperative that the research design provides for an inclusive approach which ensure wide public sector and civil society participation in the research.

The Inclusive Society Institute and In Transformation Initiate will convene such research.


Haffajee, F. 2021. “Government’s go-slow on ‘insurrection’ paved the way for ministers’ hostage drama.” Available at [accessed on 17 October 2021]

Harper, P. 2021. “Phoenix killings: 22 suspects held.” Available at [accessed: 17 October 2021]

Inclusive Society Institute. 2021. Assessing Crime Intelligence in South Africa: an initial discussion. A report by the Inclusive Society Institute and the In Transformation Initiative.

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This report has been published by the Inclusive Society Institute

The Inclusive Society Institute (ISI) is an autonomous and independent institution that functions independently from any other entity. It is founded for the purpose of supporting and further deepening multi-party democracy. The ISI’s work is motivated by its desire to achieve non-racialism, non-sexism, social justice and cohesion, economic development and equality in South Africa, through a value system that embodies the social and national democratic principles associated with a developmental state. It recognises that a well-functioning democracy requires well-functioning political formations that are suitably equipped and capacitated. It further acknowledges that South Africa is inextricably linked to the ever transforming and interdependent global world, which necessitates international and multilateral cooperation. As such, the ISI also seeks to achieve its ideals at a global level through cooperation with like-minded parties and organs of civil society who share its basic values. In South Africa, ISI’s ideological positioning is aligned with that of the current ruling party and others in broader society with similar ideals.

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