Address of the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, at the Intelligence Services Day 10th Anniversary Awards Ceremony and Inauguration of the Wall and Garden of Remembrance: Musanda, Tshwane: 24 November 2005

Honourable Minister of the National Intelligence Services, Ronnie Kasrils,
Honourable Deputy Ministers,
Chairperson and members of the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence,
Secretary of Defence, January Masilela,
Chairperson of the Intelligence Services Council, Sizakele Sigxashe,
Head of NICOC, Barry Gilder,
Inspector General of Intelligence, Zola Ngcakani,
Acting Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, Manala Manzini,
Director General of the South African Secret Service, Hamilton Dennis,
Divisional Commissioner of Police: Crime Intelligence, Ray Lalla,
Senior Managers and members of the Intelligence Community,
Ladies and gentlemen:

Thank you for inviting me to participate in this important celebration of a most historic occasion - the tenth anniversary of our civilian Intelligence Services. I am very happy that we are able to use this occasion to pay tribute to the men and women who have given loyal and distinguished service to our country and people.

The gold letters on the Wall of Remembrance and the splendid calligraphy in the Book of Remembrance are a fitting epitaph to our unsung heroines and heroes in the civilian Intelligence Services who have passed on. Only in death could some of them come out of the shadows to be honoured for their distinguished and honourable service to our country.

Hopefully, their families will find comfort in the seasonal hues amidst the lush green meadow, the relaxing waterfall, the dry river bed and the fine indigenous trees, which have been planted in the Memorial Garden. Through the medals that are going to be handed out today, we also honour present members for their distinguished service and leadership.

Indeed, the sturdy old peach tree and the newly-planted African Wild Olive tree are metaphors for the old and new intelligence dispensations within which we acknowledged the old and painful past so as to build a better future.

Clearly, the Intelligence Services of our country have come a long way, as has done our young democracy. Hard and dedicated work has resulted in many important breakthroughs which made it possible for all of us to confront threats to our society and thereby strengthen our democracy. This could not have happened without dedicated service by many of you.

However, while we are celebrating a decade of dedicated and loyal service, we need to be vigilant at all times, and ensure that none among us take for granted the significant advances that we have made. We should always remember the long journey that we have travelled together and be guided by the noble precepts that define our democracy and the imperative to be loyal servants of the people.

We will recall that when we created our new intelligence dispensation we deliberately and consciously positioned the issue of accountability as an important and critical part of intelligence work. This was done because we knew that intelligence services by their very nature and mandates are accorded enormous powers, to safeguard the national security of the countries they serve.

Many of us have seen how intelligence services throughout time have been susceptible to the abuse of power. Given our own painful past from which we had just emerged, when the security institutions were part of a machinery of oppression and injustice, we had no alternative but to ensure that we create mechanisms that would help us not to repeat the unacceptable practices of the past.

Both domestic and international experience informed us that without the necessary checks and balances, our own intelligence services could be tempted to use notions of secrecy as a cloak to hide abuses.

It is of the utmost importance that our intelligence services should perform their tasks in an impartial and professional manner, in accordance with the Constitutional prescripts and the laws of our country, always respecting the privacy, dignity and human rights of all our citizens.

Public accountability of our intelligence services is fundamental to the manner in which they operate as instruments of the democratic order. All of us must therefore respect both the regulatory framework and the institutions established to ensure good conduct and accountability.

With regard to these institutions, I refer specifically to the Minister for Intelligence, who represents the Executive, the Parliamentary Oversight Committee, the Inspector General of Intelligence, and the Judge delegated the responsibility to authorise electronic intercepts.

Like you and the Minister for Intelligence Services, I too have sworn an oath of allegiance undertaking to serve the Constitution, the people and the laws of the country. Like you, I cannot treat the taking of this oath as a meaningless formality, allowing myself to turn a blind eye to such unlawful acts as may come to my notice.

Like you, I cannot simply bend the rules to suit myself. I cannot put my personal interests above those of the nation, because if I did, I would be subverting and destroying the very democracy for which so many of our people fought and died.

All of us have to take very seriously the laws and regulations guiding our work. These laws should always guide our actions- Unlike in the past, the intelligence services do not stand above the law, nor are they beyond its reach. Accordingly, all your activities must be conducted in accordance with the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the democratic ethos of our society.

In this regard, and within the wider context relating to these important matters, you might be interested to hear what the late leader of the People's Republic of China, Deng Hsiao-ping, had to say almost 20 years ago, in 1986, about the rule of law. He said:

While we (the Communist Party), are correcting unhealthy tendencies and cracking down on crime, we must leave matters that fall within the scope of the law to judicial institutions. It is not appropriate for the (Communist) Party to concern itself with such matters. The Party should concern itself with inner-party discipline, leaving legal problems to the state and the government. If the Party intervenes in everything, it will not help the people to understand the importance of the rule of law. This is a question of the relations between the Party and the government, of the political structure of the country... Our country has no tradition of observing or enforcing laws... One reason for the high crime rate among young people who are simply lawless and have no scruples about committing crimes is that their level of general education is low. To strengthen the rule of law, therefore, the most important thing is to educate the people."

I dare say that these precepts apply as much to us as they apply to China and other countries. If the rule of law in China could apply to the Chinese Communist Party, it must stand to reason that in our country and other constitutional states, the rule of law must also apply both to our own ruling party and our intelligence agencies. Drawing on the Chinese experience, we too must take it as our responsibility to educate our people, our state organs, including the intelligence agencies, and the ruling party, to understand and respect the importance of the rule of law.

As you are aware, the Minister for Intelligence and the Inspector General of Intelligence are dealing with various disturbing matters that have emerged concerning the National Intelligence Agency. It is critically important that both the Minister and the Inspector General should pursue their inquiries with all necessary vigour and a sense of urgency, to enable us to correct whatever might have gone wrong and draw the relevant lessons for the future

All concerned must also understand that these inquiries will leave no stone unturned in their search for the truth, and that regardless of the obstacles deliberately put in their way, the state organs involved in the inquiry will indeed unearth the truth they seek to discover. In this regard, I would like to take this opportunity to urge all members of our intelligence services voluntarily to assist the Minister and the Inspector General in their inquiries.

I would also like to assure the nation that our intelligence services will continue to work for the greater good, loyally serving the people of South Africa. Elected to protect and advance the interests of all our people, Our Government will ensure that at all times and at all costs, this objective is achieved.

Our constitution-makers took the issue of the loyalty of our security services to the people, the Constitution and the law so seriously that they enshrined in our Constitution the requirement that members of the services should disobey all manifestly illegal orders. Thus no longer can those who engage in illegal actions and fall foul of our law claim that they 'were only following orders'.

Our intelligence services are a national asset, mandated to help ensure the security and well-being of all our people. They must therefore be politically non-partisan and may not carry out operations that are intended to undermine, promote or influence any political party, faction or organisation at the expense of another

How our citizens, including intelligence officers, exercise their right to cast their secret vote at the ballot box is their individual and untrammelled democratic choice. However they vote, nobody within the intelligence services should entertain the false belief that he or she will be allowed to play politics in the workplace to support whoever they might have voted for

I would like to make it clear to all of us that any action taken by the intelligence services designed deliberately to interfere with the normal political processes of parties or organisations that are engaged in lawful activities are expressly forbidden.

Similarly, no member of the intelligence services is allowed to pass on information to any unauthorised person, be they friends or relatives, or to use their positions to gather and disseminate information to help settle personal, business or political disputes.

In pursuance of their activities, the intelligence services are expected to uphold the important values of integrity, objectivity and credibility. Members must therefore put aside their own personal views in the interests of the country as a whole. In doing so, no officer is allowed to owe loyalty to networks outside the intelligence organisations in which they are employed.

All of us will agree that the intelligence services must ensure the effective management of their activities. in this regard, management must promote a strong organisational culture that celebrates high work standards, placing a premium on objective and balanced quality intelligence products.

I must say that for many years now I have been concerned about the quality of a significant proportion of the intelligence information I have been provided. I am certain that we have to continue to pay particular attention to this matter.

Our intelligence family must understand that the only way in which its members will continue to retain their jobs is by producing reliable and timely quality intelligence products that help our government continuously to improve the safety and security of our country and people.

Members of our intelligence services:

I would like to appeal to you to continue to respond to the challenge of professionalism, which is embodied in the medals which are being awarded today. I call on you to keep your focus on the tasks at hand and to ensure that all of you understand with great clarity what is required of you, as defined, for instance, in the National Intelligence Estimate. I urge you to remember that you are here to carry out an important national task, and not because of your party political affiliation or because you have friends in the intelligence community.

You are here by virtue of your chosen vocation, which is to serve our people as the professional, effective and accountable intelligence officers that they expect you to be. Anyone who thinks differently is clearly in the wrong place.

The need for professional, accountable and effective intelligence services is all the more important in today's context, given the difficult security challenges that are associated with an ever-changing and unpredictable global environment, the growth of trans-national organised crime, international terrorism, and so on. This global environment constantly challenges us to improve the competence and quality of our services and operatives.

As we strive to enhance the capacity of the services, the structures that makeup South Africa's intelligence community cannot afford to operate in isolation from one another, Co-ordination and information-sharing must be at the centre of our efforts given the complex nature of the threats we face. Conflict, duplication and turf battles between and within different structures of the intelligence community cannot and should not be tolerated,

Our enhanced capacity will go a long way to improve the effectiveness of our services to meet the challenges of a changing world. However, in whatever we do, we must always remember where our intelligence services have come from and why the very foundations of a professional and accountable intelligence community, which were laid ten years ago, must remain your guiding beacon both for today and the future.

On the occasion of the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the civilian intelligence services, I am honoured to wish you success during the challenging period ahead.

Thank you.

Issued by:

The Presidency
Private Bag X1000
PRETORIA
0001

 

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