The government is working on new proposals to regulate privately owned intelligence agencies, including what former State Security Agency (SSA) members can and cannot do when they go private, reported Sunday Times.

The minister of the Presidency responsible for state security,  Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, told Sunday Times that this would form part of the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill (GILAB), which seeks to regulate the conduct of former members of the service.

“Whether you like it or not, we’ve got what we call external capacity. You’ve got someone who works for the State Security Agency (SSA), and for whatever reason, they leave, and they’ve got this expertise and information, and they go and set up their own thing.

“So what we are doing with GILAB is to say how to regulate that, and that is to propose a regulatory mechanism,” said Ntshavheni.

This comes after former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter, in partnership with Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA), conducted and compiled a private investigation at the embattled power utility.

De Ruyter approached BLSA to help fund a risk assessment into criminal activity and sabotage at the utility.

BLSA subsequently contributed R18 million towards the R50 million investigation, and De Ruyter appointed George Fivaz Forensic and Risk to conduct the investigation and compile a report of its findings.

Neither the Eskom board nor the public were informed that the investigation was taking place.

Ntshavheni said that private operations were regulated by the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA), but there was a loophole as the PSIRA does not regulate the intelligence-gathering component, which is the SSA’s responsibility.

Ideally, De Ruyter should have gotten the SSA to vet the company he selected for the investigation. Once the SSA had approved it, there would be an agreement on where the gathered information would be stored, said Ntshavheni.

According to the minister, De Ruyter’s actions were potentially illegal. She reiterated that the SSA was not involved in the operation, which she described as “rogue”.

Ntshavheni said GILAB was scheduled for consideration by the cabinet this week before submission to parliament.

De Ruyter book

Following his private investigation, De Ruyter published a book Truth To Power: My Three Years Inside Eskom, revealing further insight into the dark underbelly of Eskom and its goings on. The book has faced backlash from political figureheads.

The publisher of the book, Penguin Random House, has said that it stands by André de Ruyter and his book, while Eskom says it is still “reviewing” its contents and “will take appropriate and reasonable steps to ensure that the board takes all necessary action” regarding the allegations it contains, reported Sunday Times.

On Thursday (18 May), during Eskom’s briefing about its outlook for winter, board chair Mpho Makwana slammed De Ruyter and said: “It must be noted and placed on record that trust was broken in the most repulsive manner possible.”

According to Makwana, De Ruyter – through the publication of his book – breached the Protection of Personal Information Act and an executive director’s duties as defined in the Companies Act, the Public Finance Management Act, and his contract of employment clauses on confidentiality.

However, Penguin Random House’s marketing and publicity manager Surita Joubert said De Ruyter “acted in the public’s interest and in the interest of improving the running of Eskom and not to damage Eskom”.

“All South Africans have a right to know the truth about how our country and how its parastatals are really being run, and this book significantly contributes to that democratic end,” she said.

“We obtained legal advice before publication and are satisfied that the book is lawful and in the public interest.”

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