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Vol 43 No 3

Published 8th February 2002


South Africa

Watch on the spooks

The intelligence services look like becoming the President's personal agencies

The resignation of the Inspector General of Intelligence, Dr. Fazel Randera, has dealt a blow to the civil oversight of South Africa's intelligence agencies. His departure, hastened by frustration at his role, indicates how the balance of power is becoming skewed towards the executive branch of government. This trend grew stronger when Thabo Mbeki became President in 1999. Parliament's role in overseeing the government has been gradually downgraded, as shown last year when the Standing Committee on Public Accounts was prevented from fully investigating the controversial arms acquisition programme. The President no longer faces weekly questions in parliament. Ministers are required to face the House less often than in Nelson Mandela's time, and have sometimes been reluctant to appear before the appropriate committees. The intelligence services, too, escape scrutiny.

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