Home Opinion and Features It’s time to act on Fraser

It’s time to act on Fraser

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Fraser remained untouched as the director-general of the State Security Agency. But a government probe was started

Arthur Fraser Photo: ANA

WHEN accusations are levelled against the person in charge of protecting the well-being of South African citizens, the government has no choice: it must act decisively.

And when those accusations are compounded by fresh allegations, action becomes inarguable.

Alarming claims about our former civilian intelligence chief, Arthur Fraser, emerged more than four months ago in Jacques Pauw’s investigative book into Zuma era corruption, The President’s Keepers.

Fraser remained untouched as the director-general of the State Security Agency. But a government probe was started.

Then the investigator, Inspector-General of Intelligence, Setlhomamaru Dintwe, was blocked – Fraser removed his security clearance. Days after this emerged, the intelligence boss was transferred to head up the prisons department.

The DA saw this an aftershock of the Zuma administration, where controversial figures were shifted rather than fired. “There is no ‘New Dawn’ as long as individuals such as Arthur Fraser are recycled within various government departments, and not removed for good,” its leader Mmusi Maimane said yesterday.

His fears were justified, given our recent history of government sleight. So was his decision to speak out. He saw more of the same, a disappointment that might have been genuine, or motivated by next year’s election.

But this could have been obviated, and could have rendered unnecessary Maimane’s threat of court action against Fraser’s relocation.

When President Cyril Ramaphosa took office, he spoke of his intention to meet his political opponents. This invoked a new air of inclusion in what had become angry, confrontational politics. He must see this through.

It should, in fact, go beyond mere get-to-know-you encounters. Ramaphosa should consider regular meetings; or at least some on the hotter issues. In some other democracies, it is practice for heads of state to quietly inform and consult opponents, particularly on matters of national importance.

If Maimane had enjoyed such a relationship with Ramaphosa, he could have asked quietly and directly whether Fraser was merely being “parked” for the time being in another department for HR or legal reasons. Such consultations would require trust among rivals, a big ask in politics. And the rules of these chats would have to be carefully created.

Confidentiality would be key, as would Ramaphosa’s undertaking not to use such disclosures to compromise or hamstring his listeners.

Co-option would be harmful. There must always be watchfulness, criticism and questions from the opposition, the health of our democracy depends on them. But sometimes a bit of background could alter the pitch of those opinions.

Had Ramaphosa told Maimane, in this instance, that Fraser’s move was not part of a long game, that it was a fair switch, then the DA leader could have opened fire with relish.