11/04/2018 15:50 SAST | Updated 11/04/2018 17:14 SAST

Who Is Arthur Fraser, And Why Is He So Powerful?

The inspector-general of intelligence has launched a court bid accusing Fraser of interfering with his functions and revoking his security clearance.

Gallo Images

The name Arthur Fraser is attached to a list of allegations involving high-profile politicians, complex tales of dodgy spooks and their underhanded tactics, and looting on a grand scale.

Fraser, appointed by former president Jacob Zuma as director-general of the State Security Agency in 2016, is one of the most influential figures within the country's intelligence networks, holding the keys to a treasure trove of state information.

But Fraser, once labelled "the spy who saved Zuma", has found himself in the spotlight again, after the office of the inspector-general of intelligence – an independent oversight body appointed by Parliament to monitor the intelligence community – launched an urgent court bid against him last week.

In court papers, inspector-general of intelligence Setlhomamaru Dintwe accused Fraser of undermining investigations into him [Fraser], by interfering with Dintwe's functions and revoking his security clearance. Dintwe claimed Fraser threatened and intimidated him repeatedly.

SSA spokesman Brian Dube told HuffPost on Wednesday that the agency had not yet had sight of the court papers and therefore could not comment.

READ: The State Security Agency Won't Talk About The Case Against Its Boss, Arthur Fraser.

The mandate of the SSA, which Fraser leads, is to provide the government with intelligence on domestic and foreign threats or potential threats to national stability, the constitutional order, and the safety and well-being of South Africans. But it has long been alleged that the agency and its intelligence capabilities have been used to further political agendas.

Fraser has kept out of the limelight throughout his career, but damning allegations made against him are again starting to surface. It is believed his power and influence was garnered through his relationship with Zuma.

READ: This Is Why The SSA Wants Pauw's Book Off The Shelves.

According to claims made in Jacques Pauw's book, "The President's Keepers", Fraser allegedly headed a parallel intelligence network in his previous position at the agency before 2010. Pauw claimed that in 2009, internal SSA auditors targeted the Principal Agent Network programme (PAN), a top-secret state intelligence programme, and found that it had used as much as R1-billion of taxpayers' money in just three years.

Fraser allegedly intended to create an alternative intelligence capacity, at which he would be the sole recipient of the information the programme gathered. Pauw claimed that agents sent intelligence reports to Fraser instead of the National Intelligence Agency. When the SSA removed Fraser's server from his home, they reportedly found 800 reports that had failed to reach the NIA.

In May 2007, a top-secret report was leaked that showed that Zuma's presidential ambitions were allegedly fueled and funded by corrupt African leaders. Then-president Thabo Mbeki appointed Fraser to head investigations into the report.

During Fraser's investigation into the Browse Mole report, the NIA tapped the phones of several high-ranking officials mentioned in it, including Leonard McCarthy, who was boss of (now-defunct serious crimes investigation unit) the Scorpions. On the tapes were discussions about when would be the most politically damaging time to charge Zuma.

It is believed Fraser thereafter made a political turnabout and leaked the recordings, which later became known as the Spy Tapes, to Zuma and his legal team. That was the golden key that led to the NPA dropping charges against Zuma in 2009.

Early career

According to his profile on the SSA's website, Fraser was actively involved in student politics and joined the ANC underground structures early in his life.

During his tenure at the NIA, he was seconded to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as an investigator. He then served the intelligence community in various operational capacities, culminating in his appointment as the head of national intelligence in Western Cape.

He was later transferred to the department of home affairs, where he served as deputy director-general for the national immigration branch. After one-and-a-half years, Fraser was re-appointed to the NIA as deputy director-general in charge of offensive and counter-intelligence operations – a position he held for five years.