South Africa: Vacancy at intelligence watchdog faces a key vote
On 15 June 2022, South Africa’s National Assembly is scheduled to vote on the nomination of Frank Chikane for the role of Inspector General of Intelligence, the civilian oversight body for South Africa’s intelligence services.
Mr Chikane, who previously served as director-general of the Presidency, was one of fifteen candidates interviewed for the role, alongside the previous Inspector General and several senior staff from the Inspector General’s office.
Section 210(b) of the South African Constitution provides that a nominee for Inspector General requires two-thirds majority support from the National Assembly to be appointed. Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence, the body responsible for nominating Mr Chikane, declined to specify how many members of the Committee supported the nomination, only stating that it was “a simple majority”.
In May 2022, the Sunday Times reported that parties were split on which candidate should be nominated, with opposition party sources suggesting Mr Chikane did not perform well in interviews.
If Mr Chikane’s nomination as the next Inspector General does not receive support from two thirds support of the National Assembly, the post will remain vacant until there is sufficient multi-party support for either his candidacy, or that of a new nominee.
The Office of the Inspector General of Intelligence previously had a vacancy of nearly two years between 2015 and 2017, while Parliament failed to reach consensus on a candidate after the previous Inspector General’s term ended. A panel review of intelligence structures found that the vacancy contributed to a lack of oversight and accountability at the time. In 2017, the National Assembly nominated Dr Setlhomamaru Dintwe as Inspector General of Intelligence: he was appointed in March 2017, and his five-year term ended in March 2022.
While the candidates’ interviews were televised, the Committee’s decision not to disclose details of votes in support of Chikane’s nominee suggests a continuing tendency towards excessive secrecy of South Africa’s intelligence oversight structures. Two key reviews of South Africa’s intelligence structures, the 2008 Matthews Commission report and the 2019 High Level Panel Review report, had recommended further transparency on intelligence-related matters to improve both functioning and accountability of the structures.
- Access the report of the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence here
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