Address by President Nelson Mandela at opening of Intelligence Headquarters, Pretoria

5 December 1997

Minister Dullah Omar;
Deputy Minister Joe Nhlanhla;
Cabinet Ministers;
Managers and members of the intelligence community;
Distinguished guests.

I am honoured to have been invited to attend this ceremony.

It marks an important milestone in the establishment of a new intelligence dispensation.

May I also express my pleasure at the presence of so many of our country's leaders to join the intelligence community in this celebration.

The challenges facing democratic South Africa are without doubt different from the challenges of yesterday.

In the past, the single biggest threat to the security of our people came not from outside, but from our law-enforcement agencies including the intelligence services.

All of these structures formed an integral part of the oppression of the majority in our country.

Our new constitution does much to ensure that this never happens again.

In the first instance, we have established a democracy, with government which derives its mandate from the will of the people.

In this regard we have started the difficult but necessary task of changing the state, and the intelligence community in particular, into structures that serve the people rather than terrorise them; structures that protect the integrity of our country rather than destabilise our neighbours, structures that protect democracy rather than undermine it.

It is to ensure all this, that the Constitution further established the Office of the Public Protector, the Human Rights Commission and the Jointed Standing Committee on Intelligence. As such, ordinary citizens are guaranteed protection against state abuse.

The Inspector General, still to be appointed by Parliament, will further enhance these rights. I have the assurance from the Minister of Intelligence that this appointment is being expedited.

Today, we are moving one step closer to making our intelligence services fit for our new democracy.

The official opening of the joint Headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency and the South African Secret Service symbolises another giant step away from an era when intelligence structures were at the centre of division and conflict in our country.

It also symbolises the coming together of the different strands of our divided past into a united service working towards a common goal.

Not least, the opening of this Headquarters gives effect to our desire to do more with less resources.

This is a duty that faces government in every department and sphere.

Achieving our goals of reconstruction and development requires the best use of limited means.

We have to prioritise our use of public funds.

The Medium Term Expenditure Framework, whose broad outlines were published two days ago, is designed, among others things to assist government and the nation in making such choices.

It puts before the public the challenge of freeing as many resources as possible for sustained improvement in the lives of our people.

By sharing the impressive facilities of this Headquarters between two intelligence agencies, you are indeed reducing the strain on public coffers, while still ensuring that both are equipped to carry out the tasks delegated to you.

Primary among these tasks is for the intelligence community to become the eyes and ears of the nation; the shield to its endeavours.

We expect both NIA and SASS to help create the environment conducive for reconstruction and development; nation-building and reconciliation.

You are expected to be at the forefront of securing the peace and stability that is necessary for prosperity and equity.

Indeed, without a better life for all, any hope for national security would be a pipe-dream.

Our own history has confirmed that none can enjoy long-term security while the majority are denied the basic amenities of life.

We are also confident that you will continue to give valuable support to the police in the combating of crime, particularly organised crime.

In this regard we have to ensure that all members of the intelligence community spare no effort in finding the puppet masters who pull at the strings of crime and criminality.

Your new Headquarters will give you the best working environment ever.

But there is a price attached to your good fortune. We will, more than ever before, continue to cast a critical eye on the quality of your products and the service you provide.

It must be said that there has been unevenness in the quality of your work, and at times firm action has been necessary for a more resolute effort to produce intelligence of value.

Of even greater and more urgent concern is the spate of thefts in your buildings over the past six months, particularly the disappearance of vehicles and computer equipment.

It is indeed alarming by any standards that this kind of thing should happen at the Headquarters of any intelligence agency.

Quite clearly, both NIA and SASS need to examine themselves closely.

For how can you claim with any measure of integrity that you are competent to protect the country if you cannot secure your own premises.

It is quite clear from the nature of these thefts that there are elements within your structures, linked to others outside, who are working with sinister forces, including possibly crime syndicates and foreign intelligence agencies to undermine our democracy.

If these forces had been more meticulous and surreptitious in their actions, we could have drawn solace from the fact that they respect our intelligence community.

But the blatant manner in which these thefts were conducted has sent a clear message of arrogance to us, that they can do anything with impunity.

They have, so to speak, thrown down the gauntlet.

These are forces that are bent on reversing our democratic gains; forces who have chosen to spurn the hand of friendship that has been extended to them; forces that do not want reconciliation; indeed forces that wish of us to apologise for destroying apartheid and establishing democracy.

There is no doubt that the confidence of government and of the nation as a whole in the intelligence community, will depend on your capacity to apprehend these culprits and to prevent any further such incidents.

This will give credence to your efforts to create a new culture, a new identity and above all a new ethos from different intelligence organisations with their varied history, culture, modus operandi, doctrine and thinking.

I am confident that you are capable of resolving these difficult problems.

I continue to regard our intelligence services as unsung heroes and heroines, knowing the commitment and loyalty of the majority in your ranks.

As public servants you share with all of us the requirement to ensure that we do not abuse public trust and public office to further narrow interests at the expense of our national security interests.

I want to appeal once more to all the members of the Intelligence Services to conduct yourselves in such a manner that our people will be proud of you as our country's intelligence officers.

As we open the new Headquarters, let us take this opportunity to build an intelligence community that is people-friendly, development-focused and concerned about the well-being of all.

Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to declare the joint headquarters of NIA and SASS open.

Look after it, preserve it, use it as a base for the protection of our country and Constitution.

May all our citizens reap the benefits of this, our new era in South African Intelligence.

I thank you.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website