The state capture commission of inquiry on Wednesday heard how South African Airways (SAA) executives resigned after being subjected to what they said were invasive and personal questions by the State Security Agency (SSA).
The vetting process came into focus in 2016 when some senior managers complained that the information they had provided was being used against them.
SSA evaluator Nokunqoba Dlamini, testifying at the commission, said the process was necessary as it was prescribed by the law.
Executives, senior managers, and their support staff were required by law to be vetted by the SSA. But this did not apply to SAA board members.
Seven officials resigned from the state-owned airline because they felt the vetting process was intrusive.
Dlamini insisted this was to protect the state from people who were unqualified from seeing classified documents.
“Any risk that can be reduced at that particular time and in terms of advising on the measures that need to be addressed by that particular institution, it [vetting] does make a difference,” she said.
But commission chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo was not convinced.
“Would you not agree, therefore, security vetting where the person or persons who are being vetted don’t have access to classified information, it doesn’t serve the purpose [of vetting them],” he said.
The commission resumes on Thursday morning with more testimony from the man known only as Mr Y.
At the same time, a current SSA official told the Zondo commission that the agency was used to fight African National Congress (ANC) factional battles.
Mr Y, who cannot be named, testified in camera at the inquiry in Parktown on Wednesday. He is a high-ranking member of the SSA and the commission feared revealing his identity might endanger him.
My Y said security was offered to people who were considered close associates of former President Jacob Zuma like former SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni.
Mr Y said processes were flouted to make this happen.
“We have found no paperwork that would indicate either a request or an instruction from within the agency since we were aware that these agents allocated to specific people who could be seen of being in support of former President Jacob Zuma who may have been facing certain difficulties and wouldn’t eligible for official protection from the SAPS,” he said.