Inside the Browse 'Mole' row
The Special Browse ‘Mole” Report, dismissed by the presidency as the product of a campaign by discredited ‘information peddlers”, in fact draws on sources who have given state agencies crucial intelligence in the recent past.
The report, authored by the Scorpions, outlines evidence that the Angolan intelligence establishment planned covertly to support former deputy president Jacob Zuma in his presidency bid.
It also refers to a meeting of African leaders where possible military backing for Zuma was allegedly discussed and reports on a meeting of former Umkhonto weSizwe veterans which apparently suggested that the local security establishment should support a pro-Zuma coup if necessary.
The document was leaked to Zuma’s supporters at Cosatu and has seriously embarrassed the Scorpions and the government domestically and in Africa.
Director General in the Presidency Frank Chikane has dismissed the report as the product of a campaign to destabilise South Africa and the region. But discussions with informed intelligence sources and documents in the Mail & Guardian‘s possession make it clear that much of the evidence it details was acquired from informants state agencies have been happy to rely on for information.
- A former military intelligence (MI) officer who worked closely with Unita leader Jonas Savimbi and has maintained excellent contacts in Angola. His reports on the Angolan business environment and security establishment circulate quite widely within the intelligence community where they are considered credible. They are the basis of some of the allegations about Angolan interference in the ANC succession battle explored in the Browse. Far from being automatically dismissed by the South African Secret Service (SASS) and National Intelligence Agency (NIA) as a peddler of disinformation, the source provided the initial warning that sparked South African moves to prevent the coup in Equatorial Guinea.
- A private intelligence consultant with a background in the British security services. This person, who has worked closely with the Angola expert, helped South African intelligence and the Scorpions arrest the Equatorial Guinea plotters. He has also helped the presidential support unit on African security issues.
- A veteran ANC intelligence operative who now works privately, but maintains strong links with the ANC and government.
- A private investigator who cut his teeth in apartheid intelligence, but quickly forged links with ANC intelligence post-1994, and has worked closely with police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi. The Browse does not rely unreservedly on him, noting that while his information has been corroborated, he was not directly approached because he poses a ‘security risk”.
- A senior ANC official with detailed insight into the political and financial sources of Zuma’s support.
While the Browse seems to contain some errors, it does not suggest intentional disinformation.
The ‘Angola update” and ‘Angola Memorandum” reports compiled by the former MI officer illustrate the point.
The M&G has a number of these reports dating from 2005 and 2006. One, cited in the Browse, alleges that ‘some time in 2005, the President of Angola Eduardo Dos Santos directly tasked the then chief of Angola’s Intelligence Services with identifying and reporting on ways in which Angola could provide support to Jacob Zuma and further his presidential aspirations — with a view to guiding Angolan government interventions in Zuma’s favour”.
Relations between Dos Santos and President Thabo Mbeki are known to be frosty and the sequence of reports indicates that the former MI officer was watching the evidence as it unfolded.
For example, a November 2005 ‘memorandum”, drawing on interviews with ‘a high-ranking Angolan official”, notes Dos Santos’s resentment of South Africa’s regional pre-eminence and concerns about Mbeki’s anti-corruption stance in Africa.
‘It is generally felt that Mbeki wants to enforce First World policies and Western values on African countries,” the memo says.
It goes on: ‘Dos Santos has also issued an order to his Foreign Intelligence Service to monitor the political climate, specifically within the ANC and the relations between Mbeki and Zuma, very closely. He also requested an assessment of Zuma’s ‘grassroots level’ support in South Africa as well as looking at ways to provide support to Zuma to enhance his political position and ultimately to become the next South African president.”
An April 2006 report, relying on a senior São Tomé and Príncipe government official, describes a meeting where Angolan Prime Minister Fernando da Piepade Dias dos Santos asks the São Tomé government to assist in blocking South African initiatives in Africa.
Another outlines interviews with a top Angolan official, who said he attended an April 2006 meeting where Dos Santos angrily confronted his intelligence chiefs with their failure to advance the ‘South Africa project”.
The Browse also refers to information from a source doing security work in Angola and a private investigator’s documents about Zuma’s intervention in legal proceedings surround an Angolan jetliner grounded in Johannesburg.
It names two companies as possible vehicles through which Zuma aimed to secure Angolan funding or resource contracts. Amaqhawe Wase Africa Petroleum was registered on October 7 2005, shortly after Dos Santos allegedly launched his support plan. Zuma is one of four directors listed in the companies register.
The Browse says the company was intended to house an oil concession granted in return for Zuma’s role in having the jet released.
The second company, Amaqhawe Investments, is part of the broader Amaqhawe group, which is closely linked to business people around Zuma. It may have been involved in a cement deal with Angola Zuma took part in, the Browse suggests.
Where it seems to err, however, is in suggesting that Brett Kebble was involved in introducing Zuma to the Angolan hierarchy and helping him to secure financial benefits there.
Zuma would not have needed Kebble’s help in a country which regards him highly, said a reliable informant.
Two sources close to Zuma said he had discussed business ventures in Angola, but nothing had come of them. A third said he had been promised funding which never materialised.
None denied that some Angolan high-ups wanted to help Zuma financially and politically.
The Browse repeats claims of funding arrangement between Zuma supporters and Libyan leader Moammar Gadaffi, which would have seemed reasonable when it was concluded in July 2006.
There had been prominent media reports about approaching visits to Libya by Zuma and by an SACP delegation led by Blade Nzimande, and investigations into a possible a deal to fund Zuma.
The Browse refers to an impeccable source who raised concerns about the possible use of the SACP’s Kopano Solidarity Fund to receive a substantial Libyan donation. Sources unconnected with the Browse say a senior ANC official first made this allegation.
A high-ranking communist told the M&G that the claim was investigated and no evidence of such a donation found, but this appears to have happened after the Browse’s compilation.
Zuma has publicly denied taking money from Gadaffi.
The Shaft 17 plotters
The one concrete example given in the Browse blends fact with fiction. It says former MK members met at Shaft 17, at Nasrec in Johannesburg, but that ‘there is no truth to the allegation that the said meeting also conspired to violently and unconstitutionally remove the current government from office.”
An ANC intelligence operative who attended the meeting told the M&G that it aimed to restore the influence of military veterans in the ANC ahead of the December leadership election.
None of the formal resolutions, since handed to the NIA, dealt with insurrection, and a source familiar with them says they were designed to foster the ‘renewal of the ANC” which Mbeki urged in his January 8 speech.
The Browse relies on information from a government protocol official and a bodyguard to conclude that the ‘purpose of the meeting appears to have been to frame strategies largely at a military level in support of the Zuma cause,” but emphasises its vagueness.
That may not point to disinformation. The Browse’s sources may have over-emphasised the meeting’s military character and possibly loose war talk on its fringes.
The seriousness of the Browse’s allegations and its sketchy and preliminary nature are typical of raw intelligence, operatives pointed out. That made it a particularly effective political weapon to turn against Zuma’s opponents.
‘It was leaked to embarrass the Scorpions”, said a private-sector intelligence source.
Another pro-Zuma source said the Browse was leaked by people in state agencies who supported him.
Some of the sources, whom Chikane threatened with arrest, dismissed the state reaction. ‘You can’t threaten to arrest people that you’ve asked time and again to help you — just because of some pesky little row in your party,” said one source.