Confessions of the bumbling spies

Five men and two women are paraded before the press by their ANC captors. Each has a strange tale to tell of life as a double agent, pretending to work for the ANC, while reporting to security police ‘handlers’. Some of their claims hold up. Others seem to be pure fantasy. Here we delve into the background of some of these extraordinary stories.

A corner was lifted on the secret war being waged between South Africa, and the banned African National Congress at the weekend when the ANC produced seven alleged spies sent to infiltrate the organisation. They included one who identified himself as a man whom the South African authorities have previously and publicly claimed was dead — murdered by the ANC itself.

Another of the alleged spies identified himself as a policeman and made an appeal to his commanding officer to secure his release through a prisoner exchange. A third man recounted an astonishing story, claiming that he was a double murderer sent by South African intelligence on a mission to assassinate leading members of the ANC. But checks have failed to produce corroboration for his story, which may prove to be a fabrication.

The seven were interviewed at the weekend by a panel of international journalists who were invited to meet them by the ANC, at an unidentified venue in black Africa. The Weekly Mail has obtained details of the interviews and has since investigated. All seven talked freely. Only three of them appeared to be in detention. It was both the first occasion that ANC had granted such interviews with alleged spies and the first time that they had publicly acknowledged keeping prisoners.

The ANC decision to produce them was apparently an attempt to counter the impression created by the South African authorities that the organisation was helpless against infiltration. It appears, however, from the accounts given by the seven, and by senior ANC officials, that South Africa is conducting undercover surveillance operations on an extensive scale — committing often unqualified agents as intelligence cannon fodder in the hope that a fraction of their number will survive and produce significant information.

Last year, in one batch of 10 refugees trying to gain membership to the ANC after “fleeing” to Botswana, the ANC claimed to have found that eight were South African agents. The stories told by the seven — who included two women — as to why they agreed to become agents ranged from financial inducements to maltreatment and blackmail. Five of the seven claimed to have been controlled by the same handler, a lieutenant in the security branch operating from Norwood in Johannesburg and Protea police station in Soweto.

One of the alleged agents also claimed that farms outside Johannesburg were being used as bases for spies. The self-proclaimed assassin among the seven identified himself as Samuel Litsoame and purported to be a trainee teacher. He claimed he had been arrested after killing a man in an altercation over money and had been presented with a choice between a possible death sentence and co-operation with the authorities by infiltrating the ANC.

He said he had been combat trained, instructed in the use of poisons and briefed to kill leaders of the ANC if the opportunity arose. The ANC president Oliver Tambo, and the former commander-in-chief of Umkhonto we Sizwe, Joe Slovo, were among those named to him as priority targets, he claimed. Before being despatched to Botswana he had been ordered to murder a student. He had subsequently infiltrated the ANC, but had been discovered in “East Africa” and confessed.

Attempts to confirm details of this story have been unsuccessful. No trace could be found of the family of the first murdered man named as “Gerry Manqule” — in Vosloorus township, near Boksburg, where be was said to have lived. In the Free State the principal of the school which the murdered schoolboy — Jakaji Makaqa” — was said to have attended did not recognise the “dead” youth’s name and had no knowledge of any other pupil killed in such circumstances. But, although Litsoame’s story appears highly dubious, elements of the stories told by most of the others were born out by checks.

The ANC appears to be trapping substantial numbers of South African agents by fairly simplistic security checks. The main checking system involves the compilation of autobiographical sketches by refugees on their initial arrival at refugee camps, on their transfer to other front-line states for further processing and on their allocation either to schools, or training camps of Umkhonto we Sizwe. The cross-checks between the biographies — sometimes taken further with double-checks in South Africa itself — frequently throw up contradictions. Mental pressure on agents, under constant fear of discovery, often results in breakdowns.

South African agents also appear prone to classic errors in their cover – frequently wearing clothes bought from known security force suppliers. The ANC has an elaborate disciplinary code which provides for trial by tribunal and punishments ranging up to execution — a penalty subject to confirmation by the organisation’s national executive. The organisation is believed to have the use of penal facilities for its prisoners in some black African states.

“I WANT to tell (PW) Botha his time is finished, it is our time now. Our freedom is at our finger-tips. Botha’s soldiers are occupying townships to rape schoolchildren. Forward with the struggle of the people.” Robert Dude told this to an anti-apartheid rally in Bonn. His ticket there was paid for by the South African Council of Churches.

Robert Dube was a police spy. A youth from Soweto, Dube told how — while working as a police spy — he had been sent overseas as a representative of South African township youth and had been treated royally by foreign anti-apartheid organisations. He had addressed a huge rally in the centre of Bonn, and had been sent on to the United Kingdom. In London he had been asked to pass on an invitation from the National Union of Students for another youth leader to travel over and address them. His police handler had succeeded in having the invitation taken up by yet another agent.

The Anti-Apartheid Movement in Germany has located the original of Dude’s fiery speech to the Bonn rally, in which he said — among other things — that the State President’s soldiers “are occupying our townships to rape schoolchildren”. A well- built, smartly dressed young man, Dube claimed that he was recruited as a police agent in 1982, through a friend who was working for the security forces. He had been told to attend meetings of Azapo and report back on them. He had dropped out of police work after a while, however, resuming the work in 1985 on his own initiative when he was hard up for a job.

He claimed to have visited Botswana in March and May 1985, to meet the ANC and had been de-briefed at a farm mu by the security forces near Randfontein. In late May he had returned to Gaborone and had received training from the ANC in the use of hand grenades — in the “Blue Note Motel”. They had been trained with dummy grenades, but he had then been given 20 live grenades which he brought back into South Africa in the boot of a car. He claimed to have handed these over to the alleged ANC man in Soweto — who later turned out to be a police agent himself.

Dube claimed he had continued attending meetings of the Soweto Youth Congress for the police, as well as the mass funeral of Mathew Goniwe and his three murdered comrades at a Cradock in July 1985. On his way back from the funeral he had been arrested at a road block with about 130 others in two buses.

Shortly afterwards a friend who was a student, leader in Soweto had approached him with an invitation to go to Germany. The German anti-apartheid movement wanted a representative of youth from Soweto to attend a major rally in Bonn. The friend did not have a passport, so he offered it to Dube — who did have one. A ticket for the trip was issued by the South African Council of Churches (this has been confirmed by the SACC).

He had arrived at Frankfort on September 21 and gone on to Bonn where he had led a march to the centre of the German capital — under a large ANC flag — and had delivered his fiery speech. He had flown on to London where he had stayed for two days in the home of a Labour MP, Bob Hughes, and had taken part in a picket of the South African embassy in Trafalgar Square.

From there he had returned to Johannesburg and had been arrested at Jan Smuts airport as a suspected subversive. Handed over to the security branch, he had been released after asking police to telephone his handler. He claims to have been de-briefed at a police farm, writing a 184-page report on his experiences and being paid a R940 bonus for his work.

In December his handler had sent him to Zambia where he had met the ANC again, he said. The ANC had told him that they wanted both him and two other men from South Africa to return to Zambia for military training. The other two men the ANC wanted also happened to be police agents, but Dube said the coincidence of this did not strike him.

He returned to Zambia with yet another police agent in June. There they had been confronted by the ANC and confessed. Dube said he was still in detention, “answering questions and being “re-educated”. He had named six South African agents, two of them policemen.

Pressure from his uncle who is a police sergeant in Soweto, coupled with financial difficulties and lack of job security forced 25-year-old Charles Mabasa to join the police force in 1983. After leaving school in 1979 he worked as a laboratory assistant for four months earning R100 a month. He resigned because of the low salary and worked as an office cleaner for about two years. After quitting the job he went to Protea police station and enrolled as a police recruit.

Two weeks after being recruited into the security police division he claims he was instructed to infiltrate the Azanian People’s Organisation. He claims to have been taken in a minibus, apparently belonging to “Clothes on Wheels”, to the Soweto home of an Azapo member named Patrick. Mabasa told Patrick he wanted to join Azapo and was given Azapo literature. He went home and wrote a report about this meeting. The report was collected from his Chiawelo home by a security branch member.

He claims his handler advised him to return to school and complete his matric. Mabasa enrolled at the Senaoane Junior Secondary School in April 1983 where he passed Std 9 at the end of that year. When the Azanian Student Movement (Azasm) was launched in July 1983 at Masealema Conference Centre outside Pietersburg, Mabasa gathered information for his handler. He played an active role in Azasm and became organiser of the Soweto branch before being elected branch secretary.

The following year Azasm members questioned Mabasa about his police involvement and he told them the information was put out by a policeman in the stolen vehicle branch at Protea to discredit him. This didn’t stop the turnouts and he claims his handler advised him to withdraw from Azasm and join the Soweto branch of the Congress of South African Students (Cosas). Stories about Mabasa’s police involvement had already reached Cosas and he tried to join the Soweto Youth Congress (Soyco) instead. He was thrown out of the first Soyco meeting he attended. Mabasa eventually joined the Young Christian Workers (YCW) together with another police agent Freddie, and rose to become Soweto branch secretary.

Mabasa had also unsuccessfully tried to infiltrate the Dhlomo Theatre which was then based in Pim Street in Newtown, Johannesburg. Mabasa was again introduced to Patrick and was told he was also a police agent. Patrick then told him that some people wanted him to go out of the country. He reported on Patrick and other police agents. His handler arranged a travel document for him. Patrick gave him R30 and he left for Gaborone.

Mabasa had no idea who he was meeting in Botswana and when he couldn’t find his contact he went to the address he had been given. From there he was taken to an ANC residence. When he returned to South Africa he passed on information to his handler. In December 1983 he returned to Botswana and met a man called Jeff Sibali at Gaborone railway station.

In Botswana he was made to fill in a form giving autobiographical details and his attitude to the ANC. The next day he was told he had been accepted as a member of the ANC. He attended political classes for two weeks. Once in South Africa he was given an employment address by a white ANC member.

Mabasa was then instructed by the ANC to stop contact with Patrick and to establish his own independent cell. His handler told him not to do it as this would be furthering the aims of the ANC by recruiting members. Meanwhile Mabasa claims to have introduced three people he knew to be informers to the ANC.

On December 14 1984 he went to Botswana to report on the activities of underground cells. The ANC told him he had done enough and asked him to stay. His handler had briefed him that should he be asked to undergo training he should agree. During his stay he became worried that he had been uncovered. He was advised to go to Francistown to declare himself an ANC refugee.

In July 1985 he was moved to Lusaka where he revealed himself to the ANC. “The treatment I received and still am receiving is good. I am still with the ANC and they are still taking care of me. I hope to go back to South Africa when it is free.”

Mabasa said the saga was just an adventure for him. He received a double salary and claimed some agents were given houses and cars. He said if there had been any tangible proof of his police involvement while he was in South Africa he would probably have been “necklaced”. But he does not mention that top Azapo officials once saved him from serious assault at an Azasm meeting.

Members of the Health Workers Union (HWA) at Baragwanath Hospital remember former laboratory technician Hilda Mguga as a dedicated activist. “She was always willing to transport young Soweto activists to meetings outside the area and would not demand any money towards petrol costs,” an HWA official said this week. Although she was earning R532 a month she used to drive around in a big German-made car.

Mguga was born in Langa, Cape Town, 39 years ago. Armed with a Std 8 certificate she set off for Johannesburg in 1971. Three years later she started work at Baragwanath Hospital as a laboratory technician. In 1981, while visiting Aurelia Gqabi in Botswana, she claims to have befriended several ANC activists. Aurelia is the wife of former, ANC member Joe Gqabi who was gunned down outside his house in Zimbabwe by people believed to be agents of the South African Police.

Mguga started taking pamphlets to “friends of theirs in Soweto”. In July 1982 she was picked up at work and taken to Protea police station in Soweto where she was questioned about her activities in Botswana. She claims that after being maltreated, she cracked and made a statement to her handler. She claims to have been told to go back to Botswana and gather information for the police for R500 a month.

She had to identify where ANC leaders lived and what cars they drove. She took two of her handler’s agents and introduced them to the ANC. On every return trip Mguga had to report to her handler’s flat. At that time she was secretary of the Baragwanath branch of the HWA. Her car was repossessed and her controller gave her a Volkswagen to make trips to Botswana. He later gave her an Audi and a Golf.

In 1985 Mguga spent a week in Zimbabwe and was introduced to the ANC there by one of her handler’s undercover agents. She claims to have gone into Zimbabwe using a police car with altered number plates. When Mguga returned her handler said he wanted her to introduce another agent to the ANC. She went to Zimbabwe with the woman agent and spent a week there.

In January 1986 Mguga was meant to return to Zimbabwe but her controller was worried that one of his agents had disappeared there. At the same time the ANC sent word she should visit them. Mguga left for Zimbabwe in February 1986. By that time, “I had already decided that I had had enough of my handler because of the things he had done to me.” She claims her controller had twice sent people to make love to her and now believes both were sent to keep an eye on her.

But once in Zimbabwe Mguga could not gather enough courage to reveal the truth. She was taken to Lusaka where the ANC confronted her with police contacts. Mguga says she is free now and is going to work for the ANC. She works as a typist, a driver and a hospital worker.

When 26-year-old Zanzina Pali joined the Black Allied Workers Union (Bawu) in May 1983 he claims to have already been on the payroll of the South African Police. Zanzi, as he is commonly known, claims to be agent RS277. He left school in 1981 after failing Std 10. He could not find work and in 1983 applied for a job on the mines through the Ciskei recruiting wing of the Chamber of Mines, Teba (The Employment Bureau of Africa). At the same time Pali applied to join the SAP.

In March 1983 he was called in by a Major Schoeman of the security branch in Stutterheim, Eastern Cape, who told him that many younger men joining the police force were needed as undercover agents. Pali’s application was approved in May 1983 and he was sent to Johannesburg without any formal training as an undercover agent’. At that stage Pali claims he knew nothing about the African National Congress and did not understand then as he does now, that “apartheid is evil and an injustice”. He joined Azapo reporting on their meetings to his handler.

Pali was later appointed assistant organiser for the Bawu Johannesburg branch. When the African Allied Workers Union (Aawu) split from Bawu he joined the former and was soon appointed national organizer. In September 1983, while working for Aawu Pali was introduced to the ANC by his handler’s agent in Botswana. He was told he would be working with the agent, on a mission in South Africa. His associate told the ANC that Pali was more sympathetic to the ANC than he was to Black Consciousness. Books and letters meant for ANC contacts inside the country were passed on to his handler.

Pali also reported on ANC positions and movements inside Botswana. By this time Aawu members suspected Pali of being a police informer and he was forced to return to the Eastern Cape. Several Aawu members had been arrested and accused of getting funds from the ANC. In December 1983 Pali left both Azapo and Aawu to join the ANC. From January 1984 he claims to have received a regular salary of R332 from the police. His information led to the exposure and arrest of three ANC cadres in October 1983, he says.

Later that year when the Botswana government threw out a number of ANC people Pali lost contact with them. He was then infiltrated into Zimbabwe but his cover was blown in November 1985. He had been in Zimbabwe for only two weeks when he got a message that he had to go to Lusaka. Pali thought he was going to be executed and he gave the ANC the names of about 15 agents. Pali has appealed to his handler to exchange him for imprisoned ANC guerrillas held in South African prison. He has not thought of joining the ANC and to him working for the police was just an ordinary job. But his main worry is his belief that black policemen who are agents and turn their backs on the police are secretly killed.

Vusi Gqoba, 31-year-old man who was said to have been executed months ago by the ANC for spying, is not only very much alive and living in Lusaka but also claims to be working for the ANC as a mechanic and being fed and sheltered by them. This revelation has shattered the truth of General Johan Coetzee’s categorical statement in December last year that the ANC have killed 28 members for “subversion” — including Gqoba who was named as “a certainty”.

This week Gqoba, a former national organizer of the Congress of South African Students (Cosas), emerged to tell his version of the story. Admitting that he had worked for the South African security police from April 1982, he claims to have received a full pardon from the ANC and been allowed to remain within the ranks of the organisation.

Gqoba says he was originally recruited by the security police in Krugersdorp to monitor the activities of Cosas in an effort to “connect Cosas with the ANC”. His submission to this, he claims, came after several periods of detention and maltreatment, resulting on one occasion in a broken hand. When he was again picked up by the police in 1982 having been in contact with the ANC in Mozambique, Gqoba alleges he was threatened with assault but told that if he became a spy, he would be allowed to leave unharmed and paid a retainer of anything between R200 and R500 a month.

The police also allegedly told Gqoba, who at the time was working on a self-help scheme in Kagiso, to keep watch on Winnie Mandela. “I was told to report almost weekly. They were pushing to get as close as possible to Winnie. They said I should go down to Brandfort to see her and even went as far as to propose that I make love to Zinzi.” At the time Gqoba was facing accusations from Cosas that he was absconding with funds supplied “from outside”. He visited Winnie Mandela in an attempt to “sort it all out”, he said. Mandela has subsequently confirmed this.

In the same year, with pressure mounting from all sides, Gqoba went to see a white priest in Durban, hoping he would somehow intervene by getting the security police “off (his) back” and sort out his conflict. The priest, he says, told him the Bible said he should not oppose the government of the day.

Finally, in Maputo, Gqoba says, he “confessed all” to the ANC. “They wanted all the information. After, I gave them all the information I was pardoned and was treated in the same old way.”

Presented with this information this week, Winnie Mandela, wife of the jailed ANC leader, Nelson Mandela, confirmed that she knew Gqoba and expressed shock and dismay to learn that he was now claiming to have been a security branch agent. “l am astounded, I find it difficult to believe. “Yes I know the young man. He came to visit me in Brandfort in 1982. I knew him to be a student leader and he had a problem,” she said.

Her daughter, Zinzi Mandela, said: “Mama I am not shocked. There was something very funny about the man. He would talk about knowing an MNR leader. To me that was very funny.”

“Enquiries were received by this office regarding the seven South Africans (alleged spies) who were allegedly paraded in Zambia recently. These enquiries were forwarded to security headquarters for attention and that office has informed us that they are not prepared to comment on the allegations made.” — SA Police comment on the allegations

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Sefako Nyaka
Guest Author
Mono Badela
Guest Author

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