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Penzhorn man in the middle

Louise Flanagan

Although Ernst Penzhorn and some of his partners at the prestigious Pretoria law firm where he worked at the time, MacRobert De Villiers Lunnon and Tindall, have registered several front companies for MI, both the military and Penzhorn deny he worked for Military Intelligence (MI)

Information published at the time of the Harms Inquiry on Lubowski referred to Penzhorn as the MI link for the Jalc group of companies.

Judge Louis Harms chaired both the inquiry into Jalc and its possible links with MI in 1989, and the Lubowski inquiry in 1990.

Both the military and Foreign Affairs have been very cagey about their links with Penzhorn. However, it appears that Penzhorn is a senior legal advisor to both, apparently assisting on clandestine missions these two departments have carried on outside the country.

Penzhorn’s speciality appears to be acting for South African agents captured in foreign countries while on clandestine missions.

He appears to have been involved in such work as recently as a few weeks ago, apparently acting for five men serving life sentences in Harare, Zimbabwe, for what were probably CCB-related acts.

The SANDF denied that Penzhorn ever carried out any work for it, but stated that Penzhorn is involved in the case of the five South Africans jailed for life in Harare for attacks on the ANC.

“He was, however, approached by officers of the then SADF to assist the so-called Harare Five in their defence of the criminal charges laid against them in Zimbabwe. In terms thereof he instructed attorneys in Zimbabwe and also acted for the prisoners in personal matters in the RSA on instructions of their attorney in Zimbabwe” said the SANDF in a statement. The SANDF would not say who paid Penzhorn to act in this matter.

The SANDF took two weeks to respond to queries on Penzhorn and his links to the Anton Lubowski matter and finally offered a personal briefing. Discussions collapsed after documents indicated that information in the briefing was misleading.

Penzhorn also worked for the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“Mr Penzhorn did not act on behalf of the Department. But he did perform work in his professional capacity within the framework of the Department of Foreign Affairs’ functions in the African context directly concerned with South Africa’s interests,” said the former minister of foreign affairs, Pik Botha, in a statement responding to queries.

No details of this work were offered. Botha admitted that it was clandestine but denied links with military operations.

“The cabinet committee appointed to monitor services such as those rendered by Mr Penzhorn, approved of his assignment. That assignment and the fees payable to him were also reported to the Khan Committee appointed by then-president FW de Klerk in 1992 to investigate and report on all projects of a confidential nature. This committee approved the continuation of Mr Penzhorn’s mandate, subsequently terminated in 1993.”

Penzhorn is also currently acting for Botha personally in an unnamed conveyancing matter.

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