/ 7 February 1997

Hani killing was ‘a double conspiracy’

The ‘spy’ alleged to have known about Chris Hani’s assassination spoke to the M&G this week, reports Stefaans Brmmer

MOHAMMED AMIN LAHER, whom the Mail & Guardian identified as the mystery “double agent” who had advance knowledge of Chris Hani’s assassination, this week claimed the death plot had been “a conspiracy on both sides of the spectrum”.

The M&G last week published details from two documents in which “Ramon”, described as a double agent of the old Department of Military Intelligence (MI) and African National Congress intelligence structures, warned MI of the impending assassination. The documents claimed members of the ANC intelligence and security establishment would be involved.

The ANC and the South African Communist Party this week called for a thorough investigation, saying they had always believed Hani’s death on April 10 1993 had been the result of a conspiracy reaching well beyond rightwingers Janusz Walus and Clive Derby-Lewis, who are both serving life sentences for Hani’s murder.

But the ANC also said it could find no evidence of Laher – who is believed to have used the aliases Joseph Khan and Dave Brunner – ever having had contact with ANC officials. The M&G has received unconfirmed information to the contrary.

Laher this week called the M&G from an undisclosed location, denying he was Ramon or that he had been with either the ANC or MI. (In calls last week he said the “only two people” who could identify him as Ramon were dead.)

Laher claimed the documents had been part of a “disinformation campaign, but with a shred of truth”. He said the death plot had involved both ANC and apartheid security establishment members.

He did not deny having been associated with Eugene Riley, the MI operative who had composed the documents which quoted Ramon as the source of the information. Julie Wilken, long-time girlfriend of Riley, has also identified Laher as Ramon. Riley died mysteriously in January 1994.

Laher claimed former ANC Department of Intelligence and Security (DIS) member Ricky Nkondo, now a National Intelligence Agency (NIA) division head in Deputy Intelligence Minister Joe Nhlanhla’s office, had been “associated” with Riley before Riley’s death. Former associates of Laher and Riley also made the same unsubstantiated claims that Riley and, according to one of them, Laher, had had contact with the same group of DIS officials to which Nkondo belonged.

The NIA approached Wilken last Friday, asking to debrief her on her evidence. When she agreed, an NIA agent who introduced himself as “Trevor” met Wilken.

The M&G later established that “Trevor” was in fact Nkondo. Deputy NIA co-ordinator Mo Shaikh this week confirmed Nkondo had visited Wilken, saying the approach had been offically sanctioned.

Nkondo is understood to have been put under official pressure subsequently to explain whether he had any knowledge of Laher, which he denied.

In another twist, someone who introduced himself as “Mao” contacted the M&G last week after the newspaper had anonymously approached the MI front company to which Riley had reported, Jacaranda Pamphlets.

The M&G had asked a member of the “company” to find Riley’s former handlers. In response, “Mao” called the M&G – unaware of who he was dealing with. He acknowledged knowing “something” about the documents Riley had delivered on the Hani assassination. This was before the paper first broke the news of the documents.

The M&G has established that “Mao” – although it has no proof that it is the same person – had been a close associate of Nkondo’s in the former DIS, and is now a senior NIA official. “Mao” and Nkondo gathered intelligence on the right wing for DIS in the early 1990s.

Meanwhile, it has been established that Laher earlier had close contact with the Johannesburg underworld of drug lords and syndicate crime. Apart from his contact with Riley, he allegedly had contact with former Civil Co-operation Bureau agent Ferdi Barnard.

Laher’s father-in-law was Shariff Khan, described by police, intelligence and ANC sources as a “godfather” in the murky world of drug barons who co-operated with intelligence agencies. He died a number of years ago.