Hefer: Scramble for apartheid-era documents

Despite objections, the opening submissions of Mac Maharaj and Mo Shaik before the Hefer Commission of Inquiry were postponed on Wednesday to November 17.

The two men’s advocate, Stephen Joseph SC, asked Judge Joos Hefer for the postponement, saying it was needed to obtain apartheid-era documents to support their testimony. These were files held by the apartheid government’s security branch on various organisations considered a security risk, Joseph said.

Among the specified files were reports given by various apartheid security officers.

Lawyers for National Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka and Justice Minister Penuell Maduna accused Maharaj and Shaik of being on a ”fishing expedition” to substantiate their earlier allegations.

Maharaj and Shaik made several public statements in the past few weeks alleging that Ngcuka had been investigated by the African National Congress for being an apartheid spy.

These allegations triggered the Hefer Commission, who must investigate whether Ngcuka was an apartheid spy and whether he and Maduna abused their official powers.

Advocate Marumo Moerane SC, for Ngcuka and his National Prosecuting Authority, said they did not understand the postponement request at all, ”except if it was a ruse to avoid giving evidence to the commission.

”All along they (Maharaj and Shaik) were prepared to tell anyone who would listen there was confirmation that my client was a spy,” Moerane said.

”According to our knowledge, they had the documents prepared to give to the press.”

Joseph insisted that the documents were relevant to the investigation. The postponement should be granted because ”whatever harm there was to be done, has already been done”, he said.

When asked by Hefer why they required the documentation only now, after making several public statements, Joseph said he could not answer ”spontaneously”.

The judge ruled that all would be in a better position to assist in the investigation if the particular documents were in possession of all the parties. He said thus far the commission had no documents to prove whether Ngcuka was an apartheid spy or not.

Commission secretary John Bacon afterwards confirmed that Joseph had submitted to the commission a seven-page-long list of documents to be obtained. – Sapa

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