Arms deal probe uncovered spy allegations

The Hefer commission heard on Monday that spying allegations against National Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka stemmed from the Scorpions’ arms deal investigation. Advocate Stephen Joseph, for former transport minister Mac Maharaj, told Judge Joos Hefer that ”the whole saga” started with a Scorpions raid at Durban businessman Schabir Shaik’s premises in 2001.

This was part of an investigation by the elite investigating unit into alleged bribery associated with the controversial arms deal. The Scorpions operate under Ngcuka’s leadership.

Apart from information on Schabir’s alleged dealings with Deputy President Jacob Zuma, the raid also revealed payments to Maharaj and his wife. This resulted in a Scorpions investigation into allegations that Maharaj, during his ministerial tenure, had received kickbacks from Shaik in return for state contracts.

Maharaj denied these allegations on Monday before Hefer and accused Ngcuka of abuse of power for leaking information about it to the media without charging either him or his wife.

According to Maharaj the information was leaked at an off-the-record meeting with black editors that Ngcuka had called in July. The result was a Sunday Times report revealing the allegations against the Maharaj couple.

The ex-minister described this article on Monday as ”a fundamental attack” on his integrity.

It consequently dawned on him that he was not the first to suffer such ”abuse” from Ngcuka’s office since 1999. Fellow-”victims” he named in his testimony on Monday included Tony Yengeni and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Maharaj told Hefer a ”pattern of abuse” (by Ngcuka) had transpired. This prompted him to publicly say that the head prosecutor had probably informed on his fellow freedom-fighters during apartheid.

Hefer indicated that he regarded the off-the-record meeting as essential to his inquiry into whether Ngcuka had abused his powers of office.

”I think it is terribly important to know what was said at that meeting,” he said. Hefer said that Vusi Mona, recently resigned editor of City Press, would be called to testify about the meeting.

Maharaj admitted in cross-examination that former intelligence operative Mo Shaik was his only source of information confirming that Ngcuka was a probable spy.

Maharaj testified that Mo, Schabir’s brother, first reported this to him in late 1989 or early 1990.

Mo Shaik was at the time in charge of the ANC’s intelligence operations in South Africa. Maharaj himself was co-ordinating the then liberation movement’s struggle within the country as commander of Operation Vula.

Maharaj had entered South Africa illegally and was dependent on the Durban-based Shaik’s security briefings to combat the ”permanent hazard” of government informers.

Maharaj added that he had relayed the spying allegations against Ngcuka to the exiled Jacob Zuma in Lusaka. Zuma, now deputy president, was then in overall charge of the ANC’s intelligence.

Maharaj is expected to be recalled to the stand on Tuesday for further cross-examination.

All the interested parties attended Monday’s hearing, including Ngcuka, Justice Minister Penuell Maduna, Shaik and journalist Ranjeni Munusamy.

Saki Macozoma, a member of the ANC’s national executive committee, was at Ngcuka’s side. He said he was there in his personal capacity to support Ngcuka. – Sapa

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