Mac and Mo are down but not out

Although they may look lost, weak and lonely at the Hefer commission, away from the courtroom Mac Maharaj and Mo Shaik are not without substantial support in the ranks of the African National Congress—and as a result the organisation is in absolute disarray about how to deal with the hearings.

The commission was set up by President Thabo Mbeki to get to the bottom of allegations that National Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka was an apartheid spy. Maharaj and Shaik, former senior operatives in the ANC’s underground intelligence networks, are the major accusers.

The confusion in the ANC was evident when some ANC members toyi-toyied outside the commission, challenging Ngcuka to tell them what Maharaj had done to deserve to be grilled in front of the commission. The Free State leadership of the ANC later distanced itself from their actions.

At the end of his testimony this week Maharaj told the Mail & Guardian that he had overwhelming grassroots support in the ANC.
“On the ground and in the streets wherever I go I have received unanimous support. As for the leadership, I have not asked their opinion. I have retired and I do not want to be part of any lobbying. I don’t want to interfere in ANC processes.”

But ANC leaders seem to be supporting Maharaj, if only for their own reasons.

Earlier this week KwaZulu-Natal minister for health Zweli Mkhize became the fourth person recently to lodge a complaint with the public protector’s office against the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for abuse of power. Mkhize is close to Deputy President Jacob Zuma, who lodged his complaint against the NPA and Ngcuka two weeks ago. The NPA has said there is “prima facie” evidence that Zuma was involved in corruption in South Africa’s multibillion-rand arms acquisition programme.

Among others who have lodged complaints against the NPA’s alleged abuse of power are mining magnate Brett Kebble and former City Press editor Vusi Mona. Kebble is being investigated by the NPA, in part for fraud, while Mona has had repeated run-ins with Ngcuka.

Mkhize told the M&G there were several other ANC members who felt that the NPA has abused its powers.

He said: “I have raised this problem on several occasions with the ANC’s leadership.” Mkhize added that before lodging his complaint with the public protector he had discussed it with the ANCs secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe, who had assured them that “there was no problem”. Motlanthe declined to comment about this to the M&G.

However, Motlanthe has previously accused the Scorpions of “Hollywood-style” policing.

On the other hand, Mbeki has criticised, without naming, those who accuse others of being spies in the ANC. “Those who are peddling false stories about enemy agents in our ranks will be defeated,” he wrote in the newsletter, ANC Today, a few weeks ago.

Maharaj told the commission this week that he spent an hour with the president before going public, bringing to his attention the allegations that Ngcuka was possibly a spy. He said Mbeki gave a non-committal response, merely asking what had to be done.

Maharaj said he advised the president to set up a team of intelligence experts to probe the matter. He denied accusations from Ngcuka’s counsel that he had failed completely to convince the president at the meeting that there was basis for such suspicions.

An ANC official told the M&G that the president had instituted the commission to call the bluff of Shaik and Maharaj. “He wanted them to come up with proof. Everybody can now see that they were out on mischief ... This commission will send a strong message to those who think it is cool to label others spies without evidence.

“It will not harm the image of the ANC because none of the three are prominent ANC leaders. Even the deputy president is no longer getting involved,” he added. The problem is that having confused its members on its attitude towards the people being hauled before the Hefer commission, the ANC leadership has sought to have as little as possible to do with it.

In fact, the ANC issued a statement barring Zuma, the ANC’s deputy president, from testifying saying it was unnecessary. And, this week, for the first time, the ANC sent lawyer Seth Nthai to represent the organisation. Nthai said his brief was to observe any references to the ANC.

A political analyst at the Hefer commission said: “The ANC leadership does not seem able to rise above this matter without suspicion of involvement. Everyone will suffer. Ngcuka will probably no longer have the same influence within ANC circles. All three must really look to the private sector for future employment. The ANC must get its house in order. It cannot face an election with lingering issues like this.”

Rapule Tabane

Rapule Tabane

Rapule Tabane is the Mail & Guardian's politics editor. He sometimes worries that he is a sports fanatic, but is in fact just crazy about Orlando Pirates. While he used to love reading only fiction, he is now gradually starting to enjoy political biographies. He was a big fan of Barack Obama, but now accepts that even he is only mortal.
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