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Ngcuka vs Zuma: Inside the spy wars

Mo Shaik, who this week stunned the Hefer commission with a claim that ”some people associated with the Scorpions” would be arrested for a conspiracy to murder President Thabo Mbeki, personally had a role in the first of those arrests.

Security consultant Bheki Jacobs, widely believed to have been behind a highly defamatory dossier that warned of a murder plot or ”silent coup” against Mbeki by forces aligned to Deputy President Jacob Zuma, was arrested in Cape Town last Saturday.

Jacobs, a former African National Congress underground operative, was flown in an executive jet to Waterkloof airforce base in Pretoria following a large-scale police operation that included raids on his Cape home and office and a hotel where he had stayed in Pretoria.

At the Hefer commission this week, Shaik referred to Jacobs’s arrest and warned that others would be taken into custody ”within 24 hours”. Thus far no one else has been held, but it is understood that at least one other person was initially earmarked for arrest.

Now it has emerged that it was Shaik himself who had lodged the complaint with police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi that eventually led to Jacobs’s arrest.

The Mail & Guardian has learned that Shaik forwarded a copy of the ”Jacobs dossier” to police out of ”serious concern” at its contents. Among other things the dossier claims that senior figures in the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) are working covertly to support Zuma against Mbeki.

The NIA has dismissed the document as ”disinformation”, but it was clearly designed to implicate Zuma’s supporters in acts of treason.

According to information obtained by the M&G, Shaik received an e-mail copy of the dossier on Saturday November 15 from a Durban security consultant who is understood to have been assisting Shaik’s legal team.

On Sunday November 16 Shaik sent the copy to Mark Hankel, a director in the police Crime Intelligence Service (CIS). Hankel on the same day forwarded the message to his boss, CIS head Commissioner Ray Lala, with whom he works closely. Lala is a former ANC underground associate of Shaik.

Jacobs was arrested six days later and was due to appear in court again this Friday. He has not pleaded.

Jacobs, whose real name is Hassan Solomon, is being held on draft charges relating to identity fraud and possession of a false passport – as well as on charges of conspiracy or incitement to murder Mbeki.

Charging Jacobs, the man who had allegedly authored the warning that Mbeki was in danger of an assassination plot, with that selfsame plot, smacks of an Orwellian twist of logic.

It is believed this charge against Jacobs will be withdrawn, as it is clearly not sustainable. But in the meantime the action against him has made headlines which may well have harmed the camp of National Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka. In cross-examination at the Hefer commission this week, Shaik implied that Jacobs had been working with the Scorpions.

The role of Jacobs came to the fore when Shaik seized on an attempt by advocate Marumo Moerane, representing Ngcuka, to cross-examine him on an allegation contained in the ”Jacobs dossier”.

Shaik, who warned Moerane against using information obtained illegally, was responding to a question about Mike Snow, a former British Special Air Service member and now known as a ”bush pilot”, who flies into some of Africa’s conflict zones.

Snow’s name was mentioned in the dossier where it was claimed that Mac Maharaj had tried to hire him to obtain information, inter alia about links between the Scorpions and British intelligence.

In his own evidence, Maharaj denied having any dealings with Snow and implied the man was a plant sent to entrap him.

Moerane denied obtaining any evidence illegally, but Shaik accused the Scorpions of monitoring telephone calls.

The ”Jacobs dossier”, and the counterstrike against Jacobs by Shaik and the police, can both be interpreted as salvos in a war where opposing factions are using disinformation as much as facts to get at each other. But they have not been the first.

The Hefer commission itself has become the most visible theatre of this bitter information war and has been used effectively to batter the Zuma camp’s claim that Ngcuka was an apartheid agent.

The commission came into being as a result of one effective strike in the information war, when Shaik, who had been trying to get the allegation that Ngcuka was a spy published, succeeded in doing so via former Sunday Times journalist Ranjeni Munusamy.

At another, less visible level, the information war has dragged in current and former spies, other than Shaik and Jacobs, both who have served the ANC in an intelligence capacity.

The M&G has been told by former intelligence agents of recent attempts by former high-ranking members of the apartheid-era National Intelligence Service (NIS) to extract information from them concerning whether Ngcuka was a spy.

According to these sources the approaches have come from both ”camps” – on the Scorpions side from former NIS No 3 Maritz Spaarwater, now employed by the National Prosecuting Authority special investigation unit – and on the Shaik side involving former NIS covert directorate boss Mike Kuhn, who now runs a private security consultancy.

Shaik confirmed to the commission that he had asked Kuhn to make inquiries and that he had been told there was a lot of ”noise” in the intelligence community about Ngcuka.

The agents said former NIS boss Mike Louw, who now sits on a special board that advises Minister of Intelligence Lindiwe Sisulu, had also been in contact with some of them, asking about Ngcuka, but it was not clear on whose behalf he was operating.

It is understood that at least some of the agents have been non-committal, but are angry at being dragged into what they perceive as a political turf war.

At the commission, Ngcuka’s counsel delivered a clear message to any other agents who had been considering coming forward in support of the allegations against Ngcuka.

This followed warnings from George Bizos, the counsel for the NIA, that any unauthorised ”outing” of past or present members of the intelligence services would be contrary to legislation.

Moerane named two former security policemen – Gideon Niewoudt and Bernie Ley – as being among the unidentified sources who had confirmed elements of the spy allegation in a special report on

On the other hand it also emerged at the commission that NIA director of operations Ricky Nkondo had assisted Maharaj to obtain the telephone number of one of the potential witnesses in the commission.

Scorpions sources say they believe that their investigation into the arms deal has been ”monitored” from the beginning, although they are unable to point conclusively at any state agency. They also allege that a number of private security companies and individuals have been tasked with monitoring the Scorpions.

In return it is understood the Scorpions have thrown significant resources at investigating Shaik and Maharaj, including obtaining cellphone records and preparing detailed profiles on them and their potential witnesses.

Ngcuka has also been in a position to place significant pressure on one of the key figures regarded as being in the Shaik camp, former security branch member Brand Visagie.

After it was suspected that Visagie was the originator of a smear e-mail against Ngcuka – something Visagie has denied to the M&G – Ngcuka is understood to have instructed Scorpions prosecutor Chris McAdam to investigate

if there were any apartheid-era offences for which Visagie had not obtained amnesty.

It is McAdam who has been tasked with making a decision on whether to proceed with charges against Jacobs.


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Sam Sole
Sam Sole works from South Africa. Journalist and managing partner of the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism. Digging dirt, fertilising democracy. Sam Sole has over 17731 followers on Twitter.
Stefaans Brummer
Stefaans is an old hand at investigations. A politics and journalism graduate, he cut his reporting teeth at the Cape Argus in the tumultuous early 1990s; then joined the Mail & Guardian as democracy dawned in April 1994. For the next 16 years a late-1990s diversion into television and freelancing apart, the M&G was his journalistic home and launch pad for award-winning investigations focusing on the nexus between politics and money. Stefaans has co-authored exposés including Oilgate, the Selebi affair, Chancellor House and significant breaks in the arms deal scandal. Stefaans and Sam Sole co-founded amaBhungane in 2010. He divides his time between the demands of media bureaucracy which he detests, coaching members of the amaBhungane team, and his first love, digging for dung.

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