/ 18 December 2003

Mbeki ‘called Mac and Mo’s bluff’

President Thabo Mbeki established the Hefer commission to call the bluff of Mac Maharaj and Mo Shaik, Judge Joos Hefer heard on Thursday.

This statement came from Advocate Norman Arendse, counsel for Justice Minister Penuell Maduna, during final arguments before Hefer.

The closing arguments of Arendse and other legal teams clearly demonstrated that not Ngcuka but his accusers are likely to be the eventual victims of the Hefer proceedings.

Arendse maintained that Maharaj and Shaik ”patently failed to observe the rules of fair play” during the commission hearings. They declined to cross-examine witnesses who denied the spy allegations against Ngcuka.

”We now know why. It was because they never had a case,” Arendse argued.

However, Mbeki fortunately ”called their bluff” and appointed the commission, he added.

Arendse went on to explain how Shaik and Maharaj were ”unmasked” as the instigators of a smear campaign against Ngcuka. They were motivated by the fact that Ngcuka’s Scorpions unit was investigating Shaik’s brothers and Maharaj and his wife.

Arendse said the two men ”quite naively” believed that their contribution to the liberation struggle had placed them above the law or beyond its reach. They therefore alleged that anyone investigating them must have been connected to the pre-1994 government.

Arendse further denied speculation that Mbeki had established the commission merely to ”cauterise the wounds of the African National Congress” (referring to alleged in-fighting).

He said the president was fully justified in establishing Hefer’s inquiry because the allegations against Ngcuka as National Director of Public Prosecutions were clearly a matter of public concern.

This came amid criticism that Hefer’s commission has been a waste of time and money.

Commission evidence leader Kessie Naidu also lashed out at those criticising the commission, especially ”so-called political analysts masquerading as journalists and vice versa”.

Naidu said that they did not realise the seriousness of the matter.

There could be no question that the president took a correct decision to institute the commission, he added.

Mbeki originally appointed Hefer to establish whether Ngcuka was an apartheid spy. He later adapted the terms of reference to specify Maharaj and Shaik as Ngcuka’s main accusers.

This left the onus on the former transport minister and former intelligence operative to prove their claim that Ngcuka was most probably an apartheid spy. The changed terms further implied that they had the difficult task of linking their complaints about Ngcuka’s alleged power abuse to the spy claim. — Sapa