‘No hoax in the hoax emails’

The African National Congress (ANC) task team investigating the ”hoax” email saga has found the email messages to be genuine, the Mail & Guardian can exclusively reveal. The investigators identified those they considered responsible — but could not release their names after the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) rejected the report at its weekend meeting.

And the M&G has learnt from reliable sources that the task team found that former National Intelligence Agency (NIA) director general Billy Masetlha, initially fingered as the man behind the emails, was not responsible for them, ”nor did they emanate from the NIA”.

At the same time, none of the ”cabal” originally fingered as the authors of the emails were found responsible. They are business tycoon Saki Macozoma, National Director of Public Prosecutions Vusi Pikoli, Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon, Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former National Prosecuting Authority boss Bulelani Ngcuka, Director General in the Presidency Frank Chikane, Scorpions investigators Johan du Plooy and Izak du Plooy, and M&G Online publisher Matthew Buckland.

The emails purportedly implicated top government and ANC officials in a plot to thwart one set of contenders in the ANC succession race, principally ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma and ANC secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe.

The M&G has learnt that the task team contracted the services of three IT specialists, all of whom tracked the emails to the same sources.

For legal reasons, the task team did not release the alleged sources’ names at the NEC meeting at the weekend. However, the team had expected the NEC to accept the report, which would have enabled it to approach a judge for permission to release the names.

But the NEC’s rejection of the report, apparently because of technical flaws, means that the names will remain under wraps unless its decision is reversed.

This could still happen. The M&G understands that a number of ANC branches have requested that the report be distributed throughout party structures ahead of the party’s policy conference in June. If the branches appeal against the NEC’s decision, it may be forced to backtrack.

”There’s no reason why ANC members won’t demand the report — then we’re in trouble,” said an NEC member close to Motlanthe.

Sections

The report was divided into two sections, in line with the terms of reference Motlanthe gave the investigators — the first dealing with the origin of the emails, the second with the political challenges facing the ANC, of which the emails were seen as a manifestation.

Section two is understood to lay the blame for the ANC’s deep divisions squarely at the door of President Thabo Mbeki, describing him as aloof, unresponsive, defensive and indecisive.

The report presents various scenarios for consideration by the NEC, including the possibility of Mbeki standing for a third term as ANC president. It suggests this will be a ”demotion” for Mbeki and lead to a destructive power struggle between the party and government.

One proposal is that both Mbeki and Zuma should consider dropping out of the presidential race to help heal party rifts.

Some NEC members, close to both Zuma and Mbeki, described the report’s political analysis as ”hackneyed”. But they all conceded that it held out the first formal opportunity for leaders to initiate a reconciliation process.

Said one NEC member aligned to Zuma: ”We tried to defend the political section of the report — we said, ‘Let’s separate that from the section on the emails and debate it separately.’ But most of the Cabinet came to the defence of [Intelligence Inspector General Ngcakani’s] report [which put Masetlha at the centre of the emails], while using the fact that the section on the emails was flawed as a convenient political weapon to reject the entire report.”

Most Cabinet members at the NEC meeting were apparently angered that the task team let Masetlha off the hook. ”He’s like a red rag to a bull in the Cabinet,” said a Cabinet member.

Another NEC member, close to Motlanthe, said the NEC’s failure to debate the report showed it was gripped by a ”siege mentality — a bunker mentality”. The source said the president behaved ”as if everyone was against him — There is a refusal to examine things objectively and enter a debate that is any more than a praise song to him.”

NEC sources say Mbeki spoke at the end of the meeting and based his rejection of the report on one sentence in its introduction, which referred to the ANC’s ”maladies”. While acknowledging problems, the president said the report ”used terminology that overstated the case” and could not be taken seriously. He also referred to procedural flaws.

Zuma is said to have thanked the task team and, in an indirect swipe at the NEC, to have expressed pleasure that the investigation was conducted by people ”outside the NEC”, which ensured its objectivity.

A ”sober” Motlanthe warned that unless the political issues in the report were dealt with, they would haunt the ANC.

At the end of the NEC meeting, all members were required to return their copies of the report to Motlanthe, who sealed them. Each report was labelled with the name of an NEC member. ”Not even Mbeki has a copy,” said another NEC member.

Task team

Motlanthe appointed the task team last April after the NEC rejected a report into the origins of the emails by Ngcakani.

Ngcakani found that a secret NIA project launched by Masetlha posed ”the risk of undermining constitutionally protected party political freedoms and of descending into the abyss of abuse of state resources”.

According to his report, Masetlha launched the project, dubbed Avani, in about July 2005, without informing Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils. Its aim was to evaluate the effect of the presidential succession battle on the political climate.

But Ngcakani found that the introduction of the emails into the intelligence collection system of the NIA resulted in a climate of conspiracy that appeared to take key personnel with the intelligence services ”to the brink of treason”. The report found the emails had been artificially constructed to look like electronic communications between senior government figures.

In May last year the Cabinet accepted Ngcakani’s report and Mbeki fired Masetlha for his alleged involvement in the scandal. Motlanthe, who held that the emails were authentic, then appointed a task team under struggle stalwart Hermanus Loots (alias James Stuart) to run another inquiry.

The NEC’s weekend rejection of the task team’s report was based on ”procedural flaws”, including the fact that Masetlha sat in on some of the team’s proceedings and questioned witnesses. The NEC was also concerned about the use of ”Mr X”, an unidentified IT specialist referred to in the report, who hacked into the computers of Scorpions investigators to demonstrate that the emails were authentic. The NEC dismissed the hacking as illegal.

One of the task team members, Josiah Jele, distanced himself from the process at the 11th hour, apparently because ”Mr X” was used.

Two silks, advocate Patrick Mtshaulana and acting judge president in the Western Cape advocate Daniel Potgieter, worked with the task team, sitting in on all its interviews.

Additional reporting by Matuma Letsoalo

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Vicki Robinson
Guest Author

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