Mbeki's mad dash to save Selebi

Information pieced together by the Mail & Guardian suggests the Presidency, the Justice and Constitutional Development Department, National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and South African Police Service (SAPS) joined in a desperate effort to prevent police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi from being charged.

And top figures in state security have been drawn into the battle over the National Prosecuting Authority, with NIA Director General Manala Manzini telling the M&G he believes gangster Glenn Agliotti is an NPA pawn whose evidence against Selebi was obtained by threats and intimidation.

A New Year’s Eve call to President Thabo Mbeki from acting national director of public prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe confirming that Selebi was about to be charged apparently precipitated an extraordinary scramble.

  • Immediately after New Year, Mbeki held emergency meetings with police management, security ministers and Selebi himself. Mbeki has admitted he knew in early December that Mpshe had told Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Brigitte Mabandla of the NPA’s decision to charge Selebi, but took no action. Sources close to the NPA told the M&G they believe Mbeki stalled the issue, hoping that victory in Polokwane would strengthen his hand.

  • On January 4, Manzini and police crime intelligence heavyweight Mulangi Mphego—without the knowledge of Agliotti’s lawyers or the NPA—secured a statement from Agliotti alleging the Scorpions were involved in a political campaign against Selebi. On January 7, the NIA and Crime Intelligence Service (CIS) videotaped another secret meeting they had with Agliotti.

  • On January 8, police arrested Gerrie Nel, who heads the Selebi investigation, despite repeated failed attempts to secure a warrant from prosecutors. Justice Director General Menzi Simelane had intervened earlier, questioning the NPA’s failure to charge Nel.

  • On January 10, Selebi launched an urgent bid to prevent the NPA from acting against him. He used as his main props the Agliotti statement, a “top secret” report to Mbeki and an internal affidavit about a confidential Scorpions management meeting.
The secret memo to the president, delivered in May last year by former NPA boss Vusi Pikoli, detailed the evidence against Selebi. Questioned this week, Mbeki’s legal adviser, Mujanko Gumbi, could not explain how Selebi had obtained a copy.

And the internal NPA affidavit, by Scorpions regional boss Lawrence Mrwebi, is understood to have been forwarded to the Justice and Constitutional Development Department by Mrwebi himself after a July 2007 meeting of the Scorpions top management. He was apparently concerned about proposals for a lobbying campaign to try to reverse the ANC’s plans to relocate the Scorpions to the SAPS.

Selebi said he had been “provided with” Agliotti’s statement, arguably his most potent piece of evidence.

Evidence at the interdict hearing indicates that Agliotti is crucial to the prosecution of Selebi. But in his NIA statement, the former claimed:

  • that the Scorpions “prime objective” was to “save [its] existence” by bringing down Selebi;

  • that he maintained to the Scorpions all along that he never bribed Selebi;

  • that he was “targeted in a political game which involved the intended demise of Zuma, Selebi, Manzini and former NIA boss Billy Masetlha, to name but a few”; and

  • that the Scorpions threatened him on many occasions that if he did not testify against Selebi, he, Agliotti, would go to jail for at least 15 years.
In a rebutting affidavit prepared with his lawyers, Agliotti retracted most of his allegations against the Scorpions, indicating he had been told the January 4 statement would not be made public.

He said he had signed because he believed he had not had a fair opportunity to negotiate a deal with the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO, known as the Scorpions) because of deals the DSO had reached with Clinton Nassif and other suspects.

Agliotti added: “Mr Manzini assured me that he was the most powerful man in the country and would take care of me … I wanted to align myself with him in an attempt to negotiate a better deal …”

Agliotti claimed he was contacted by one “Dennis” and called to a meeting in Rivonia.

“Dennis instructed me to make a statement relating to how [the Scorpions] had treated me. A person by the name of Tanya Volschenk was present and known to me. Tanya typed the statement on her laptop. This statement was printed and then carried by Dennis to the Balalaika hotel in Sandton.”

Manzini, Mphego and others were waiting at the Balalaika.

The M&G has identified “Dennis” as Dennis Kekana, who apparently has close ties with the NIA and Manzini.

Company records show Kekana and a senior NIA figure, Brian Koopedi, are co-directors of five companies. Koopedi is head of the Office for Interception Centres, which controls official monitoring of electronic communications. Several other companies have Manzini, Kekana and Volschenk as co-directors.

The M&G left messages on Kekana’s cellphone and with his wife, but he failed to reply.

The M&G also traced Volschenk, who confirmed knowing Agliotti via business dealings. She denied playing any part in taking Agliotti’s statement, but said she had seen him and “Dennis” arrive at her office.

The NIA, the NPA and police all declined to answer detailed questions about how the NIA and CIS got involved in taking a statement from Agliotti.

However, the M&G contacted Manzini using a private cellphone number he gave to Agliotti.

Manzini said Kekana initiated the meeting, telling him Agliotti wanted to meet. “I was called and received an urgent message that he [Agliotti] wanted to see me in relation to my [official] responsibilities.” Manzini declined to say how he knew Kekana.

Manzini said he subsequently spoke to Agliotti and they arranged to meet at the Balalaika at 7pm. Agliotti had only arrived at about 10.30pm or 11pm.

Manzini said one of his staff had asked the police to be present but could not say whether there had been a specific request for Mphego. Mphego is accused by Agliotti in other statements of having been close to John Stratton, Brett Kebble’s erstwhile adviser wanted in connection with the Kebble murder.

“He [Agliotti] came there with the statement already written,” Manzini told the M&G.

He also said Agliotti claimed repeatedly to have been threatened by the DSO: “He also says that in his DVD [the recording of the January 7 interview] … We advised him that he should formally open a case and offered that the officers who were there could assist to do that.”

Manzini said he informed Mabandla that Agliotti had been threatened and passed the details to the Justice Director General, Simelane.

The NIA boss claimed Agliotti had also been pressurised to retract his statement: “He phoned one of my officers… he said they [the DSO] had kept him for six hours … trying to get him to contradict his affidavit.”

Selebi is expected to appear in the Randburg Regional Court on January 30.

Stefaans Brümmer

Stefaans Brümmer

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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