Will Browse Mole nail Pikoli?
Ten years after an intelligence report cost the defence force chief Georg Meiring his job government is pushing hard for suspended prosecutions boss Vusi Pikoli to be sacked in a similar way.
Spy boss Manala Manzini this week drew parallels between Meiring’s 1998 report to then president Nelson Mandela and the Scorpions’ 2007 Browse Mole, which claimed covert Angolan and Libyan funding for ANC president Jacob Zuma.
Meiring was forced to resign after presenting Mandela with what was described as a “mischievous” report about an alleged plot to overthrow the government.
The report implicated Meiring’s successor and current ANC NEC member Siphiwe Nyanda, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Ekurhuleni Metro Police boss Robert McBride and pop star Michael Jackson.
Ten years on Manzini wants the Ginwala inquiry into Pikoli’s fitness to hold office to make similar findings about the National Prosecuting Authority boss over his handling of Browse Mole.
Pikoli was originally suspended because of an “irretrievable breakdown of trust” between him and Justice Minister Brigitte Mabandla. But the government later added other complaints against him, including his handling of Browse Mole.
Pikoli insists he was suspended to protect Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi from arrest.
It is now increasingly apparent that Browse Mole is central to the government’s case, together with Pikoli’s alleged negligence in failing to monitor the security clearance of Scorpions members.
Browse Mole, compiled by Scorpions investigator Ivor Powell and leaked to Cosatu in May last year, also alleges that Nyanda addressed a meeting of former Umkhonto weSizwe members where a coup to overthrow Mbeki was discussed.
Government has since dismissed the report as the work of former apartheid agents working as private “information peddlers” who are stoking conflict.
This week Manzini accused Pikoli of sitting on a draft version of the report for four months and of not instructing Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy to cooperate with the joint investigation into its sources.
“When General Meiring produced a report similar to this, Nelson Mandela, who was president of this country then, called for a commission of inquiry, the results of which resulted in Meiring having to move and to walk.
“We are not saying let him [Pikoli] move, let him walk, but we are saying there are sensitive areas and an irresponsible manner in which they have conducted themselves,” Manzini testified. He concluded, however, that Pikoli “has no clue” how to do his job and is not a fit and proper person to head the NPA.
Pikoli testified on Thursday that he had a “gut feel” that Browse Mole was going to “cause trouble”.
He “filed” the preliminary version in March 2006 and was “angry” when he saw the concluded report in July 2006.
“I thought that if there was a time Mr McCarthy was going to leave the DSO [the Scorpions] it was going to be then. I told him that not a single member of the DSO has the capacity to obtain the information in the report.
“I told him that whoever in the DSO was involved in this report clearly had contact with old apartheid structures of intelligence, particularly Military Intelligence. I told Mr McCarthy that this document shall enjoy no status in the DSO and that there must be no further working on the report.”
Pikoli insists that he acted properly by passing the document on to Manzini and South African Secret Service director general Tim Dennis.
Manzini accused the NPA boss of being “economic with the truth”.
“When he met us [to hand over Browse Mole] he was very excited — In fact I will say it exactly in his words: ‘I have a hot potato’. That’s how he conveyed the message to us as he gave us the document.
“We perused it and for us it was not information — that would have raised eyebrows. Some of the things we had already picked up and we advised him, what are you doing? Why are you engaging yourself in matters of political intelligence that you have no mandate of?”
Criticising Pikoli for “sitting” on the report, Manzini said: “Intelligence delayed is useless information. It was shared in July and we are saying had this information been brought to our attention much earlier, we might not be dealing with the consequences of the Browse that we are faced with today.”
Manzini’s deputy, Arthur Fraser, testified about the Scorpions’ alleged lack of cooperation in uncovering the true sources behind Browse Mole and blamed Pikoli for not instructing his subordinates to cooperate with a presidential investigation.
McCarthy eventually agreed to provide the NIA with a database of the Scorpions’ informers under strict conditions. He also requested that one informer’s name be kept secret and only revealed to Mbeki if necessary.
According to Fraser McCarthy was attending the rugby World Cup in France at the height of the probe into Browse Mole.