/ 24 July 2008

NIA clamps down on Zuma plot comments

The National Intelligence Agency (NIA) has warned against the publication of Young Communist League comments on a document it claims shows the NIA is being abused in a plot against African National Congress president Jacob Zuma.

The NIA revealed on Thursday that a document which landed on the desk of the YCL was in fact the classified document the Johannesburg High Court has barred Business Day newspaper from publishing.

YCL national secretary Buti Manamela quoted extensively from the document in a briefing on Thursday on the Progressive Youth Alliance’s plans for the appearance of Zuma in Pietermaritzburg High Court on August 4.

”You are advised not to publish the comments [Manamela] made because of the court order,” said NIA spokesperson Lorna Daniels.

On Tuesday, the Johannesburg High Court ordered Business Day not to publicise the classified document or any part of it. It also ordered that no other person was entitled to possession of the document or to publicise its contents without the NIA’s authority and permission.

It was not revealed at Thursday’s briefing that the document was classified or that it was the same document in the possession of Business Day. A Business Day reporter was not allowed sight of the document at the briefing and could not confirm whether it was the same document referred to in the court application.

”We have established that it is the same document [which was in the possession of Business Day],” said Daniels. ”The court order states that you are not allowed to publish any of the [document].”

In the briefing, Manamela claimed that the information in the document supports the youth alliance’s contention that state institutions, including the National Prosecuting Authority and the NIA, are being abused to prevent Zuma from ever becoming president of the country.

On Tuesday, the Johannesburg High Court ordered Business Day to pay the costs of the NIA’s application to block publication of the document.

Welcoming the court’s ruling in favour of the NIA, Intelligence Services Minister Ronnie Kasrils said that although it is important for the public to have access to state information and the right to media freedom, there are clear constitutional and legal requirements concerning classified state information.

”The intention of Business Day to publish classified information is highly unacceptable and unheard of in democracies anywhere in the world,” he said. ”The high court order clearly shows that there are standards of propriety that must be adhered to.

”The publication of classified information obtained in an unauthorised manner threatens legitimate intelligence operations and undermines national security.”

The editor of Business Day and the Weekender, Peter Bruce, said the NIA could have ”saved us all the bother” had it answered the newspaper’s enquiries last Thursday.

”It finally did so in court on Monday. We are satisfied with their answer and that the rights of a particular political party have not been abused, as we initially feared,” he said.

In court on Monday, Business Day agreed to return the document to the NIA.

Asked in Thursday’s briefing whether President Thabo Mbeki is behind the so-called plot against Zuma, ANC Youth League president Julius Malema said he does not know.

The people conspiring against Zuma are to be found ”everywhere”, including business, the media, political parties, the ANC, the opposition and the judiciary, he said.

The youth alliance claims the fraud case against Zuma’s former financial adviser Schabir Shaik was part of the plot, as is the complaint against Cape Judge President John Hlophe.

Shaik was found to have made ”corrupt payments” to Zuma. Hlophe has been accused of approaching some of the Constitutional Court’s judges improperly while they were deliberating cases involving Zuma.

”We doubt people will stand back and watch [Zuma] walk into jail for things manufactured [to destroy his public profile],” said Manamela. — Sapa