/ 8 April 2009

Mbeki denies interference in Zuma case

Former president Thabo Mbeki on Wednesday again denied any political interference in the Jacob Zuma matter and called for vigilance against the offensive practice of spreading ”deliberate falsehoods to attain various objectives”.

In the past two months there have been media reports about Mbeki’s alleged interference in the case that was brought against African National Congress (ANC) president Zuma by the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP).

”I initially decided not to comment about this unfounded speculation as I thought that no one would seek to engage in a public discussion about a matter as serious as this, without the necessary information which would enable the nation to arrive at informed and objective conclusions,” Mbeki said in a statement.

In the same way that he elected to step down from the position of president of South Africa in the interest of the country and the people, he refused to be party to public mudslinging which would achieve precisely what he sought to avoid seven months ago, Mbeki said.

However, some things should be said.

”Over the years, we have consistently assured the nation that at no point did the president of the Republic or any member of the executive, instructed, encouraged, aided or sanctioned by the president interfere in the case of Jacob Zuma.

”Personally, I wish to reiterate that at no stage did I interfere or contemplate interfering in the case,” Mbeki said.

Some media reports of the past two weeks purported to be based on transcripts of telephone conversations between himself and the former deputy director of public prosecutions Leonard McCarthy.

”I have learnt from the NPA’s [National Prosecuting Authority’s] statement that these alleged transcripts originate from intercepts which were legally obtained by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in the course of the NIA’s work.

”What I do not know is how the intercepts ended up in the hands of third parties,” he said.

Happily, it had been reported that the Inspector General of Intelligence was investigating this particular matter, he said.

Hopefully his report would not only shed light on this matter, but would also assist government to deal with a practice that should cause any intelligence agency, government and nation grave concern.

”However, I wish to state that whatever intercepts may exist will not prove any political interference on my part, since none took place.”

On March 26, Mbeki’s office issued a statement in which he invited ”anyone who has such evidence [of political interference on my part] to hand it over to the law enforcement agencies so that legal remedies are sought by any party that believes that it may have been unduly compromised”.

”I would like to reiterate this call so that this matter can be laid to rest as speedily as possible in order for our country and people to attend to our many challenges, without needless wrangling which will do nothing to advance the interests of our people.

”Personally, I will give such a process my full cooperation as I trust all the members of the executive with whom I served would.”

Mbeki said that on January 13 this year, a day after the Supreme Court of Appeal gave its judgement in the matter between the NDPP and Zuma, he observed that ”the unacceptable practice of propagation of deliberate falsehoods to attain various objectives is becoming entrenched in our country”.

”It seems that going forward, our society will have to become extra vigilant about this highly offensive practice, fully conscious of the fact that it can have and has serious implications, not least concerning the integrity or lack thereof, of state institutions, and the impact of this on the lives of ordinary people,” Mbeki said. — Sapa