/ 3 June 2011

What the ANC said about the Zuma plot

What The Anc Said About The Zuma Plot

President Jacob Zuma made light of the alleged internal plot to unseat him at the ANC’s weekend national executive committee meeting, saying that his experience in the field showed that intelligence reports often got things wrong, according to sources at the meeting.

At the gathering, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale — accused of being the plot ringleader — is said to have called for ANC leaders to have a full and decisive discussion on the issue.

NEC members interviewed this week said that the plot allegations were not on the agenda, but that discussion of them was triggered by claims that they had put a damper on the ANC’s municipal elections campaign.

“Our election message was disrupted by other issues that came to the fore, including the plot allegations,” said a committee member and business person. Another ANC official confirmed that the allegations came up as part of a discussion about the “diversions during the election campaign”.

In March suspended crime intelligence chief Richard Mdluli handed over a classified report among court papers suggesting that murder allegations against him were politically motivated. A range of prominent ANC leaders were fingered in the report as conspiring to deny Zuma a second term as party leader.

In an interview this week ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza said Sexwale told the meeting that the plot issue should be brought to closure only after it was discussed in formal ANC structures.

Zuma, on the other hand, moved to assure ANC leaders that the allegations were devoid of truth and should not be taken seriously.

“Tokyo felt the issue of the plot must be brought to closure and that the ANC must pronounce on the matter. [ANC Youth League president Julius] Malema also wanted the matter dealt with properly and supported him,” Khoza said.

‘No validity’
ANC secretary general Gwede Manthashe recently dismissed the allegations at a press conference, but Sexwale felt this did not lay the matter to rest. “His view was the issue was dealt with by the SG [secretary general] but must be an agenda point at a formal ANC meeting as well and be discussed by more people than just him. It was decided the officials will look into the issue,” Khoza said.

Zuma, by contrast, had wanted immediate closure.

“He basically dismissed it as having no validity. No one was arguing that it had any standing or truth,” an NEC member, who is also a senior government official, said.

A provincial secretary who attended the meeting said Zuma had “cautioned” ANC leaders about the allegations. “The president was explaining intelligence and how it worked. He was saying that in his own experience intelligence reports can come to the wrong conclusions,” he said.

Another NEC member, who is also a business person, told the Mail & Guardian that Zuma offered the meeting an assurance about the plot.

“He said that half the time information obtained by intelligence operatives is not accurate,” the member said, adding that Sexwale had explained why he took the unusual step to hold a press conference on the plot allegations.

“People said Tokyo should have raised the matter through the ANC instead of a press conference, but he argued that the allegations came from court proceedings, not the ANC,” he said. “He explained that he held the press conference because the allegations tarnished his image.”

‘Need not fear retribution’
Zuma also assured those named in Mdluli’s document — who also include Malema, national police commissioner Bheki Cele, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula and Kwazulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize — that they need not fear retribution.

Said one source: “Colleagues who were mentioned mustn’t think they are being investigated. The president said just look at the source and it’s clear this can’t be taken seriously.” The meeting also asked Malema to explain his recent declaration at an election rally in Kimberley that “white people are thieves” and he had responded that he was quoted out of context.

Said Khoza: “He responded that he said the land was stolen and people who steal are thieves. He was basically lobbying for land restitution to be reviewed, which we know is a lobbying point for the ANC Youth League. He said at no stage did he accuse whites of being thieves — it was taken out of context.”

Another source said Malema asked why he is being criticised when NEC member and former intelligence boss Billy Masetlha had spoken to the M&G about the plot allegations, which was also a breach of ANC protocol.

“[Masetlha] was told he was out of order by offering his services for the so-called investigation of the plot,” said the source, who is also a government official. “He was told he is not an investigative person and these things must be left to the right agencies to deal with. If you have information give it to the right people to investigate, Masetlha was told.”

In a recent interview Masetlha said he would launch an investigation into the alleged conspiracy and expose those involved. “We know who they are talking to and how they want to do this. I am not going to keep quiet and watch people destroying the organisation,” he said.

The former intelligence chief volunteered to dedicate his personal time and resources in “getting to the bottom” of the allegations. “I never had time to look deep into these allegations, but after elections I’m going to do serious work in investigating what’s going on,” he said. “There’s no smoke without fire.”

However, despite the soothing noises emanating from NEC members, the plot allegations, linked to the leadership race in the build-up to next year’s congress, remain a hot topic in the ruling party.

Said one NEC source: “It’s clear the youth league is going for Gwede [Mantashe] and the president, and people are throwing their hats in the ring. But there was an implicit understanding at the meeting that there is a difference between the rough-and-tumble of politics and using intelligence sources. Once you start imagining plots, you are crossing the line.”

Masetlha and Malema could not be reached for comment this week. Sexwale responded on Thursday afternoon to the M&G: “Where does such ridiculous information come from? Could it perhaps be another covert operation of misinformation?” — Additional reporting by Matuma Letsoalo