Although an intelligence agency conspiracy against former president Jacob Zuma may have existed 30 years ago, it is unlikely still to be in operation today.
On Monday, Zuma told the Zondo commission that he had got wind of a conspiracy by three intelligence agencies to stop his ascendancy to the ANC presidency in the 1990s. The agencies, two foreign and one run by the apartheid state, allegedly wanted his career halted because he knew who their spies in the ANC were.
A former senior ANC and state intelligence operative, who asked not to be named, said that Zuma had claimed there was an intelligence plot against him since the 1990s.
“It has been a consistent theme of his for the past 20 to 30 years,” the former operative said.
“In the early 1990s, in the realm of the Cold War […] it was not unbelievable. Is it still applicable, 30 years later? No, it is simply a refusal to deal with the issue before him,” he said.
Zuma’s’ refusal to engage with the commission on the allegations he made were part of this “denial”, he said.
“The issues are quite simple: Did people have undue influence? He is even refusing to discuss the issue. This is an irrational denial to deal with the issues before us,” he said.
State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo on Thursday said Zuma had not reported the matter to her department and she was not aware whether it was reported to any predecessors.
She was speaking at a media briefing in Parliament when she was asked whether Zuma had reported the two recent alleged attempts on his life by intelligence agencies to the State Security Agency.
She said the matter was now before the Zondo commission, but if approached her department would take it up.
ANC leaders whom Zuma claimed were “agents” have rubbished his allegations. Former South African National Defence Force head General Siphiwe Nyanda and former mineral resource minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi have dismissed Zuma’s allegations, and the latter has challenged him to a lie detector test.
Nyanda wants an opportunity to cross-examine Zuma at the Zondo commission about the claim that he was an aparheid spy — a feat that would be almost impossible, because the former president declined to submit a witness statement.
Both leaders played a tacit role in Zuma’s ousting. Ramatlhodi’s testimony before the Zondo commission covered the impact of the friendship between Zuma and the Gupta family on the ANC.
Zuma made his claim against Nyanda and Ramatlhodi during his sensational testimony on Monday, in which he portrayed himself as the victim of a conspiracy by intelligence agencies that had begun in the 1990s.
Zuma said the plot against him had been activated because he knew who the spies for the apartheid government and foreign agencies were.
“They took a decision that Zuma must be removed from decision-making structures of the ANC. And that’s why the character assassination began,” Zuma said.
Nyanda said Zuma was “trying to hide behind” the spy claims in a bid to divert attention from the allegations that had been levelled against him at the state capture commission.
Nyanda said Zuma had been in the ANC top six, which had appointed Nyanda as head of the army in 1998, and to Cabinet as communications minister in 2009 after Zuma became president.
“That is why many people find what he is saying to be incredible, which of course it is,” Nyanda said.
Nyanda said he was being targeted by Zuma because “I was one of the people at the forefront of [those] who complained to him about the influence of the Gupta family.”
“I […] called on him to leave office and he is bitter about that,” he said.
Nyanda said his evidence before Zondo about the role of the Guptas in Fikile Mbalula’s appointment as minister of sport in 2010 sparked Zuma’s claims that he was a spy. Zuma also claimed that Mbalula had conveyed a threat from Anton Rupert to shut down the economy if Zuma fired Pravin Gordhan as finance minister.
Nyanda said Zuma’s claim that the general had hugged a spy who was involved in setting up the assassination of his brother, Zwelakhe, at his funeral to shield him from suspicion by the ANC was “incredible”.