Publication: Financial Mail Issued: Date: 2001-09-07 Reporter: Patrick Laurence Editor:

Intelligence Agents Haunt

Publication  Financial Mail
Date 2001-09-07
Reporter Patrick Laurence
Web Link


DA criticises Public Protector's approach at hearings  


Outgoing ANC MP Andrew Feinstein verifies that he was approached by two "intelligence agents" in the midst of government's offensive against the first report on the R43,8bn arms deal by parliament's Select Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa). One of the agents, the FM has since learnt, is a member of a State intelligence service.  

Feinstein, who served on Scopa as a senior ANC representative when its first report was drafted, last week resigned as an MP in protest against government and ANC interference in Scopa's inquiries.

He declines to elaborate on the approaches, except to say he got the impression that they were trying to ascertain whether he had information not contained in the official report and, if so, to establish exactly what it was.

Through its own inquiries, however, the FM can disclose the identities of the two people who sought to glean information from Feinstein as:

The FM's information is that Millard requested Feinstein to co-operate with her and the NIA by making available to them any information he might have obtained that was not included in the Scopa report and to obtain his permission to approach Scopa sources directly. "Subtle, she was not," a parliamentary observer recalls.

Christopher is reported to have offered Feinstein and Scopa chairman Gavin Woods "protective surveillance" and volunteered to take sensitive documents into his safekeeping. "Rather naive," is how his approach is characterised by a strategically positioned interviewee.

The FM regrets that it cannot reflect the views of Millard (there was no response to a message left on the phone on her desk in the NIA's Pretoria headquarters) or Christopher (who was on duty at the World Racism conference and whose cell-phone was apparently switched off).

But NIA spokesman Helmut Schlenter says the NIA would have intervened only if it was requested to do so by the Office of the Public Protector, the Auditor-General or the Director of Public Prosecutions)

Woods, a member of the Inkatha Freedom Party, is aware of the approaches to Feinstein. He recalls that he, too, was approached on two occasions, once by a man who identified himself as a representative of "ANC intelligence" and once by a man from "the Department of Intelligence". Both made a strong "call on patriotism" in their pleas for "an understanding" to help them get the big picture.

"There was some monitoring of Andrew and myself," Woods says. "I was never sure of what it amounted to or how it was done. But much was at stake, not only in rands and cents but in the reputations of high-ranking people. Maybe it would have been remiss of National Intelligence if it did not try to fathom out what was happening".

But Democratic Alliance spokesman on the arms deal Raenette Taljaard slates the surveillance of, and approaches to, members of a parliamentary committee as a "misuse of State resources". She compares it with the diversion of police officers and intelligence operatives to investigate a "plot" against President Thabo Mbeki within the ANC itself, as disclosed by Safety & Security Minister Steve Tshwete on television in April.

Taljaard is equally disturbed by what she perceives as the willingness of Public Protector Selby Baqwa to treat witnesses at the public hearings into the arms deal unequally, "depending on who they are". She accuses Baqwa, under whose auspices the hearings are taking place, of not fulfilling his undertaking to ensure that all witnesses are shielded from hostile cross-examination more appropriate to courtroom proceedings in a highly charged trial.

She charges that Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota and Trade & Industry's Alec Erwin, as well as several government officials, were allowed to state the case for the arms deal without having to face rigorous cross-examination.

But she says CCII Systems MD Richard Young, who contends his company was the victim of an unfair procurement process in relation to the supply of armament equipment to four corvettes purchased by the SA Navy, was subject to prolonged and aggressive questioning by counsel for government departments and rival (and allegedly favoured) companies.

Apart from forcing Young to endure a day-and-a-half of adversarial cross-examination as distinct from the promised polite "inquisitorial" eliciting of information, she says the Public Protector went one step further by allowing key navy officials the right of reply.

The "lack of even-handedness", Taljaard concludes, begs the question, who is the Public Protector really protecting?  

With acknowledgement to Patrick Laurence and the Financial Mail.