Publication: Mail and Guardian Issued: Date: 2001-03-19 Reporter: Editor: Barry Streek, Marianne Merten and Glenda Daniels

Arms Deal "Source" was Top Intelligence Man

Publication  Mail & Guardian
Date 2001-03-19
Editor Barry Streek, Marianne Merten and Glenda Daniels
Web Link

The man the presidency sought to rubbish, until the end of last year reported to the South African Secret Service and worked with the National Intelligence Agency (NIA)  

Documents in the possession of the Mail & Guardian show that Bheki Jacobs, the man the presidency sought to rubbish as the alleged source of information suggesting wrongdoing in the R43-billion arms deal, is a highly trained intelligence operative who, until the end of last year, was reporting to the South African Secret Service and also working with the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

Jacobs, one of the African National Congress's most highly trained intelligence operatives, received his formal intelligence instruction in Moscow.

Well-placed intelligence sources this week gave the M&G a range of documents showing Jacobs maintained formal links with South Africa's two main state intelligence agencies until late last year. They said Jacobs had a high credibility rating.

These sources said they believed Jacobs had been deliberately exposed because some government leaders had been annoyed by his sharply critical reports. He had also told intelligence associates that he expected a smear campaign to be conducted against him.

Jacobs went to ground at the weekend after his integrity was questioned on the front page of a Sunday newspaper.

Pan Africanist Congress MP Patricia de Lille immediately blasted the government for starting "a vicious campaign" to discredit her and her sources of information on the arms deal.

The documents given to the M&G this week challenge NIA statements that Jacobs - whose real name is Hassan Solomons - had masqueraded for five years as a secret agent reporting to President Thabo Mbeki. The documents indicate his formal integration into the national intelligence community.

Jacobs told the Sunday Times at the weekend that he ran an independent company, Congress Consultants, which had done investigations, political, security and threat analyses, and assisted with the demobilisation of former combatants.  

According to the Register of Companies in Pretoria, Congress Consulting is situated in the upmarket suburb of Claremont in Cape Town. However, a visit to the address showed the house had changed ownership more than nine months ago. Neither the current residents at the house nor neighbours had heard of Jacobs or Hassan Solomons.

A company search revealed the firm is still active. Enquiries at Telkom's 1023 directory service for "Congress Consulting" revealed an entry for "African National Congress" and a telephone number for the party's constituency office in Sea Point.

A senior national intelligence official has confirmed that, following enquiries from the presidency, it was recommended that all staff avoid Jacobs. Many fellow former Umkhonto weSizwe cadres have distanced themselves from Jacobs.

Jacobs was known for some time in Cape Town political circles as "the other ears of the president".

Jacobs, whose inside information about the government and the ANC has often been uncannily accurate, comes across as well informed.

Presidential representative Bheki Khumalo however told the M&G: "Bheki Jacobs has never been an agent of the president." Asked if Jacobs had ever worked for Mbeki, Khumalo replied: "Not at all."

Professor Tom Lodge, member of the board of the Africa Institute, says that if the allegations against Jacobs are true, his contract with the institute, which ends at the end of this month, will not be renewed.

Lodge said Hassan Solomons was employed by the institute in 1999 as a liaison officer with Parliament. His CV, presented when he applied for the post at the Africa Institute, indicated that he had worked as parliamentary officer and in the office of the chief whip. "He had all the right credentials when he was employed," Lodge said.

Lodge said there was nothing in Jacobs that suggested the man was unbalanced. "His work was fine.

"I can't quite see how this report is a smear on Patricia de Lille. After, all, right from the beginning it was clear that an insider in the ANC was leaking information. Some would argue that what he did was unethical; on the other hand, we have legislation protecting whistle-blowers."

A representative for the office of the ANC's chief whip said that, as far as could be established, Jacobs had never been employed there.

Following the 1994 elections, he was seen regularly in the chief whip's office and with various ANC MPs, but eventually ANC staff were told to have nothing to do with him.

Although he claimed at various times to work for then chief whip, Makhenkesi Stofile, the former chair of the Portfolio Committee on Correctional Services, Carl Niehaus, and at the ANC's headquarters, "he was seen as trouble then", an ANC senior employee told the M&G. "Everyone was suspicious of him after a while," he added.

De Lille refused to reveal whether Jacobs was her source on the alleged arms deal corruption. "I'm a principled person, I will protect my sources with my life. I'm not getting involved in confirming and denying that I knew him. If Bheki was one of my sources I won't say," she said. 

With acknowledgement to Barry Streek, Marianne Merten and Glenda Daniels and the Daily Mail & Guardian.