Cabinet Acts to Settle Ngcuka Spying Claims
Wyndham Hartley, Tim Cohen, Sapa
Top-level bid to resolve controversy
A cabinet committee will investigate the allegation that prosecutions chief Bulelani Ngcuka was an apartheid spy, as well as the slanging match over corruption claims against Deputy President Jacob Zuma and former transport minister Mac Maharaj.
The announcement yesterday by Justice Minister Penuell Maduna that he will invoke provisions of the National Prosecuting Authority Act to investigate the claims is the first sign that government recognises the potential harm to the credibility of a pivotal state institution by the continuing saga.
The country has been transfixed in recent weeks, first by Ngcuka's announcement that he will not prosecute Zuma despite having a prima facie case of corruption against him, and lately by the allegation that Ngcuka spied for the apartheid authorities.
Political analysts welcomed the decision to deal with the issue head-on, but suggested the establishment of a committee might be a "cautious and plodding" approach to a problem that needed more urgent attention.
HSBC political analyst Nic Borain said the decision was welcome. "But I feel a sharper response at a senior executive level designed to reinforce the credibility of the office is still required".
Announcing his intention, Maduna said: "I work with him (Ngcuka) and then I hear he is a spy . There is an allegation that has been made; the committee must do its work."
The committee would be made up of the ministers from the criminal justice portfolios.
The opposition Democratic Alliance "cautiously" welcomed Maduna's decision, saying that while it did not seem to be directly within his mandate, "It is high time this matter was dealt with and finally put to rest".
Maduna also welcomed news that the French authorities were now responding to SA's request for help in investigating the connections between Zuma and French defence company Thales (previously Thomson CSF). One of the key allegations against Zuma is that he solicited a R500 000 bribe from Thales/Thomson in return for protecting them from any official probe into arms deal corruption.
With acknowledgements to Wyndham Hartley, Tim Cohen, Sapa and Business Day.