Spy Claim is Indication of Growing Rift Within ANC Leadership
The deepening political divide between the ruling party over the suspended investigation into Deputy President Jacob Zuma and his alleged role in the arms deal took on a new lease of life this week with published allegations that National Director of Public Prosecutions, Bulelani Ngcuka, was a spy for the apartheid government.
While Ngcuka protested his innocence and his wife, mining minister Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, took the unusual step of issuing a statement in the family name to clear her husband of a string of anonymous smears as well as the spying charge, the ANC and its leadership found itself in an uncomfortable dilemma about how to handle the allegations. Ngcuka, who said in a SABC television interview that he would sue former minister of transport, Mac Maharaj, for the spy claim, said he retained his respect for Zuma and did not have a personal axe to grind with the deputy president. But the first signs emerged from the top echelons of government that there is a growing concern over the damage that the Zuma/Ngcuka stand-off is inflicting on key state institutions.
Minister of Justice Penuell Maduna, who announced the appointment of a cabinet committee to investigate the spying claims, said they could not be ignored because ANC veteran Maharaj, who endorsed the claims and said there was a dossier to back them up, was a senior member of the ANC who had played a major role in the liberation struggle.
However, there are concerns in ANC ranks that Maharaj's claim, which comes more than a decade after the transgression, is intended to precisely divert attention from the issues underlying the Scorpions investigation.
It is not clear how prominently the issues surrounding the Zuma controversy will surface at the two-day meeting of the ANC's national executive committee which began yesterday, but it is clear that the political tensions surrounding the allegations and the resulting conflict in personal loyalties have traumatised the party leadership on the eve of the election campaign.
The question currently being debated in ANC circles are : what is a spy? And is the relevance of Maharaj's spy claims in relation to the Scorpions investigation that Zuma solicited a R500 000 bribe from a French arms company in return for his political influence to secure a contract?
One senior ANC source said that the party had always displayed some tolerance for members who cracked under interrogation or torture and agreed to work for the apartheid regime. There was less sympathy for those who continued to work for the regime after their release.
But the account also had taken of those who were blackmailed after their release and threatened with exposure as spies unless they continued to work for the regime. There was zero tolerance for those who offered their services as informers in return for payment or for ideological reasons. The punishment meted out to suspected spies in the ANC's exiled camps was testimony to the lack of tolerance of informers in the organisation.
There was also intolerance towards those who agreed to testify for the state after they had been released from detention even if they had cracked under interrogation or torture.
"But the reality was that you often did not know how the enemy acquired the information they did from the ANC members," the source said. "In the end, it is only the victims of information passed by informers who had the right to judge them," the source said.
If there was a suggestion that Ngcuka had continued to work for the old regime after 1994 - and thus worked against the interest of the ANC government - what could his motivation for such a stance had been? And why discredit him only now?
"It smacks of a smear campaign," the source said.
With acknowledgements to John Battersby and the Sunday Argus.