The Natal Witness
Bulelani Ngcuka was, if claims made by a certain newspaper and the former Minister of Transport are true, a spy for the departed and not much lamented apartheid government.
According to the latest newspaper reports, Ngcuka is so upset and hurt by these claims that he intends to sue City Press and the esteemed former minister for defamation as a result.
Personally I don't see what all the fuss is about. Sure, it's not nice to be called a quisling, but these claims as hurtful as they are cannot have any bearing on the arms deal investigation being conducted by Ngcuka's minions. Indeed, the claims expose his detractors as the fools and imbeciles they really are.
The spy claims have almost certainly been dredged up and leaked - in the hope of discrediting the probe into Zuma et al, and their suspiciously lavish lifestyles that appear to have been bankrolled by a certain Schabir Shaik.
What makes this proposition all the more plausible is that the esteemed former Minister of Transport, Mac Maharaj, has now given his support to the claim in such a wholehearted manner.
That Maharaj was supposedly a top spymaster and spycatcher - and let alleged apartheid Secret Agent Number One Ngcuka slip through his net - speaks volumes for Maharaj's competence.
That Maharaj suddenly remembers details of Ngcuka's supposedly murky past, at the exact time Ngcuka is investigating him for corruption, speaks even greater volumes for his finely developed sense of shameless opportunism.
It's fairly obvious to any living creature with opposable thumbs that the source of the spy claims comes from the Maharaj/Shaik/Zuma camp, the very chaps accusing Ngcuka's camp of leaking confidential information to the media.
Seldom has hypocrisy been so glaringly evident.
The Ngcuka-was-a-spy story is hardly new. It was being hawked around since at least two weeks ago. Nobody picked up on the story then, which is a shame. I thought it made for an excellent yarn of how utterly amateurish our Intelligence Ministry, partly shaped by Mo Shaik, is found to be.
The National Intelligence Agency (NIA) itself seems desperately in need of a good old-fashioned judicial commission of inquiry.
The City Press article mentioned how the documents that corroborated the story were accessed from NIA databases and they then went on to quote a senior NIA official, albeit without naming him.
That the NIA can be so dangerously loose with their records should sound a warning to anyone considering giving them information on things like international terrorism or drug smuggling.
Secondly, if the NIA feel so determined to air their filing cabinets, why not air a whole lot more than just the file that allegedly has Ngcuka's name on it?
Why not air the files listing just what Jacob Zuma et al got up to in Quattro camp? Tales of torture, imprisonment and summary execution by firing squad are always fascinating to read.
The Ngcuka-was-a-spy story was quite clearly based entirely on documents leaked by the very people standing on soap-boxes and decrying leaks in the Scorpions. Its only purpose was to muddy Ngcuka's reputation.
I'm no great fan of Ngcuka. He dresses like a pimp and seems a little too proud of himself for my own liking. His officials are seldom, if ever, co-operative and his asset forfeiture unit just seems entirely too smug. But if you want to criticise the man, do it fairly.
Like a whole lot of other journalists, I am quite capable of doing my own research and detective work, something supporters of Zuma seem incapable of comprehending. There is no big bogeyman in the Scorpions head office leaking information on the brothers Shaik and the deputy president.
The media are simply doing their job, reporting on a major corruption investigation as it unfolds.
To be honest, when it came to the Ngcuka-was-a- spy story, I could not help thinking, so bloody what? It was obvious the story was leaked to a hack who was deeply in the Zuma camp.
It was even more obvious to me it was an irrelevant smear.
Even if Ngcuka was an informer, or on the books as an informer, it would make absolutely no difference to the investigation his staff is carrying out. Ngcuka himself has not been travelling the countryside interviewing witnesses, searching offices and decrypting faxes from French arms dealers in which the esteemed deputy president's alleged request for a R500 000 bribe a year is mentioned.
The actual investigation into the arms deal has fallen to his underlings, Advocate Billy Downer, Advocate Gerda Ferreira and a host of others. By attacking Ngcuka personally the supporters of Zuma et al hope to tarnish the investigation his department is conducting and somehow make themselves look like innocent victims of a conspiracy by the dark forces of the former regime.
And there is another interesting dynamic to the story. Around a month or so ago I had a conversation with a former colleague who has a direct insight into the ongoing skandaal. This former colleague has left his job in the media to work for a law enforcement agency. I haven't seen my pal in years and long before the Ngcuka-was-a-spy revelation he and I had an interesting chat.
My pal had been in conversation with a fellow from the NIA and was told there was a file with his name on it at spook headquarters. The file showed my pal had been a paid informer and was treated to a fair number of expensive lunches at the expense of the NIA. The world of spooks is by its very nature full of smoke and mirrors with little accountability - it often has to be that way so as not to compromise or scare informers. This lack of supervision allowed someone to claim a few expensive lunches and a bit of extra cash using my pal's name.
So it's quite possible Ngcuka, even if his name does appear on a series of informer statements, was merely someone's free lunch ticket.
It's equally possible that he was handing over misinformation, or even talking to agents to see if they could be turned, as the Shaik brothers are fond of claiming they were able to do.
The Ngcuka-was-a-spy story should not be put down lightly. It should be cast aside with great violence.
Ngcuka's major failing appears to have been to show undue and stupidly naive deference to Zuma and his office by not searching his residences. As a matter of urgency this should be put right. Searches should be carried out, if need be property should be confiscated and Zuma must be charged criminally, as a matter of urgency.
If anything, as a high elected official, Zuma should be held to a much higher standard of behaviour than that of the man in the street.
We need a series of Judicial Commissions of Inquiry here. Not mud-slinging between high government officials. God only knows what this crisis has done for investor confidence in South Africa.
• Paul Kirk is a freelance journalist who first broke the news Schabir Shaik was Zuma's financial advisor and detailed links between the ANC and Shaik's financial empire.
With acknowledgements to Paul Kirk and The Natal Witness.