Paper Tried to Spike Story, says Axed Reporter
A senior political journalist suspended by the Sunday Times for passing on the Bulelani Ngcuka spying allegations to a rival newspaper, claimed the paper had been "suppressing" the story.
Sunday Times editor Mathatha Tsedu announced yesterday that Ranjeni Munusamy had been suspended on Friday "following her admission that she passed a story relating to Ngcuka, the head of the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions, and Deputy President Jacob Zuma on to a rival newspaper" - City Press.
In a statement last night, Munusamy said she believed the story was important because it have a historical context to the bitter battle between Ngcuka and Zuma.
She said she had been looking into claims that spying allegations against Ngcuka had been investigated by the ANC for several months.
"My story was never that Ngcuka was a spy, because it was impossible to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt now. It was that he had been investigated by an ANC intelligence unit reporting to Jacob Zuma, then head of ANC intelligence.
"This story, I believe, is in the public interest, considering Ngcuka's position as head of the national prosecuting authority, and in the context of the bitter battle now raging. The fact that there is a historical context to the relationship between Ngcuka and Zuma throws light on why the investigation has degenerated into such a brutal political war."
She said she had decided to give the information to City Press because she believed publishing the story was in the national interest and consistent with journalistic principles of objectivity, balance and telling all sides of the story. After "persistently challenging" the decision not to use the story, she had been given "permission to surrender" the documents discovered in the investigation.
Asked whether his paper had been sitting on the Ngcuka story, Tsedu said : "I don't discuss ongoing Sunday Times investigations with people who do not work for the Sunday Times."
Munusamy said she had discovered that some of the ANC's most respected intelligence operatives had conducted a top-secret operation in the late 1980s, called Project Bible, to identify agents passing information to the apartheid government's security agencies.
"I was told Ngcuka was one of the people investigated by the unit. I looked for evidence... and came across a database where names and details of apartheid spies were stored."
She obtained the microfilm where alleged information on Ngcuka was stored and had printouts made. "I interviewed several members of the Project Bible unit who confirmed that they had either been part of the investigation, or had been aware of it. Sources in state intelligence structures confirmed the authenticity of the documents and the information contained in them.
"Because of the sensitivity of the matter, and the fact that the media has been so openly manipulated in the dispute between Ngcuka and Zuma, I had to verify the allegations independently. I met former senior security branch officers who, to my amazement, corroborated details, events, names and numbers stored in the ANC files."
Meanwhile, a former security policeman said the director of public prosecutions had never been an apartheid spy.
Former special branch officer Lieutenant-Colonel Karl Edwards said Agent RS452, given by former transport minister Mac Maharaj as Ngcuka's destination, was definitely not Ngcuka.
Ngcuka's spokesman, Sipho Ngwema, said the Directorate of Public Prosecutions had determined Agent RS452 was a white female lawyer.
With acknowledgements to the staff reporters and the Cape Argus.