Publication: The Star Issued: Date: 2003-09-12 Reporter: Jovial Rantao

Spy Claim Just a Sign of Desperation



The Star

Date 2003-09-12


Jovial Rantao

Web Link


So what? So what if Bulelani Ngcuka was a spy in the apartheid era? What has that to do with the price of bread?

I know that Ngcuka has rejected these claims but if they were true, would it really matter? And if so, why?

If a former spy does a job as well as Ngcuka has in fighting crime, then this is the spy that all South Africans should love.

There can only be one reason for unleashing allegations as damaging as these. It is the desire by people - desperate people - to turn the focus away from themselves. It's a smokescreen.

The allegation being made against Ngcuka is sensational. However, as South Africans are titillated by the claims, it is important that we remain focused (sic) on the hard, cold facts at hand.

The smokescreen launched against Ngcuka forms part of a broader campaign, tailor-made to tarnish Ngcuka's image.

E-mails have been sent to editors around the country, making wild but serious allegations.

Spy allegations are not new in our political arena. They were used regularly by activists in the liberation movements.

Most of the time they would be used to weaken political opponents. The weapon is designed to destroy the trust that your own comrades have in you.

This weapon has been used against many in the ANC. The late Peter Mokaba, whose popularity did not sit well with some within the party, had to bat off similar allegations in the early 1990s.

A former ANC chief whip faced the same allegations, but his career continued to soar. That was until he was brought down by a failure to disclose a gift to parliament.

Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille, while still a Pan Africanist Congress MP, shocked parliament five years ago when she rattled off names of ANC leaders, including some cabinet ministers and a former premier, whom she claimed were apartheid spies. It would be true to say that De Lille never repeated those claims outside the protection of parliament.

So, those bent on destroying Ngcuka have now found "evidence" to back up their claim. A file which purportedly details his dealings with the apartheid system and a handler has been produced.

Those who have produced this information had it for over 10 years. They did not use it when he was appointed to the Constituent Assembly, a body which wrote our constitution. The information was not flashed when he was appointed deputy chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, which is parliament's second chamber.

At the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the ANC stopped an attempt by former security branch operatives from revealing the names of ANC cadres who were enemy agents during apartheid.

It is curious why the spy allegations did not surface when President Thabo Mbeki appointed Ngcuka to the powerful position of national director of public prosecutions.

In fact, Ngcuka would have had a security clearance before being appointed to a sensitive position such as a super attorney-general. In a way then, the allegations against Ngcuka are indirectly an insult to the president. The peddlers of this information are saying that the president appointed a former spy.

There were no spy claims but praises when Ngcuka's men brought to book some of the most powerful criminals.

One of the aims of this smear campaign is clearly to destroy Ngcuka's political credibility, a weapon he needs to be able to operate within the ANC.

Ngcuka resigned from all his leadership positions when he was appointed to his current position, but there is no doubt that he will need the ANC in the future.

What is interesting is that this sideshow has produced strange bedfellows.

On the one hand we have some ANC members digging up dirt which they want to use against Ngcuka and on the other hand, we have a powerful businessman, also the subject of an investigation by the Scorpions, hiring private investigators to find all the dirt they can on Ngcuka.

This begs the question: Why now?

Why is this information peddled at a time when Ngcuka is probing serious allegations against his own comrades? What is it that those who supply this information want to achieve?

Is the message that Ngcuka committed a cardinal sin by investigating Deputy President Jacob Zuma? If he had not launched an investigation into Zuma and others, would the spy claims been revealed?

Quite clearly, these are tough times and there are desperate people out there. They are not only desperate but it would seem they are afraid.

The innocent are never afraid. They never get desperate.

With acknowledgements to Jovial Rantao and The Star.