Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Trying to make sense of the Bulelani Ngcuka spy saga...

There is something rotten about this whole affair. As near as I can understand it, this is what has happened. A few months ago allegations surfaced that Deputy President Jacob Zuma had profited from the arms deal through his connections to Chippy Schaik - Schaik himself appears to have used his involvement in the arms deal to further his own interests, to say the least. Bulelani Ngcuka, the National Director of Public Prosecutions investigated and after some time (during which much mud was thrown) concluded that there was a prima facie case to be made against Zuma but that he lacked sufficient evidence to make the charges stick. To my mind, this was outrageous. Either he had evidence against Zuma, in which case he should have taken him to court or he didn't in which case he ought to have kept quiet. Making a claim against the Deputy President is a serious affair. Making a claim but then adding that you can't prove it is either evidence of Ngcuka's extreme naivete or of something much bigger, a conspiracy to oust Zuma possibly. Zuma himself was, understandably, upset and wasted no time telling everyone who would listen that he wanted his day in court so as to establish his innocence.

Meanwhile reports had begun to surface that high ranking members of the ANC where becoming uncomfortable with Ngcuka's apparent tenaciousness in pursuing Zuma. The Sunday Times suggested that Thabo Mbeki himself might be about to pull in Ngcuka's reigns a bit. It was not surprising therefore that shortly after Ngcuka made his claim against Zuma, stories began to circulate that Ngcuka had in fact been a spy for the Apartheid govt. Strictly speaking, I don't think that he is accused of having done anything illegal, but the allegations, if true, would certainly make it inappropriate for him to continue in his present position and indeed to remain a member of the ANC. So, the Heffer Commission was set up to investigate the claim against Ngcuka. Then, suddenly, last week Penuell Maduna, Minister of Justice and therefore Ngcuka's political head announced that he and Ngcuka were both the subjects of a smear campaign and that he wanted the Heffer commissions mandate to be widened to include him, presumably on the basis that it would find him not guilty of any wrong doings (a deputy general in the justice dept had accused him of favouritism). The DA meanwhile has launched a campaign to have Zuma investigated by the Heffer commission, making the argument (quite reasonably I suppose) that since most of the allegations against Ngcuka emanate from the 'Zuma Camp' it is right that Zuma himself have to answer some questions. Presumably, Zuma should have no problem with this since he claims to want the opportunity to air his case and clear his name. Still with me? Today, News24 is reporting that Maduna wants out of parliament although his spokesman carefully added that he is, 'not trying to run away' from allegations against himself and Ngcuka. We have not heard the last of this...

A few thoughts on all this. Clearly something big is going on within the ANC. The timing of the Ngcuka spy story leak is just too fortuitous to be anything other than a deliberate effort to impugn the name of a man who appeared to be doing a pretty good job of destroying the reputation of the second most important politician in the country. Who benefits from all this? One theory is that this is all groundwork for the next leadership contest. Either Mbeki intends to amend the constitution and run for a 3rd term in which case his camp has been playing the part of puppeteer quite masterfully, destroying the reputation of a man who might oppose such a change (Zuma) and then that of the servant who knowingly or unknowingly had done his bidding (Ngcuka). Or, and this seems more likely, everybody believes that Mbeki will stand down and thus this is the sort of jostling for position that one would expect. Zuma, it is said, is (perhaps that should now be was) a front runner to be Mbeki's replacement and thus a lot of people might have an interest in seeing him taken down. Another theory (and this is the one that I favour) is that Ngcuka diligently set about investigating the claims against Zuma and was both way more independent than people had supposed him to be and pretty successful at uncovering the dirt. If some of the stories about the arms deal are to be believed (that several high ranking members of the ANC have benefited from it) then Ngcuka's tenaciousness and independence posed a real threat. Thus he had to be taken down before he was able to do more damage. In this version of events, Ngcuka is basically the good guy, although he was naive to make those unsubstantiated claims against Zuma and Zuma, or some murky cabal of wrong doers are the bad guys. Quite what Maduna has to do with all this is a mystery. It seems implausible to suggest that he is standing down because a claim of favouritism was made against him. He's an experienced politician with a thick skin and he's sat out controversies in the past that seemed far more serious than a simple allegation of favouritism. Hopefully, the Heffer commissions remit will be widened to include Zuma (as the DA has demanded) and Maduna (as he appears to want), at this stage it appears to be the only hope of getting to the bottom of all this..

1 Comments:

At 14 June 2007 at 12:15, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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