The genesis of absurd assertions of a political conspiracy against Jacob Zuma can be traced back to 2001 when former President Mbeki ordered a probe by the Auditor General, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Public Protector into allegations made by Patricia De Lille in parliament in 1999 that members of government were involved in corruption related to the arms deal. The government has been consistent in stating that no corrupt practices were employed when securing the primary contract of the arms deal and to date no evidence has surfaced to prove otherwise.
The NPA, led by Bulelani Ngcuka, launched their investigations into these damaging allegations and Shabir Shaik (“Shaik”) became target of these investigations. The Scorpions raided Shaik’s premises and uncovered incriminating information on the alleged dealings between Shaik and Zuma and further revealed alleged payments from Shaik to Mac Maharaj, a former Minister of Transport and then a non-executive director of Firstrand, and his wife.
In 2003 the Sunday Times published a story that Mac Maharaj had received about R500 000 and free nights accommodation in Disneyland from Shabir Shaik while doing business with an affiliate of Halliburton (a Dick Cheney company that profits in post-war Iraq). It was alleged that the R500 000 payment was made in relation to the awarding of tenders for the new-format driver’s licence and the N3 toll road between Johannesburg and Durban. The toll road deal was financed in part via FirstRand subsidiary Rand Merchant Bank. Maharaj was never charged for his alleged impropriety and his reputation was irreversibly blemished.
Both Mo Shaik and Maharaj, one consumed by overwhelming bitterness and other by furious anger, sought vengeance and they accused Ngcuka of having abused his power by making pronouncements about the prima facie case of corruption against Zuma as well as failing to bring charges against Maharaj. Maharaj appears to have had a nonsensical and unreasonable expectation to have charges laid against him only because an investigation was conducted. Nothing in law prescribes that when an individual is investigated, charges should be brought against that individual. Logic suggests that only in the event when sufficient and credible evidence exists to ensure successful prosecution, charges should be brought against that individual.
In the book by Patraigh Omalley, Shades of difference: Mac Maharaj and the struggle for South Africa, it is revealed that Mo Shaik first made claims of a political conspiracy against Jacob Zuma during this time when the NPA was investigating Zuma and his brother Shaik. Omalley claims that Mo Shaik was furious when he learnt that the NPA was investigating Jacob Zuma, whom he worked with in the ANC intelligence structures during apartheid. During the Hefer Commission (referred to below) he consistently stated that he knew Zuma was not involved in arms deal corruption. It arouses much interest why Mo Shaik was troubled by the NPA’s investigation of Zuma.
Following the infamous announcement by Ngcuka in 2003 that there was “prima facie case of corruption” against Jacob Zuma and that he will not be prosecuted as the case was not winnable, Mo Shaik appears to have been more convinced in his belief that indeed there were those who were conspiring to prevent his former intelligence boss from ascending to presidency. It appears from the succession of events following Ngcuka’s announcement that a plot was devised to discredit him based on historical suspicion that he may have been an apartheid operative.
Mo Shaik had gathered information on Ngcuka when he commanded the clandestine investigation, code-named Project Bible, on behalf of the ANC intelligence, which was aimed at combating government infiltration of the liberation movement. It was reported in 1989 that Mo Shaik informed Maharaj of his findings relating to Ngcuka. The seriousness of such allegations against the national director of public prosecutions left the former president Mbeki with no alternative but to appoint a judicial commission of inquiry, headed by Judge Joos Hefer, into these spy allegations. The Hefer Commission cleared Ngcuka leaving both Mo Shaik and Mac Maharaj, who during the commission proceedings openly admitted that he could not prove Ncguka was an apartheid spy, with their tails between their legs.
It emerged during the inquiry that Mo Shaik had in his possession a database of over 800 suspected apartheid government spies, which he refused to hand over to the National Intelligence Agency, because according to him that was the property of the ANC. The real reasons for Mo Shaik to have still been holding on to this database remain unclear. But one can only deduce that Mo Shaik might have been inspired by the J Edgar Hoover (1895-1972), the former head of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), who amassed secret files on political leaders including every US president during his near 50 years tenure at the FBI. Hoover used this information to smear and manipulate highest political office bearers to advance his political adventures.
That deduction may not be far-fetched when supported by the conduct of Mo Shaik in handing to journalist Ranjeni Munusamy sensitive information relating to Ngcuka. “I told her the spy investigation had an impact on the hostility between Zuma and Ngcuka,” he said. Munusamy wrote an article in the Sunday Times with the spy allegations against Ngcuka. Munusamy herself later became a close aide to Jacob Zuma. It appears that Mo Shaik was to stop at nothing to bring down Ngcuka and prove his conspiracy claims.
An apartheid murderer, Gideon Nieuwoudt, who was involved in the senseless murder of Steve Biko and many other South Africans who resisted the repressive apartheid regime, had some questionable relationship with Mo Shaik. Maharaj reported during the Hefer Commission that he once found Nieuwoudt at Mo Shaik’s house prior to him (Nieuwoudt) being interviewed by e.tv about these spy allegations. Was Nieuwoudt there to be briefed on what to say about Ngcuka during his interview? Nieuwoudt at the time had applied for amnesty for his murderous orgy during apartheid, which led to deaths of Biko, the Pebco Three and the 1989 Motherwell car-bomb murder of three colleagues and an informer. We would not know whether Nieuwoudt’s relationship with Mo Shaik was premised on expectation of amnesty if he cooperated with the politically connected on spy allegations.
By successfully smearing Ngcuka as an apartheid spy, Mo Shaik may have believed that it would validate claims that Ngcuka was pursuing a personal vendetta against those who during apartheid were involved in his investigation, particularly Zuma. He failed hopelessly and together with Maharaj was humiliated when the commission found their allegations to have been absurd. The suspicion of political conspiracy was further informed by what Mo Shaik believed to be selective prosecution by the NPA; although he had never provided information on who else needed to be investigated and prosecuted along with Zuma, his brother Shaik and Yengeni. Zuma himself had insinuated on countless occasions that if prosecuted, he would not go down alone. Something that suggests he possesses sufficient knowledge of improprieties committed by his fellow comrades, which he attempts to use as blackmail against state authorities and secure his freedom. Last time I checked, withholding evidence of a crime was a criminal offence. Lekota recently asked how Zuma knows who committed what crimes if he was not part of it and is innocent as he claims.
The nonsensical allegations of political conspiracy appear to have been a deliberate strategy to assist Zuma in his protracted battle with the prosecuting authorities. Jacob Zuma continues to plead his innocence in spite of the Hilary Squires judgment, which found that he had used his political office to promote and protect Shaik’s business interests in return for money. Judge Squires found that there existed a mutual beneficial symbiosis between Shaik and Zuma, where Shaik received patronage of Zuma’s office.
The relationship between Mo Shaik and Jacob Zuma appear to have remained firmly in tact; and Mo Shaik appear to be an influential Zuma lieutenant given some of the pronouncements he has a tendency of making on behalf of the ANC, as when he told us prior to Polokwane that Zuma would keep Manuel in cabinet, although he was not a member of the ANC national executive committee. Mo Shaik has become a permanent and important apparatus of Jacob Zuma; seen at almost all public gatherings by Zuma’s side and occasionally stepping forward to share his opinions about the ANC or Zuma with us.
His concocted insinuations of political conspiracy against his long-time comrade led Judge Nicholson to infer that Thabo Mbeki was behind the mechanisations to prevent Jacob Zuma from becoming president of the country. The Nicholson judgment and subsequent recall of Thabo Mbeki was a decisive victory for Mo Shaik as it paved the way for Jacob Zuma to become president; and also perhaps a considerable boost for his yet to be publicly known political aspirations. It raises questions as to whether perhaps Mo Shaik was the force behind a sudden change of heart by Jacob Zuma to entertain political conspiracy claims when Zuma had previously agreed in the presence of the ANC national executive committee that nothing of that sort existed.
How would Jacob Zuma express his gratitude to Mo Shaik for his unwavering loyalty and support during his trying times? Are we likely to see a presidential pardon being granted to the sickly Shabir Shaik who is serving 15 years for corruption? I am most curious what Mo Shaik’s role in the Zuma government would be.
Even arousing more interest is the Noseweek report that Shabir Shaik once accompanied his friend the then minister of public enterprises, Jeff Radebe, on an official trip to Russia; which puts his recent tirade against Terror Lekota in perspective. Connect the dots.
How influential is Mo Shaik on Jacob Zuma?