- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 22, 2003

From combined dispatches

BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa — Former President Nelson Mandela’s attorney, George Bizos, will represent South African intelligence agencies that have been asked to disclose secret information at an inquiry into apartheid spying.

Mr. Bizos, who defended Mr. Mandela against treason charges in 1963, will make submissions tomorrow on behalf of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), which are said to be reluctant to make files available to a judicial commission of inquiry led by Judge Joos Hefer.

Judge Hefer is in charge of establishing whether chief prosecutor Bulelani Ngcuka, a member of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), was once a spy for the apartheid state.

John Bacon, a spokesman for the commission, said the intelligence agencies had stated their position on the information request at a private meeting Friday with representatives of the inquiry.

“I cannot disclose what was said at that meeting. An agreement was reached that advocate Bizos will represent them and make submissions on their behalf on Friday,” Mr. Bacon told Agence France-Presse.

South African journalists have reported that SAPS and NIA, which has incorporated the former intelligence agencies of the ANC and the defunct apartheid regime, did not want to disclose the information.

Two key witnesses in the inquiry, a former Cabinet minister, Mac Maharaj, and Mo Shaik, the brother of Deputy President Jacob Zuma’s financial adviser, are former ANC intelligence operatives. Mr. Maharaj and Mr. Shaik have requested secret files that they maintain will prove Mr. Ngcuka was a spy for the former white-supremacist government.

The claims against Mr. Ngcuka, now a chief prosecutor for the government, surfaced while his office was investigating accusations that Mr. Zuma had solicited a $70,000 bribe in a state arms-procurement deal.

Mr. Ngcuka also is investigating Mr. Maharaj on accusations of corruption.

President Thabo Mbeki ordered the inquiry to establish whether Mr. Ngcuka was a spy code-named RS452. However, a woman now living in Britain came forward this week saying she was Agent RS452.

The spy saga has been making front-page headlines in South Africa, with observers saying it is symptomatic of serious divisions within the ANC’s top leadership ahead of general elections next year.

The Johannesburg-based Star newspaper reported Tuesday that Vanessa Brereton said she was agent RS452.

“I was RS452, and I have had enough of the lies and deceit,” she told the daily, which published two old photographs of Miss Brereton, one of them taken with three white activists in 1985.

Her admission could clear Mr. Ngcuka, who served three years in prison in the mid-1980s for antiapartheid activities, from Mr. Mbeki’s charge that he spied for the white-supremacist apartheid regime.

Mr. Zuma is said to have received a bribe from a French armaments company in return for protecting the firm during investigations into the contract.

Mr. Ngcuka was also instrumental in prosecuting ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni, who was found guilty of soliciting bribes in the arms deal, as well as Mr. Mandela’s ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who was convicted this year of fraud.

A Sunday newspaper reported last month that Mr. Ngcuka had been a spy for the apartheid National Party government.

Soon afterward, Mr. Maharaj, a former transport minister who used to be an intelligence operative for the ANC, confirmed that Mr. Ngcuka had been suspected of being a spy. Mr. Shaik, the brother of Mr. Zuma’s financial adviser, who also worked for the ANC’s intelligence division, backed Mr. Maharaj’s claim.

Mr. Mbeki announced an official probe to find out whether Mr. Ngcuka was Agent RS452.

Mr. Maharaj and Mr. Shaik were to testify last week at hearings into the matter, but their submissions were postponed until certain documents could be obtained from the former intelligence agencies.

The Star then reported that it had tracked down Agent RS452.

Miss Brereton told the newspaper she had spied on white antiapartheid activists in the 1980s and early 1990s.

She was known as a leading human rights lawyer in the Eastern Cape province and won a reputation for defending the oppressed in several political trials, while by her account, she was an undercover member of the apartheid security police.

At some stage, however, she started to question the motives of her seniors.

“I began to realize that some of them were just petty thieves and worse. … I realized that these were people who would even kill their own,” she said.

Miss Brereton said that she had prepared an affidavit for the commission of inquiry probing the spy claims and that a commission spokesman had confirmed investigators might travel to Britain to hear testimony from her.

Her revelations may close the chapter on the spy saga, which has been dominating front pages for weeks, complicating the outlines of South Africa’s recent history.

F.W. de Klerk, an Afrikaner of the National Party who became president in 1989, announced at the opening of Parliament in February 1990 the unbanning of black-liberation movements and release of political prisoners, notably Mr. Mandela.

The African National Congress, as the foremost black-liberation group, was increasingly regarded as a government in waiting. After a long negotiation process, marked by violence from white-supremacist hard-liners, South Africa held its first democratic election in April 1994.

The ANC under Mr. Mandela emerged with a 62 percent majority. Its main opposition came from the National Party, which gained 20 percent of the vote nationally and a majority in the Western Cape, where it was supported strongly by mixed-race voters. The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) received 10 percent of the vote, mainly in its KwaZulu-Natal base.

The ANC, the National Party and IFP participated in a national unity government until 1996, when the National Party withdrew. Thereafter, the Mandela government undertook to reconstruct and develop the country and its institutions. A significant milestone of democratization during Mr. Mandela’s five years as president was the creation of a new constitution, adopted in 1996 and implemented in stages.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, under the leadership of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, introduced accountability and transparency in South Africa’s public life, at the same time as helping to heal the wounds inflicted of the apartheid era.

The ANC increased its majority to nearly two-thirds of the vote in the second democratic election held June 2, 1999, and made Mr. Mbeki president.

But now the truth is becoming unclear, and reconciliation is losing ground.

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