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Assessing and promoting civil and minority rights in South Africa.

Zuma 2012[Source: http://www.timeslive.co.za/thetimes/2014/04/08/the-big-read-old-goons-protect-no1 by Justice Malala.]

President Jacob Zuma, who led the ANC’s counter-intelligence unit in exile, seems to have surrounded himself with people who would sacrifice their lives to protect him.If you were with the ANC in Lusaka in the 1980s you would shake with fear if you were called to the Green House. This was the headquarters of the ANC’s secret police, Mbokodo.

Every ANC member, in or outside of Zambia, knew that the general rules of society did not apply at the Green House. People were interrogated and tortured. There were no trials. People died at Mbokodo’s hands. Once in the Green House, you needed a miracle to come out healthy.

ANC members trembled with fear at any threat that they would be reported to Mbokodo. These ANC freedom fighters, having bravely chosen to leave kith and kin to fight for the liberation of their own people, lived in fear of a small, violent, paranoid coterie of their own comrades.

It is worth noting that South Africa’s current president, Jacob Zuma, was the head of this unit’s counter-intelligence division from 1987 to 1993.

Over the past few weeks, the Mail & Guardian newspaper has reported that there might be a new version of the Green House. The newspaper said last week: “For the past year, an intelligence operation involving former spies has been working out of the 11th floor of the ANC headquarters, Luthuli House [in the Johannesburg CBD].

“Among their duties have been vetting potential members of parliament, helping to select those who are to oversee the activities of intelligence agencies for the next five years. But it remains unknown what else the group, code-named Project Veritas, has been tasked with.”

What is going on here? For whom does Project Veritas work – the ANC or a faction aligned to the party’s current leaders?

What happens if you are a young, independent-thinking, loyal ANC member who loves the ANC but finds Zuma – a man a court says we can identify as a “thief” – deeply problematic?

What if you are on the cusp of becoming an election candidate but your views about the party president are viewed as “wrong”? I suspect the 11th floor will find you undesirable.

The revelation that a semblance of Mbokodo is back is not surprising. In the 1980s the ANC was wracked by fear, insecurity and uncertainty. It was infiltrated by spies and the notorious Askaris, or turncoats. There were spies within and without. In response it treated friend and foe alike with suspicion. This led to a culture in which the human rights that the party so bravely fought for were ignored by at least one part of the organisation – Mbokodo.

In 2007, as Zuma rose to power, one could see elements of Mbokodo all over his campaign. His stranglehold on the security services was clearly visible (that’s why the more than 700 charges against him were dropped, thanks to a “leak” by the intelligence services). His immediate installation of his close comrades, such as Mo Shaik, in key positions showed that he was back in charge of these key levers of power.

Zuma did not stop there. He made sure that the police, justice, state security, defence and other security-related ministries were packed with personalities – including their directors-general – who owed their political and professional survival to him.

Those who began to ask questions – think of the same Shaik and other heads of intelligence services who started wondering aloud if the Gupta family was not a security threat – were swiftly removed.

Think about the Nkandla scandal. Who has been at the forefront of defending Zuma and ensuring that he has every tool at his disposal to fight the accusations against him? It is Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa (no political base except a region in KwaZulu-Natal), State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele (no political base), and Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula (no political base and would sink without trace were Zuma to dump her).

The ANC of today has numerous headaches: it has a president who is regarded by large chunks of the membership as a liability and perhaps a thief.

Veterans such as Ronnie Kasrils and Trevor Manuel engage in open revolt.

Numerous break-away parties, such as the Economic Freedom Fighters, have called for his head.

This is an ANC that, instead of sitting and reflecting on its deeds or misdeeds, wants to find culprits elsewhere. Instead of asking why Zuma is being booed, it blames its Gauteng leaders.

This is why the ANC has a secret operation at its headquarters, staffed by former Mbokodo and other intelligence service members. These are individuals who do not have human rights at the top of their minds, but instead the continued preservation of one man. Jacob Zuma needs to tell ANC members – and us – why he has his own security apparatus at Luthuli House, what it does and to whom it reports.

 

South Africa at a Glance
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