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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

21 Jun 2005: Maharaj, Mac

MM     There was the article that the fight now is likely to be in the ANC about Zuma being successor to Thabo in 2007. In the meantime Charles Nqakula has been appointed by Thabo to handle government business in parliament, that is part of the work that Zuma was doing, but he's not been appointed Deputy President.

POM     OK.

MM     That's all, nothing much more.

POM     OK. You sound tired.

MM     A little bit. Yes, I've got to be up fairly early tomorrow. But, no, I'm OK.

POM     OK. Have a good day tomorrow and get some rest. OK.

POM     Mac, what's this about you? The Citizen again. That's the paper that went after you in 1990.

MM     And the same guy, Paul Kirk, who was writing politically in 2003 on these exposés, on leaks, using the leaks from the NPA, has suddenly surfaced as a journalist again.

POM     The guy in 2003?

MM     He was writing politically in Mail & Guardian and various other papers and he shifted from Mail & Guardian because of a criticism saying that he was one of the suspects of the conduit for the NPA leaks.

POM     And he now suddenly surfaces at The Citizen.

MM     Yes. I think that he's been before with The Citizen because I normally don't buy it but it's under his by-line but it is clear that the story was in the pipeline yesterday because I heard a rumour by lunch time that another journalist was also making the same queries, saying that he has it on good authority that Zuma will be charged and then myself. So that's the story. I don't know whether they've heard that I'm planning to take up this Bennington thing and that this might make a visa unrealisable. But we will wait and see. I don't think we should panic.

POM     Well you're a master at not panicking but this is verging on Kafka, it's kind of making Beckett look like a bad playwright. Now in a case like this what is your just immediate recourse in terms of a leak, or not a leak, of what apparently is a leak that could only come from one source?

MM     There is a statement made by the NPA spokesmen. It's there in quotes, it's a very simple thing, he was asked by the journalist, they say, asked to comment on, "Maharaj possibly being charged" and he said, "There is an ongoing investigation around this matter. I am unable to comment further." So he did not say I'm going to be charged, that comment is used by the journalist to write a mainline story that there's a possibility I will be charged.

POM     And that would be their standard line, by the way, whether you were being investigated or not investigated.

MM     Yes.

POM     He's not going to issue a statement of clearance or not clearance at a press conference at the request of a journalist.

MM     But you can see that it was primed. Some journalist was primed to ask that question so that they get a story and they will put a spin on that story to say possibility of being of charged. Anyway, that's the story. 702 tried to get a comment from me and so did The Sowetan and I just refused to make any comment and nobody else has come back. I think that's an indication that the rest of the media are feeling that this is something being leaked.I'll call you back.

POM     I'm going to a meeting now, Mac.

MM     No, no, carry on. How did your day go?

POM     I went to see Gerald Kraak to see could I get some money out of him but I didn't.

MM     Was he being tough?

POM     No, he kind of just said their programmes have moved on in terms of where they're giving money.

MM     They're crowing about it, saying very good, Zuma's ground has been cut now. None of them openly saying it had to be done because Zuma was going to the grassroots and mobilising support so you had to stop him from building support.

POM     Who said that?

MM     None of them saying that openly but I think one of the Afrikaans papers had a headline, 'Zuma's wings clipped'.

POM     I saw one saying, I just saw a headline in The Star as I was passing a poster, it said, 'Zuma down and out'. Talk about working the judgement.

MM     It's also saying that it's unlikely that he'll be given state funding for his defence.

POM     OK, so they're going that route. The unions have said they'll – yes.

MM     I think it will change, it can change very much overnight. Once they feel that the person is stripped of his power they can just turn and ignore him.

POM     The next thing is they'll try to go after him within the ANC and strip him there.

MM     Yes. Well that's the sense I'm getting, from the press reports I'm getting a sense that he decided to withdraw from all the structures because I think he senses a deep hostility and one has to withdraw quickly because he might have lost his temper and said things that would have been bad. The alarming thing for me is that it is opening - the whole thing is being done with such levels of animosity and hatred, almost touching on vindictiveness. I fear it's ushering in an era of tit-for-tat and bloodletting.

POM     But what is behind it, Mac? What is behind it?

MM     That's what's worrying me because you know how the bloodlettings go on in history, one never knows what is behind it and it just goes on into a cycle of bloodletting. So that worries me a lot and I think that the next few weeks are going to tell us whether this is the way we are moving because now I think that what they are doing is that they putting Zuma's back against the wall. It's a very dangerous thing to do.

POM     I know, my feeling was that taking him to court, it's opening Pandora's box.

MM     Yes, there's a very great chance that he's going to defend himself with bare knuckles.

POM     Yes, that's right.

MM     And we must not forget the position that he held in exile, there are some things that he did there that are known only to OR and Joe Nhlanhla. I can talk - as I passed through London at airports with endless bags, nylon bags, hand luggage, which had a million rand in of organisational money and I joked and I said I'm waiting for the day when it will be ten million and I'll run away.

POM     You joked and said what?

MM     When they give you ten million to carry then I'll take it and run away. But that's the sort of thing that's worrying and I'm a bit sad that I relaxed on all those, what you found in the Vula communications, you found communications that I was giving money, lending to Mo, etc., and to now read everything with a fine comb and I'm anxious that you should succeed in your mission on Thursday.

POM     Well let's hope so. When I get home tonight if you're not in bed I'll give you a call. But if you are I will call you tomorrow from – oh I need to get the questions from you anyway before I see Maduna so I will call you. Just give me some of the questions I should ask him, don't antagonise him. I never quite knew what role he played in this whole thing other than standing beside Bulelani and the time that he enquired from Mo about whether or not Zuma had investigated Bulelani. I never knew why Thabo included him in the second terms of reference, whether he was a spy or not. I never quite understood why that was included.

MM     Put a basic line that there are impressions out there that go on on all matters handled through the NPA during his time as the minister. The President never acted without Maduna's advice.

POM     He never acted without his advice?

MM     It was based on Maduna's advice. Give him a chance to comment on it, to repudiate, to amplify that they did not want a backtracking without face-saving for themselves, the time when they wanted even Zarina to plead guilty to something, X, Y, Z, and do a plea bargain, JZ to answer the questions to their satisfaction and Schabir to plead guilty to a set of charges that they would lay and there would be a plea bargain. That was the time when they realised that there is a solid case but they didn't know how to back off so they wanted the backing of, on the basis to be able to say, we've sorted it out, the man pleaded guilty, there's a plea bargain.

POM     That's right.

MM     We've sorted it out, JZ has co-operated. We sorted it out, Mac's wife has paid a fine.

POM     That's right, and then what happens? That doesn't happen and the guys who are in the lower bunkers who don't give a damn about the political stuff, they're still kind of enjoying themselves putting together the jigsaw puzzle. They're having great fun – hey, I found another lead, and the guys upstairs don't know what the guys downstairs are doing and suddenly the guys downstairs came up and – guess what we have? And the guys upstairs have lost control. You can't say to a team of investigators when they present you, as kind of a political boss, with a set of almost foolproof connections, you can't say OK guys, back off. You know?

MM     And their argument is not that we can win the case, they say here are a set of deductions that flow from the facts and as far as we're concerned these flow as the only ones, maybe a court will not agree with us, but we feel strongly that it will. Now as political bosses you're sitting on a hot potato because if you say to them don't prosecute, you're afraid that they might leak it.

POM     That's right.

MM     Then you're in trouble because you've encouraged them to leak it to put the other side in trouble. Now what happens if they leak it to put their own boss in trouble?

POM     Yes, they're saying screw you, what the hell, we've been working on this stuff for two and a half years and now you're telling us we don't have a case? We're telling you we have a case and if you don't think so what we'll do is we'll leak it.

MM     Yes, we'll leak it. It was interesting for me this round how they leaked it, why, and the fact that the other people didn't buy into it although I believe, rumour is quite rife, the one that you said that day to me, yesterday at a function a couple of comrades came up to me, greeted me warmly, how's things, walked with me, then one of them said, "There's a rumour you're going to be charged." Then I said, "There are rumours but I can't go by rumours."

POM     Yes, and as I said, if you look at the worst case but at the same token I would be putting, as I said to you, putting all the paper trails together for yourself.

MM     One has to prepare for the worst.

POM     You have to take the worst case scenario where they can – that's what you have to work from.

MM     That was clearly in Schabir's defence, his failure was to prepare for the worst case scenario. The result is that many loose ends in his explanations he didn't bother to thoroughly cross check and cross check and cross check, and when he got into the box every now and then he got tied up and he couldn't remember because it was a mass of stuff, he had to go through everything but he hadn't done his homework.

POM     But also Mac, his lawyers hadn't done his homework in terms of preparing him because they would have been able to isolate the really weak areas where the prosecution would hone in on a cross-examination and made sure that he had a plausible deniability, not just an alternative explanation that kind of sounded wacky sometimes, but one that sounded utterly and totally believable. That goes back to –

MM     You see I have to prepare on the worst case scenario and I'll have to think of who are the suitable legal people because that's another thing, everybody who would develop skills in criminal law pre-1990 have changed their focus, they're no longer criminal lawyers. So there's a dearth of very skilled criminal lawyers except if you go into the oldest establishment.

POM     Names have come up, and he may be the old establishment, and it doesn't matter if it's the old establishment if Mac has a good lawyer. Forget about that stuff, get the guy who knows what he's doing.

MM     If you come across anybody who's really good let me know.

POM     I'm sure the week after next I'll bump into somebody! Probably somebody just back from Leah and Desmond's little bash.

MM     You can call me later this evening. What time will be convenient to you?

POM     Do you want to do maybe a little after six o'clock? I want to make sure I don't – whatever is suitable for you I can do it.

MM     Let me try because luckily I've got some visitor here who did something to my phone lines to get my fax working. He did that but now my computer is not working and I need your e-mails, so I will get him to switch it back to the old.

POM     What time is best for you do you think? It's now about half past five.

MM     What about half past six?

POM     No problem. I'll call you then. Bye bye.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.