This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
13 Jun 2006: Maharaj, Mac
MM. Have you heard the news about Zuma?
MM. There's been an announcement that the President has requested the Secretary of Parliament to arrange for a joint sitting of parliament to be held tomorrow at two o'clock.
POM. Is he going to announce his decision there?
MM. Because the news report says that his spokesman, Bheki Khumalo, says they are busy with I should call it up, they're busy with there was an interesting word, it didn't strike me at that time but as I'm talking to you it strikes me, I'm just calling it up on my screen. Something like, 'finalising the paperwork'. He's been consulting the provinces and the provinces' advice has been divided on any action against Zuma. Here it says, "Khumalo said on Monday afternoon, 'The paperwork is being finalised for the President to address the joint sitting'." Now what paperwork would be finalised unless it is a dissolution of cabinet and reappointment of cabinet? I can't imagine that there's anything else that would be described as 'paperwork being finalised'. It could be just a formality that his speech is being drafted. In a way he's playing it tight and close to his chest, which I think is correct and proper.
POM. I want to go backwards. We're almost there, nearly there. I just want to get this absolutely right in the end because getting it right, as I said to you, increases its importance given the total fallout, it's more important. These are just some questions that I overlooked because we were kind of free flowing. Number one is: when the tender process that you set up when you went to the Department of Transport
MM. Tender process for what?
POM. If there was a bid for something.
MM. There was no such thing as a general process. When we came into government, government set up a national tender office. That tender office falls under the Ministry of Finance.
. Depending on the legislation affecting a particular department, like in my case, the tender process for the driver's licence had to be inter-departmental, had to be cleared with the Tender Board, had to be at the time processed by the multi-disciplinary valuation team, and their recommendations together with their full report sent to the Tender Board. None of us, certainly I did not have any contact with the Tender Board or sit on it or have contact with them. Now that was in the case of the driver's licence. In the case of the toll road we had set up a Roads Agency. We had previously inherited the SA Roads Board which was a semi-autonomous body within the department. We, during my tenure, changed that and set up the National Roads Agency whose legal status made it autonomous. They went out on tender, they adjudicated within their own rules and they accounted to parliament for their activities. They adjudicated and awarded the tender for the toll road. I had no say in that process.
POM. So when these allegations broke of payments made to you or Zarina from Shaik what were they alluded to being in connection with?
MM. They alluded that these were payments made to Zarina and/or me as bribes for the awarding of the drivers' licence contract and the toll road concession.
POM. Would he have been part of a consortium? Was his Nkobi the bidder on that or was Nkobi part of another company that bid?
MM. Part of a consortium. Nobody could bid for those roads on their own. Nobody was prepared to put up that amount of money on one project. So financial institutions, construction bodies, engineering bodies, engineering consultants, empowerment groups, etc., all came together and formed their own consortium and bid for the road.
POM. Of that part have you an estimate now of what Nkobi holdings was in the total?
MM. I don't know and I still don't know, because it would have been a minimal part. If you take the road to Durban, one thing I am clear, that they did not win the bid in their bid for the Maputo toll road. That was the first one that the Roads Agency went out on tender for and they lost but they were part of the consortium, it seems, that won out on the Johannesburg to Durban road toll concession. The big players were the big construction companies and the big financiers.
POM. On the driver's licence, that would be him alone?
MM. That process, the French company and Schabir's group together with some financing institutions, etc. I was aware that they had won it because it was a fairly substantial contract.
POM. So Thompson was in on that deal as well?
MM. Not 'as well'.
POM. Well I'm saying as well as it was in on the arms deal.
MM. I was not aware at that time that they had even there was no arms deal that had been won by anybody at that stage. The arms deal awards were made end of 1998/99. We're talking about 1996/97/98.
POM. Now when the Scorpions brought you in and then Zarina, were their questions restricted to well they knew where the money came from, like what it was for? What kind of links were they trying to establish?
MM. No, not they. They asked us questions to explain the payments and we explained the payments in terms of Zarina's consultancy work that she was doing for Schabir. Full stop.
POM. So they didn't try to make any connection with the work that Schabir received from the Department of Transport while you were minister?
MM. They asked the question and I said I had no say, you know the rules, go to the Tender Board, I have checked with the Tender Board, I made no interventions, could not have made an intervention, it was solely decided by the Tender Board. The road, here are the rules, this is how it was done, you've been to the Agency, have you satisfied yourself that I did not intervene in any way and I could not have intervened? Full stop. How else am I supposed to prove what is They asked me a question, was this a quid pro quo for you awarding the driver's licence? I said it was not in my power to award the driver's licence, I was not involved in the evaluation of the tenders, I was not involved in the recommendation that went to the Tender Board and I was not involved in the Tender Board's decision. So there is no way, as far as I'm concerned, that any of those payments could be related to the award of that contract.
POM. When I was talking to Yunus Shaik he said that an understanding had been reached with Bulelani and that he was supposed to call or have his spokesperson call a radio statement, or make a statement clearing you prior to your meeting with the bank, before they issued their final report or went public with their final report. Is he a bit mixed up on that?
MM. Bulelani had said to Ayob that if I played ball on his three point programme he would be prepared to phone First Rand and tell them that there is no charge to be levelled against me and hopefully that would be an intervention that would save me and retain my job at First Rand but that was not going to be a public announcement. He offered to phone First Rand. His position has always been that he would only go public in the context of the entire arms deal report.
POM. I can move to a different lot of things here. OK, Hefer says, "In his evidence Mr Maharaj conceded that he has no independent knowledge of the facts on which Mr Shaik's suspicion was based although as he repeatedly said he has no expertise in intelligence, he supported the conclusion at the time and still believed that it was correct."
POM. "But it is quite clear that he is entirely reliant on the validity of Mr Shaik's inferences and the adequacy of the latter's reasoning."
MM. Correct. That's how any structure works. In any place, in the private sector, in the public sector, in any big institution that's how it works. If you are in the army your reconnaissance unit comes with a reconnaissance report that the enemy is camped out 20 kms away, you either trust that report or you don't trust it. You cannot physically go down to check it yourself and if they give you a report to say that the enemy seems to have been camped there for two days and they had come from an easterly direction and they seem to be proceeding in a westerly direction based on the following evidence, you have to decide whether you accept their word or not because they are the specialists in reconnaissance. If you saw a big flaw you'd see it but otherwise you would make your decisions as the commander based on that information that you're getting from different structures with different specialities, and if you then decided to take counter measures you would be dependent also in your ordinance section to tell you whether you've got weaponry that you could deploy from 20 kms away and fire artillery fire with the accuracy required, do you have that weaponry or don't you and you devise your plan on that basis.
POM. Now why, and this is a sidebar to that question, why was your faith in the reliability of whatever information Mo provided to you so absolute?
MM. Because I had a record of working with him. I was surviving in the country, Operation Vula was surviving in the country, we had evaded ambushes, etc., so you judge a matter if you have a structure under you, even in a company in the private sector, a finance house, you have an investment committee and the investment committee's recommendations about investments over the past three years have always been winners, that influences your judgement and your confidence in that investment committee's advice. So it goes beyond the individual instance of advice and becomes to be influenced by the record of advice.
POM. Now yesterday you said that in the file that you handed to Thabo that that included an assessment by Mo made later but an assessment that RS452 may have been operating under a false flag. Now the contents of that file would have been handed over to the Hefer Commission?
POM. I'm going to read you the following from the report and ask you whether you think this is a misreading by Hefer of information provided to him. He says, "His suspicion (that's Mo's) was first aroused (that it was the Agent 452) by two reports procured from Security Branch files. Both reports had been submitted by Lieutenant K Z Edwards and both reflected RS452 as the source. For reasons that will soon appear, Mr Shaik wrongly came to the conclusion that RS452 could be Mr Ngcuka. Instead of conceding that he had made a mistake, Mr Shaik has come up with a new theory. It has recently come to his knowledge, he says, that the Security Branch and the NIS resorted to what is known in the intelligence community as 'false flag' or 'stratkom' operations, by means of which information supplied by one source was attributed to another source. What he suggests is that the information attributed in the two reports to RS452 did in fact not come from Ms Brereton, but from Mr Ngcuka."And he essentially trashes that.
MM. Yes, his approach was that once the facts he believed first of all the facts could have been ascertained, that Mo could have walked around in 1988 and asked NADEL and everybody, "By the way, who was at the meeting and did so-and-so, and is so-and-so a possible spy?" Secondly he comes to the view that if you could see that if RS452 is not Bulelani then he should have abandoned the view that Bulelani is a possible spy. That's not the way real life works. I think Mo has explained that he had to work, (a) from a position of benefit of the doubt to the movement, not to the individual. Secondly, the facts kept showing that for him somebody in NADEL reasonably high up, now he was looking at the information: would it be acceptable by the other person? And this puzzled him and subsequently post 1994 on the eve of Stellenbosch he sits down and he's discussing with people, analysing this thing, and they say, "But wait a minute, the technique here used is false flag." That's when he revises his analysis and uses the false flag basis. Now the judge says he shouldn't have done that. That's all for the judge to sit and say you shouldn't have done that. Mo says after you come to a conclusion then you try to run it through a check again but you are doing this in conditions of illegality.
. So agreed on the facts before him, from the logic that he uses, he can trash that view, but from the point of view of where Mo was living, where we were operating from, we couldn't just trash it. Anything that we trashed that way meant we are dead. We had to be extra cautious and careful and, as you say, you say what made you have confidence? Confidence that he had provided information that showed OR that an enemy agent had met OR and filed a report which OR unmistakably said, "That's it, I'm the one that met the person. I'm the one that said these things." Similarly with me in the country, if they discovered our house in Reservoir Hills we'd get away with no casualties; they discover our printing and storage place in Chatsworth, we get away with no casualties; we find out about agents like Maxwell Xulu, the enemy does not find out about our presence because we keep going guided by that intelligence report, avoiding pitfalls.
. Now what else must you do? Stand up and say, Judge, looking now from this current position I would have behaved differently. No I wouldn't have behaved differently. The judge knows that and I know that. But it doesn't take the argument further because the judge knows that just those two reports stripped of any other reports that Thabo had access to in NIA, and those other reports may or may not have added to the suspicion or subtracted from the suspicion. But remember where Mo was sitting, he was sitting in the NIA post 1994 and entrusted by Nhlanhla, his chief, to continue the investigations of the Bible Project.
POM. To continue the investigations of?
MM. Who were the enemy agents, the Bible Project. Mo was not acting arbitrarily on his own with his own agenda.
POM. So Bible didn't end until Mo was finished in - ?
MM. We don't even know whether it ended when he was finished because Nhlanhla is the only man who can answer that question.
POM. Now we have come to another nice sentence where he says, "Admittedly he was young and inexperienced and operated in a war situation which demanded a low threshold of suspicion. But he did not pause to consider whether there were other possibilities. Had he done so, he would most probably have become aware of the fact - "
MM. Fidel Castro was 26 years old when he led the Cuban revolution. He was young, he was inexperienced and when the boat crashed and twelve survived and they went into the hills everybody said you're crazy. But he became the President of Cuba.
POM. What I like is that he defeats his own language in a sense in this sentence, he has his own way of reaching conclusions because he said, "He did not pause to consider whether there were other possibilities. Had he done so he would most probably have become aware of the fact that Miss Brereton also fitted the description and that she was a much likelier candidate." Now there are two things there, he says, 'he would most probably have become aware'. He has no basis for saying that. It's a probably. He's making an assumption of what the outcome would have been if he had looked at other possibilities. He can't do that. "The question now is whether any value can be attached to the 1989 investigation. I have shown that it was utterly unreliable in so far as it was based on the reports in the Security Branch files."
MM. In fact by the judge's own findings he should not be using the words that Bulelani was 'most probably not a spy'. He should have said he definitely was not.
POM. That's right, and he couldn't reach that conclusion in the same way as you didn't say he was a spy, you said he was very probably. Then you were asked to prove well if I understand it correctly when the Hefer Commission came into being my recollection at that time was that you sent some guys to Geneva?
MM. No, no, no, I tried to make investigations into Bulelani's background in the Eastern Cape, in the record of his imprisonment, where was he imprisoned. Bulelani was serving short time. Remember there's another chap who gave evidence who was serving 20 years but he never set foot on Robben Island and he was a star witness in favour of Bulelani.
POM. He was the first witness as I recall.
MM. Yes, that's right, and he was at Pollsmoor put with Madiba and the five. Madiba, Walter, Raymond Mhlaba, Andrew Mlangeni and Kathrada are at Pollsmoor on that rooftop and this guy is put there, a new prisoner, a young guy, a lawyer, and they said that the reason why he was put there and Bulelani was never taken to Robben Island was because the authorities didn't want to send black lawyers who would incite the prisoners. So here's a guy who never, never set his foot on Robben Island, sentenced to 20 years for terrorism, and how did that apartheid government work? Let's go through, we want your prison file in full, we want your offence. The terms of reference in the end defeated us because, if you want to know between you and me, the police docket showed that Bulelani's wife, without being detained, made a statement and this is a statement confessing that they were housing would-be guerrillas going out for training and he still gets his passport and she too. And so you have the passport official saying, "No, no, no, things like this never happened." And again the judge believed him. This is a passport officer called Vorster.
. So it's one thing to sit down and have that clinical legal analysis based on facts and make your assumptions, it's another thing to live through and they'll wait. They served in the second world war, they served in the SA army and they know under what conditions the army takes decisions and acts. They behave as if to say that's a different world, there is a legal world that exists in war. You can't blame them. They were appointed, he was appointed to that task with the terms of reference specified by the President.
. There was a stage when Vorster was giving evidence that Mo got furious and he faxed a set of questions to Kessie to put to the chap and they used it to laugh at Mo because the questions were divorced from the give and take and cut and thrust of a cross-examination, and all it did was to give Vorster a chance to smile and rubbish Mo.
POM. Who is Vorster?
MM. Vorster I think it was, of the Department of Home Affairs.
POM. You know the hardest conclusion he reaches is in fact about the abuse of power, which he was not supposed to address because it wasn't in his terms of reference.
MM. He found my evidence deeply disturbing. He used in one context what Zarina and I have endured is intolerable and unacceptable and in another context he used two other epithets, very strong adjectives. So he came out very strongly there except that he rejected the idea that Bulelani was the source of the leak on the grounds that (a) Vusi Mona's evidence was rubbished, therefore it could not stand the test of credibility, and (b) that under oath Bulelani denied that he had leaked or sought mediation, and he said, "I have to accept his word."
POM. Yes, I have it right in front of me.
MM. That was when he denied us the opportunity to cross-examine him on that he denied Joseph the opportunity to cross-examine on the grounds that he said if you're cross-examining on abuse of power you have to show that that abuse is directly related to the person being a spy. That's when Joseph threw in the towel.
POM. Mac, he was sitting on the towel all the time.
. There's a statement that I don't follow. Maybe you can shed some light on it. It's about Mo. Again from the report: "Mr Mo Shaik revealed in his evidence that after many years his interest in Mr Ngcuka was rekindled when he came to know of the investigation against Mr Zuma. His renewed interest, he says, stemmed from his complete faith in and undying loyalty to the latter. For this reason he re-examined the information about the 1989 investigation, proceeded to make further inquiries and eventually confided in Ms Munusamy in order to make the public aware of the 1989 investigation and findings. What he could not understand initially, was why Mr Ngcuka's office was investigating Mr Zuma at all. But later, when Mr Maharaj was also investigated, it dawned on him that Mr Ngcuka might have become aware of the 1989 investigation and might have resolved to investigate the persons who had investigated him. This notion is so implausible that it deserves no serious consideration."
MM. And yet Mo gives evidence that Penuell Maduna, shortly after his appointment as minister, made enquiries from Mo about the existence of that investigation and wanted the report. Mo said that he went to Zuma in the queue and whispered to him that Maduna had asked for this and Zuma said "Just ignore him." Now why would the Minister of Justice want to know about a report done in 1989? Why would he want it?
. Remember the second terms of reference would have brought Maduna into the witness box, but the third terms of reference -
POM. But could he not be called to verify whether that conversation had happened?
MM. We can't call him, the commission can call him.
POM. And the commission chose not to call him?
MM. Right.The commission chose, even though it concluded that the third terms of reference made its work ridiculous, it chose nonetheless to perform with us.
POM. It did what?
MM. It performed the duty that it was entrusted with, ridiculous as the duty was.
POM. Yes, but it would be my feeling that when that came up I remember it coming up in evidence, somebody said it, Maduna had approached Mo it must have been Mo had approached him and then he sent him to the Deputy President. Sorry, Mo went to the Deputy President and told him and he said ignore him, and then one would think that the commission would call Maduna to verify whether in fact he had gone to Mo and asked him that question.
MM. Exactly, but the commission, instead of operating, in my view, the way a commission should, chose to operate like a court. We were keeping on saying that the commission, you can call the people, call them, we're giving you the names, we're telling you where the parties can be found.
POM. What names do you recall giving them? Maduna?
MM. I don't think we submitted a list saying we would like you to subpoena the following. I think that everybody that we named in our evidence we assumed the commission if it distrusted us or wanted to know the truth of what we were saying would call those key persons. Our job was, we said, "We will assist you. We will co-operate with you, we will be frank and open with you." We told them and the first step was we said, "Here are the names of the files, here are the references, these are in the NIA possession." They laughed at it, they called it a truckload. And when the security services said they're not going to co-operate, they just caved in. And when I asked for funding the judge said, "Ask the Minister of Justice." So that was the state of play, but the commission chose to say, "You want something? You prove your case." We said, "No, we are at the commission. We are here to tell you what we know. It's your job to establish through your enquiry whether the man was or was not a spy." But Thabo wanted the commission to tell whether Mac or Mo are lying. So that's a different programme.
POM. I know you don't speculate, or will not, but why the hell would he want to prove that?
MM. I don't know. He wanted to rubbish us in the public arena. Like he said in his on-line newsletter, "The wrath of the people will visit us." I still go around without bodyguards.
POM. When did he make this statement? Did he wait until the report came out before he made this statement about we all knew that in exile there were these rumours about Bulelani going around?
MM. Yes, that's the one where he said the wrath of the people will visit us.
POM. Was that when the commission had concluded, issued its report?
MM. I think it had concluded its report.
POM. And issued its report?
MM. Yes I think it was issued. And he was saying all along we knew but Bulelani had been cleared, which is to my mind a lie.
POM. Oh he did say he was cleared?He actually said, "We all know the rumours going around that he was a spy"?
MM. No, no, he went on to say, "And this had been found not to be true." That's why Penuell got up and said in parliament that I participated in the cabinet meetings and I did not stand up and say anything against Bulelani's nomination.
POM. Yes. That's the way you're going to do it right there in the middle of parliament. OK Mac, that might be it. We've got a lot of stuff there. I'm going to get it transcribed, I'll send the transcriptions, I've sent you two already. Oh, before you go, before I send this stuff off, those questions that I sent you.
MM. I will try and answer them but my problem is that I have to ask Zarina to tell me what months she was in hospital, they cannot remember, they know that she was in hospital but what months? They can't remember.
POM. It's like before or after.
MM. There's the big concert at Wembley when I sent a gift. In fact Zarina was so convinced she thought it was after I had been arrested and I told her, "No, it was before I was arrested. I had sent it with Madiba because I met Madiba and he was going off to London. He said, "Can I take something for Zarina?" So that's the difficulty but others I will answer and keep upgrading my answers.