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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
23 May 2005: Shaik, Yunis
POM Yunis, I want to go back a bit in time to when first the investigation of Bulelani Ngcuka was carried out. Were you aware at the time that such an investigation was being carried out?
POM When did you first become aware of anything in connection with Bulelani Ngcuka?
YS When they conducted that raid of Schabir's house.
POM Of Schabir's house?
YS His house and his office wasn't it?
POM Yes. And how did you become aware of it at that time?
YS I was doing a case in Cape Town and I got a frantic call from his wife saying that the Scorpions were at their house. That would have been yes, a call from his wife and in the course of that discussion I ended up speaking to her brother.
POM That's to Mo?
YS No, her brother, Zuleika's brother, Yusuf, telling me that there was this raid being conducted at their house, at Schabir's house. That's the first time I became aware.
POM That you became aware of?
YS That they were investigating Schabir. I was aware that they were conducting an investigation because you will remember parliament had approved an investigation by the Scorpions, Auditor General and the Public Protector, so I was involved with Schabir at the time representing him and so I was fully aware that there was an investigation being conducted into the arms deal.
POM You may have misunderstood my question, Yunis, I was asking you when did you know that Bulelani Ngcuka had first been investigated as being a spy?
YS Oh, as a spy? Oh I knew about that in the early eighties, round about there.
POM In the investigation of Bulelani was there anyone else involved in the unit conducting that investigation other than Mo?
YS Mo, Shaheen Bawa and it could have been Melanie Loo(?).
YS At the time it was not so much an investigation into Bulelani, it was an investigation into that sort of thing. So it started out like that but then it kind of pushed us on and then it kept on working on a profile and then eventually came down to a set of probabilities such as Bulelani. We didn't start out saying we're investigating Bulelani.
POM OK, you were in the course of developing a profile of
YS Who the spy could be.
POM Of who it might be. But there were a number of people involved in developing that. Now just to get the sequence right when a determination was then made that he probably was a spy according to the information that you had compiled, was that information then couriered out of the country via London to Lusaka?
POM Did Lusaka ever come back to you to confirm that your conclusions were correct, that Lusaka agreed with your conclusions?
YS Not to my mind, they may have got that from Mo but I don't remember Mo, or if I do I don't remember now, but I have no telling recollection of Lusaka coming back.
POM So when you had this did you recall at the time when this raid was being conducted on Schabir's home that Bulelani had been investigated?
YS I knew that beforehand.
POM You knew that beforehand.
YS I knew when Bulelani got appointed.
POM Did that ever strike you as peculiar?
YS It didn't strike me as I mean I wouldn't use the word peculiar, it struck me as strange because I don't remember Bulelani ever having been cleared. But what had happened was even before that Bulelani had got to parliament, and Bulelani was in quite a senior position in parliament, I'd heard of him being in parliament at the time but that's like when it first struck me at the time that this issue of Bulelani was never quite resolved. I don't know, I had a feeling at the time that that wasn't quite clear. But also why it didn't make much of a muchness in my own mind was the way in which people end up going to parliament, the way in which the ANC constructed its list and the compromises that it made saw a whole lot of people being brought on board on the ANC list, people who you had a lot of doubts about or misgivings about, not because of spying but because of their roles, they were not sort of like hard ANC people or they may have been much more right wing or something, and by that time it had become quite acceptable that the ANC is putting this issue down and it's choosing a broad front of cadres, cadres that would help to win an election and so on. Bearing in mind in that context that you're sending a broad front of people to parliament then the first time it became quite significant was when he got this senior position in parliament.
POM He was in the second house, the NCOP?
YS The Senate, yes, and he was becoming quite prominent there. When he got appointed to the National Prosecuting Authority, again I thought that's rather odd, and I'm just reasoning in retrospect, I need to try and resolve what my thoughts were at the time, which I'm quite struggling to do. I think what you want to know is what my mindset was at that time, not now. To be honest because so much has gone before I'm finding it difficult to resolve what was my mindset at the time when he became National Prosecuting Authority head.
POM When the whole raid of Schabir's home was made, then did it at that point jump to your mind, saying what's going on here? What was your frame of mind when this happened?
YS If I had like a disquiet at the time when he was appointed head of NPA, it jumped up like ten notches when the raid came on Schabir. It jumped up again when he began to raise this matter, Bulelani himself.
POM So when Bulelani began to raise what matter?
YS The spy allegations.
POM When did he raise it?
YS He started to raise it after the raid at Schabir and before trial, a long way before trial and before Hefer. I began to pick up he's been raising it even before he made that announcement about Zuma. So he began to raise that some months before that.
POM Did he begin to raise it before it was ever raised in the newspapers?
YS Yes. That's the whole point. We never raised it first. He raised it first in the newspaper and it was even published in the newspaper first that these allegations were made.
POM So when whatshername, the journalist who wrote that story - ?
YS She was forced to raise it.
POM Did she raise it, did she - ?
YS Not her, she didn't raise it. If you want, how it got raised also in the newspaper the first time is that Bulelani called a meeting of editors and at this meeting of editors he raised it there. He said, "There's these allegations of me being a spy", and so on, and he had attacked this Indian people being too close to Zuma and this Indian has been too close to Zuma and so on. Now those allegations of his they got published so there were editorials that started to come out around that and little articles, like snippets around it. So he raised it first with a group of editors which comments made to the editors found publication. This is like where it had its true public beginnings and its first public beginnings.
POM OK, so then from that there was the story written by ?
YS And Ranjeni followed it up.
POM Did she come to you for confirmation?
YS No, not to me. She first went on her own, she went to National Intelligence. NI began to give her some affirmation and she then thereafter went to Gideon Niewoudt and she got a second affirmation. Then she came to Mo to say, "Mo, I've already got all this confirmation, from Gideon Niewoudt, from NI", and NI at the time from people who were in ANC Intelligence, "and I know as a fact you had investigated him. Now I just need for you to confirm that indeed you had investigated him. What were your findings on the matter?" So that's how we got to get drawn into it with Ranjeni.
POM OK. Then that story broke and then Mac confirmed in that context that, yes indeed he had known that Bulelani had been investigated. Now at that point there were some efforts made to contain this whole thing. Now I've talked with Cyril and Cyril said that he at one point, it looked as though he and Bulelani were going to get together and try to whack this whole thing out. Could you give me what you know of what plans were going on or what processes were being put in place to bring people together to resolve this thing before it got any further?
YS What had happened was, and this is before any of these stories emerged, Dirk Hartford had send a message to me saying that Ivor Powell was quite close to, and he was part of, the NPA. He wanted to meet with me and see how this matter could be resolved.
POM Now is this before or after the story broke?
POM Before the story broke in City Press?
YS Yes, before the story broke in City Press. He said that he wanted to meet with me. I met with him then and his meeting with me is on the instructions of Bulelani. He meets with me to say that their view
POM Did you meet with Powell or did you meet with Hartford?
YS Hartford was present and Powell was there. Powell said that in their view there is no evidence of wrongdoing or corruption on the part of Zuma or Mac, that they had no intention to bring any charges against both Mac and Zuma, that if Schabir would simply admit to some sort of accompanying rules they could then try and get the settlement. But what they wanted was to try and agree on a mediator and then we could discuss the matter. I put forward the name of Cyril. They went back, they came back to me confirming that Cyril is acceptable to them. I then contacted Cyril to ask him whether he would be prepared. He indicated he was prepared to facilitate. The Scorpions and Ivor wanted me to get through, to phone Bulelani, which he did, and he tried for a while to set up a meeting with Bulelani and he tried on I think it was two occasions where they had firm dates to meet and that meeting for whatever reason didn't then take place.
POM What was the quid pro quo that Bulelani was looking for?
YS They took the view that they didn't think there was any evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Mac or on the part of Zuma, that if there was any money exchange with Zuma it was done in a certain circumstance of black empowerment where Zuma was trying to get Schabir up and running, and that couldn't give rise to any allegation of corruption. And that was fine for me, I said, "Great, so why don't we try and settle the matter?"
What I tried to get out of them at the time, and this was my pressing concern, was that Mac was facing an enquiry at First National and First National were going to make a pronouncement and Mac Maharaj was quite anxious for us to resolve this matter because his job was on the line. I was pressing them to say, well if you have the view that there is no wrongdoing on the part of Mac, that there is no corruption as such, why don't you give a press statement and you will then be able to ameliorate the conditions that Mac was then suffering. That was like the key push on my side, because that's all that I wanted. I just wanted a press statement to say that this how you view the matter, this is what your views are. Or even if they couldn't even make a direct statement to First National or if they didn't want to go and make a press statement then that would save Mac's job. Ivor had given me the indication that they would be willing to do that and that matter could even feature in the mediation as the first matter of business so that such a statement could be issued as urgently and as early as possible. At one stage we even had set a date and a time for that statement and they were going to issue a statement to Radio 702. They had even asked us to ask someone from the media to approach them for such a statement and we had asked, I think it was Yusuf Abrahamje at 702, the radio, to approach them, which he did at a date and time that was agreed. To our surprise they refused to give a statement to him.
Subsequently when Cyril tried to get a date and time, and I understand those were even agreed, those meetings never happened. So that's how the mediation then came to collapse. Both sides just walked away from it.
POM What do you think happened?
YS Honest to God, I don't know what happened. I have not the faintest idea what happened. I don't know, I don't know what happened. Really, it would just amount to speculation on my side. Because it was initiated by their side. I never knew Ivor Powell personally. I had known of him politically but I had never known him or met with him personally. So they initiated the get-together. It came at their request. Cyril's agreement or Cyril's role in it was at their consent, the dates and times that were set up were something done directly between Cyril and them. It was not something initiated by us. So I don't know, I don't know what it is and for what reason they withdrew.
POM After that then Mac has his press conference on the day that the bank statement is released. He says he's stepping down, he thinks it's the best thing to do, and he again calls upon Bulelani to charge him if he has anything against him. Now following that you have the story breaking in City Press. Right?
POM Now after that there was the ETV programme that was made. Were you consulted on that?
YS Was I?
YS What's the question?
POM Were you consulted, did Mo and Mac consult you on that programme?
YS In what sense?
POM In the sense that they were going to go and do this programme, do you think it's a good idea or not a good idea?
YS Yes they consulted me, in fact I consulted them on it and I thought that the problem we faced then was if you're going to put out this allegation that you should try as hard as possible to try and put out the facts upon it. So let everyone speak in their own words rather than through the newspaper.
POM And that's where he was first identified as RS452. What I'm getting at, Yunis, is let me give you the train of my analysis. It would have been that everyone was on safe ground as long as they adhered to the line that Bulelani had been investigated and that ANC Intelligence had concurred with the finding that he probably was a spy. Fine. But that when you then moved into the realm of trying to prove that he was a spy you shifted the parameters because Mac began to send people to Geneva to find out about what he was doing there and what his wife was doing, he began to try to prove in 2003 and 2001 that he actually had been a spy in the 1980s. He was looking for proof. Do you follow me? So that he shifted the parameters from saying that he was investigated and probably found to be a spy, to saying, "I am going to prove now that he was a spy."
YS I think to that extent, trying to prove he was a spy, we took on a burden greater than we could have discharged with the information that we had on our hands. The only way in which we could get that confirmation was not out of our ranks, because we didn't hold the information, but out of the ranks of the Branch and that's what led us to try and meet with the Branch and discover from their side what do they say.
POM Sorry, to meet with who? With?
YS The Security Branch people. You will remember Ranjeni had got to the Security Branch even before she had independently and through her own lines had got to them and they had confirmed it on their side in the form of Gideon Niewoudt, however discredited he may appear to be, but he confirmed to her first.
POM Now I talked last week with Hentie Botha.
POM He says that you guys approached him and he says he told you that Bulelani was not a spy.
YS No he didn't. No. What he said was he would come back to me on the matter. He never came back to me ever and I waited to hear from him. I met with him and I met with him in the presence of someone else so he said he was going to find out for us and come back to us, find out I don't know from where, but he was going to come back to us, but he never ever said
POM That he wasn't.
YS Bulelani no, he never.
POM OK, but effectively he says all the Security guys had a meeting and decided that if any of them were subpoenaed or whatever that none of them would testify.
POM That they met collectively and made that decision. So in effect every avenue of enquiry was closed off?
YS Every avenue got closed off.
POM So in essence Mbeki set up a commission to find out something where he said, 'Now I am going to close off every avenue of access to information that might allow you to answer this question.'
YS Yes. That was the absurdity of this commission because what happened was here he gets a commission going and we've got some evidence on our side and we say we conducted this investigation in this area and we concluded he was a spy based on these probabilities. We don't have all the information on him but if you want to conduct this matter further these are the areas you ought too pursue. In preparation thereof we began to meet with the Security Branch to find out which were all the areas it is worthwhile pursuing. The Security Branch in turn they met as a little grouping on their side and they took the view that when elephants are fighting they shouldn't be hanging around. Then those who refused to give any information, they clammed up. So Hentie's position started off first by a willingness to co-operate and talk to me and subsequently he refused to meet and discuss, hence he never told me he was not. Now the Security Branch all clammed up on their side, the security agencies refused to give us any of their documents or explore any of their documents. So the security agencies came to the commission saying none of this information can be disclosed. The Security Branch said none of them want to testify. So in the end the Secretary for the Cabinet says, "We've got all the information we have in our files and so on and they must presume the President has access to all of that." So they again were not wanting to engage in that interrogation based on state documents. They were only wanting to conduct an enquiry based on what documents we had in our possession or what knowledge we had in our possession. So that effectively brought, even before the case could start, brought us to the conclusion we would never be able to get to the point of being able to prove to any significant degree whether Bulelani was a spy or not. So all we could do was to say we had conducted this investigation based on these facts, it led us to this profile, this profile led us to this number of people to consider and even to Bulelani to be the most likely person of this lot. It was on the basis of this finding we made the finding of probability that he was. That's how far we could take it and we chose to rather emphasise the abuse of power because that even gave us half a leg and the way the commission was structured, if you couldn't prove Bulelani was a spy you couldn't conduct an enquiry into whether there was any abuse of power but notwithstanding we pushed on with the abuse of power issue.
POM And in fact Hefer made a finding on that too.
YS Yes he did because quite simply the evidence was so compelling that he just couldn't ignore it.
POM Just one step back, Yunis, and I'm nearly done. Pravin Gordhan and Dipak Patel, were they involved in any kind of overtures to - ?
YS A separate overture was made through Pravin Gordhan.
POM Was that made on behalf of whom?
YS From Bulelani.
POM OK. Was this at the same time?
YS Probably at the same time but maybe like a few days or weeks before, I think.
POM Before the Cyril one?
YS I think, yes, yes, a few weeks before the Cyril one.
POM What was the sequence of that one?
YS Bulelani made an approach to Pravin, Pravin contacted Dipak Patel, Dipak contacted Mac.
YS Again, the common thread was Bulelani mandating and authorising this kind of mediation and for whatever reason it bears no fruit, it doesn't consummate the two parties ever meeting.
POM So at the time Bulelani was trying to contact Mac through Dipak Patel, was that to tell him that he had no charges against him?
YS Again in the same vein. Again, no charges against him and so on.
POM Let me ask you, why would Bulelani be the first person prior to any of this, I know you have to speculate, to bring up in a meeting with editors rumours that were going around that he may have been investigated as a spy when - ?
YS An e-mail even was sent to Bulelani from somebody, I don't know who it was, and this e-mail that was sent to Bulelani, and I think it was sent to other editors as well, accused Bulelani of certain abuse of power. Now in response to this e-mail he calls this meeting of the editors.
POM Was he not able to trace where that e-mail came from?
YS No, I don't know, I don't think so. He wasn't able to trace it. No he wasn't able to trace it. I speak under correction, that e-mail may have come out of somebody in the NPA. I have that e-mail here still in my file.
POM It's in your files?
YS Yes. Now it's that e-mail that kicks off, this e-mail, then this meeting of editors. Then after that comes Ranjeni's story, after that comes ETV. Sorry, no, it's the meeting with editors yes before all of that comes the mediation talks. So it's mediation, meeting of editors, editors then leading up to Bulelani's announcement about Jacob Zuma, after that Jacob Zuma, then comes ETV, then comes the Hefer Commission.
YS I have got most of the stuff in a documented sequence.
POM Oh that would be wonderful. I will have, if you don't mind, I'd like to have a copy of it because it would be very Mac was supposed to put his file together for me, he has not yet done so and I'm kind of running out of time.
YS Is Mac waiting for you to give him the Hefer Commission Report?
POM I have the commission report.
YS The whole report?
POM I don't know if I have the whole report. Maybe I have the short version. Is there a short version and a long version?
YS No, there's only one version.
POM OK, I have that. Dirk Hartford?
YS I've got a statement from Dirk Hartford as well.
POM You do?
YS I was preparing for Hefer and we were trying to establish the point that all these mediation initiatives were being made and hence I got that statement from Dirk to that effect.
POM That this meeting took place and that these things happened?
POM Now you weren't able to bring that out in the commission were you?
YS Dirk didn't want to testify so we couldn't give an unsworn statement.
POM So you couldn't put the statement in, could you? Because he wouldn't verify it?
YS The statement I think was put in but there was no weight placed to it because people must testify in court before their statements will be taken seriously.
POM OK. Do you think he would be willing to talk to me just to confirm that those meetings took place? If you have a statement from him it's not absolutely a signed statement from him it's not really absolutely necessary and I'm not going to publish his name or anything, I'm just going to state it as fact that these meetings took place.
YS Yes I'm sure because I've got a statement which he gave to me knowing that the statement may be used at the Hefer Commission and may be used for the purposes of publication and to prove points. But I could find out from him and evaluate.
POM Yes, just say I'm not going to use his name, I would just like to verify more or less that what you have just said to me now and what he says in his document is in fact his recollection.
YS Yes, OK.
POM I think Yunis that may be it. I'll probably have a question or two that I didn't think of but I will get the transcript done first and send it back to you. But if I could have the sequence of those meetings.
YS You want the sequence of those meetings?
POM Of the meetings, and documentation. As long as I know I have that
YS OK, that the mediation was held.
POM Yes. The woman journalist, oh I can never remember her name.
POM I'd like to get in touch with her.
YS I can help you.
POM What were some of the other journalists who were at that meeting maybe as well. I think I'll try to have a crack at some of them especially Jovial Rantau. Again I wouldn't be pressing them to publish their names or anything but just to confirm the contents of what went on at that meeting.
YS At the editors' meeting.
YS You want the names of all the editors?
POM Yes, and how I would be able to contact them and what might be the best way of approaching them. Who would be approachable?
YS OK, I can find out.
POM And with that, my good man, I will let you have a good evening.
YS OK, thanks for the call.
POM Thank you. I'll get a copy of this to you as soon as I can and I'll get back to you on the other stuff. OK Yunis, thank you. Bye bye.