Reports and evidence that the country’s State Security Agency and its Special Operations Unit are implicated in a number of covert actions including placing undercover agents in SARS, Lonmin’s management structures at the time of the Marikana Massacre as well as orchestrating the establishment of a rival union in the volatile Platinum Belt, paint a disturbing picture of a shadowy network of spies who have infiltrated and are influencing various levels of South African society. Most of those who have been flushed into the open, unsurprisingly, orbit one man, President Jacob Zuma. Beware, the wall near you may well have eyes. By MARIANNE THAMM.
Perhaps the most alarming bit of news to be slapped on the front pages of Rapport and City Press in a long while was the revelation that mining giant Lonmin’s head of human resources, Barnard Mokwena, who was at the forefront of botched negotiations with striking AMCU workers and which culminated in police shooting 112 miners, killing 34 of them on 16 August 2012, was a “deep cover” State Security Agency (SSA) agent. Mokwena joined Lonmin in 2005 and served as its Executive President of Human Capital and External Affairs and also as Executive Vice President of Strategic Business Transformation until December 2014.
At this point, dear reader, you will need to get a grip and have all your wits about you. May I suggest that you direct your gaze at one fixed point on the horizon – President Jacob Zuma – because all strands of several apparently disconnected narratives unsurprisingly loop back to point No 1. While the unlikely entry point into this strand of the intricate web is Barnard Mokwena and Lonmin, it spreads and overlaps with the South African Revenue Service and the ultimate purging of the tax collector’s top executives in 2014, including deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay, group executive Johann van Loggerenberg, and strategic planning risk group executive Peter Richer. This in turn has led to the on-again, off-again, on-again Hawks/NPA investigation into accidental Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan over the so-called SARS “Rogue Unit”.
The link to SARS is Dr Mandisa Mokwena – Barnard Mokwena’s wife – who formerly worked for the then National Intelligence Agency and resigned from her senior position as group executive of the Segmentation and Research Division at SARS before being charged, along with several others, with 40 counts of fraud,racketeering and money laundering involving irregular contracts worth R11-million. (The case is still ongoing)
Dr Mokwena was one of the first officials to advance, at the start of her trial, the narrative that a “rogue unit” existed in SARS and that she had been “set up” by former National Research Group investigator Johann van Loggerenberg who, Mokwena said, had been intent on destroying her career. This was a narrative that was, a few years later, carried in was triggered by theSunday Times reports.) Times reports when another SSA agent, Belinda Walter, appears to have taken up the baton from Mokwena. (The SARS purge
Documents seen by Rapport journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh show that Barnard Mokwena was registered as a paid, covert SSA agent and source in 2004. His registration accidentally came to light after his wife was charged. Barnard Mokwena has subsequently emphatically denied that he was/is an SSA agent.
However, in 2012 Mandisa Mokwena’s legal representative, Johan Schaefer of BDK attorneys, wrote to SSA acting director-general, Dennis Dlomo, asking the agency to protect his client as her bank accounts would face scrutiny and payments by the SSA would be revealed and her cover blown. It was during a check of the agency’s central source index, says Myburgh, that Barnard Mokwena’s name had popped up instead of his wife’s. He had been registered as an agent in 2004.
In 2012 Mandisa Mokwena – now at a loose end pending the trial – registered three companies with one of our First Ladies, Thobeka Madiba Zuma, but later resigned when Mrs Zuma was alerted to the court case. In 2013 Barnard and Mandisa Mokwena, along with Peter Silenga (who also has links to the SSA) and who worked in the same division at SARS with Mandisa Mokwena, established Kazol Resources, “a diversified company” with a potpourri of apparent interests in mining, engineering, water services, entertainment and consulting logistics.
Okay, here’s where you need to start concentrating. Peter Silenga can be directly linked to the 2014 establishment of a bogus union, the Workers Association Union (WAU) in Rustenberg’s platinum belt, which its founder, Thebe Maswabi, claims was set up and paid for with state resources and on the personal instruction of President Jacob Zuma. In 2012, before the massacre at Marikana, membership of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) haemorrhaged as workers joined the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU). There had been mass resignations from NUM at all the platinum mines including Impala, Lonmin and Angloplats. The establishment of WAU seems to corroborate claims that senior government leaders and intelligence operatives were determined to lure workers away from AMCU and to weaken its influence. A telephone number provided by WAU members of a man who had helped to secure office space in Rustenberg was traced back to Silenga.
Another name linked directly to the WAU is that of Yekani Gadini, also an SSA operative, whose wife, Advocate Bonisiwe Makhene, is President Jacob Zuma’s special legal adviser. Documents filed with the Labour Department, registering WAU as a union, list a telephone number which belongs to Gadini. WAU founder Maswabi
Nqakula, for R120-million. Maswabi said that after initially providing him with finance and vehicles, someone turned off the taps, leaving him seriously indebted. Maswabi also confirmed that he had posted an open letter (whichDaily Maverick has in its possession) online on 8 January 2015 pleading for “help after being used and dumbed (sic) by the RSA President Jacob Zuma”. confirmed to Daily Maverick that he was suing, in a civil claim in the Pretoria High Court, President Zuma, Minister of State Security David Mahlobo, Minister of Police Nathi Nhlekho, acting National Commissioner of Police, General Khomotso Phahlane and the Minister of Defence, Nosiviwe Mapisa-
“We used to meet any time of the day anywhere without restriction but now it has been a year since I tried to arrange a meeting with him. I did a lot of project with him including a rally for ANC and now no one wants to take responsibility for payment,” wrote Maswabi. He added that he had had to flee his home as “people I owe want to kill me”. He said he had later been framed and arrested by the Hawks and that he was being “followed day and night”.
“If anything like being murdered or kidnapped happen to me the minister of State Security David Mahlobo and the President Jacob Zuma are involved,” said a desperate Maswabi.
Responding to questions by Daily Maverick about the revelations of the role of agents Bernard and Mandisa Mokwena as well as Peter Silenga and Yekani Gadini, Minister of State Security David Mahlobo’s spokesman, Brian Dube, said, “I am sure you will agree that it would be out of the ordinary when a minister were to offer comment on allegations of someone being reported as being a ‘spy’. It doesn’t happen in the world of intelligence the world over.”
Democratic Alliance Chief Whip, John Steenhuisen, issued a statement that the reports that Bernard Mokwena was on the State Security Agency’s payroll “are cause for serious concern and require further investigation”. “Mokwena, who was one of the now infamous mine’s executive chorus that called for concomitant action and refused to negotiate with miners during the 2012 strike, was listed as a paid ‘deep cover’ agent on the SSA’s central source index from 2004 until at least the end of 2012. Considering the severity of these claims as well as the potential conflict of interests and implications for the integrity of our state security apparatuses they raise, Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence (JSCI) must urgently investigate this matter and determine any misconduct on the SSA’s part,” said Steenhuisen.
Steenhuisen said he would be writing to JSCI chair, Charles Nqakula, to schedule an urgent briefing by the Minister of State Security, David Mahlobo, on this matter and prepare a special report, in terms of Section 6 (2) of the Intelligence Oversight Act (No. 40 of 1994), to be tabled in Parliament.
“The horrific events that transpired at Marikana were unprecedented in our democratic dispensation. The alleged collusion between Lonmin and the SSA, if true, is a deeply disturbing revelation and further proof that Parliament needs to prioritise the appointment of the next Inspector-General of Intelligence.” For several years now the country’s State Security Agency and Intelligence Services appear to have veered out of control and gone rogue. In 2014 it was revealed that over one billion rand was plundered by spies between 2007 and 2010 from a slush fund linked to a covert 2007 project titled the Principal Agent Network and which was set up ostensibly to strengthen the then National Intelligence Agency’s capacity to gather intel. The project was established by former director-general of intelligence Manala Manzini and deputy director-general Arthur Fraser.
The Principal Agent Network was originally set up as a regional Western Cape operation in an attempt to deal with organised crime. Recruitment was indiscriminate and several convicted criminals found themselves on the SSA’s books. In essence it was a parallel structure that had access to its own funds and appeared to be a law unto itself, and it soon spread into a national network.
Later Gibson Njenje (former head of the SSA domestic branch), Moe Shaik (foreign intelligence) and Jeff Maqetuka (DG of State Security) had all pushed for those who were responsible for the plundering to be prosecuted. Njenje, Shaik and Maqetuka were all to lose their jobs after warning government that the Gupta family posed a threat to South Africa’s national security. The alleged collusion between the SSA and Lonmin and the president’s alleged implication in setting up a bogus, rival union with state funds, could be viewed as treasonous and a subversion of the rule of law. There are many perturbing questions that remain unanswered, not least of which is why State Security Agents are infiltrating SARS and Lonmin’s top management structures – why do the walls there need to have eyes?
Then there is a big question: who stood/stands to gain/lose most (apart from the workers who paid with their lives) from the reputational damage in the aftermath of what happened at Marikana?
While the Farlam Commission of Inquiry found that no member of the executive could be blamed for the killings of the miners, it was Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, a director and shareholder at Lonmin, who was ultimately fingered for the police response. The accusations arose out of a series of e-mails between Ramaphosa and authorities in the days leading up to the shootings. But in the light of this new information it would be natural to ask whether the deputy president was set up? Did shadowy forces cash in on a convergence of chaotic currents that swirled around the prolonged platinum belt strikes in 2012 and use these for their own ends, to discredit Cyril Ramaphosa, thus tarnishing his possible presidency?
Nothing is impossible in these days of treachery and treason.
For now the deputy president’s office would not be drawn on weekend “spy” revelations. Ramaphosa’s spokesman, Ronnie Mamoepa, told Daily Maverick, “Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s testimony to the Farlam Commission of Inquiry into the Marikana tragedy is a matter of public and the deputy president has nothing further to add.”
Perhaps South Africans have grown too fatigued to realise just how serious are the revelations of SSA involvement in SARS, Lonmin and unions, to name only a few instances. For now this scandal, for it is a scandal, must take its place in a growing queue that is lining up behind teflon-coated President Jacob Zuma and his government in the first five months of this year as the ANC prepares to sail off into the local elections fully behind its newly undisputed leader. DM