I was never the middleman for Mbeki, says Kasrils

2015-04-06 07:00

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Former minister is denying claims that he was used as a go-between in Zuma’s corruption case, writes Maryna Lamprecht

When Ronnie Kasrils was intelligence minister, he was never “a friend” of the then head of the Scorpions, Leonard McCarthy.

Kasrils maintained this during an exclusive interview with City Press’ sister paper, Rapport, after the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) handed the courts a damning affidavit in the “spy tapes” case brought by the DA.

In it, NPA deputy national director Willie Hofmeyr alleges then president Thabo Mbeki used Kasrils as a go-between to communicate with McCarthy and thus manipulate the corruption case against Jacob Zuma.

In the statement, Hofmeyr alleges McCarthy considered Kasrils a “personal friend” and the two “knew each other well”.

But speaking from his house in Kalk Bay, Cape Town, Kasrils tells a different story and accuses Hofmeyr of fabricating the friendship between him and McCarthy to “strengthen his conspiracy theory”.

“It was never a friendship,” Kasrils said. “Outside of the professional relationship, he meant nothing to me.

“Maybe McCarthy boasted or tried to create the impression that ‘Ronnie Kasrils is my friend’, but that isn’t so.”

The NPA’s controversial decision to drop corruption charges against Zuma was based on the contents of the so-called spy tapes the DA acquired last year after a long court battle.

The recordings are of eavesdropped conversations between McCarthy, former NPA head Bulelani Ngcuka and others. The recordings are, according to the NPA, evidence of political interference in the Zuma case and the reason it was abandoned.

The DA is currently in court to have the NPA’s decision declared invalid, as well as obtain a ruling on whether there was political interference and have the charges against Zuma reinstated.

According to Hofmeyr’s statement, Kasrils invited him to his house for lunch in 2003. McCarthy was also there, he claims – but Kasrils denies Hofmeyr was ever at his home.

According to Kasrils, he, Hofmeyr and McCarthy did once have lunch together at the home of writer Tim Butcher in Parkview, but Kasrils did not arrange the lunch and had not even known what McCarthy looked like prior to that meeting.

“It shows how economical Hofmeyr is with the truth,” he said.

Thereafter, Kasrils’ next contact with McCarthy was in 2005, after Kasrils handed in a report to the Khampepe Commission in which he supported the Scorpions and pleaded for their continued existence, Kasrils said.

During that time, McCarthy contacted Kasrils and they met “about two times” in the minister’s Pretoria office to discuss the future of the Scorpions.

Kasrils admits there were also about “half a dozen” meetings before and after the ANC’s Polokwane conference.

It was during those meetings, “at critical times” pre- and post-Polokwane, that Hofmeyr alleges Kasrils worked as a middleman.

Not true, says Kasrils.

“Leonard asked me to give him political insight. He basically said he did not know where else to get [that insight]. He asked me because we had previously had positive interactions.”

During one of the discussions prior to Polokwane, McCarthy said he was out of his depth with the Zuma case and wanted to know what the political impact would be if Zuma were charged either before or after Polokwane.

“I told him: ‘My opinion, which you can accept or ignore, Leonard, is that it will be catastrophic [before Polokwane] because you will be interfering with the process of a conference – and it’s a popular man. The atmosphere is tense. To me, it looks like it might cause an uprising, and blood on the floor at Polokwane will mean blood on the streets throughout South Africa,’” says Kasrils.

And the meetings after Polokwane?

“I have never revealed that before, but Leonard came to me and said: ‘Minister, I’m going to leave the country and give up my work. My wife is terrified and fears I will be assassinated.’”

McCarthy wanted to know how Mbeki would react to the news of his resignation. Kasrils encouraged him to deliver it to Mbeki in person. Kasrils admits McCarthy shared facts about his work with him and Kasrils went on to share some of that with Mbeki, but it never worked the other way around.

Kasrils added that there was nothing wrong with a minister merely talking to a president.

The NPA said it would not comment on facts that would be contested in the upcoming court case.

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