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Sexwale, Phosa angry over Mbeki conspiracy claims

2001-04-25 14:44

Johannesburg - Top businessmen Tokyo Sexwale and Matthews Phosa reacted with shock and indignation on Wednesday to allegations that they were part of a plot aimed at toppling President Thabo Mbeki, the Cape Argus reports.

Sexwale, Phosa and Cyril Ramaphosa were named on Tuesday by Safety and Security Minister Steve Tshwete as being part of a conspiracy aimed at undermining the presidency.

Sexwale, Phosa and Ramaphosa all held high office in the ANC and now occupy the top rank in black economic empowerment initiatives in the country.

Tshwete went further and confirmed that an investigation had been launched into the matter and that the roles of Sexwale, Phosa and Ramaphosa were specifically being probed by state intelligence agencies, the newspaper says.

President Mbeki, in a live television interview on Tuesday night, gave further credence to the plot rumours by criticising overly ambitious members of the majority party.

"It's a conspiratorial thing," he told e-tv interviewers. "I know you have business people who say, 'We will set up a fund to promote our particular candidate and we will then try to influence particular journalists'."

Both Sexwale and Phosa have vigorously rejected the allegations.

Phosa

"It is rubbish. What are they talking about, it is really crazy," Phosa, who is a former premier of Mpumalanga, said on Wednesday morning.

"The allegations are not worthy of any comment, it is rubbish." He said the allegations had been rife for two years.

Phosa heard on Tuesday night of the allegations on e-tv and said he was not worried.

"They accuse us of horrendous things and that is a provocation. I am not going to jump around as if I am guilty," he told the Cape Argus

Sexwale

Sexwale, a former premier of Gauteng, also denied the allegations. Though he was not available to comment on Tuesday night, his colleague Clyde Johnson, a director of Sexwale's Mvelaphanda Holdings, commented on his behalf: "It is complete hogwash. I do not know where it comes from," he told the newspaper.

Cyril Ramaphosa could not be reached for comment.

The allegations were apparently brought to the attention of the ministry by former Mpumalanga ANC Youth League leader James Nkambule, who is being investigated for fraud.

Tshwete said they would not dismiss Nkambule's allegations because "he was pretty close to some of the leaders (who are alleged to be behind the plot)".

Disinformation campaign against Mbeki

Tshwete was ealier quoted by Reuters as saying that part of the plot is a whispering campaign charging that Mbeki was responsible for the 1993 assassination of revered South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani and that this could trigger a violent public response against him.

Two right-wing whites were convicted of killing Hani, who was one of Mbeki's leading rivals for the position of deputy to former President Nelson Mandela when apartheid ended in 1994.

"Chris was the idol of everyone in the country ... and to say that the president of the ANC was behind his assassination is actually to set him up for physical assault and that is why we view these allegations very seriously," Tshwete said.

He said measures had been put in place to improve Mbeki's personal security.

Probe 'abuse of office'

Meanwhile, Democratic Alliance MP Douglas Gibson says Tshwete's confirmation that the forces of the state are being used to investigate ANC persons plotting to replace the president, "is an abuse of office by the minister and an outrage in a Parliamentary democracy".

"Who does Tshwete think he is? His job is to fight crime: That he is signally failing to do. The criminals are running rampant while he is abusing his office as the minister to fight internal party disputes in the ANC," Gibson said in a statement.

"Minister Tshwete and President Mbeki, who has presumably given his approval to this abuse, would do well to remember the late president Nixon. Watergate was a political scandal where the power of the state was misused to fight political opponents," Gibson says.

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa has described the conspiracy theory as nothing more than a ploy to discourage potential rivals.

'Bloodbath' comment sparked probe

Earlier on Tuesday, national police commissioner Jackie Selebi confirmed that the police were investigating allegations of a conspiracy against Mbeki.

Information in police possession, suggesting that a "senior ANC member" had said the ANC national congress in 2002 is likely to result in a "bloodbath", had prompted the probe, he said.

Apart from the reported threat on the president's life, the politician involved appeared to be lobbying behind the scenes within disgruntled provincial structures ahead of the 2002 ANC congress.

In addition, Selebi said there were rumours shortly before the Easter weekend of an alleged conspiracy to murder Mbeki. Following a probe, these rumours - received from radical right-wing circles - proved to be unfounded.

Selebi maintained that police involvement in the probe was not politically motivated.

'It is our duty to investigate'

"It is our duty to investigate these kinds of allegations. The term 'bloodbath' and the fact that the country's leader appears to be under threat, are reason enough. The allegations could be interpreted in a literal or figurative way, but that does not negate our duty."

Selebi spoke in reaction to statements made by Tshwete over the weekend that several intelligence agencies have been investigating since last year allegations that certain senior ANC members are in a conspiracy to depose Mbeki.

Selebi confirmed the existence of a pamphlet campaign in North West Province, advocating a single term of office for the president. The pamphlet is part of the probe.

"Several lesser incidents and rumours should be included in the total picture," he said.

Meanwhile, Beeld was told that members of other intelligence agencies had been involved in other probes since last year. Allegations that senior ANC members and businesspeople with foreign connections are actively involved in a campaign against Mbeki were under investigation.

Alleged conspiracy to murder MEC

Selebi confirmed that although the police investigation is extremely sensitive, it involved an alleged murder conspiracy against Mpumalanga Housing MEC Didi Mabuza. He said information in police possession suggested that a member of the local government had conspired to murder Mabuza.

"These facts came to light after a member of the public revealed the information, and the police established that the alleged assassins were from Mozambique. They were reportedly heavily armed."

Selebi added that Mabuza was under protection for the duration of the police investigation.

He noted that James Nkambule, a former ANC youth league leader in Mpumalanga, had also come forward with certain allegations involving two murders in the province.

"Although these are allegations at this stage, and police investigations into the murders have been completed, the police would have to reopen them."

Provincial ANC congresses scheduled for later this year would give an indication of splits within the party's national leadership and its power base at grassroots levels. Currently the split is evident in the fact that the ANC this week dissolved its third provincial executive committee (in the Northern Cape) as a result of power struggles and dissidence among provincial leaders.

When the party elects a new executive authority in 2002 the provinces are set to play a crucial role in the process.

Tshwete said the allegations under investigation included the running of a disinformation campaign against Mbeki. The campaign suggested Mbeki was behind the death of former SA Communist Party leader and leadership competitor Chris Hani.

Mbeki said he wanted the debate on the presidency to be in the open so that "destructive conspiracies" were not established. "Once you start conspiracies then you start a destructive process because those who feel threatened will go underground and start their own conspiracies," he said.