A “secret” US diplomatic cable claims that former president Thabo Mbeki was directly involved in drafting the domestic and foreign policy documents of the Congress of the People (Cope) at the time of the opposition party’s launch.
Mbeki’s spokesperson and others named in the cable have vehemently denied its claims.
The cable is one of the 250 000 leaked to WikiLeaks and has not yet been published, but has been exclusively obtained by the Media24 investigations team.
The cable, dated December 5 2008 (at the height of Cope’s emergence) and classified as “secret” by Deputy Political Counsellor Madelaine Seidenstricker, recounts a meeting between an embassy political officer and University of South Africa professor Dirk Kotze, who was a consultant to Cope.
The cable says Mbeki was involved in drafting a six-page policy document for Cope, which Smuts Ngonyama, who was at the forefront of the breakaway group from the ANC, took to Kotze for his input on December 4 2008.
The cable adds new weight to continued speculation that Mbeki had a hand in Cope’s emergence – claims that have been consistently denied.
But the cable said that Kotze’s comments “serve as the strongest indication yet that the former South African leader may be assisting the party that was formed by many of his long-time allies”.
“Kotze, who has close ties to Mbeki allies Aziz and Essop Pahad, told Poloff in a meeting on December 5 that Mbeki appeared to have significant influence in helping Cope form domestic and foreign policies.” says the cable.
“Smuts made it very clear that it (the document) came from Mbeki.”Kotze had said: “The document carried all the hallmarks of many of Mbeki’s letters from the ANC.”
However, both Kotze and Ngonyama this week denied that there was ever a six-page policy document drafted by Mbeki.
Dismissing the cable
Mbeki’s spokesperson, Mukoni Ratshitanga, said the former president didn’t wish to comment on any WikiLeaks cables.
He emphasised that Mbeki’s ANC membership was well known and that his ANC credentials spoke for themselves.
“I did not see any document that was an Mbeki document. All Mr Ngonyama wanted was some ideas and input on policy in the broad sense for Cope to have its own policy identity,” said Kotze.
The cable quotes Kotze saying that after Ngonyama got Kotze’s input on foreign policy, he said he needed to consult Mbeki on it. “Smuts, upon receiving my foreign policy ideas, told me he had to run it by Mbeki before any decisions are made.”
But Kotze denied the comments attributed to him.
“He (Ngonyama) just mentioned that he was in regular contact with Mbeki, and Aziz and Essop Pahad. There is nothing more.”
Once Mbeki’s closest ally in the ANC, Ngonyama was dismissive of the cable, saying Mbeki had never been involved in drafting Cope’s policies.
“There is nothing like that. Former president Mbeki has nothing to do with Cope’s policies and we have never consulted him. The only person who was involved was Moeletsi Mbeki as part of the scholars we consulted. The report is completely false, Cope had nothing to do with Mbeki,” said Ngonyama.
Moeletsi Mbeki said he never gave scholarly advice, but had made a presentation to the Cope Central Committee about his book Architects of Poverty.Ngonyama said he had not taken a document drafted by Thabo Mbeki to Kotze.
He said he had only asked Kotze for his input on Cope documents that needed scholarly advice.
Meanwhile, Essop Pahad said if Mbeki had been involved in drafting Cope’s policies “they wouldn’t be what they are. Their level of depth is not even close to that of the ANC.”
US embassy spokesperson Elizabeth Kennedy Trudeau said the American government would not confirm any leaked WikiLeaks documents and they were now pursuing criminal action against an employee.
“As a matter of policy, the US government cannot confirm any stolen documents and is actively pursuing criminal action against an employee who stole the classified documents. The cables are not meant for the public because they are based on conversations that we cannot say whether they are facts or not,” said Trudeau.