Arrest Zuma for our own Watergate

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Former president Jacob Zuma.
Former president Jacob Zuma.

Just like the Richard Nixon administration used dirty tricks to infiltrate and spy on his opponents, Jacob Zuma had his own squad in the SSA to spy, bribe and influence his detractors, writes Adriaan Basson.

The Mufamadi report into the abuse and plunder of the country's intelligence agency is the latest indictment of the horror that was the Jacob Zuma era.

I'm not a lawyer, but anyone who has read the 106-page report will be entitled to wonder why Zuma and his favourite spy, Thulani Dlomo, are not yet in handcuffs.

READ: EXPLAINED – Nine things you must know about the bombshell report into spies

If you have any doubt that Zuma should be arrested and prosecuted for his role in capturing the state, please read this thriller of a report.

We are no longer shocked by revelations about Zuma undermining the state and violating the Constitution, but as intense as shocks get, this is pretty much a tsunami.

Let me try to summarise the main finding in one sentence: Zuma effectively had his own hit squad in the State Security Agency (SSA) – led by Dlomo – that spied on activists and NGOs critical of him; created bogus "social cohesion" media campaigns; prevented President Cyril Ramaphosa's campaign to become ANC president from advancing, and created a bogus trade union to target his enemies in platinum mining.

This "Special Operations" (SO) unit reported directly to Zuma and was funded with millions of SSA rands, most of it in cash. There are suggestions in the report that some of this cash was used to advance Zuma's political agenda and support his faction in the ANC.

It would have been more suitable to call the unit Zuma Special Operations.

If there ever was a case to draw compelling comparisons, this is our own Watergate scandal.

Just like the Richard Nixon administration used dirty tricks to infiltrate and spy on his opponents, Zuma, supported by successive intelligence ministers in Siyabonga Cwele and David Mahlobo, had his own Zuma squad in the SSA to spy, bribe and influence his detractors and opponents.

In very nice, reportable language, Mufamadi and his colleagues basically find that Zuma could not distinguish between his role as president of South Africa and former ANC intelligence chief.

"From about 2005, with the emergence of the divisions in the ANC, there has been a growing politicisation and factionalisation of the civilian intelligence community based on the factions in the ANC. This has been partly aggravated by the fact that many of the leadership and management of the intelligence services have come from an ANC and liberation struggle background and have seemingly, in some cases, not been able to separate their professional responsibilities from their political inclinations," the report finds.

ALSO READ: Adriaan Basson – The curious case of Ambassador Thulani 'Silence' Dlomo

"This became progressively worse during the administration of the former president [Zuma], with parallel structures being created that directly served the personal and political interests of the president and, in some cases, the relevant ministers. All this was in complete breach of the Constitution, the White Paper, the legislation and other prescripts."

The criminalisation of the state under Zuma is starkly illustrated by this report. It is not only undemocratic for a president to run a parallel intelligence structure that looks after his interests; it's illegal. And someone must go to jail for this.

The purpose of the intelligence services is to safeguard the people of South Africa against criminal syndicates and potential foreign threats. Zuma turned the SSA into his personal army of spies, to the extent that SSA operatives served as bodyguards for Dudu Myeni, the former SAA chairperson and very close associate of the former president; Shaun Abrahams, the former national director of public prosecutions, and former ANC Youth League leader Collen Maine.

It is unclear at this stage whether Myeni, Abrahams and Maine knew they were being "protected" by the SSA, or if it was part of Zuma's intelligence-gathering operation.

The inspector-general of intelligence, Isaac Dintwe, is finalising his own investigation into the SO unit, but new NPA boss Shamila Batohi shouldn't need much more than Mufamadi's report to start drawing up the charges.

The country has waited long enough. It's time for handcuffs and blue lights.

Ps: On Sunday night, Zuma responded by threatening the authors of the report that he will expose them as apartheid spies. This is the same Zuma who has been threatening to "spill the beans" for the past 15 years. How pathetic.

- Basson is editor-in-chief of News24.

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