So The Dream Deferred is lies, eh?
In The Dream Deferred, my biography of Thabo Mbeki, I wrote that Steve Tshwete was doing Mbeki’s bidding in 2001 when he put the names of Cyril Ramaphosa, Tokyo Sexwale and Mathews Phosa into the public domain by revealing their names in an SABC interview as the leaders allegedly plotting a coup against Mbeki.
In the letter he wrote last week, eight years after the publication of my book and 15 years after the events, Mbeki sets out to refute this. Tshwete had made a mistake by revealing the names, Mbeki writes, and was reprimanded for this. Only Tshwete would be able to corroborate this, but he died long ago.
In my research, however, I became convinced that – whether he was acting on Mbeki’s explicit instruction or not, and whether he “made a mistake” or not in releasing the names – Tshwete was acting out of the sense, shared by his colleagues who had seen the allegations, that Mbeki either believed there was a plot or was keen to use it in some way to best his rivals. This was after having interviewed many key people in Mbeki’s inner circle, including some close to Tshwete.
Mbeki concedes in his letter that after listening to the source of the allegations, a discredited Mpumalanga youth league official named James Nkambule, “I remained convinced that the state intelligence services should continue their work to establish the truthfulness or otherwise of his allegations”.
This alone gives us a sense of the paranoia that was already enveloping his presidency. He continues that he consulted Jacob Zuma, Kgalema Motlanthe and Lindiwe Sisulu, and that “we took the unanimous decision” to ask Sisulu to investigate the allegations.
This seeks to contradict what I wrote, which is that “almost everyone – including his intelligence minister Lindiwe Sisulu and his director-general of intelligence, Vusi Mavimbela – urged him to ignore the Nkambule allegations, but he did not seem to be able to let go of them”.
My sources were impeccable, and corroborated one another. Either they wove a conspiracy of lies to tell me, or Mbeki is now lying to us. Why he might be doing so now is beyond me.
Interestingly, Mbeki chose not to counter this part of the Nkambule tale in his letter. In my book, I wrote that “the unhappy episode also marked the beginning of the fallout between Mbeki and his deputy, Jacob Zuma”. This was because Nkambule had revealed that Phosa knew of Mbeki’s plans to downgrade the deputy presidency, and Mbeki came to believe that Zuma must have been Phosa’s source.
“After they viewed the Nkambule videotape together,” I wrote, “Mbeki confronted Zuma, insinuating that he might even be part of the plot. The result was an extraordinary press release issued by Zuma, saying – apropos of nothing, as Zuma had never been mentioned as a plotter – that he was not involved in any intrigue against his boss, and that he held no ambitions whatsoever to be president.”
It was after this incident I wrote – once more with impeccable sources on both sides – “that things really chilled” between Mbeki and Zuma.
– Mark Gevisser