So The Dream De­ferred is lies, eh?

CityPress - - Voices -

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

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