When one goes carefully through a document looking for flaws, one is, apparently, “fisking”, a term drawn from the habits of American Zionist propagandists. They used to go through the work of Robert Fisk, the estimable Middle Eastern correspondent, looking for evidence of errors so that they could use this evidence (real or fabricated) to undermine Fisk’s work. This was necessary, since Fisk was not a Zionist propagandist and therefore they wanted his writing suppressed.
Since we have the “transcripts” of the “tapes” which the NPA used as an excuse to defeat the ends of justice in the prosecution of Jacob Zuma, come, let us fisk them. But first, a couple of points.
We have no hard evidence that the tapes (actually, apparently, records of various kinds) exist or that they are actual tapes of any real person’s conversations; we do not know if they are fakes. (The only evidence to the contrary is the bare word of the National Intelligence Agency which has a history of fabricating evidence.)
We do not know how accurate the “transcripts” are, if the tapes exist.
The “transcripts” are clearly selective, representing only what the Zuma legal team want to have heard, and therefore even if the “transcripts” are accurate they may still be completely misleading because contradictory evidence may have been left out.
The “transcripts” are accompanied by a “key” which was either provided by the Zuma legal team in order to further transform the “transcripts” into propaganda for Zuma’s legal case, or else it was provided by the NPA in order to transform the “transcripts” into propaganda for the NPA’s decision to defeat the ends of justice in the prosecution of Jacob Zuma; hence, the “transcripts” have been deliberately framed by their presenters in a way which serves corrupt and dishonest objectives.
It is thus unimportant for people to point out (as some have) that the tapes are not legally admissible. This is not the point. Of course the NPA has broken the law by using the tapes for a corrupt purpose, but that does not matter. What does matter is that every newspaper and commentator in South Africa who has examined the transcripts has declared that they prove the existence of a conspiracy against Jacob Zuma on the part of the NPA at least, and most probably on the part of ex-President Mbeki. The question which any examination of the tapes must therefore address is whether this is a legitimate conclusion to draw, or whether it is illegitimate, in which case all of the commentary regarding the tapes in South Africa is corrupt propaganda in the service of Jacob Zuma’s pursuit of power (and the fact that many commentators are too stupid and deluded to recognise this would then be no excuse).
So the survival of South Africa’s punditocracy (and nothing else) should stand or fall by those tapes and their analysis. (All quotes come from the aptly-named “Zuma Special” in the Cape Argus from the 7th of April 2009, p. 19, with corrections to the obvious errors in the transcripts underlined.) Let the fisking begin.
10h15 12/12/07 SMS exchange
BN: When are you filing?
LM: We’re stretched. It has tripled in size now. Likely to file tomorrow afternoon or Friday afternoon only. What’s up?
BN: The sooner the better. Not later than tomorrow. It will assist a great deal.
Bulelani Ngcuka, ex-NPA leader who had always wanted to prosecute Zuma, talks to Leonard McCarthy of the NPA about challenging Zuma’s efforts to appeal to the Constitutional Court in an attempt to dismiss evidence against him. Now, possibly Ngcuka’s desire for haste relates to the run-up to the Polokwane Conference which was impending. But it could also mean that he simply wants to see Zuma prosecuted and thinks McCarthy’s actions could facilitate this. There is no sign that McCarthy is taking orders from Ngcuka, and while arguably McCarthy should not be sharing information with a private citizen, Ngcuka is also an extremely well-informed person in the field and someone from whom a sensible person might well seek advice.
10h41 12/12/07 voice exchange
LM: We must have one of those Yengeni nights — remember we said we will not leave this fucking hotel until it’s done.
What is this sentence doing here? McCarthy is remembering how the NPA intensively assembled its case against Yengeni, the arms deal bribe-taker (and now Zuma aide). It reflects nothing about Zuma or any conspiracy against him. However, it is surely included (with coy asterisks inserted) in an attempt to undermine McCarthy by showing that (shock, horror) he uses four-letter words when speaking passionately to friends. As such it is pure propaganda.
After a gap (containing what, the Zuma propagandists are not telling), the actual meat begins, very oddly punctuated and repunctuated here.
BN: If this thing comes out the way we discussed it yesterday, those key issues, right, it will be a devastating one for them, and it will cause people to wake up to know what they are actually doing, without being dramatic, without you making arrests, it will say, this is what we have, this is what we have, and we are forced to state it now and people will wake up think what are we doing.
LM: Friday, by Friday people are packing bags, they won’t even read the fucking newspapers.
BN: That is the thing, that is the thing, that is why it will be good if it could come out today.
LM: Today is difficult. I will call a Yengeni night, we are not leaving here until we finalise this tomorrow morning, we file by lunch time and give it to the media.
BN: You made my day.
Here, a private citizen and an NPA official are discussing the timing of the presentation of their case in regard to the media. This may seem weird and irregular — and certainly is, since Ngcuka has no right to order McCarthy around. On the other hand, this is an organised crime investigation. Invariably, organised criminals try to use the media to protect themselves, and so the media must be taken into account (it certainly is in the United States, from which South Africa derived its organised crime laws and institutions). Hence there’s nothing bizarre about the focus on the media. Also, McCarthy was the one who raised the matter first — meaning that there is no actual evidence that Ngcuka changed his mind (although it is clear that Ngcuka is trying to). Indeed, McCarthy does not do what Ngcuka asks, but instead delays a day.
Later Ngcuka requests a copy of the draft Constitutional Court documentation and McCarthy agrees to provide this, though personally, because “Zuma will say we are conspiring against him”. If this happened this is extremely irregular, but on the other hand we do not know whether it happened or not. What is more, it could not have made any difference to Zuma’s status, so in fact it was not a conspiracy against Zuma in any effectual sense.
Later in the same speech (after other mysterious breaks) comes this interchange:
LM: Can I ask, the script has not changed yet?
BN: Ja, no.
LM: Because I don’t feel like going to Polokwane and charging him there.
The “script” is the attitude of the leadership of the ANC and of the government. Obviously, in such a situation a prosecutor could get into big trouble by going against the wishes of those figures. (This is why Mpshe dropped charges against Zuma.) Luckily for McCarthy it is clear that the issue is simply timing; McCarthy does not himself want to charge Zuma immediately, and his political leaders do not want him to do this. What he would have done had his desires and the “script” clashed, we do not know.
The following Friday the court papers are filed (i.e., McCarthy did not follow Ngcuka’s orders in the timing of filing the papers to promote press access; whether he wanted to or not, we do not know) and McCarthy provides Ngcuka with some material (but Ngcuka only receives it after the case has been filed, so nothing irregular actually occurs because the matter is then in the public domain). If this is the material which Ngcuka had been looking for earlier then McCarthy has done nothing wrong at all.
Then, rather out of chronological order, comes this communication:
BN: So you’re the only one who can just save this country from its madness
BN: You know, I just can’t believe it, I don’t know, so we’re all so busy now, hmm, and a —
LM: And what does the big man say, is he oraait?
BN: I don’t know
So, weeks beforehand, Ngcuka was urging McCarthy to take action against Zuma (which is consistent with his earlier positions), and McCarthy wanted to know what President Mbeki wanted. Obviously, if Mbeki was against it, McCarthy’s position would be difficult. However, Ngcuka does not tell him anything because he does not know. This implies a strange kind of conspiracy where people do not conspire together. It’s also apparent that McCarthy’s primary loyalty is to “the team” — which may mean the leadership of the ANC and government, but probably means the team at the NPA who had assembled a powerful case against Zuma which had not been acted on until Pikoli was removed and Mpshe gave the go-ahead to McCarthy.
It is also clear that a lot of people are discussing the issues. On the 12th of December, Ngcuka had badgered McCarthy not to “do it this weekend” (i.e., during the Polokwane Conference), but it was clear from McCarthy’s earlier statements that he did not in any case want to do that. (The transcript is fudged, pretending that he might have said “do” or “don’t”, but the two are pronounced differently and the syntax is that of refusal, not enthusiasm.) But then, the trouble is that everybody was discussing the issue, because after Pikoli’s dismissal many people suspected that this might lead to Zuma being charged. The question is whether McCarthy was delaying charging Zuma because of Mbeki, or whether he was delaying charging Zuma because he felt that he would have a better chance of success if he waited until the Conference was over and the political landscape was clear. Nothing in the transcripts proves anything other than that Ngcuka and most of Mbeki’s allies wanted a delay; it does not prove that McCarthy was acting on their orders. The fact that McCarthy describes himself as a “Thabo man” and laments Mbeki’s failure at Polokwane does not prove his corruption — given the partisanship within the party and government, it is likely that he would have to be either one or the other. The question is whether his political allegiance affected his judgement
This seems not to be the case as appears in a subsequent discussion with a private security man named, ironically, Luciano:
untimed 16/12/07 SMS exchange
LM: I have been advised to give Ouboet & Oujan a break in the interest of SA . . . . Tenuous times. QV?
L: What did Jesus say? Give to the emperor what is due to him . . .
If the “advice” came from McCarthy’s masters, Luciano seems to be advising him to cave in to them. (Ouboet and Oujan, claim the commentators, are Selebi and Zuma, and in this case and this context there seems no reason to doubt this.) Of course we do not know from whom the “advice” comes, whether from Mbeki or from Ngcuka or from someone else.
Let us suppose that this advice came directly or indirectly from Mbeki. Then Mbeki was asking McCarthy to let Zuma off the hook. This would have been grossly improper, of course, given the evidence against Zuma. (It was also a little odd if one assumes that Pikoli had been fired largely because he was obstructing action against Zuma.) However, what is especially bizarre is that if this is the case, then Zuma’s lawyers, who have consistently claimed since December 2007 that Mbeki wanted Zuma prosecuted, now have strong evidence that Mbeki did not want Zuma prosecuted. If this “advice” comes from Mbeki, then it is evidence of a conspiracy to protect Zuma, not to harm him. If the “advice” comes from elsewhere (which is more probable) then it proves nothing at all about any such conspiracy.
The big point, however, is that wherever the “advice” came from, McCarthy did not act on it. Instead, he charged Selebi and Zuma. If he thought that Mbeki wanted him to do something else, he did not allow his loyalty to Mbeki to override what he felt his duty to be.
Putting this all together: Ngcuka seems to have acted disreputably. It is possible that he broke the law. He may have been doing this on behalf of President Mbeki, but there is no evidence of that. McCarthy, on the basis of the records, did nothing which showed prejudice against Zuma’s constitutional rights. If he gave Ngcuka access to privileged documents, this was wrong, but the records do not prove this and Ngcuka could have done nothing with them. The records do show that McCarthy was under immense pressure and seems to have acquitted himself honourably in spite of this. There is no evidence — none whatsoever — of a conspiracy, unless people sitting around a dinner-table discussing current events is a conspiracy (in which case we are all conspirators and should presumably be punished). There’s no evidence here of anything against Mbeki.
That’s all, folks. The whole media brouhaha over the “tapes” and the “transcripts” was nothing more than Zuma propaganda. The press and pundits fell for it because they are pro-Zuma, anti-Mbeki and, above all else, too lazy to read through the transcripts and discover that they did not prove that Zuma’s lawyers and the NPA pretend that they prove. Not, of course, a surprise. But, if the Creator was still capable of being shocked by anyone’s misbehaviour around the Zuma issue, the Creator would be shocked.
As it is, just file it under The Kingdom Of The Lie, and leave it all at that.