[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Zuma in Mbokodo; Malema in Durban
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Sun Feb 22 05:46:25 GMT 2009
Glimmers of horror as Zuma’s missing years come to light
Published:Feb 22, 2009
There were accounts of routine and bizarre acts of torture — beatings
with barbed wire, bicycle chains and iron bars
The peculiar thing is how the ANC could have ‘executed’ Ben Langa by
mistake when he was so well known
His prominence in the darkest days of the exiled ANC seems to have been
overlooked, says David Beresford
The long-running drama over Jacob Zuma and the arms deal has resulted in
the country overlooking an aspect of the ANC president’s background
which says even more about his fitness, or otherwise, to govern.
At the end of last year, a biography was published on Zuma which was
perhaps more interesting for what it did not contain. Written by
journalist Jeremy Gordin, it fails to mention, for instance, that Zuma
was a life-long communist.
Zuma seems to have been anxious not to have this detail widely known.
Nor is membership of the SA Communist Party mentioned in Zuma’s
government and ANC biographies.
Curiously, however, it is mentioned in his autobiography.
A favourite technique of identifying enemy agents in the ANC was to make
members endlessly write their life stories.
The theory was that an enemy agent trying to stick to his or her cover
story would sooner or later make a blunder which would be pounced on by
On May 2 1985, Jacob Zuma, alias “Pedro”, sat down to write his story.
The Zuma autobiography — published by the radical investigative
magazine, Molotov Cocktail — says he joined the SACP (or ‘the family’ as
it is euphemistically referred to) at the age of 21, in 1963.
Zuma’s autobiography also mentions his membership of “NAT” — the dreaded
security department of the ANC in exile. Popularly known as the
“Mbokodo” — “the stone that crushes” — NAT was a department of the ANC,
but seems to have taken on a life of its own.
Set up in 1969, NAT was answerable to the Revolutionary Council, which
in turn fell under Oliver Tambo at the office of the ANC president.
In the ’80s NAT concentrated on disciplinary functions and guard duties
in places such as Quadro (the ANC’s main detention camp in Angola,
sometimes known as Quatro), moving away from intelligence activities.
In 1987 Joe Nhlanhla was appointed director of the Mbokodo with Zuma his
A senior intelligence official testified to one inquiry that the
“powers” of the Mbokodo were “pervasive”. They did not consider
themselves accountable “to the ANC generally or answerable to anybody
specifically, other than its head”.
The nature of Mbokodo can be best conveyed by an account of some of the
allegations arising from the 1983 Quadro mutiny.
There have been three internal inquiries by the ANC into the camps
scandal, and the horror stories that emerged are beyond dispute.
There were accounts of routine and bizarre acts of torture — beatings
with barbed wire, bicycle chains and iron bars — and food and water
Detainees were made to crawl through colonies of red ants with pig fat
rubbed into their skin. A prisoner had his lips burned by cigarettes and
his testicles squeezed with pliers; a detainee was buried up to his neck
before being suffocated with a plastic bag; a woman had a guard
masturbate over her because she refused to have sex with security
officials. A trainee tried to commit suicide after his girlfriend was
“taken away”. People were locked up in goods containers, in suffocating
conditions. And people simply disappeared.
According to the Motsuenyane Commission report — the most comprehensive
of the inquiries — there were also “rumours of rampant embezzlement of
funds, illicit dealings in precious minerals and theft of motor cars” by
leaders of NAT.
Thanks to Zuma’s predilection for secrecy, his part — or otherwise — in
all this is difficult to discover. He is quoted fatuously in Gordin’s
book as saying details of the “operational events of those days” were
the “property of the ANC, not his”.
The little that is known about Zuma’s “missing years” is no more than a
confusion of dates to be found in government biographies and listings of
commanders submitted to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Two murders are central to the story of the Mbokodo. The first is that
of Mzwakhe Ngwenya, better known by his nom de guerre of Thami Zulu, or TZ.
TZ was an extremely popular commander in the ANC whose death in 1989 is
a cause célèbre.
Commander of the “Natal machinery”, he died a few days after being
released from ANC detention. He had been held by the Mbokodo for 14
months without charge, including eight weeks in solitary. Forensic
evidence indicates he was poisoned.
TZ’s deputy, Cyril Raymond (a.k.a. ‘Edward Lawrence’, a.k.a.‘Ralph’
a.k.a. ‘Fear’) was also detained. He died while in the custody of the
Mbokodo, denying that he was a police spy. He apparently drowned in his
The death of TZ caused such an uproar within the ANC that the
organisation was forced to set up a commission of inquiry into it. It
found no evidence that Thami was a South African agent.
The other murder is that of Benjamin Langa, which is not as well-known
as TZ’s killing, but could be as explosive.
Ben Langa was the brother of Chief Justice Pius Langa, and of writer
Ben was shot dead in May 1984. The killing was carried out by two gunmen
— Sipho Xulu and Lucky Payi — both of whom were hanged for the killing.
They were helped in the murder of Ben by Joel George Martins, a friend
of Ben’s. Martins took the two killers to the flat where Ben was staying
and called out to him, whereupon Ben opened the door to his murderers.
Martins subsequently applied to the TRC for amnesty for the killing and
explained he had been told by Xulu that they had orders from a senior
commander in Swaziland to kill Ben for having “sold out comrades”.
The man who gave this order was code-named “Ralph”, according to
Martins. It was the same Ralph, or Fear, mentioned above — who drowned
in his own vomit while being detained by the Mbokodo.
But in another twist to this extraordinary tale, the two killers
testified in their Pietermaritzburg trial that the man who gave them
orders to carry out the murder was not Fear, but one “Leonard”.
Jacob Zuma was also due to have testified at the hearing, but failed to
turn up. A TRC amnesty panel was told arrangements had been made for him
to appear, but he had gone to Geneva. George Bizos SC, who appeared for
the Langa family at the hearing, said he had been unable to get a
statement from Zuma.
Fear’s alleged “culpability” has won wide credence, thanks to the ANC
leadership. Thabo Mbeki, for example, submitted a statement to the TRC
which found its way into its final report. It said: “In a few cases,
deliberate misinformation resulted in attacks and assassination in which
dedicated cadres lost their lives. In one of the most painful examples
of this nature, a state agent with an MK name of Fear ordered two cadres
to execute Ben Langa on the grounds that Langa was an agent of the
regime. These cadres, Clement Payi and Lucky Xulu, carried out their
orders. This action resulted in serious disruption of underground and
mass democratic structures in the area and intense distress to the Langa
family, which was the obvious intention of Fear’s handlers.
“Once the facts were known to the leadership of the ANC, President Tambo
personally met with the family to explain and apologise for this action.
Xulu and Payi were arrested and executed. A triple murder had been
achieved by the apartheid regime without firing a single shot.”
The basis on which Mbeki was able to identify Fear as a police agent and
a murderer is not known.
The peculiar thing for the Langa family is how the ANC could have
“executed” Ben by mistake when he was so well known in KwaZulu-Natal and
further afield. Ben’s brother Mandla recalls that one of the
trigger-men, Xulu, was a personal friend. Mandla had in a sense
“adopted” the youngster when they were based at the ANC’s Malange camp
In fact, the friendship with Ben was even closer. Xulu testified that
Ben had actually recruited him into the ANC and had helped him get out
of South Africa. In exile Xulu had risen to the rank of battalion
commander before being sent back to kill his sponsor and friend.
Asked by counsel when and where he was given instructions to kill Ben ,
Xulu said it was on the way from Mbabane in a car driven “by the
regional chief of security, Umkhonto weSizwe”.
“While we were in the motor car he then said to me. .. there is a person
who has done us a lot of harm. I asked him: ‘Who is that person?’ He
said the person was Ben Langa. I said: ‘It cannot be Ben Langa.’” He
said he went on to explain his relationship with Ben.
An exhibit in the Pietermaritzburg trial was a decrypted code book. One
entry read: “Ben Langa eliminated on May 20. Reason: Leonard informed us
on the day we left that Ben is the guy who handed two comrades to the
There was only one ANC cadre named Leonard in the region at the time. He
flatly denies having been a “regional chief of security”, or having had
the conversation recounted by Xulu. His only connection with Ben was
that he (Ben) had been seen with a former policeman in Wentworth and he
(Leonard) had sent a report to this effect — to Jacob Zuma.
Beresford is a staff correspondent of The Observer. This article is
based on research for a book he is preparing on commission from Jonathan
Ball publishers, with the support of the Taco Kuiper Fund for
‘We want Zuma, corrupt or not ’
Paddy Harper Published:Feb 22, 2009
ANC Youth League president Julius Malema outdid himself at a rally in
Durban’s Cato Manor yesterday, branding DA leader Helen Zille “racist”,
“colonialist” and “imperialist”.
Her deputy, Joe Seremane’s “ role . .. is to smile at the madam every
time,” he said.
IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi was “Mickey Mouse” and COPE consisted of
“angryists” who “don’ t smile”.
He came to ANC president Jacob Zuma’s defence: “If Zuma is corrupt, then
we want him with all his corruption. We want him with all his
weaknesses. If he is uneducated, then we want him as our uneducated
Zuma, he said, understood SA economics, which amounted to: “Put a bread
on the table. We don’t want sophistication.”
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