Saturday, February 25, 2012

Zuma NIA tapes riddle

South Africa
Zuma NIA tapes riddle
AMUKELANI CHAUKE and CHANDRÉ PRINCE | 24 February, 2012 00:42

President Jacob Zuma. File photoSave & Share

A spate of mysterious break-ins and fires at some of the state security agency's provincial headquarters are believed to be linked to the elusive President Jacob Zuma spy tapes.
Incidents at National Intelligence Agency offices in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape over the past two weeks have been kept under wraps by police and security officials.

The Times has, however, learnt authorities are focusing their investigations on whether a fire at the agency's Durban headquarters and break-ins at its offices in Pretoria and a branch in George are in any way linked to the search for the controversial spy tapes.

The whereabouts of the tapes - that paved the way for fraud and corruption charges against Zuma to be dropped in 2009 - have been a secret. The recordings have become a priceless gem. They are currently at the centre of two high-profile cases.

The fire at the Durban headquarters, which shares a building with SARS and two call centres, happened two weekends ago.

The fire hit the fifth floor of the NIA offices on the night of February 11, destroying computers, software equipment and furniture, estimated at R2-million.

The police and the agency were mum yesterday, with Hawks spokesman McIntosh Polela saying: "This is a state security matter about which we cannot give out any details."

Sources, however, said that, before the fire, a number of computers were stolen and that they could contain "very sensitive state information", including transcripts and digital copies of the tapes.

The break-ins at the Pretoria and George offices happened last week.

The incidents coincide with a desperate search for the tapes, which are being sought in a Labour Court dispute and a Supreme Court of Appeal case.

The police and crime intelligence sources believe the suspects wanted to either destroy or gain access to the tapes.

"The hunch is that the infamous Zuma-Mbeki tapes were held there ... this is supposed to be classified," a source said.

"A lot is at stake for many involved in the spy tapes if they are released in their entirety," said another.

They said the location of the agency's offices countrywide is generally only known to its employees and top government officials. It suggests the incidents were planned and that the offices were targeted.

According to the sources, there were at least three copies of the tapes, but the digital recordings and transcripts were being kept in different places.

The tapes resurfaced last year during a Commission of Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration hearing involving former Special Investigations Unit boss Willie Hofmeyr and his axed former deputy, Faiek Davids.

Hofmeyr sacked Davids on the basis of an alleged intercepted conversation between Davids and former Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy about ANC leadership battles.

The CCMA ruled in Davids' favour as Hofmeyr could not present the tapes to back his claim.

Hofmeyr subsequently pleaded with the agency to provide him with a copy of the tapes. To date he has not received a copy.

The tapes have become an even bigger nightmare for Zuma, with the DA challenging the National Prosecuting Authority's 2009 decision to drop charges against him on the strength of the tapes.

The DA has asked for copies or transcripts of the tapes.

Zuma said that, should the DA be successful in its application to gain access to the tapes, sensitive and confidential information in the NPA's records about other people and companies would also be exposed.

Last week, Zuma's lawyers conceded that a decision to drop charges against a person could be challenged in a court of law.

DA MP David Maynier questioned the motives of the fire and burglaries and called on Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele to investigate.

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