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Apartheid spy charges thrown out

By Charlayne Hunter-Gault
CNN Johannesburg Bureau Chief


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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (CNN) -- A South African judge has dismissed allegations that the country's director of public prosecution was an apartheid spy.

Judge J.J.F. Hefer was appointed by President Thabo Mbeki last September to look into the spy claims against Bulelani Ngcuka as well as whether he misused his authority. On Tuesday he declared the charges "have not been established."

"Ngcuka probably never acted as an agent for a pre-1994 government security service," Hefer wrote in a 62-page report.

Ngcuka has repeatedly denied all the charges against him.

In the report, Hefer said the testimony of Ngcuka's two accusers -- Mac Maharaj and Moe Shaik -- was "most unconvincing," "ill conceived" and "entirely unsubstantiated."

He said Maharaj, a former minister of transport, had no independent knowledge of why Shaik suspected Ngcuka of being an apartheid spy.

The allegations against Ngcuka arose as the prosecutor and his elite crime-busting unit, the Scorpions, were conducting an investigation into two contracts awarded while Maharaj was still minister of transport.

Ngcuka also examined alleged improper transactions between Maharaj and Schabir Shaik, Moe Shaik's brother, or some of Schabir Shaik's companies.

Hefer said in his finding that "the essence of Mr. Maharaj's complaint is that Mr. Ngcuka has illegally leaked or has condoned the leaking of information relating to this investigation."

Hefer also looked into an investigation of the country's Deputy President Jacob Zuma, who had earlier been investigated by the Scorpions for alleged improprieties regarding a major arms deal.

Ngcuka refused to prosecute Zuma but also refused to exonerate the deputy president.

Maharaj, Zuma and Moe Shaik were involved in intelligence operations for the African National Congress, now the ruling party in South Africa, when it was still in exile and banned in the country.

The allegations against Ngcuka arose from a 1989 report prepared by Moe Shaik about spies within the exiled organization.

Hefer referred to Shaik, in his 20s when he wrote the report, as "young and inexperienced" and said the report was "fatally flawed by unwarranted assumptions and unjustifiable influences."

He also criticized the "blatant failure" to examine available avenues of inquiry. In fact, Hefer said Shaik had testified in public about the fallacy of his conclusions.

Hefer's finding notes that a white human rights lawyer, Venessa Brereton, testified that she was the agent RS452, the code name for the agent that Shaik had alleged was Ngcuka.

The Mbeki government has been criticized for ordering the investigation because all those involved were members of the ANC and the matter is considered by many to be an internal party dispute.


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