Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille has asked President Kgalema Motlanthe to launch a probe to determine the veracity of media reports suggesting that the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) is conducting surveillance on current and former ruling party members thought to be planning a breakaway party.
Her party`s intelligence spokesman, Advocate Paul Swart has also written to the Inspector General of Intelligence to ask him to probe the allegations.
According to one newspaper report, the surveillance scheme has been given the designation “Operation Nzimande”.
Zille, in a media statement, says the use of the NIA for internal political purposes “is a serious abuse of power.
“It is unconscionable that state intelligence resources intended to protect the national interest be used to gather intelligence on behalf of a faction of the ANC (African National Congress),” she adds.
The apparent breakaway, which is dominating media headlines in SA, is being led by former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota and former deputy defence minister Mluleki George. Both resigned in protest last month when the ANC effectively fired Thabo Mbeki from the country`s presidency.
He has since been replaced by Motlanthe, elected ANC deputy president at the party`s five-yearly conference in Polokwane in December. Conference delegates defeated Mbeki`s effort to remain partly leader by a two third vote and also ousted most of his allies from high party positions.
The delegates replaced Mbeki with Jacob Zuma, who Mbeki in 2006 had fired as national deputy president, citing allegations of corruption related to the 1999 Strategic Defence Package, popularly known as “the arms deal.”
Zuma has twice been charged by state prosecutors and the courts have twice dismissed the charges for technical reasons. Two local subsidiaries of global aerospace and defence company Thales were also charged alongside Zuma. Charges against them have also been withdrawn.
Zille, who had talks with Motlanthe on Friday, says the President gave her “a firm undertaking that he would not allow institutions of state to be abused for political purposes.”
“President Motlanthe now has the chance to demonstrate the commitment he has shown by launching an urgent and independent investigation into these allegations which suggest that the NIA is spying on high profile ANC members in talks with … Lekota, as well as opposition parties which are supposedly linked to Lekota.
“This is also an opportunity for the new Minister of Intelligence, Siyabonga Cwele, to demonstrate that he will not tolerate the abuse of the intelligence services,” Zille says.
She adds Swart has also written to the chairman of the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence to request that Cwele and NIA Director-General Manala Manzini be brought before the Committee to explain these allegations.
“The abuse of state machinery for political purposes helped the apartheid government to maintain its illegitimate regime. We cannot allow the same thing to happen in a democratic SA.”
Mbeki has also been accused of abusing the intelligence service to political ends. However, in SA charged political atmosphere all accusations and counter-allegations must be treated with caution.