A Simple Man tells the tale of its author Ronnie Kasrils and “the Zuma enigma”. However, former Leader of the Opposition Tony Leon’s alleged role in a so-called internal ANC coup plot – to ensure that Jacob Zuma did not take over the ruling party leadership – makes for riveting reading.
Some time before it was clear that President Jacob Zuma was the heir apparent to Thabo Mbeki as ANC president and head of state of South Africa, Zuma had already set in place national intelligence disinformation to ensure that he would be projected into high office.
Effectively his acolytes – or perhaps a better word is ‘lackeys’ – in the state intelligence operations constructed a tale that various groups were trying to determine that Zuma would not be elected. One of the main internal coup plotters was then Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon.
Kasrils, as Mbeki’s intelligence minister, got wind that his intelligence boss – who was supposed to report to him – had been reporting to Jacob Zuma all along. He was making up stories about coup plots, which not only involved Leon but also other “right-wing” elements – like former state investigator Gerrie Nel – and Mbeki-ites in the party who were trying to stay in power.
Kasrils reported that fake emails were created to give the impression that there were two groups of plotters, not necessarily in league but both aiming at preventing Jacob Zuma from becoming president of the country. “The one was an ANC faction around (top businessman and Mbeki ally) Saki Macozoma and Bulelani Ngcuka (the then prosecutions boss, who was married to Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka), and the other a white supremacist group around Tony Leon.”
It was all about spreading fake e-mails to key people to make them believe that Mbeki was up to no good. This all happened long before the 2007 Polokwane march to power by Zuma.
“I believe that what those manufacturing the emails were doing was cloning a real timeline of events so that the e-mails appeared authentic, seemingly introducing new topics and characters as they actually transpired in real life,” Kasrils reported.
Apparently then secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe, who was to act as president of the country when Mbeki was dismissed by Zuma in 2008, believed the fake e-mails. Kasrils reported: “I was shocked to discover he did, for it confirmed my worst fears that such potent e-mails, which I considered fake, could apparently take in someone like him. I felt weak at the knees. I could have been knocked down by a feather.”
Billy Masetlha, the head of intelligence, was suspended after Kasrils picked up that the e-mails were fake. But the damage had been done. Too many people believed them, and too many people were now headed to putting Jacob Zuma in power.
Leon was allegedly engaged in a conversation with the Scorpions about their criminal investigations into Zuma. A Scorpion official Izak du Plooy e-mailed to Leon that “We are about to raid Zuma’s premises… we are going for all his houses as well as his attorney and (Zweli) Mkhize, the MEC for KZN (now treasurer general of the ANC). It will be a spectacle.”
Leon is alleged to have said: “Do you have enough manpower to do that?”
Du Plooy wrote: “We will use the ‘A Team’ from the old days and (a) few darkies to sprinkle on…”
Leon is alleged to have replied: “What about Motlantle (sic: Motlanthe)?” (The spelling of Motlanthe was deemed suspicious by Kasrils, who knew that Leon was a stickler for the right spellings and correct grammar. He would not have made that mistake even in an email, and certaintly not repeatedly).
Du Plooy replied: “His time is coming. (Vusi) Pikoli (who headed the national prosecuting authority after Bulelani Ngcuka) has given us the green light to ‘keep him in the news’ until we have enough time to effect a raid on him and his comrade (Manne) Dipico.”
Kasrils informed Leon and Macozoma and the others that they were being caught up in a web of fake news and fake emails. Leon apparently thanked Kasrils for informing him, according to A Simple Man.
But the rest is history. Zuma and his agents muddied the waters; he got Motlanthe on his side (that was to change later). He got rid of Mbeki and defeated the Mbeki faction at Polokwane two years later.