ANC split threatened as leaders face spying charges

South Africa launched an official inquiry yesterday into charges of spying and abuse of power by senior figures in the African National Congress. The affair has turned into the worst political crisis President Thabo Mbeki has faced since he took over from the revered Nelson Mandela in 1999, and threatens a historic split in the ANC.

The inquiry will look into claims that senior members of the ANC government not only spied for the former apartheid regime, but used their positions in the post-apartheid administration to undermine rivals.

Their supporters say the allegations are an attempt to derail a corruption investigation of Mr Mbeki's deputy, Jacob Zuma, who is accused of accepting a 500,000-rand (£43,000) bribe from a French arms company. The row has split the ANC into two opposing camps ahead of a crucial general election next year, pitting hardline leftwingers such as Mr Zuma and his supporters against the technocratic wing of the party.

Two prominent allies of the Deputy President, ANC veteran Mac Maharaj and Mo Shaik, a senior government official, have accused South Africa's director of public prosecutions, Bulelani Ngcuka, of spying for the apartheid authorities. Mr Ngcuka, previously a senior figure in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated apartheid-era crimes, has vigorously denied the charge. Mr Mbeki's sympathies are thought to lie with the technocrats. He has supported Mr Ngcuka before, insisting the "masses of the people" would not forgive those who made spying allegations, but now appears to be keeping his distance while some of his senior colleagues fight it out.

Apart from the main protagonists, the inquiry is expected to hear from Schabir Shaik, Mr Zuma's self-styled financial adviser, who is facing fraud charges, and possibly from Neil Barnard or Mike Louw, former heads of the apartheid-era National Intelligence Services.

After yesterday's opening, the inquiry, chaired by a former apartheid-era chief justice, Joos Hefer, adjourned until next month to allow lawyers to study security files. These may show whether the allegations against Mr Ngcuka have any documentary basis. But being accused by Mr Zuma, the head of ANC intelligence when the organisation returned to South Africa from exile in 1990, and Mr Maharaj, a former underground leader, means he faces powerful opposition from the party's populists. At last month's annual conference of Cosatu, the trade union wing of the ANC, there were anti-Ngcuka chants and a hero's welcome for Mr Zuma.

The Deputy President has won other political victories which will force Mr Mbeki to handle him carefully. Judge Hefer's inquiry has been widened to include an investigation of the Justice Minister, Penuell Maduna, Mr Ngcuka's superior, also accused of spying for the apartheid regime.

Mr Maduna insists all that is being examined is his role as minister responsible for the national prosecuting authority, to ensure there had been no abuse of the office as a result of "past obligations", a euphemism for apartheid-era spying. The two technocrats' supporters say Mr Ngcuka was investigating Mr Zuma over allegations that he solicited a bribe from the French arms company that won a multi billion-pound arms order from South Africa, and that Mr Maharaj was being examined for corruption while he was transport minister.

The allegations against the director of prosecutions and his chief are seen as a desperate attempt to discredit two men steadfast in fighting corruption in South Africa's elite. Rich businessmen who back the ANC and have been victims of Mr Ngcuka's anti-corruption crusade have lined up behind Mr Zuma and Mr Maharaj.

Mr Mbeki has so far refused to fire Mr Zuma, despite opposition demands, over the Deputy President's involvement in the arms deal. Although Mr Ngcuka had said he would not prosecute Mr Zuma, he insisted there was a prima facie case against the Deputy President, a decision Mr Zuma said had left a cloud hanging over his head and possibly destroyed his own aspirations to succeed President Mbeki.

Whatever the outcome of the Hefer inquiry, the President will be forced to take tough decisions against members of his government just as he prepares to fight South Africa's third democratic election. If Mr Zuma's claims about Mr Ngcuka are not backed by the commission, the Deputy President will be left exposed, and Mr Mbeki might finally be forced to act against him.

Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
i100
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape