Cwele, Zuma were against probe into Guptas, Zondo Commission hears
Politics / 27 November 2019, 07:00am / Zintle Mahlati
More details emerged on Tuesday about former state security minister Siyabonga Cwele as the Zondo Commission yet again heard how there was a push back and a possible security threat in investigations involving the Gupta family.
This was after former intelligence officials Gibson Njenje and Mo Shaik returned to the stand. They painted a gloomy picture of their attempts to investigate the Gupta family, who had a close relationship with former president Jacob Zuma.
The two had spearheaded the investigation because of suspicions of a security threat posed by the family. US authorities had asked questions about the family regarding a uranium mining deal.
There was also the issue of the family having intimate knowledge of Zuma’s 2010 Cabinet reshuffle. These issues raised red-flags and prompted their decision to investigate the family.
Njenje corroborated Shaik’s evidence that Cwele had been against the investigation.
“He (Cwele) seemed to have other interests other than the national interest,” Njenje said.
He added: “This was an ongoing matter that we were looking at and the manner the minister was approaching us was a little shocking.”
Njenje also told the commission about his frustrations in contacting Zuma and explaining the importance of the investigation.
When Njenje and Shaik met with Zuma, they were told the investigation was not a good idea.
“The position was that we were being blocked from doing our work.”
Shaik shared similar sentiments and said Zuma came across as being unable to separate his role as the head of state and his relationship with the Guptas.
“At that meeting, the issue of his relationship with the Gupta family arose and he sought to explain at the very least or even defend his relationship with the Gupta family,” asked evidence leader advocate Paul Pretorius.
“That is correct,” Shaik had replied.
While there may be explanations why Zuma acted the way he did in the meeting, did he carry out his duties as an executive head accountable for intelligence decisions, asked Pretorius, to which Shaik replied: “Regrettably not.”
He also told the commission about his last months at the state security agency in 2012.
Shaik said Cwele had offered him a position as ambassador to Japan which he found to be unconstitutional because he had no legal basis to offer such a position.
“He had no power, no constitutional authority to make the offer, nor did he have the authority to make the appointment,” Shaik said.
Njenje, meanwhile, told the commission about Cwele’s requests to halt an investigation into the abuse of resources by the Principal Agency Network (PAN), which fell under the State Security Agency (SSA).
He said there was plenty of evidence that showed that resources were abused, through the purchase of a house and irregular appointment of employees in a particular project.
He said up to R600million was spent on the project which at the time fell under former intelligence boss Arthur Fraser.
Njenje also indicated that there was mounting evidence and that the agency handed its investigation to the Special Investigations Unit and the National Prosecuting Authority.
He said he was then called by Cwele who told him to stop the investigation.
Cwele said Zuma had requested the investigation be stopped because of a threat of a security risk.
“He told me that we needed to stop the investigation and prosecution of Mr Fraser and others in the PAN programme,” Njenje said.
Like Shaik, Njenje was offered the ambassador positions in an attempts to push them out of SSA.
They both declined the offers and resigned from the government.