Kebby’s bid to attack ‘CIA’ report backfires
Johannesburg - Kebby Maphatsoe misled Parliament on Tuesday when he tried to discredit The Star to get himself out of trouble.
The deputy minister of defence told Parliament that The Star got it wrong when reporting on Monday that he accused Public Protector Thuli Madonsela of being a CIA spy at the unveiling of a tombstone in Soweto at the weekend.
Then a few hours later, he apologised and withdrew his comments, in his capacity as chairman of the MK Military Veterans Association (MKMVA).
“After consultation with my organisation, the ANC, it would seem as though my statements have been misunderstood and misinterpreted. I therefore withdraw those statements and apologise for any offence and hurt that would have been caused.
“However, the behaviour and conduct of the public protector remains a concern to us,” he said.
Maphatsoe’s original comments are on YouTube, available for anyone to hear.
“I reject the allegations about what I said,” Maphatsoe told Parliament on Tuesday, in confusing comments that indicated he stood by what he had said at the weekend and claimed The Star got it wrong.
“I refer all others to the record. I stand my ground that she (Madonsela) was never a member of Umkhonto weSizwe,” he said in a rowdy parliamentary session.
After a plethora of points of order and unparliamentary language, including DA MP David Maynier being asked to leave the National Assembly chamber for refusing to withdraw his remarks that Maphatsoe was an “idiot”, Maphatsoe had another go at explaining his comments at the tombstone unveiling.
“The journalist who published that article of The Star was not at that event. He used secondary documents.”.
Maphatsoe added “we have records that can be made available if people want”.
“So what is happening in the newspapers, and if people read correctly, there is nowhere in the newspaper, in The Star, where there is mention of the public protector being a Central Intelligence Agency spy.”
Maphatsoe said it was “just a headline, and by a person that was not there”.
But what Maphatsoe failed to tell Parliament was that The Star’s reporter, Baldwin Ndaba, watched a video clip of the event - made by the MKMVA and posted online to YouTube - and that Ndaba transcribed what Maphatsoe said in the video when he alluded to Madonsela allegedly being a CIA spy, then phoned him to verify it and ask him to explain his comments.
There was no SMS exchange, as Maphatsoe claimed. Instead, The Star’s phone records confirm the reporter’s call to Maphatsoe’s cellphone on Sunday.
This is what the video records Maphatsoe as saying, and which The Star quoted on Monday: “We can’t allow people to hijack the ANC. We’ll fight and defend the African National Congress. UThuli umele asitshele ukuthi ubani ihandler yakhe (Thuli must tell us who her handler is)” – to applause from the crowd.
“Thuli Madonsela can’t claim to say she was a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe and all of a sudden she’s acting like a counter-revolutionary…
“They are even using our institutions now… These Chapter Nine institutions were created by the ANC but are now being used against us.
“And if you ask why, it’s an agenda of the Central Intelligence Agency. Ama (the) Americans want their own CEO in South Africa, and we must not allow that.”
During the phone call, Maphatsoe confirmed his comments to Ndaba, and when Ndaba asked “Are you saying she is an agent”?, he confirmed this, saying he had been brief in his comments at the unveiling event but that he would hold a media briefing at Luthuli House on Monday where he would provide “full details” to back up his claim.
The Star ran Maphatsoe’s comments on the front page on Monday, but in the well-attended media briefing that morning, Maphatsoe did not dispute this, although he backed down on providing the additional information he had promised.
Maphatsoe did not contact either Ndaba or The Star to complain about the story.
At the media briefing he acknowledged having seen Monday’s story in the newspaper and commented that this was why so many journalists were at the briefing.
But by then storm clouds of criticism were gathering over Maphatsoe, ranging from Madonsela giving him an ultimatum to retract his spy allegation to the US ambassador Patrick Gaspard threatening a formal diplomatic complaint. - Additional reporting by Marianne Merten