Detailing scars of apartheid
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DURBAN:He had a story from “deep” within his soul to tell. Now that he has laid it bare between the covers of a paperback memoir, he feels “totally fulfilled”.
Moe Shaik’s autobiography, The ANC Spy Bible: Surviving Across Enemy Lines, was published this week.
The book delves into the former foreign intelligence head’s days of torture and suffering, spooking, and serving in democratic South Africa.
During the 1980s, when Security Branch (SB) members used various means and methods to obliterate the hopes and endeavours of the ANC’s underground operatives attempting to unseat the government of the day, Shaik swears the “Bible Project” was their saving grace.
Shaik was nabbed by SB members while on a decoy mission in Ermelo in the mid-80s and was detained for nine months at CR Swart Square in Durban.
His pain and suffering during incarceration included numerous days of solitary confinement as the SB officers attempted to break him, but one of the officers took pity on Shaik.
But not in the open.
Their many secret rendezvous thereafter, either at a parking lot in Overport or Shaik’s “underground base” in Reservoir Hills, provided the ANC’s Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) wing with vital intelligence that SB had gathered on them.
“The information he provided gave us courage to take on the SB, and it exposed their soft underbelly.”
Shaik nicknamed his jailer, who provided him with files, which were marked top secret, “Nightingale”.
The ANC’s leader at the time, Oliver Tambo, who learnt of the liaison that Shaik had fostered, named it the “bible project”, which is now the central theme of Shaik’s book.
He completed a novel about his life and times approximately four years ago, but the publishers sent it back to him and asked that he convert it into a memoir.
Shaik said the purpose of the book was to give the reader the opportunity to understand and appreciate where people of his ilk were coming from.
“The book has always been with me. Now that I am at the age I am (61), and the persuasion of my wife, I did it.
“It reveals the sacrifices made by people and what a strong country we are, in spite of our struggles because of the successful negotiations we had (Codesa).”
He believes that the negotiations were the glue that has kept the country together, but has now become hardened and fragile in the context of populism, “radical this and radical that”.
“We are forgetting the beauty of the negotiation’s achievement.
The book is a simple reminder that no matter what your trouble might be today, imagine what it would be like if there were no negotiations.
“By recalling the past, it is a reminder of what the alternative would have been had there been no negotiations. It would have been a bloody civil war, destruction and death!”
Shaik said the book also helped him to move on “graciously” from his past life and to show his young children a different world.
It also enabled him to pay tribute to Struggle stalwarts like Billy Nair, Pravin Gordhan, Siphiwe Nyanda and others. “The decision to write the book was mine and mine alone, but I understood that it would touch the lives of others”.
Shaik gave everyone who featured an opportunity to decide whether he could name them or use their nom de guerre. “I have no intention to harm anyone with this book, even those on the other side.”
However, he expects a backlash from some over why he forgave some of his tormentors.
“We must reach into the depths of our hearts and find forgiveness and offer it. In the book, I said that I made many mistakes, and people died as a result of those mistakes.
“It is a cross I must carry. It keeps me humble.”
If there were things he could have done differently, Shaik said he would have not accepted the file from Nightingale.
“Then I would have not gone into the world of intelligence. Maybe then, I would have accepted my sensitive side and walked away from the revolution. But I couldn’t.”
The activist in Shaik was activated when his father, Lambie, took him to a pro-Frelimo rally at Currie’s Fountain in the 1970s.
“Lambie got bitten by a police dog. I couldn’t understand the brutality.”
Shaik was a Standard 8 pupil at the time, and the next day at school he realised that a fellow pupil was arrested at the rally.
He said his political awareness came alive when he saw how his Afrikaans teacher was affected when her son (Saths Cooper) was arrested by security police.
“Plus, my dad encouraged us (his five brothers) to get involved. When I went to university (University of Durban-Westville), I got more involved,” Shaik said.
He acknowledged that there is a marked difference between the ANC activists of his generation compared to the ones nowadays.
“Our calling was to topple apartheid, and we did. The present day comrades have to build democracy in the country.”
Shaik emphasised that the younger generation needed to extend unity across race and class lines, refrain from being insular, and only “hanging out with your people”.
“Presently, there is too much narcissism and self-promotion among the youth.
“Many people gave up their lives for the revolution, and we want to pass on the baton, knowing that it is safe in the hands of the new generation. That’s the reason it hurts me when the EFF refers to Pravin Gordhan as “Jamnadas”.
Shaik believes it has racist innuendo. It’s akin to saying he is a c*****.
“I am shocked. I fought against the oppressive white regime. If I have to fight against a black fascist EFF, I will fight again.
“We fought for the removal of injustice. The minorities of this country are not pushovers. We paid our dues to society, and nobody will dare call me a second class citizen.”
About working with Jacob Zuma, Shaik said he was an extraordinary intelligence spy chief in the old days.
“But I don’t think he understood, that to be a great president, he needed to stop being a spy chief, and controlling intelligence in the country. He had other more important responsibilities to focus on.”
Zuma was a central figure in the arms deal along with his brothers Schabir and Chippy, who was the defence force’s head of acquisitions.
Shaik said that the whole saga sat uncomfortably with him.
“Hearing my brothers’ side of the story, I simply could not accept that they were involved in corruption. I did see the political machinations at the time.”
Shaik said that Schabir got 15 years imprisonment for an alleged R500 000 bribe mechanism.
“These days, I see billions being taken, but I don’t see the same level of enthusiasm to prosecute. I am disappointed with that.”
He also was disappointed with the DA’s claim that they got him ousted as a special adviser to Lindiwe Sisulu, Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation.
“I’m appalled at how ill-informed the DA were. I had to go public with my resignation because it was from a technical position. I afforded my services to the minister to where it was more appropriate, which was in the infrastructure department servicing the water sector. Not as a special adviser. I briefed a member of the DA about this, but they still got it wrong.”