By Moshoeshoe Monare

The National Intelligence Agency, with authorisation from its axed director-general Billy Masetlha, paid a consultant to fabricate emails in order to sow divisions and contribute to the succession battle in the ANC.

The emails, which were declared fake, were included in a report Masetlha submitted to President Thabo Mbeki, but the president rejected it.

This was revealed by the Inspector General of Intelligence, Zolile Ngcakani, in his report which was released on Thursday.

Ngcakani said that Masetlha, who was also acting executive director of the National Communications Centre, intercepted the telephone conversations of 13 people, including senior members of the ANC, the opposition, businessmen and civil servants.

Intelligence sources told Independent Newspapers two weeks ago that he used this as a basis to fabricate the emails.

Ngcakani said what started as a legitimate espionage assignment, codenamed Project Avani, aimed at monitoring political stability in the country, was hijacked by Masetlha to wage a political battle in the ANC's succession contest between Mbeki and former deputy president Jacob Zuma.

The clandestine methods used included placing ANC executive and businessman Saki Macozoma, a journalist and a politician under surveillance.

The project's brief was to evaluate potential threats posed by:

  • The presidential succession battle in the ANC and foreign interest in the matter;

  • Zuma's impending corruption trial;

  • The impact of poor service delivery and;

  • The dynamics of security and stability of the country.

    Although Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils was not informed about it, he however defended what appeared to be a partisan project, saying "we have a mandate to monitor the political terrain". He terminated the project after the Macozoma surveillance scandal.

    Ngcakani emphasised that the project did not include targeting individuals.

    "The exclusion of (Kasrils) in its conceptualisation, planning and execution resulted in a void in the requisite executive supervision and oversight of an extremely sensitive project," Ngcakani said.

    Things went wrong when Masetlha started targeting individuals and introducing emails to build his political conspiracy case that there was a calculated plot to deal with Zuma.

    "It was apparent that the Project Avani team, in particular its most senior members, had not readily and gullibly accepted the authenticity of the resultant 'intercepted' emails which remained in the executive domain and custody (with minor exception) of Masetlha and another person," Ngcakani said. Another person is believed to be NIA cyber manager Funi Madlala who is on a special leave while the outsourced consultant could be businessman Muzi Kunene.

    Joel Netshitenzhe, government spokesperson, said police and other security agencies would deal with those involved and implement Ngcakani's recommendations. But he said this would not be disclosed publicly due to the defamatory nature of the information and sensitive operational issues.