Mbeki peeved at Zuma's visit to Hani's killer
By Moshoeshoe Monare
ANC Deputy President Jacob Zuma has visited the killers of former SA Communist Party leader Chris Hani in a move that is said to have peeved President Thabo Mbeki.
Five sources said this week the visit had been at the request of Clive Derby-Lewis - who is serving life imprisonment for conspiracy to murder - either to spill the beans regarding a wider conspiracy in the assassination of Hani, or to possibly pursue a presidential pardon.
The Sunday Tribune could not confirm the exact dates of Zuma's prison meeting or meetings, because a prisons source said it had been an "extraordinary visit", and therefore not recorded in the normal visitors' books.
Pretoria Area Comm Mandla Mkabela said, through Correctional Services Ministry spokesperson Luphumzo Kebeni, that "Zuma did visit the said offender/s in 2005".
But the department said on Friday that "the said offender/s did not ask or submit any request or permission to be visited by anyone including Mr Zuma". Zuma, through his aide Ranjeni Munusamy, declined to comment.
There may have been as many as three visits. While the Correctional Services Department and sources close to Zuma said the visit had taken place when he had still been deputy president of the country last year, a Pretoria Maximum Prison official said the visit - which may denote a third one - had taken place months after Mbeki fired Zuma.
However, Liesl Gottert, a film-maker who produced a Zuma documentary, said she had been part of a visit in March 2004.
"Derby-Lewis made two requests . . . He asked to see Zuma in his position as deputy president of the country at the time, and the second request was that I be present. (And we) complied . . . They did not know each other. They discussed a number of issues . . . It was a start of (a) process," Gottert said, but added that Zuma had not visited again.
But Correctional Services officially said on Friday that Zuma had visited the prisoners in 2005. Zuma, according to a source close to him, had "duly" informed Mbeki of the visit.
Murphy Morobe, head of communications in the presidency, said on Friday he was not aware of "that particular issue, so I'm not able to make any comment on it".
Mbeki is said to have raised a concern, at the ANC's parliamentary caucus last month, about visits to these prisoners "by some people", a member of the caucus has confirmed. According to this source, the president was concerned about people using "desperate" measures to discredit him.
"He asked what the motives of these people were. He said there had been attempts to take over government and ANC through (the use of) dirty, desperate methods. He stressed that these people are using Zuma's name," the parliamentarian said.
Moloto Mothapo, spokesperson for the ANC's parliamentary caucus, could not confirm or deny the alleged Mbeki comments.
Mkabela also confirmed that Zuma's visit had been regarded as official by virtue of his office and capacity then as deputy president.
"The visit was officially approved by (Mkabela) and all visitation procedures were followed and the visit was managed and monitored by (Mkabela) taking into account the status of Mr Zuma as deputy president of the country," said Kebeni.
Zuma was apparently "shocked" by Derby-Lewis's narration of a wider conspiracy, which included the involvement of former military intelligence. But tensions sparked by the succession battle in the ANC have led to whispers about comrades' involvement.
It is believed Derby-Lewis asked Zuma to convey a request for a meeting with leaders of the SA Communist Party, which initially rejected it. But after Zuma briefed the SACP leadership, the party was no longer sure about its stance.
SACP General Secretary Blade Nzimande was this week only willing to say, "We are considering the issue". But he said they were still opposed to a presidential pardon or release of Derby-Lewis or Polish immigrant Janusz Walus - also serving a life sentence for murder.
The duo were denied amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in April 1999 for failing to provide "full disclosure" and being unable to prove that the murder was politically motivated.
The SACP's Young Communist League (YCL) said it was willing to listen to the killers. "If part of the things they need to do or say to us is to remove this dark cloud hanging over the assassination issue . . . We will be prepared to listen," said YCL national secretary Buti Manamela.
Last year, a day after Zuma's home in Forest Town, Johannesburg, had been raided following corruption charges, the YCL demanded the reopening of the Hani case. Manamela said their call "had nothing to do with (the Zuma and Derby-Lewis meeting)".
The YCL met the National Prosecutions Authority a fortnight ago about the reopening of the case, a call that was rejected by the NPA. The SACP reacted angrily to this.
Coincidentally, one of the lawyers involved in suing the media for defaming Zuma is advocate Jurg Prinsloo, former Conservative Party MP and parliamentary colleague of Derby-Lewis who represented him in the Hani matter. Prinsloo was not available for comment.