“It is evident that there is a well-resourced‚ coordinated covert operation underway to prevent those responsible for wrongdoing from being held to account and for the integrity of our law enforcement agencies and other state institutions to be restored. This operation appears to have access to resources within intelligence circles with the capability to intercept communications and hack private emails.

Intelligence resources hacked my email: Ramaphosa Times Live 2/9/2017

In the months before she was appointed as Public Protector in October 2016, Mkhwebane worked as an SSA analyst under Fraser, whom Chief Justice Raymond Zondo placed at the centre of a scheme (alongside then-state security minister David Mahlobo and Dlomo) to advance Zuma’s personal and political interests.

Zondo recommended law enforcement agencies criminally investigate Fraser over his involvement in the shadowy Principal Agents Network. 

Karyn Maughan News 24 14/7/2022

Karyn Maughan’s News 24 summary of the evidence tendered by former SARS official Johan van Loggerenberg at the Public Protector impeachment hearing in parliament last week contains the following sentence: ‘A sophisticated listening device disappeared from the highly secure SSA headquarters in the weeks leading up to the ANC’s December 2017 national elective conference at Nasrec.’

Prior to the 2017 Nasrec conference it became evident that Cyril Ramaphosa’s computer had been hacked, and information so gleaned was being used in a failed attempt by Iqbal Survé’s employee, the then Sunday Independent editor and Jacob Zuma acolyte, Steve Motale, to discredit him.

Motale now works for Lindiwe Sisulu, a leader in the anti-Ramaphosa faction of the ANC.

The grabber referred in Karyn Maughan’s article was parked at Nasrec – one must assume on Arthur Fraser’s orders – to monitor the Ramaphosa faction’s communications and to disrupt them as far as possible.

As Qaanitah Hunter put it in an uncontested News 24 article:

People in the know credit Fraser for those CR17 emails showing up at the door of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

2017 Nasrec conference

In his 2020 book Two Minutes to Midnight – Will Ramaphosa’s ANC Survive?  Oscar van Heerden writes about the Arthur Fraser-controlled grabber being discovered at the 2017 Nasrec conference:

As the hours go by it seems as if our lobbying is being frustrated. There are regular communication breakdowns as our phones often seem to be jamming. The thought that someone is listening in on our conversations comes up for most of us. Rumours abound of the State Security Agency (SSA) bugging phones and casting a ‘security blanket’ over Nasrec, which could be the reason why WhatsApp and normal SMSes are not being delivered or sent.

There seems to be truth to some of these rumours. Here is one instance. As has become customary with the ANC deputy president, Ramaphosa still goes for his early-morning walk before work and on the third day of the conference he ‘stumbles upon’ a secret.

I hear from a reliable source that he was alerted to the presence of a caravan that was fitted with technology that could intercept, eavesdrop and keep track of activity on various social media platforms. The source also reveals that the vehicle has what is known as a ‘grabber’ on board. This device is used to listen in on and intercept phone calls and SMSes.

The team backing CRI7 tries to advise Ramaphosa on how to deal with the issue at hand, but the deputy president has his own plans and approaches. On his walk that morning, he makes a slight detour and unceremoniously pops in at the caravan. Friendly and almost cheerful, he poses some rather uncomfortable questions to its occupants. ‘Why is this vehicle here? What is its purpose at the ANC elective conference?

What does this button and that dial do?’ Later in the day the caravan leaves Nasrec and seemingly communications start to flow freely again.

For the moment that is. That’s one way of dealing with such matters, I guess, head on. It worked.

After the conference, I learnt from a reliable source close to Ramaphosa that the caravan had been deployed by the SSA in order to maintain the upper hand at the conference. Lobbying goes hand in hand with buying delegates’ votes and sadly, this often happens with the taxpayer’s money. We hear rumours of the SSA — a government department with overall responsibility for civilian intelligence operations — playing a large role in providing cash for votes, especially because it has what’s called a strategic fund where those who are in charge don’t have to report or account for expenditure to the auditor-general. In some instances, the SSA is immune from the checks and balances of government because its work is of such a secretive nature that it requires some autonomy. It’s also been alleged that funds from the South African Police Service’s Crime Intelligence Division have been used to buy votes at Nasrec and previous ANC elective conferences. And let’s not forget the millions that have been stolen from SSA a few months before Nasrec. Could the rumours — that this money is being used as part of a ‘War chest’ to mobilise the masses of ANC delegates by buying their votes have some truth to them? 

President Cyril Ramaphosa has already asked whether the grabber-obtained information obtained from his hacked computer prior to and during the Nascrec convention was not immediately given to the Public Protector.

The same question might be asked about Piet Rampedi.

Project Wave

Two facts are beyond dispute:

It is accepted fact that Busisiwe Mkhwebane had worked for Arthur Fraser prior to  being appointed as Public Protector and, as the Project Wave evidence tendered before the Zondo Commission – see here and here and here –  seems to indicate, Fraser also had apparent links with Iqbal Survé who, it was alleged at the Mpati Commission, dictates  the article content in news companies linked to him. It hardly seems credible that R20 million, personally authorised by Arthur Fraser, could have landed in the ANA bank account without Survé’s knowledge and his approval – but nothing stops either or both of them from clarifying the situation. 

That, as I see it, is important because for the past eight years we have seen a frenetic erosion at Sekunjalo Independent Media and ANA of an underlying institution of democracy.

As the Zondo Commission report makes clear, the Sunday Times ‘Rogue Unit’ reporters played a founding and fundamental role in the evisceration of SARS.  Research by Anton Harber for his book So, For the Record – Behind the Headlines in an Era of State Capture provides conclusive and uncontested evidence that one of those reporters, Piet Rampedi, was working hand in glove with the disgraced former commissioner Tom Moyane as an embedded reporter facilitating state capture.

As former South African Revenue Service (SARS) executive Johann van Loggerenberg pointed out in last week’s  impeachment hearing of Busisiwe Mkhwebane in parliament, she was so determined to promote the ‘Rogue Unit’ fiction  and keep it alive that she made no effort to contact him and ignored all evidence to the contrary that he had provided.

In the bigger picture, an admission by Advocate Dali Mpofu SC for Mkhwebane that she had been in illegal possession of a subsequently-discredited classified report on the SARS high-risk unit must be seen against the background of one adverse court judgment against her after another.

  • 29/7/2019“Much of the orders are vague, contradictory and or nonsensical. Furthermore, the order to, within 30 days, submit a plan for approval detailing this disciplinary action yet at the same time this disciplinary action be taken within 30 days is inexplicable.”
  • 8/12/2020 “… a product of a wholly irrational process, bereft of any sound legal or factual basis.”
  • 9/3/2022 “The conclusion is inescapable that, in dealing with this issue, the public protector completely failed to properly analyse and understand the facts and evidence at her disposal. She also showed a complete lack of basic knowledge of the law and its application.”

If the evidence of whistle-blower Advocate Tebogo Kekana at the hearing is true, then Arthur Fraser was calling the shots at Mkhwebane’s office , which is deeply disturbing given the ANA kickback.

What is clear from Kekana’s evidence is that Mkhwebane was following Fraser’s dictates in exonerating Ace Magashule and Mosebenzi Zwane in the Estina dairy scandal, a ruling that our courts found to be ‘unconstitutional’ and ‘invalid’.

Arthur Fraser’s orders

That being the case, should we not be told what Arthur Fraser’s orders were in the ANA context and what he expected for his R20 million – your money and mine? Can Iqbal Survé, given the claims of ethical business practices at Sekunjalo, not explain to us how this ‘sustains press freedom’?

Whether or not Mkhwebane and the ‘Rogue Unit’ reporters were working in concert to achieve a common goal at the behest of Arthur Fraser is open to speculation. The ‘Rogue Unit’ narrative died, however, in February 2020 in the North Gauteng High Court when charges were dropped against Ivan Pillay, Andries Janse van Rensburg and Johann van Loggerenberg. Four months later in the same court this point was emphasised when Judge Sulet Potterill ruled that their ‘Rogue unit’ claims were devoid of truth.

Fake news at its most damaging.

Piet Rampedi and fellow ‘Rogue Unit’  reporter Mzilikazi wa Afrika now work for Iqbal Survé whose media outlets have waged and are waging an unrelenting war against the CR17 faction on behalf of the RET faction.

Survé’s support for the Zuma faction of the ANC is a matter of public record.

As former Cape Times political editor Dougie Oakes points out, Iqbal Survé instructed all his editors to attend a meeting with Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma prior to the Nasrec convention in 2017 which saw her presidential campaign lose by the narrowest of margins:

Significantly, given the fact that prior to the ANC’s elective conference, when the race between Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was regarded as neck-and-neck, Survé also invited Dlamini-Zuma to Independent Media’s offices in Cape Town for a chat. All editors were instructed to attend.

Consider, also, this extract – which has not been denied or contested – from Richard Calland’s 2013 book The Zuma Years – South Africa’s Changing Face of Power:

It seems Sekunjalo has been able to secure sound relations and/or patronage through its subsidiary Premier Fishing. It paid R100 000 for private security at Nkoane-Mashabane’s home between 2010 and 2011.  When Nkoane-Mashabane failed to declare this in the Members’ Interest Register, the Mail & Guardian raised questions about the nature of the relationship, prompting Sekunjalo spokesperson Kaveer Bharath to tell the newspaper that the minister and Survé are ‘close family friends’.

You can read about this here.

Completely discredited

Ask yourself, furthermore, why Lindiwe Sisulu’s plagiarised attack on the Constitution and the judiciary first appeared in Iqbal Survé’s newspapers despite the fact that they have suffered a catastrophic decline in circulation and the fact that they have been completely discredited as a believable source of news?

In his court papers against the banks which have closed his accounts, Survé cites Ramaphosa as being part of a huge conspiracy against him – which no other media company has experienced – and his animosity towards Pravin Gordhan is a matter of public record. Nobody is suggesting that Ramaphosa or Gordhan are above suspicion or should not be investigated by journalists but, as Ferial Haffajee points out, Survé has weaponised his newspapers to function as media proxies in personal vendettas and the role of Arthur Fraser, which ANA has acknowledged, needs to be explained in this particular instance.

Given the Project Wave evidence heard at the Zondo Commission and the evidence now coming to light in the parliamentary impeachment hearing of the Public Protector and given the commitment to ethical journalism which Iqbal Survé made to his staff in 2013, is it not incumbent upon him to now make public the reasons why Arthur Fraser chose a company linked to him as the recipient of a R20 million backhander from a secret SSA slush fund? Was this not a contemporary version of the Stratcom approach by the Vorster government in 1976 when it used money from a secret SADF slush fund to set up and finance The Citizen?

If he does not come clean on the SSA funding, he will completely negate Sekunjalo’s corporate claim that ‘accountability is sacrosanct’.

What is not irrelevant here is that Jacques Pauw’s book The President’s Keepers was published in 2017, so nobody could have been under any illusions thereafter about the questionable role that Arthur Fraser was and is still playing in our political sphere.

Conflicts of interest

What is also not irrelevant here is that section 11 of the Sekunjalo Press Code forbids conflicts of interest.

And, in that context, is the linkup between Arthur Fraser and ANA to promote the utterly corrupt Zuma faction not a clear conflict of interest?

As Marianne Thamm points out in an uncontested Daily Maverick article:

 In 2016, ANA sent two invoices addressed to Thulani Dlomo. They were settled in 2017 and signed off by Arthur Fraser.

Fraser must surely feel that this was a worthwhile investment of R20 million in taxpayer’s money – your money and mine – as the following example illustrates:

On 23 June, the headlines were dominated by the Zondo Commission’s call for him to be investigated by the Hawks:

  • Mail & GuardianZondo: Hawks must resume probe into Fraser  and his spy network
  • News 24: Zondo report: Hawks should reopen criminal investigations into Arthur Fraser
  • News 24: Arthur Fraser: ‘A law unto himself’ helped by Zuma to hide ‘pure crime’ linked to R600m spy network
  • Times Live: Hawks must investigate Arthur Fraser for ‘prima facie criminal activities’
  • Daily Maverick: Duduzane, Hlaudi, Fraser and Ace head the all-star possible prosecution list
  • The Citizen: Jacob Zuma and Arthur Fraser worked to keep each other out of prison – Zondo
  • IOL: Zondo recommends Hawks reopen case against Fraser

ANA (‘Powering Africa’s Development through Content’) deliberately made no mention of this – here’s the sum total of its coverage on the Commission’s findings that Arthur Fraser needs to be investigated by the Hawks:

Zuma Says Zondo’s Latest Findings ‘Not Worth The Paper They Are Written On’

That’s censorship by omission on steroids and the approach by ANA to political coverage does not surprise me.

If you have any doubts about what is going on, take note that the efforts by Sekunjalo Independent Media  to discredit the recommendations of the Zondo Commission have already started and that Iqbal Survé is promoting the return to Eskom of the utterly compromised Brian Molefe who was presciently placed at the heart of state capture by Thuli Madonsela five years ago.

No other South African media company is known to have been involved in a compromising relationship with Arthur Fraser.

Does Iqbal Survé have an explanation for this?

PS: As I concluded this article the news broke that Standard Bank had, like FNB, Investec, Absa, Capitec and Nedbank, come to the conclusion that its continued business association with Iqbal Survé is untenable.

The Equality Court might decide that these banks must, against their will, continue to do business with him.

What it will not be able to do is to force Sasol and auditors BDO and a major international company, the BT Group – all of whom have come to the same conclusion as the banks – to resume doing business with him.

What the Equality Court will not be able to do, is to force the government of Finland to re-install Iqbal Survé as its consular representative in Cape Town. Eighteen months ago it quietly replaced him with a Finnish national, Philip Palmgren, having come, I was told, to the same conclusion as the afore-mentioned companies.

The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR

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Ed Herbst is an author and veteran journalist.