Maharaj wanted to rat on ANC
Mac Maharaj, President Jacob Zuma’s spokesperson, offered to spill the beans on secret ANC activities in a bid to save himself and his wife from possible criminal prosecution.
This explosive revelation is contained in documents for a North Gauteng High Court application in which Maharaj, a former transport minister, and his wife, Zarina, hoped to derail the Scorpions’ criminal investigation into the pair in the mid-2000s.
The revelation comes amid confirmation by Maharaj’s lawyer that the couple has now opened criminal complaints against City Press and Media24 Investigations over efforts to reveal details of their alleged lies to state investigators.
The probe into the couple concerned alleged fraud and corruption related to the awarding of the national driver’s licence contract and the N3 toll road tender.
The 2007 court file – Media24 Investigations now has a copy – contains the controversial “secret” transcripts of their evidence to Scorpions investigators in 2003.
The transcripts are now the subject of a heated battle between the media and Maharaj as they appear to show he lied to investigators during their inquiry – a criminal offence under the law and which would have a bearing on his suitability to hold public office.
Attorney Rudi Krause, who acts for the couple, wrote to Media24 Investigations after they had been approached for comment, revealing City Press had supposedly been reported to the police for breaching the Riotous Assemblies Act of 1956.
Krause refused to disclose specifically who the subject of the complaint was, but claimed the investigating officer was due to meet with a prosecutor tomorrow to decide the course of the action.
Raymond Louw, media freedom expert at the SA National Editors’ Forum, said it was shocking that four years after details of the transcripts were published in City Press, Maharaj had decided to lay criminal charges.
“It’s scandalous they are even talking about the Riotous Assembly Act,” he said.
Bombshell material is contained in correspondence between the Scorpions and Mac and Zarina Maharaj’s attorneys.
These letters form part of the court file obtained by City Press that also contains transcripts of the “secret” Section 28 inquiry in which the couple participated.
This week Media24 Investigations asked Menzi Simelane, the national director of public prosecutions, for permission to publish the transcripts – attached to the court application by the Maharajes themselves.
At the time of going to print, Simelane was yet to respond.
The correspondence shows:
»?Details of what the Scorpions thought the pair had lied about in their testimony given under oath and in which it is a criminal offence to be dishonest (see Page 6);
»?How they were asked to explain a $200?000 loan from a certain “Hamaid Baig” in March 1998;
»?How the Maharaj couple offered sensitive information about the ANC to investigators;
»?How the Scorpions inquiry into now-convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik’s involvement in the arms deal directly led to them asking questions about the Maharaj connection to Shaik; and
»?The detail of how the Scorpions tracked payments from Shaik to the Maharajes’ foreign bank accounts while Mac was still transport minister.
One of the more startling letters – in which the Maharajes’ lawyers attempt in September 2005 to secure a “substantial extension” to respond to the Scorpions – reveals their offer to disclose secret party information.
The letter implies that the evidence gathered by the Scorpions relating to the Maharajes will be explained by this disclosure.
“There are complexities involved in their full cooperation which go substantially beyond that in which you are interested for the purposes of your investigation and which involve the intricacies of the struggle to achieve democracy in this country prior to 1994.
“The difficulty with revealing this information at this stage,” the letter reads, “is that the detail of the evidence touches upon highly sensitive and complex historical activities internal to the African National Congress relating to the struggle against apartheid, the revelation of which may cause considerable harm.
“It will be necessary to put a highly complex set of facts with documents before you in order, ultimately, to reveal not only that our clients have not been involved in any wrongdoing, but that, in fact, you would have no interest in these facts for the purpose of fulfilling your function,” the letter said, adding that this information should be treated with “confidentiality”.
The Maharajes’ attorneys said they would put together a “dossier” with supporting documentation to prove their claims.
Their request for an extension was turned down, but the court case was abandoned when the Scorpions – now disbanded – decided not to pursue criminal charges against them.
Maharaj is a close confidant of Zuma and a senior ANC member who was the commander of the organisation’s Operation Vula from 1987 to 1990. Operation Vula was the ANC’s plan to have a structure in South Africa that would forcibly overthrow the apartheid government.