South African spy chief had secret US talks, embassy cable reveals

Moe Shaik

Moe Shaik

South Africa’s spy chief regularly gave the American embassy in Pretoria detailed information on internal African National Congress (ANC) politics, according to a diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks. The cable, entitled “Zuma Advisor Threatens to Expose Political Skeletons”, was authored on September 10 2008 by the embassy and communicated to several recipients, including the State Department, CIA, and the National Security Council. It reveals that Moe Shaik, who heads the South African Secret Service (SASS), the country’s external intelligence agency, met regularly with an unnamed political officer of the US embassy and “always share[d] insights into the motivations and strategies of the Zuma camp”. The reference is to Jacob Zuma, President of the governing ANC, who assumed the organization’s leadership in May of 2009, after a bitter internal party struggle. Several months prior to Zuma’s election as ANC’s President, the organization’s rival faction, which was loyal to Thabo Mbeki, attempted to challenge Zuma’s eligibility by leveling corruption charges against him. However, according to the leaked cable, Shaik told US embassy officials that Zuma’s legal advisors had secretly threatened to go after the ANC’s “most influential [pro-Mbeki] figures” if Zuma was not absolved of the charges against him. On September 10, 2008, two days after Shaik shared this information with US officials, Zuma won the first in a series of court decisions that eventually absolved him of all charges. Shaik, is a former member of the ANC’s intelligence wing and a close friend of Zuma. During the organization’s underground period, he was involved in Operation VULA, which involved smuggling large quantities of weapons into South Africa. He was appointed Director of the SASS in 2009, and has repeatedly shielded the agency from increasingly vocal accusations of nepotism and corruption.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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