Cadres as Apartheid Regime Informants and Collaborators

By Akuba Mokoena

CHIEF among the revelations made by former President Jacob Zuma at the state capture commission are names of those he alleges were spies. Among them are former cabinet ministers Ngoako Ramatlhodi and Siphiwe Nyanda. 

Both have rubbished the former president as a liar with Ramathlodi challenging him to a lie detector test and Nyanda descirbing him a “bitter and twisted old man”. 

It may well be that Zuma is bitter and twisted but Nyanda like most, knows that allegations of him and others being apartheid spies didn’t start with Zuma’s submission at the State Capture Commission. Zuma claimed Nyanda was among those who had infiltrated the ANC, working with the Swaziland and apartheid governments. 

Zuma questioned an attack on a prison where Nyanda was held as a ploy to maintain the integrity of the undercover operation and to not compromise his identify. 

Two years ago, the former uMkhonto weSizwe general was forced to answer questions about the disappearance of freedom fighter Nokuthula Simelane. She disappeared in 1983 while on a mission to Johannesburg. Nyanda has denied any knowledge of her disappearance. 

Many have dismissed the former president’s account of spies and that he was throwing mud to distract from answering allegations of using the state to enrich himself and those close to him. His detractors have labelled spy allegations as “preposterous”, but are they? It is common knowledge that many in the liberation movement (both in the ANC and PAC) betrayed their comrades to join the apartheid government. Askaris, impimpi, sell-outs, traitors. 

The names have ranged from foot soldiers to heavy weights and depending on who you speak to, just about everyone’s name in the ANC makes the list. PAC also has its skeletons. 

Joe Mamasela was probably the most notorious askari for changing sides from being a loyal ANC member to joining the Vlakplas Death Squads. He confessed to have killed over 30 anti-apartheid activists.

Mosiuoa Lekota, leader of Congress of the People (Cope) not so long ago, accused President Cyril Ramaphosa of having sold out to apartheid’s security forces. Of course, the President defended himself.

Following revelations by EFF’s Julius Malema that Derek Hanekom had plotted with his party to oust Zuma, accusations that he was a traitor in this particular instance, and during apartheid years, emerged. Zuma called him a “known enemy agent”.

No sooner had accusations surfaced that a page from a book emerged on social media which accused Hanekom and wife as spies. It has not been clear what the title of this book is.

Some ANC veterans have defended Hanekom against calls for expulsion from the party and allegations of having collaborated with the apartheid government. Again the claims have been labeled as “preposterous”.

The Weekly Mail, now M&Guardian, published a story in 1987 with “details of a major spy case – involving allegations of South African destabilisation of its neighbours so sensitive that the government did not want it mentioned even in an in camera court ….

“One of the accused, Trish Hanekom, a Zimbabwe citizen, was released last Friday, one week before the end of her 38-month sentence, and quickly and quietly deported to Zimbabwe. However, in an interview in Harare she told how in 1983 she was part of a three-person spy ring which obtained a trunk-load of top secret documents from the directorate of a special task force. The documents outlined what she says were details of destabilisation operations in Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

“The others in the ring were her husband Derek Hanekom, released from prison last year after serving a two-year sentence, and Roland Hunter, still serving a five-year sentence”. 

This spy ring assisted the Frontline states to better equip themselves from cross-border attacks by South Africa.

Trish Hanekom is quoted as saying the information the group had been able to provide to Mozambique in 1983 may wen have been a factor in South Africa’s decision to sign the Nkomati Accord with Mozambique a few months later.

“I did what I had to do. There was a sense of moral duty. If it was in any way possible to release information, then it was a duty to do so,” she said.

It may well be that spy accusations of the Hanekoms contained in the book mentioned above stemmed from this spy story which would make them inaccurate. They were spies but seemingly on the side of the liberation movement.

The entire issue of calling out spies is very dangerous. Among the killings in the uprisings of the 1980s, none was more tragic than that of a young woman called Maki (short for Dimakatso) Skosana who was murdered in the most brutal way by a mob which accused her of being a spy.

She was attending a funeral of youths killed by the apartheid regime when the mob turned on her. They chased her, tore-off her clothes, burnt her, put a huge stone on her so that she couldn’t move and rammed a broken bottle in her vagina.

She was accused of having sold-out the activists to an apartheid collaborator who handed them hand grenades which detonated in their hands. The apartheid-collaborator had a girlfriend named Maki, a case of mistaken identity according to Maki Skosana’s family.

While those accused today will never receive the type of response Skosana did, the planting of false information remains a cruel strategy of sowing confusion and mistrust among people, one which the apartheid government used effectively. The ANC, as it fights its faction battles, must move away from this tactic unless accusers advance solid evidence. 

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