What Degree Of Separation Is There Between A Politician, A Spy And A Journalist?

By Pinky Khoabane

THE debate about the difference between a journalist and a spy has raged since time immemorial. Intelligence organisations always have and always will use journalists and journalist cover, in order to gather information and to feed their narrative into public opinion. The recent return to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report into the role of South Africa’s media during apartheid – this in the wake of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s death – reminded us of the extensive disinformation campaign waged by both the Afrikaans and English press against liberation movements. The TRC report revealed that at least fourty (40) journalists had been on the apartheid’s Strategic Communications payroll. Few have admitted to their apartheid spy role using journalist cover and the bulk of these Stratcom agents are still out there, some probably still operating within newsrooms today.

Claims by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) that journalist Ranjeni Munusamy had talks with the party’s Chairperson Dali Mpofu to influence former Jacob Zuma’s successor post his recall, opens the debate of ethics and the issue of the role of journalists with regard to the intense politics around a presidential successor.
The following “journalists” have publicly conceded to being apartheid spies:
Stratcom “Journalist” Spies
Tertius Myburgh & Gordon Winter
God, Spies and Lies: Finding South Africa’s Future Through its Past is written by veteran journalist John Matisonn and in there he discloses that:
Gordon Winter, who worked as a government spy in several newsrooms, set tongues wagging when he disclosed that Van den Bergh had told him the Bureau of State Security (Boss) had 37 journalists on its payroll. They included three parliamentary correspondents, eight who worked on news desks and one editor in chief. Through the decades there was speculation about who this English-language newspaper editor could be.
Matisonn writes in his book that it was Myburgh, and that in exchange for his co-operation Myburgh received not cash, but secret information.

Matisonn says Myburgh for the most part put a stop to the Sunday Times exposing further details about the Broederbond, a secret Afrikaner society to which most influential Nationalists belonged.

Myburgh also blocked publication of reports about calls for the release of Nelson Mandela, unrest in the country, and meetings of the internal and external opposition.

John Horak

John Horak served for more than 30 years as a police spy while working as a journalist in South Africa.Horak reported that half the newsrooms of South Africa’s newspapers were populated by informers working for the old South African government. He named almost every newspaper in South Africa as having had informers promoting apartheid. He said every journalist on the SABC would have known about the policy to defend apartheid.

Here’s his testimony at the TRC

Joy Harnden  
Joy Harnden infiltrated leading anti-apartheid organizations in South Africa such as the Black Sash civil rights group and the End Conscription Campaign.
Olivia Forsythe
Olivia Anne Marie Forsyth is a former spy for the apartheid government in South Africa. With the agent number RS407 and code name “Lara”, Forsyth attained the rank of lieutenant in the Security Branch of the South African Police. Wikipedia 
Craig Kotze
Craig Kotze was an apartheid informer who worked as crime reporter for The Star.
Ranjeni Munusamy & Accusasations She Proposed Pravin Gordhan as Jacob Zuma’s Successor Upon His Recall
Speaking at a press conference last week, Malema said Munusamy was “a politician that had proposed to other politicians that Pravin Gordhan be made a president…Only a politician can make such a suggestion and she will be treated as such…
“Ranjeni once went to Dali Mpofu and said ‘Guys, propose Pravin when we remove Zuma'”.
This is the same Zuma she once  said was at the receiving end of journalism bias that “is worse than anything that could ever have been directed against an apartheid leader”.
In response to the claims, Munusamy never disputed such a conversation having taken place.
“Malema and Mpofu are really desperate. I wrote about compromise candidates for president in Daily Maverick when there were secret negotiations between parties, incl EFF, about Zuma’s removal. When Mpofu spoke to me, I told him exactly what I wrote”.
Mpofu responded: “What are you ‘concerned’ about?
“When u made a POLITICAL suggestion to me in ANY context did u REALLY expect me not to discuss it with the EFF leadership”
Munusamy: “But you know that’s not what happened advocate. This was a discussion at Uncle Kathy’s Memorial service and I never made any proposal for you to take to the EFF leadership. I asked who would be considering as candidates as the CIC didnt want Ramaphosa”.
It’s not the first time Munusamy has crossed the line of “journalism” to attempt to influence the political direction of the ANC. 
In years gone by she was referred to as the “notorious journalist” by the same people who today think every word she writes is the most noble. Working as the Sunday Times “senior political journalist” – her seniority not gained from her years of experience as a journalist but from the ANC contacts she had amassed working with ANC KZN leader Sbu Ndebele at the time – she became “notorious” for claiming that Bulelani Ngcuka, then  National Director of Public Prosecutions, had been investigated by the ANC for being an apartheid spy and her allegations proven to be unsubstantiated by evidence. The claims were that Ngcuka was a former apartheid spy who was now abusing his office to settle old scores with ANC leaders who had uncovered his hidden history many years earlier. She submitted her story to then Sunday Times Editor Mathata Tsedu who on refusing to publish, she gave the story to City Press Editor Vusi Mona, who published it under Elias Maluleke whose source was an “investigative journalist”. It emerged in several publications thereafter that the said investigative journalist was Munusamy.
She claimed that she consulted about 15 sources for the story on Ngcuka. Ngcuka’s main accusers—Mo Shaik and Mac Maharaj—as well as former security policemen Gideon Nieuwoudt and Bernie Ley were revealed as among them. Nieuwoudt is a former colonel and head of the apartheid-era security police in Port Elizabeth, who admitted in 1997 before the TRC that he helped kill the Pebco Three in 1985.

The three anti-apartheid activists – Qaqawuli Gedolozi, Sipho Hashe and Champion Galela – were killed after security police had abducted them at the Port Elizabeth airport. Nieuwoudt also allegedly participated in the killing of activist Steve Biko.

The TRC turned down his amnesty application for not fully disclosing all his crimes.

Munusamy resigned before disciplinary measures were taken against her. As result of the report, a presidential commission under the chairmanship of Judge Hefer was instituted to establish the truth about allegations made by Munusamy. She was subpoenaed to testify before the commission, but refused, citing fear of breach of her ethical duties to confidential sources and fear of her life. At one stage she even claimed to have found a big black scorpion on her kitchen which she trapped and it was sent to a laboratory where it was discovered to be poisonous.
Ngcuka was said to be agent RS452 and among the challenging facts the commission had to establish was the identity of this agent. Former Eastern Cape human-rights lawyer Vanessa Brereton claimed to be the apartheid-era spy Ngcuka had been accused of being. It was also confirmed that she had been a member of the South African Police between January 1987 and February 1991.
Hefer pronounced: “I have not found anything showing, as a matter of probability, that he (Ngcuka) was a pre-1994 government agent. On the contrary, the probabilities heavily favour the opposite conclusion”.
He however made a conclusion that there had been continued leaks from Ngcuka’s office about impending investigations about some members of the ANC. In his report Hefer writes:  “I do not intend dealing in detail with Mr Maharaj’s evidence or with Mr Ngcuka’s rebuttal. Suffice it to say that there can be no doubt that someone did leak information which must have been gathered in the course of the investigation against Mr Maharaj. Mr Ngcuka was not prepared to concede that the guilty party must have been someone in his office because he had ordered an investigation into that possibility and the outcome had been inconclusive. But there is acceptable evidence that Mr Jovial Rantau (a newspaper editor) told Mr Maharaj during a telephone conversation that his source was ‘within the Scorpions’ and the probabilities are overwhelming that this was indeed the case. It must accordingly be accepted that someone in Mr Ngcuka’s office has disclosed information relating to a pending investigation to the press and that this is likely to have occurred contrary to the provisions of section 41(6)(a)”.

Stint At This Day Headed By Justice Malala

In 2004, Ranjeni Munusamy was employed at This Day as a columnist. She wrote two political opinion pieces on the leader pages of Business Day but was dropped after an uproar from staff.

Kevin Bloom, editor of The Media magazine, told the Mail & Guardian Online on at the time that ThisDay‘s decision to run Munusamy was “sad”.

“We have no shame. She is a totally disgraced journalist.

“Running Ranjeni is just sad. That a paper of that calibre would do it … you might expect it from one or two others.

ThisDay must have debated long and hard about whether to run her, contrary to what many newspaper editors think. I doubt Ferial [Haffajee, M&G editor] or Mondli [Makhanya, Sunday Timeseditor] would ever run her,” Bloom said.

Bloom said he would ask himself, when reading articles written by Munusamy, whether there was an agenda behind it. “How do we know she was not a voice for some sort of faction?”

Bloom should see Ranjeni today and her relationship with Haffajee. But more than anything else, the latest revelations by EFF have elicited very little comment by the media. As it did in 2003 when the Ngcuka story exposed deep problems within the media industry, which were not addressed, the same applies today.

Show More

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button
%d bloggers like this: