Zuma’s poisoned liver

Former president Jacob Zuma’s appearances at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture have left many observers bemused.

Citizens who want to understand where Zuma was heading with his rambling testimony should consult a book by the former gangster turned “entrepreneur”, Gayton McKenzie, entitled Kill Zuma By Any Means Necessary.

This fascinating work was launched about a week before the Nasrec conference of the ANC in December 2017. It was obviously intended to derail Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign for the presidency.

The lurid title, McKenzie claimed, was drawn from a file he says was first opened by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the late 1980s. It transpires that the CIA does not after all use euphemisms like “terminate with extreme prejudice” to refer to extrajudicial killings.

McKenzie’s Kill Zuma is scarcely the first use of fabricated sources to protect Zuma. It is, however, striking in its breathtaking scope.

The “author” claimed in a television interview with the ANN7 network that the documents on which his book were based were passed to him by a foreign source. He did not specify if the source was an international intelligence operative, a travelling SA politician or an international reputation management organisation such as Bell Pottinger.

McKenzie’s narrative parallels much of Zuma’s storyline on Monday. In one chapter, entitled “Operation Scrum”, he rehashes the tale of Zuma and Thabo Mbeki’s meeting with National Intelligence Service (NIS) agents Mike Louw and Maritz Spaarwater in Lucerne in September 1989.

The upshot of that meeting, according to McKenzie, was a decision by then president FW de Klerk that Mbeki and Zuma were dangerously radical! “A comprehensive and top-secret operation was to be launched to ensure that both men would not emerge as players during the negotiation process.” Operation Scrum was born.

McKenzie notes that “the rich Afrikaners in the room, especially the Rupert family, were particularly worried about their wine farms, which occupy some of the most scenic and productive land in the world”. Military Intelligence “remained the lead” in this grape-protection operation but they sought support “from America’s CIA, Britain’s MI6 and Israel’s Mossad in a plan that ultimately spanned three continents”.

Zuma found out about all this when he returned to SA from exile and was passed the file entitled “Kill Zuma By Any Means Necessary”, which fortunately had a CIA logo on it. This “prepared him to take extra precautions, which is probably among the reasons he is still alive today”.

Protecting vineyards and removing Zuma were not the only alleged objectives of Operation Scrum. It was also tasked with rigging Codesa, dismantling SA’s nuclear weapons stockpile, shredding incriminating documents and deploying “infiltrators” to positions of authority.

McKenzie claims that “Chris Hani had a similar file” to Zuma’s, and he was soon dispatched by violence. “As for Jacob Zuma,” McKenzie notes, moving to his central theme, “he would not need to be shot to be removed from the picture. In his case, all that was required was a man named Cyril Ramaphosa.”

In an interweaving of fact and fiction that would have made Bell Pottinger proud, Ramaphosa is presented as merely “an apparent champion of the working class”. “In Ramaphosa”, McKenzie claims, “white capital had their perfect weapon.”

McKenzie is a comic genius, albeit unintentionally so. In one hilarious scene, an unidentified member of the ANC’s top six (guess who!) tries to persuade Zuma to eat a dish of poisoned liver. Zuma is saved by Jesse Duarte, who rushes to the Luthuli House kitchens and discovers that the chef had not cooked liver that day.

Zuma’s Zondo commission “revelations” about MK veteran Gen Siphiwe Nyanda and former mineral resources minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi were evidently a desperate man’s attempt to threaten others.

The frankly ludicrous claims about Nyanda are prefigured in McKenzie’s book. Perhaps Zuma has been reading the volume to assist him with his ailing memory. If so, his remarks at the commission were intended as a warning signal to Ramaphosa: be careful or you will be next.


• Butler teaches public policy at the University of Cape Town

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