20 April 2024 | 09:14 AM

Sex, lies and the Zuma spy tapes

Key Takeaways

Crime intelligence appears to have grasped at any tool available – including sex – in a dirty-tricks operation waged against the National Prosecuting Authority.

In the campaign, which started at least a decade ago and still reverberates today, the spooks gathered potentially compromising information about the alleged sexual peccadilloes of top NPA figures.

This included allegations of an affair involving advocate Mokotedi Mpshe, who was then the acting national director of public prosecutions. Mpshe took the decision to terminate the prosecution of Jacob Zuma in April 2009, paving the way for his ascendancy to the country’s number one post.

At least one member of the security community believed at the time that the allegations, if true, could have rendered Mpshe vulnerable to blackmail. But Mpshe has strongly denied the alleged affair or that there was any attempt to blackmail him.


The crime intelligence operation that targeted the NPA also produced the so-called “Zuma spy tapes”.

Rumours that the tapes disclosed evidence of sexually compromising behaviour by senior figures in the NPA first emerged shortly after Mpshe’s bombshell decision to drop the charges against Zuma.

But evidence that such allegations were recorded in writing and conveyed officially to the NPA – albeit only in 2010 – has surfaced recently, in the wake of the battle over the future of the NPA’s current director, Mxolisi Nxasana.

A document seen by amaBhungane shows the claims were included in representations made to the NPA by a former crime intelligence boss, Mulangi Mphego, in January 2010. He was seeking the withdrawal of charges for obstruction of justice instituted against him by prosecutor Gerrie Nel.

In a confidential submission to Mpshe’s short-lived successor, Menzi Simelane, the state attorney, on behalf of Mphego, made extraordinary allegations about the NPA, the Scorpions, Nel and Mpshe.

Nel, who was a target for crime intelligence, was implicated in the allegations made against Mpshe.

The Mphego document, marked “secret”, stated: “It was also reported that the individuals [within the NPA] had evidence about fraudulent claims that the deputy director of public prosecutions, Adv Mpshe, had allegedly approved. These claims were purporting that another NPA employee, Ms Ngobeni, attached to a provincial NPA office and alleged to be romantically involved with Adv Mpshe, had undertaken an official trip when in fact she visited [him] to pursue their alleged relationship …”

Although the claims about Mpshe were clearly intended to influence Simelane to drop the charges against Mphego, amaBhungane has seen no evidence that this information was ever used to exert pressure on Mpshe. He denied the affair last week and also said he was hearing the allegations for the first time, implying they could never have been used to blackmail him.

The woman cited by Mphego, former NPA employee Gift Ngobeni, has also dismissed the allegations (see story below).

NPA spokesperson Nathi Mncube said that Nel “denies all the allegations in so far as they relate to him”.

Jeff Radebe, then the justice minister, controversially appointed Mpshe as an acting judge after Simelane took over as national director. Mpshe remains an acting judge of the Land Claims Court four years later and has never appeared at a Judicial Service Commission hearing, where potential judges are often challenged over previous cases and their actions.


The Mphego submission makes similar damaging claims about other NPA executives, echoing a summary of the contents of the spy tapes described to amaBhungane in April 2009.

Given that much of the material on the NPA gathered by state intelligence was leaked to Zuma’s allies, including his lawyer, it appears likely that these “sexual” allegations were also conveyed.

Mphego’s submission also throws new light on the origins of the current war within the NPA and suggests a reason for why Zuma and the NPA’s former acting director, Nomgcobo Jiba, have been resisting bids to have the spy tapes released.

The Democratic Alliance has sought a high court review of Mpshe’s decision to halt the Zuma prosecution for about five years, but it has been stymied by the refusal of the president and the NPA to give DA lawyers access to the tapes.

Small parts of the intercepts, which recorded how Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy discussed the timing of re-charging Zuma with former prosecutions boss Bulelani Ngcuka, were used to argue that the Zuma prosecution was fatally tainted by political interference.

Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy.

Zuma’s lawyers have argued that the tapes are covered by the confidentiality of his representations to the NPA. The Mphego submission suggests the tapes might expose the extent of the dirty tricks concerning the NPA and raise questions about how the information gathered might have affected decision-makers.

The document seen by amaBhu-ngane gives a sense of the pressure the NPA was under and provides a context for McCarthy’s seeming partiality.

For example, it records that McCarthy and Nel were among at least seven “current or erstwhile” members of the NPA who were among the 45 “suspects” of a full-scale intelligence investigation that began in about 2003.

Mphego’s submission states: “In conducting these investigations, various intelligence-gathering techniques were employed, including telephone and direct interceptions, remote data mining, source cultivation and agent penetration …”

On August 7 2007, Mphego approved an application for one of his undercover officers to intercept the phone and electronic communications of six targets who were supposedly suspected of committing drug-related offences. One of the targets was McCarthy.

At the same time, police officers under the direction of the then Gauteng crime intelligence boss, Richard Mdluli, began an investigation of Nel relating to the alleged obstruction of justice in an unrelated matter.

In September 2007, Mdluli approached the head of the NPA’s integrity management unit, Prince Mokotedi, for help with the case against Nel. Mokotedi referred Mdluli to Jiba, who, it emerged, went to considerable lengths to help to procure an arrest warrant for Nel, who she allegedly blames for the arrest and conviction of her husband, Booker Nhantsi.

Nhantsi, a former attorney and member of the Scorpions, was convicted because of a shortfall in his attorney’s trust account.

Jiba was also in frequent communication with another colleague and advocate, Lawrence Mwrebi, who provided an affidavit in support of the police investigation of Nel.

She was charged internally for her actions. After a protracted labour court battle, Mpshe approved an out-of-court settlement and she was reinstated.

Former crime intelligence boss Mulangi Mphego. (Samantha Reinders)

The moves to arrest Nel caused consternation within the NPA and were interpreted as a calculated attempt to prevent Nel from charging Mphego’s boss, police commissioner Jackie Selebi.

When McCarthy phoned a senior colleague to complain about the behaviour of Jiba and others, his conversation was picked up by Mphego’s intercepts and fed back to Mdluli and Jiba.

The Mphego submission characterised McCarthy’s discussion as “a plot to sabotage and subvert an active police investigation against Nel”. It reveals that Mphego instructed Mdluli to meet Mpshe and play him the recording of the McCarthy interception in a bid to persuade Mpshe to help the police to prosecute Nel.

The Selebi matter also led to Mphego making the secret representations that have now emerged.

In early January 2008, Mphego took part in a clandestine interview with convicted criminal Glenn Agliotti, the Scorpions’ key witness against Selebi. Agliotti took the opportunity to recant much of his previous evidence and claim he was a pawn in a political conspiracy hatched by the Scorpions.

An affidavit to this effect was then provided by crime intelligence to Selebi’s lawyers, who used it in a January 2008 court bid to pre-empt Selebi’s arrest. This failed, as did a parallel process to prosecute Nel.

Nel was arrested, but the case against him was withdrawn for lack of evidence. A year later, Nel charged Mphego with obstructing the administration of justice.

The Mphego submission was an attempt to persuade Mpshe’s successor, Simelane, to quash the charges.

Simelane did not withdraw the charges but he did remove Nel as the prosecutor, and the case was stuck off the roll when the magistrate refused to give the new prosecuting team more time.


Mphego, now a private security consultant, questioned in an email last week whether the document seen by amaBhungane is genuine.

“I don’t know if the document you have quoted was included in my

representation to the NDPP [national director of public prosecutions]. I have no recollection of such a document, or a person who authored it. As far as I am concerned, the document you are showing me may even be fake.”

AmaBhungane has no reason to doubt the authenticity of the information.

Mphego added: “It is Gerrie Nel’s Scorpions that concocted false allegations against me. I don’t know how their battle plan projected me as a target because I was not fighting any battle.

“When I made representations to the NDPP, I was responding to a criminal charge that Gerrie Nel’s Scorpions had preferred against me. They were unable to sustain that rubbish and it was thrown out of court.”

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.

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Before joining the amaBhungane team in 2017, Micah was the national coordinator for media freedom and diversity at the Right2Know Campaign. He holds a Masters in African Studies from Oxford University and a BA Honours in History from Wits University.

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