scorpions under fire

The Scorpions produced the "Browse Mole" report illegally and in contravention of their mandate, parliament's joint standing committee on intelligence said yesterday.

The Scorpions produced the "Browse Mole" report illegally and in contravention of their mandate, parliament's joint standing committee on intelligence said yesterday.

The Directorate of Special Operations (DSO), or Scorpions, "fell prey to information peddlers", making use of informants and private intelligence companies to compile the document, according to findings the committee released.

"The DSO doesn't have the mandate to collect political intelligence. They don't even have the capacity," committee chairman Siyabonga Cwele said.

The committee also dismissed claims by the Scorpions that they had decided the "Browse" report had no formal status.

"The DSO had not shelved it as stated, but had in fact acted on it to pursue or consider prosecution... [The] DSO actually believed the intelligence which they received..."

Scorpions head Leonard McCarthy had asked the unit's Western Cape boss, Adrian Mopp, to start an inquiry based on the report. Senior Scorpions investigator Ivor Powell produced the final, consolidated report. Officially called the "Special 'Browse' Mole Consolidated Report", the 18-page top secret document was leaked last year.

It claimed that then ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma was involved in a conspiracy to topple President Thabo Mbeki's government. It was apparently driven by left-wing groups such as the SACP, Cosatu and the ANC Youth League. The Angolan president and Libya's leader were said to be funding and supporting Zuma's cause.

A task team started its investigation in June, completing it in November last year.

"The document is extremely inflammatory, containing political intelligence and numerous allegations and unsubstantiated statements about prominent political figures in South Africa and the African continent," it concluded.

Cwele said the motive behind the report was not ideological, but part of efforts to get state money and contracts, especially in the mining and security industries. He said the committee had no authority to suggest what steps should be taken against Leonard McCarthy. This was up to the executive.

McCarthy also "refused" to cooperate with the task team, denying them access to computers.

Cwele said there was no link between efforts to disband the Scorpions and the timing of the release of the committee's findings.

"I can't see a link. We are talking about things which didn't go right in one of our agencies. There are good individuals . and others doing things which are against the law."

The committee recommended that the government order the DSO to stop intelligence gathering immediately. The National Intelligence Agency should also speed up the vetting of Scorpions' officials.

Cwele did not know how the document got its name, but suggested it was perhaps a code . "Even the DSO couldn't give us a clear answer . we don't know what type of mole or why it was browsing."

National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete said there was every reason to be concerned, especially about the "information peddlers".

"They have already done serious damage in one SADC country at top level." She wouldn't say which country.

Among the claims made in the "Browse" report was that in early 2006 a meeting was held in Johannesburg with senior Umkhonto we Sizwe leaders now part of the SANDF . Former SANDF chief Siphiwe Nyanda allegedly raised the possibility of military support for Zuma, and a possible coup against Mbeki's government. - Sapa