The former head of foreign intelligence Rieaz “Mo” Shaik has said that then state security minister Siyabonga Cwele allegedly offered to appoint him as an ambassador to Japan, despite the fact that this offer was not one the then minister could have made.
On his second day of testimony at the commission of inquiry into state capture, Shaik told the chairperson of the inquiry, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, that Cwele allegedly made the offer at a time when their relationship had broken down and the then minister had taken to “micro-managing” the State Security Agency (SSA), which “became an untenable situation” for Shaik.
On Monday, Shaik had told Zondo that Cwele‘s bid to stop an SSA probe into the Guptas had been illegal.
Shaik said that due to the breakdown of relations between himself and Cwele he approached then president Jacob Zuma to appeal to him to intervene.
However, he said that at around June 2011 he received a call for a request to meet with Cwele and that at the subsequent meeting the former minister made the offer.
Shaik said at the meeting he did tell Cwele that it was not his place to make such an offer and that he did not want to talk about it further.
He added it was “a very tense” meeting and that Cwele’s use of the word “I” when he had made the offer had angered him.
Shaik said when he later met with Zuma he informed him that his relationship with Cwele was “done and dusted” and that he did not want to go back to the SSA. When he told Zuma that Cwele had offered him the position of ambassador to Japan, the then president had simply laughed.
He said he told Zuma that he would consider other offers and that he would consider being ambassador to Canada or New York if those positions were available, adding that Zuma had then said he would handle the matter.
Three hours later, Shaik received a call from the then director-general of the department of international relations and co-operation (Dirco), Jerry Matjila, who informed him that the then ambassador to Canada would be moved to Japan, which would make the position available for him to take up if he was still interested, the commission heard.
“I put the phone down and I was in a state of shock,” Shaik said, explaining that he felt this way because it became clear to him that Zuma wanted him to leave intelligence.
Shaik said he came to this realisation because he had only spoken to Zuma about his interest in moving to Canada or New York.
“After due consideration, I declined,” Shaik told Zondo.
Shaik said Matjila did not, however, make reference to Zuma making arrangements for him to take up the position of ambassador to Canada.
“But he did say to me, ‘Mo, you have a lot of pull’,” adding that he was taken aback by the fact that arrangements were made for him to take up the ambassador position “so soon”.
Shaik said at the time that he wanted to move out of government and away from “insufferable ministers” and did not want to report to any minister, adding that at the time he did not have a good relationship with the then minister of international relations and co-operation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
Shaik resigned in February 2012 and he told the commission that this was, in part, due to the breakdown of his relationship with Cwele.
Shaik said a similar offer to take up the position of ambassador in an African country was made to former SSA director Gibson Njenge who, however, “refused the post”.
Zondo questioned Shaik on whether his departure from the SSA had been as a result of the “irretrievable” breakdown of relations between him and Cwele or in the breakdown of trust between himself and Zuma, who was against the Guptas being investigated.
“I think it was both,” Shaik responded.
His testimony continues, watch live courtesy of the SABC: