The Mail&Guardian's revelations of an alleged plot to assassinate African National Congress deputy president Jacob Zuma reads like a plot straight out of a John Le Carre novel. Actually it reads like the first draft manuscript submitted to an editor. A rifle (probably a Lee Enfield 303) left on the roof of a building only to be found by a sniper who is a former South African Defence Force's 32 Batallion who has been promised R1 million by a man he is not going to name (who is not Simon Mann).
This is a yet unedited manuscript for a novel that can only be conceived by people who have mastered the art of storytelling, either they were journalists and are now spindoctors or are currently practising journalists with a vivid imagination. I am also capable of knitting together a more gorier believable story, especially as long as it involves 32 Batallion and elements within the intelligence community.
What's more interesting is that if Zuma was indeed successfully snuffed, it would make juicy news to see who wouldn't go to his funeral in Kwazulu-Natal for security reasons - your guess is as good as mine. First, let's take an informed look at 32 Batallion.
WHAT WAS 32 BATALLION?
The batallion was officially found in 1976 as a Portuguese and Angolan indigenous languages speaking unit of the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA) led by factionist Daniel Chipenda who defected to FNLA from Popular Movement for the Total Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in 1975 after losing a leadership battle with Agostino Neto. Chipenda brought approximately 2000 troops into Holden Roberto's rebel movement. After its absorbtion it became a feared foreign legion of the South African Defence Force (SADF, predecessor to SANDF) during its Angolan campaign and was often accused of gross brutality against civilians and People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) combatants, the armed wing of South West African People's Organisation (SWAPO).
When Namibia became independent in 1989 it was at the time largely constituted by the sons of the original 32 Batallion commandos. They were moved (disowned) to Pomfret in the North West where they were later disbanded under the new government.
Their remnants continue to live in poverty and squalor and are highly disorientated. More so because they can't go to Anglola since they fought to oppose the government and brutalised its citizens (they are traitors), can't go to Namibia because they don't belong there, can't find home here because they fought the African National Congress' Umkhonto we Sizwe in the Angolan jungles. What is happening to them is retribution at its best because the provincial government is now looking into evicting them - thus further relocating them. They'll agree to do anything for R1million, including stabbing United States of America president George W Bush with a Swiss Army knife.
It must be noted that since 1988 they have never seen action, are rusty and can not succesfully pull off a hit, especially a clean assasination of someone as protected as Zuma, otherwise they would have been conducting cash-in-transit heists.
FOOD AND CLOTHING POISONING SCARE
They say murdered Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein al Majid al Tikriti was aware of people wanting to kill him all the time. He then hired a food taster and built himself many castles linked by an underground rail networks. Each castle had an underground bunker and was linked to the other. His handpicked cooking staff (which most came from Tikrit) prepared his food then his food taster, who needed to have a healthy tongue, a giant appetite and blind loyalty would eat the food first. I don't know how those things work because there are slow and slower poisons.
The Baath Party ruled Iraq never released statistics of how many such tasters died as attempts on Hussein intensified. But then the M&G story alleged that Zuma's drinks are opened in his presence and poured in a glass which he has to drink entirely. Fine, but how many people were killed using poison concealed in rings? Zuma himself is very familiar with the story of apartheid era Military Intelligence hitman Leslie Lesia (who claimed to have met Zuma in Maputo). Also go read Billion Dollar Brain by Len Deighton and find out how to conceal poison in a half dozen of chicken eggs.
Poisoning Zuma's clothes? Please; for a man who flies commercial that should be very easy. For a man who does not enjoy diplomatic immunity it's even easier.
That Zuma handpicks his bodyguards and does not 'really' liase with embassy staff overseas is a non-starter. He's been handpicking his guards since the days of the late Barney Molokoane in exile and all of us don't really 'liase' with embassy staff until we want their help (see the Out of Afrika). He's just being a good citizen who allows the ambassador or high commissioner to do their work instead of burdening them further. That makes the heavyweight an underdog for that matter.
PUNCHING HOLES INTO THE CHEAP NOVEL
* With the conspiracy going back to 2004 it simply implies that there's been people wanting to take Umsholozi out for some time now. Buth then he was still deputy president of the country and his spindoctor Ranjeni Munusamy was still employed by Sunday Times. Mbeki had just started his second term and Zuma not yet indicated his intentions to topple him (at ANC). Given the cordial relationship he then enjoyed with his boss at Luthuli it looks suspicious that any renegade wanting to prolong Mbeki's reign would have targeted Zuma (and not Ramaphosa, Phosa and Sexwale) because he was not yet a threat.
* If there is any truth in the story originating in 2004, one just needs to ask how did former Ekurhuleni Mayor Bavumile Vilakazi (who was an High Commissioner in Uganda) die in Zuma's arms when he suffered a heart attack in 2005, given that the information purpots that Zuma never trusted embassy staff since those details of his assassination came to light.
* They say the plot goes back to 2004 but it was in 2005 when Zuma had 'unprotected' sex with a suspicious woman in his house. Where was the state of high alert on the night? All we know the woman could have stabbed Zuma to death while he took a shower.
* On the embassy story, most of them have an intelligence attache (official spy) and there's no way Umsholozi uses an advance security team but will not use free intelligence from the embassy about crime hotspots, which hotels are safer, political sentiments and which venues are more logistically accessible.
* My friends in the South African Police Services Very Important People Protection Unit, both Static and Mobile reliably inform me that, that yellow police chopper you see hovering above roughly fifteen minutes before a dignitary arrives, especially in the cities is filled with Special Task Force snipers whose mission is to identify suspicious objects ontop of buildings using powerful binoculars and 'remove' them. The alleged sniper saying he found a mounted rifle simply implies that someone watched bootleg DVDs of the Texas assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and the six attempts on Cuban president Fidel Castro.
Security these days is manned using metal detectors, sniffer dogs, mounted snipers and in rare cases even the very reliable free Google Earth roaming service.
* The poisoned food and dry clean allegations are far-fetched, even from a Zuma friend. Zuma can afford to instal the dry cleaning machine at his own home. One can not say that after the apartheid era clothing poisoning of the Director-General in the Presidency Frank Chikane the government can still trust public dry cleaners with clothes belonging to high level politicians, unless this is a serious breach of security.
* Food poisoning is inevitable, unless you live in six castles and nobody knows where you're gonna eat your dinner and shower that night.
HOW TO KILL A POLITICIAN
* Don't stress about poisoning cooked food when you can do so the water supply to the politician's house. Most politicians use the same water supply as everyone else. If you desperately want your man don't worry about 2000 more collateral damages. You apply your poison (which's name I'm not going to give) on the water supply, guaranteed to peel his skin once he takes a shower. You can also do this just to embarass the politicians.
* Do you still remember what Ukranian presidential hopeful Viktor Yushchenko was put through, allegedly by the Komitet Gosudartsvenoi Bezopasnosti (KGB)? Anyone can be put through that acid test (no pun intended). He had a food-taster but when they wanted him they got him even though he ate with them on the same table.
* Also, do you remember what the former KGB (Russian) spy Alexander Litvinenko reportedly having some information about Vladimir Putin was subjected to while in London? He died weeks later.
* The worst form of assassination is to hypnotise an aide and give them a handgrenade with one second left on the detonator. Should work the same way Jack Ruby undid Lee Harvey Oswald, and John Hinckley tried to do the late Ronald Reagan in 1981 and Mehmet Ali Agca did the late Pope John Paul II in 1981.
* You impersonate a reporter and blow their brains during a press conference with a bomb concealsed as a microphone.
* You do the Italian Job trick. Use a cellphone to bomb the highway spot where the black Range Rover is passing by at any given time.
* Just call the mujahideen jihadists of Sadr City (Baghdad) to blow a honcho to smithereens with a roadside bomb. Everybody knows the roads politicians use to either their offices or places they like to frequent.
NOW...WE SHRED THE MANUSCRIPT
Since 2004 why hasn't anybody with serious nefarous intentions thought about this? Because like in a classical Le Carre novel, the Zuma Assassination Plot (ZAP) story deserves a happy ending. "I'm dead, she kept saying, I'm dead, I'm dead. But it seemed that he wanted her dead or alive. Locked together, they set off awkwardly along the pavement, though the town was strange to them.", that's how Le Carre finished The Little Drummer Girl.