Special Report

Did Zuma sell out to foreign interests, getting junk?

Bell Pottinger.jpg

A fake intelligence report by a foreign PR company, working for business interests controlled by foreigners, has dumped South Africa into junk credit rating status. (Read more)

This is the conclusion of an intelligence analyst with many years of practical experience at senior level – the bottom-line being that, if anyone sold out to “foreign interests” it might just be President Jacob Zuma.

The Intelligence Bulletin (IB) called on a trusted intelligence expert to assist us to evaluate claims that the alleged intelligence report, Operation Checkmate, - used by President Zuma to fire Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and deputy-minister Mcebisi Jonas – was prepared by PR-company Bell Pottinger, employed in 2016 by the Gupta family.

In his general evaluation of the Operation Checkmate report, our expert said: “The presentation and contents of the controversial bogus ‘intelligence report’ on Operation Checkmate is of such low and dubious quality that it gives the impression that it was done deliberately to protect and conceal the drafter(s).”

EFF leader Julius Malema probably came close to the truth when, showing a copy of the report to journalists, said: “It looks like it was written by a student of early childhood development… it is not coherent.”

This is also not the first time that Bell Pottinger got itself involved in controversy. In 2011 a storm broke around it in the United Kingdom when “Tech PR bosses expressed shock over Bell Pottinger's apparent claims to be able to control online content.”

And last year it came to light how the company played a role in creating false propaganda for the US government in Iraq.

Trigger for junk status

There can be absolutely no doubt that Operation Checkmate, followed by the political moves by President Zuma (especially the wholesale cabinet reshuffle seeing Gordhan being shown the door), played a key role in the country’s downgrade to junk status there can be absolutely no doubt.

Standard & Poor's statement, announcing the down grade, opens with the following line: “In our opinion, the executive changes initiated by President Zuma have put at risk fiscal and growth outcomes.” (Our emphasis.)

Further on in the statement, under the heading “RATIONALE,” it states: “The downgrade reflects our view that the divisions in the ANC-led government that have led to changes in the executive leadership, including the finance minister, have put policy continuity at risk. This has increased the likelihood that economic growth and fiscal outcomes could suffer.” (Our emphasis.)

Been coming some time

The risk of using outside interests to whom the critical state security function of producing professional, properly evaluated intelligence reports is outsourced, has been growing for some time.

In January this year, we warned about the “risks when contracting a private intelligence firm and the inherent danger when tried and tested intelligence principles are not strictly adhered to” – the risks is now tragically confirmed by South Africa’s down grade to junk status.

The Zuma administration's history of misusing the state’s intelligence apparatus for narrow domestic political purposes and, unforgivingly so, private interest, is nothing new.

According to the Operation Checkmate report there was a devious plot in which Gordhan and Jonas were going to use their overseas road show in the UK and US to turn international bankers against the South African government  and eventually overthrow the South African state.

It follows a pattern revealed in a Sunday Times report that the chosen strategy of Bell Pottinger, in trying to improve the Gupta’s image, was to target white business leaders as a distraction from serious allegations of state capture and that the root of all evil in South Africa is “white monopoly capital’

Also read: 'White monopoly capital': an excuse to avoid real problems

 According to the Sunday Times investigation one of the strategies was apparently to drive a predominantly social media narrative that “white monopoly capital”, the SA Communist Party and National Treasury have been standing in the way of transforming the South African economy.

The Guptas and their PR Company denied these allegations.

In his disapproving response to the Operation Checkmate plot allegations, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa referred to an incident in 2001 when an “intelligence report” was presented accusing him of involvement in a plot to overthrow the government of president Thabo Mbeki.”

The then minister of Safety and Security, Steve Tshwete, had the decency to apologise for allowing what were obvious spurious allegations to go public.

It should also be remembered that in the last few years bogus “intelligence reports” have appeared in the public domain to discredit Zwelinzima Vavi, Thuli Madonsela, Julius Malema and Constitutional Court judges.

To date nothing has come from the state security minister’s promise to investigate and report on the origin of these reports, which is not unexpected since he probably knows these “intelligence reports” are fake, and were perhaps even compiled by members from his own ministry or outside sources.


An article in Daily Maverick expressed the hope that: ”For the sake of the future of South Africa and the integrity of intelligence in South Africa, the report  (Operation Checkmate) surely would not even have been compiled by the weakest link of analysts in intelligence. Let us hope.”

This is a wish all right minded South Africans should share.

Also read: Who were the Zuma-gamble’s biggest winners?

                  Corruption has become South Africa’s biggest danger

by The Intelligence Bulletin team

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