Mark Gevisser (right) in conversation with Ferial Haffajee, Jonathan Ancer and Derek Hanekom on the meaning of ‘enemy agent’ in SA history and politics. Picture: ALON SKUY.
Mark Gevisser (right) in conversation with Ferial Haffajee, Jonathan Ancer and Derek Hanekom on the meaning of ‘enemy agent’ in SA history and politics. Picture: ALON SKUY.

Is enough being done today to stop individuals from falsely labelling others spies and enemy agents?

In his latest Monthly Review, Mark Gevisser is in conversation with Derek Hanekom, Jonathan Ancer and Ferial Haffajee about the meaning of “enemy agent” in SA history and politics.

Drawing from the judgement labelling Jacob Zuma’s tweet that Hanekom is a “known enemy agent” as defamatory, Gevisser explores the power associated with branding someone a spy or enemy agent and what it continues to mean in SA after 25 years of democracy.

Hanekom speaks about his relationship with Zuma before the ANC asked him to step down, why he decided to take Zuma to court and the anger Zuma’s tweet evoked.

“The wounds of apartheid and scars of apartheid are still with us. What we fought for we’re still fighting for … but if it’s all trashed you might say it stood for nothing and people in the struggle meant nothing. It touches a raw wound,” Hanekom says.

Drawing from Ancer’s latest book, Betrayal: The Secret Lives of Apartheid Spies, and Haffajee’s sharp political commentary, Gevisser explores the extent of the state’s penetration during the apartheid era and what exposing apartheid-era spies might mean today.

Declassifying information and spy names may contribute to our understanding of what happened in our history but this doesn’t seem likely given the opinion that the ANC is not doing enough to promote this, the unwillingness of those involved to talk and vital information that has already been lost.

The event took place at The Empire on October 17.

Every month, Mark Gevisser writes an in-depth essay for Business Day about new literature, art, theatre or culture. Gevisser then hosts a public discussion about the issues the essay raises to which he invites some of SA's most interesting thinkers. This podcast is a recording of those discussions.