EXCLUSIVE: Zuma's free education adviser was a spy

Johannesburg - The man who is reportedly the architect of South Africa's new plan for free higher education, worked as a spy at the State Security Agency (SSA).

News24 can reveal that Mukovhe Morris Masutha, who had dated President Jacob Zuma’s daughter and was a prominent leader in the Fees Must Fall (FMF) campaign, was listed as an employee of the SSA during his time as a student activist at Wits University.

According to reports, Masutha is behind a plan for free education which would fly in the face of the Heher Commission's findings that South Africa cannot afford blanket free higher education. The plan, which Zuma is allegedly keen to implement, would see the cutting back of departmental budgets across government departments to make R40bn available in 2018. 

Masutha was for many years dating Zuma and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s daughter, Thuthukile Zuma.

The way Zuma is ramming his plan through Treasury has already led to the resignation of veteran Deputy Director General Michael Sachs, who oversaw South Africa's budget process.

Masutha, as the CEO of the Thusanani Foundation, is a well known proponent of free access to education for academically-deserving rural and township youth.  

The Mail & Guardian reported that in 2016 Masutha led the FMF protests at Wits. There are pictures of him charging the Great Hall with a stick in hand. He sports a beard in the photograph, although he is normally pictured clean shaven.

Fees Must Fall leader

Sources who were at Wits during the protests confirmed to News24 that Masutha was part of the charge that lead students to the Great Hall. At the time he was studying for his Phd in England.

At the same time, it appears that Masutha was an agent at the SSA. 

News24 has seen documents, and has individually verified that Masutha had worked at the SSA. Sources have indicated he was part of counter-intelligence before he moved to the Union Buildings as a specialist advisor to Jacob Zuma.

Masutha has not replied to News24's queries on this, putting the phone down repeatedly on journalists. 

SSA spokesperson Brian Dube said that, as a matter of policy, the SSA didn’t reveal the identity of its employees and/or agents. 

This news comes just weeks after revelations emerged that spies may have infiltrated the Fees Must Fall movement. 

In his best-selling book The President's Keepers, journalist Jacques Pauw mentioned that intelligence agents played a role in the 2015 and 2016 movement.

News24 reported that the Inspector General of Intelligence and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) were investigating whether Secret Service account money was used to fund certain aspects of the FMF movement.

Read more here: EXCLUSIVE: Intelligence and IPID probe whether secret service account funded #FeesMustFall

Impressive academic record

Masutha was the Wits SRC president in 2010/11. While there, he established the educational NGO Thusanani Foundation. The foundation provides students from rural areas and townships with bursaries and loans to study at universities throughout South Africa. 

He has an impressive record, graduating with a BA in Economic Geography followed by a BSc Honours in Geography, Food Security and Environmental Management, followed by an MSc in Small Enterprise Development and Local Economic Development from the University of Johannesburg.

He did his PhD at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom. He was for a short while a policy and strategy analyst in the division of economic intelligence in the City of Tshwane. 

His CV on Thusanani’s website is silent about his time at the SSA. 

In the publication One Day Leader, four years ago, Masutha said the biggest leadership issue in South Africa was that the country had too many political analysts and very few activists. 

He said, in another publication, that he did not think there was a leadership crisis at all in South Africa and that he was a solution-oriented implementist. 

"I have absolutely no interest in people who have made unconstructive critical analysis of government their career. Whenever I see a gap in development, I don’t think about whose fault it is, I think of a potential solution and practical ways of implementing that solution.'' 

Masutha has been linked to Zuma since he started dating Thuthukile while they were both still at university. 

'That was so weird, too'

In the book After Mandela: The Struggle for Freedom in Post-Apartheid South Africa, Douglas Foster interviewed Zuma’s daughter, who he called Thuthu.

She said she had started dating Masutha when he was a student leader. She said he did not know who her father was when they first started dating.

When she first visited his room, she said she found his walls "festooned" with pictures of her father and his Cabinet.

"That was so weird, too," she is quoted as saying in the book. "You go to see your boyfriend and there’s a huge picture of your dad on his wall."

At the launch of the Thusanani Foundation at Wits in 2014, Zuma was there and was acknowledged by Masutha. 

"Mr President, special thanks to you for squeezing us into your busy schedule," Masutha said at the time 

In their speeches, both he and Zuma said that it was the the Jacob Zuma Foundation that funded numerous Thusanani Foundation students. The first student had graduated in Nuclear Physics.

At an inaugural fundraising dinner in 2015 for the Thusanani Foundation both Zuma and Dlamini-Zuma were guest speakers and were on the stage with Masutha.