Skulking and plotting
Joins a hell of a lot of dots, writes Vivien Horler
EXCUSE the squeaking noise – my eyes have been out on stalks and I’m reeling them back in. A variety of emotions go through your mind as you read The President’s Keepers, from depression to mirth, from wanting a double brandy to wanting to emigrate.
Much of what Jacques Pauw writes is not new. You have read and heard hints here and there, and he quotes extensively from journalists such as Marianne Thamm, Richard Poplak and Justice Malala, as well as publications such as The Daily Maverick, The Mail & Guardian and City Press.
The reason this book is so compelling is that Pauw has taken Pravin Gordhan’s advice and joined a hell of a lot of dots. And what emerges is a relentless account of venality, evil, corruption, sleaze, treachery and greed.
A review can’t begin to do the book justice. There are so many stories. All the usual suspects are here, starting with Shaun Abrahams, Glenn Agliotti, Cyril Beeka, Jerome “Donkey” Booysen, Eugene de Kock, Arthur Fraser, Malusi Gigaba, all the Guptas, Fana Hlongwane, Michael Hulley, Lolly Jackson, Nomgcobo Jiba, Yusuf Kajee, Brett Kebble, Radovan Krejcir, Mark Lifman, David Mahlobo, Bonisiwe Makhene, Quinton Marinus, Adriano Mazzotti, Richard Mdluli, Prince Mokotedi, Roy Moodley, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, Tom Moyane, Mokotedi Mpshe, Lawrence Mrwebi, Berning Ntlemeza, Khomotso Phahlane, Riah Phiyega, Vivian Reddy, Jackie Selebi, Moe and Schabir Shaik, Colin Stansfield, Belinda Walter – and all the Zumas.
How can a president have connections with the likes of that lot?
Then there are the others: Jeremy Vearey, Robert Mcbride, Anwa Dramat, Shadrack Sibiya, Johann van Loggerenberg, Johan Booysen – people whose names have been in the papers, sometimes painted as the good guys, sometimes as the bad. As recently as August this year, City Press reported that it had a copy of a report on a top-secret crime intelligence operation called Project Wonder, which planned to plant evidence against Police Minister Fikile Mbalula to get him fired. That came out at the same time it was reported that Mcbride had assaulted his daughter and a week after reports that Cyril Ramaphosa had beaten his wife.
One feels outraged to read about Jacob Zuma’s alleged tax evasion, about suspended crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli collecting R8.3 million in salary while on suspension since 2011, and a bonus of R413 957 – he is being investigated for murder. Then there was the case of former acting police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane, appointed in 2015, who in a threeyear period owned luxury cars worth R4.3m.
This week, the NPA said it would not prosecute Phahlane on charges of defeating the ends of justice, relating to allegations that he had interfered with the investigation by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate into charges of fraud and corruption against him.
But the story about Operation Impi and the guns on the Cape Flats is shocking. Around 2012 Jeremy Vearey, then deputy provincial commissioner for detective services in the Western Cape, and Peter Jacobs, head of crime intelligence in the province, noted an influx of weapons used in Cape Flats crimes. One of the people shot was Leeyana van Wyk, 6, of Hanover Park.
The police began investigating why a number of guns they had confiscated had had their serial numbers removed. Their work led them to Pretoria policeman Colonel Christiaan Lodewyk Prinsloo, custodian of an armoury where firearms were stored before being destroyed. This was a man who had not touched his police salary for two years, but could afford overseas holidays. His house was raided in January 2015 and police found illegal guns, ammunition and R120 000 in cash.
Prinsloo made a plea bargain with the state, and said he had sold arms and ammunition worth R9 million to gangsters, many of them on the Cape Flats. Among the weapons were 2 000 sold to a middleman called Irshaad “Hunter” Laher of Cape Town, who in turn allegedly sold them to gangsters.
Prinsloo’s trial heard that 900 of his guns had been recovered and linked to 2 784 violent crimes in the Western Cape, including 1 066 murders. That meant about 1 100 guns were still in gangster hands. Prinsloo got 46 years in jail. Laher was charged with racketeering, corruption, possession of prohibited firearms and money laundering. He is out on bail of R100 000. In September 2015, Vearey and Jacobs proposed to then police commissioner Riah Phiyega that Operation Impi be extended for three years, but three weeks later, Phiyega was suspended and her replacement, Phahlane, did not approve the extension.
In June 2016,Vearey and Jacobs were effectively demoted. The policemen approached the Labour Court and the Hawks took over the investigation, said Vearey, but lacked the knowledge or expertise to make progress.
Vearey had been involved in the investigation of claims by Vytjie Mentor, a senior ANC MP, that efforts had been made at the Saxonwold Shebeen to “capture” her. Pauw believes this may have been part of the reason for Vearey’s demotion. So, was Zuma involved in the decision? Pauw writes: “It wasn’t necessary for Phahlane or (former Hawks boss Berning) Ntlemeza to consult Zuma about Vearey. If you employ rabid dogs at the head of your pack, you don’t have to order them to attack. You simply let them loose.”
Pauw looks ahead to the ANC’S elective conference next month and the 2019 general election. He writes: “After living ... on the edge of this spectral realm where Zuma’s keepers skulk and plot, I think South Africans should guard against the very real possibility that they will attempt to rig, steal and influence both the ANC’S national conference and the general election.”
Pauw says if Ramaphosa becomes ANC president, there is a real chance of Zuma going to jail.
Meanwhile, the State Security Agency has laid charges against Pauw and Tafelberg, alleging they have published classified information. This book is being launched in Cape Town on Wednesday.