Book of scan­dals and drama

The Sunday Independent - - FRONT PAGE -

THIS ex­tract is from a new book called Kill Zuma By Any Means Necessary by busi­ness­man and politi­cian Gay­ton McKenzie. McKenzie in­ter­ro­gates sev­eral al­leged plots to kill Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma as well as oth­ers in the ANC.

McKenzie says his book looks closely at events in the 1980s that set the scene for Zuma learn­ing about some of the “darkest se­crets of the ANC”, in­clud­ing who among the party’s most se­nior struc­tures was al­legedly col­lab­o­rat­ing with the apartheid gov­ern­ment and the western agen­cies.

THE story goes that, one sunny af­ter­noon in Mus­grave, Dur­ban, two Zulu women were go­ing about their shop­ping at one of their favourite bou­tiques while two shop as­sis­tants kept a hope­ful eye on them.

They didn’t no­tice that a lighter-hued gen­tle­man who would turn out to have an African-Amer­i­can ac­cent was about to in­ter­rupt their con­ver­sa­tion. The man they would soon be re­fer­ring to as the “Amer­i­can fel­low” walked up to them hold­ing a few ex­pen­sive dresses. “Ladies, I humbly apol­o­gise for dis­turb­ing your con­ver­sa­tion. I need your ad­vice. My wife is never happy with my choice of dresses. Would you kindly ad­vise me as to which dress she would ap­pre­ci­ate the most?” It is said that one of the women, born Nom­pumelelo Ntuli, but pop­u­larly known as MaN­tuli after her mar­riage, an­swered first, in jest. “You would have to pay us.”

The man replied: “I promise to pay for a day’s shop­ping if th­ese dresses im­press her.” Not really be­liev­ing him, but en­joy­ing the spon­tane­ity of the mo­ment, the ladies chose a nice dress or two and, in ap­par­ent keep­ing with his in­ten­tion to fund a day’s shop­ping for them, he took their phone num­bers and left the store. He called the next day, ap­par­ently very happy. “She loved the dress! It’s time for me to keep my end of the bar­gain. I have al­ready called the shop; you can go and choose a few dresses for your­self. All you have to do is let me know when you will be go­ing.”

MaN­tuli ap­par­ently didn’t ques­tion how un­usual all of this was. She was al­ready more than just a lit­tle charmed and, be­fore she knew it, they met at the store, she chose her “re­ward” and saved his num­ber and his name, which he told her was “Bill Har­vey”. What she didn’t know was that this had been no chance en­counter, and the man knew just about ev­ery­thing worth know­ing about her. She’d been watched for months, and her ev­ery naive weak­ness, pref­er­ence and dis­like cat­a­logued and an­a­lysed.

Bill knew pre­cisely what to say to her and how. In the face of a true pro­fes­sional, the “young wife” was about to have not only her own world turned up­side down, but po­ten­tially a whole coun­try’s too.

MaN­tuli had be­come Ja­cob Zuma’s sec­ond cur­rent wife in his fourth mar­riage on Jan­uary 8 2008. It was a low-key af­fair that took place when she was 33 and Zuma was 65.

She had al­ready borne Zuma two chil­dren and would later give him a third – al­though that birth was soon to be shrouded in ru­mours of in­fi­delity and the death of a state body­guard. It’s no more than co­in­ci­dence that Zuma’s fourth mar­riage took place on the birth-date of the ANC, but many in­ter­preted it as a sign of good for­tune for Msholozi, who had re­cently tri­umphed over years of ad­ver­sity to be­come the ANC’s 13th pres­i­dent.

Within days of that Satur­day, Zuma was to de­liver his first Jan­uary 8 state­ment as the new leader. It was an ad­dress that struck a hope­ful note, claim­ing that the party’s 52nd con­fer­ence had “served to re­ju­ve­nate and in­vig­o­rate our mem­ber­ship” and “also to unite the move­ment, pro­vid­ing a valu­able plat­form to at­tend to the dif­fi­cul­ties ex­pe­ri­enced in re­cent times”.

But no one was think­ing about pol­i­tics that week­end. A few high-pro­file guests at­tended the wed­ding, in­clud­ing chiefs, a mayor and a “close busi­ness as­so­ciate”, Er­win Ul­bricht, who would be in the papers again in time to come for al­legedly buy­ing a house for MaN­tuli in Morn­ing­side in Dur­ban. At the wed­ding, Zuma danced and sang in an open field next to his house at mid­day, wear­ing the trad- itional ib­heshu. He and his fam­ily re­ceived hum­ble gifts, in­clud­ing blan­kets, from the bride’s fam­ily. MaN­tuli was, in the main, given ban­knotes pinned to a wrap­ping around her head, as well as to the rest of her out­fit.

With Zuma’s first wife, MaKhu­malo, de­scribed as too shy and re­served to ful­fil many of the du­ties of a First Lady, it was sug­gested that MaN­tuli would prob­a­bly end up tak­ing on the man­tle along with the next bride-to-be, Thobeka Madiba.

MaN­tuli had ac­tu­ally skipped the queue to marry Zuma, as Thobeka was meant to wed the fa­ther of her three chil­dren in 2008 al­ready – but that had been de­layed due to the never-end­ing roller-coaster of Zuma’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.

So MaN­tuli got the nod first and Zuma was soon to learn this pretty, plump Zulu daugh­ter of the KZN soil who had smiled at her broad­est at her wed­ding when be­decked in ban­knotes would turn out to be the First Lady of Scan­dal and Drama.

We didn’t have to wait long for the first of sev­eral of th­ese scan­dals: it fol­lowed soon after MaN­tuli’s for­mer pri­vate body­guard, Phinda Thomo, was dis­cov­ered in a blood­ied bath in his Soweto home in De­cem­ber 2009. He had al­legedly shot him­self in the head. It was later widely spec­u­lated he had killed him­self due to the com­pli­ca­tions of hav­ing an af­fair with MaN­tuli, who al­legedly fell preg­nant with his child, a son who was born in Au­gust 2010.

Thomo’s friends de­scribed the hand­some, fear­less body­guard with his megawatt smile as a “ladies’ man” who feared no one. Thomo’s mother doubted the of­fi­cial ver­sion that her son – who had once also guarded Fik­ile Mbalula and then Julius Malema – was the kind of man who could ever have com­mited sui­cide.

Thomo quit as MaN­tuli’s pri­vate body­guard six months be­fore he died, without telling those close to him why he left. Many of the fu­neral go­ers at Thomo’s fu­neral no­ticed that MaN­tuli was sob­bing openly, to the point that she seemed even more grief-stricken than his fam­ily.

In 2010, an anony­mous let­ter from “con­cerned fam­ily memb e r s ” was faxed to sev­eral news­pa­pers con­tain­ing sen­sa­tional and dam­ag­ing al­le­ga­tions of MaN­tuli’s af­fair. The Zuma fam­ily re­sponded by say­ing the let­ter was noth­ing more than a smear cam­paign by the pres­i­dent’s en­e­mies mas­querad­ing as fam­ily mem­bers and con­tained no truth what­so­ever.

Much later, in 2014, a Tan­za­nian man liv­ing in South Africa, Steven On­golo, re­ferred to as Steven Ma­sunga, was ar­rested and sen­tenced for ex­tor­tion for send­ing a threat­en­ing SMS to MaN­tuli in which he claimed he would ex­pose the truth about her third child not be­ing Zuma’s and that the death of Thomo had been sus­pi­cious. He claimed to have ev­i­dence that he had been paid by MaN­tuli to kill Thomo.

The Tan­za­nian was sen­tenced to three months in jail or a fine of R10 000 after he pleaded guilty to three counts of crimen in­juria in the Dur­ban Re­gional Court.

As for other scan­dals dog­ging MaN­tuli, the most fa­mous of them in­cluded a me­dia re­port in 2010 that she had had an af­fair with the leg­endary screen ac­tor Joe Mafela, a re­la­tion­ship that al­legedly pro­duced a son in 1997 when MaN­tuli was only 23 years old and Mafela 55 and mar­ried.

The ac­tor, died in a car ac­ci­dent in 2017.

“Where do I start ex­plain­ing this to my wife and chil­dren? I don’t want to tear my fam­ily apart. The mat­ter is very sen­si­tive. Th­ese things hap­pened years ago be­fore she even met the pres­i­dent. I don’t want to be in the pres­i­dent’s bad books, Mafela said”

The book will be avail­able on Thurs­day as an e-book. Hard copies will be avail­able from Fri­day

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