The Sunday Independent
Book of scandals and drama
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