Risky business

Risky business

Investec scores R2bn from Brett Kebble’s shady business empire, while lawyers walk off with a further R600 million of his tainted loot.

What was it that bound Investec so intimately to Brett Kebble, and why did the banking group take risks that (still) could cause it irreparable damage? The answer is simple: enormous splodges of wonga. Up to now, Investec has profited to the tune of R2 billion-plus from the Kebble saga, mostly brought to account after the wannabe mining magnate was fatally gunned down on 27 September 2005.

And that is only part of the story. In addition, the two “Kebble companies” that Investec hijacked under the thin veneer of a “rescue package” in August 2005 – JCI and Randgold & Exploration – have since paid just under R600 million to lawyers, auditors, directors and other “professionals” appointed at Investec’s behest.

The numbers are all in the public domain, audited and published. Why pay – and pay so handsomely – all these lawyers, accountants and directors? There are many possible reasons, but the main contender is “cover-up and keep them sweet at all costs” – with the subtext, naturally, of “paid handsomely, but not by Investec.”

More than half-a-billion rand stolen by Kebble was diverted to gold mining development company Western Areas, to develop South Deep, a new (then), ultra-deep gold mine west of Johannesburg. South Deep represented Kebble’s biggest personal investment, via shareholdings he held in JCI, which in turn held a major stake in Western Areas.

Kebble would do anything to protect South Deep, Western Areas and JCI.

Talking the party line

Talking the party line

Sihle Zikalala, newly elected ANC chairman in KZN, excites the young .

Ten minutes with KwaZulu-Natal ANC’s new chairman, Sihle Zikalala, and his youth appeal is understandable: the man is confident to the point of being cocky  and unapologetic in his love for the African National Congress. 

“He is the darling of the ANC Youth League a friend says; he’s “incredibly strong”, says an adoring staff member. 

Zikalala literally grew up in the ANC. In his early teens he briefly flirted with the idea of teaching, but was already “politically conscientised” at the age of 15. “The only thing [that matters] besides politics is football,” he says. The teams that matter most to him are Barcelona and Chiefs.

Born in Newcastle, he attended primary school in the village of Ndwedwe near Tongaat. Both his parents were “serious”. Active in their local church, they instilled self-respect and the need for human dignity in their children.

As a young teenager, so involved was Zikalala in the party that, for safety reasons, he left his secondary school to attend one in an area that was more ANC-friendly. “It was dangerous back then to be an ANC member in KwaZulu-Natal,” he says. Ndwedwe was a hotspot, so the entire ANC branch operated out of Inanda.

Rude reception for honoured guest

Rude reception for honoured guest

Unisa and Home Affairs keep visiting professor unpaid and tied up in red tape for months.

Early in 2013 the University of South Africa (Unisa) in Pretoria wrote to Professor Ulrich van der Heyden in the theology faculty of Berlin’s Humboldt University, inviting him to become a Visiting Researcher for 14 months in the theology faculty.

Prof Van der Heyden was particularly pleased to accept because, for most of his career as an historian and political scientist his focus has been on the southern part of Africa. The history of the German missionary societies in 19th century South Africa is one of his main research topics – which is what prompted the invitation.

Prof Willem Boshoff of the Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies at Unisa is, in addition, a mission archaeologist. The guest-professorship programme would make it possible for the two to collaborate in a research project aimed at producing a history of the Bakopa people who live north of Pretoria and who nearly fell victim to an ethnocide in the 19th century.

Boshoff has been engaged in archaeological research on the Bakopa for years. In the process, he laid the foundations for missionary archaeology being done globally. The project is aimed at scientifically reconstructing the pre-colonial history of African people who do not have written sources. The research could help the Bakopa clarify, preserve and strengthen their historically shaped ethnic identity.

Leaderguard: news from Mauritius

Leaderguard: news from Mauritius

News at last for Leaderguard scam victims. But is it good? The case of the inscrutable Chinese and KPMG.

A blast from the past: the ten-year-old Leaderguard Spot Forex investment scam is back in the news. But a cloud of secrecy and intrigue still surrounds the planned relaunch of a court action by the liquidator of Leaderguard against the company’s auditors in Mauritius, KPMG.

That global audit firm wields enormous power in the Indian Ocean island and over the years has done its utmost to prevent the airing of evidence, suggesting that its senior partner Jean-Claude Liong lied in order to fend off a massive damages claim.

And, is the same Jean-Claude Liong telling the truth in a more recent (unrelated) clash over compensation with a powerful Mauritian cabinet member?

Yes, this could be relevant.

The Leaderguard Spot Forex scam surfaced ten years ago. It saw 1,200 investors, many of them pensioners, stripped of their savings to the tune of $55 million – more than R760m today. (See A feast for lawyers and bankers below.)

The battle to bring KPMG to account in Mauritius has been long and gruelling.

A killing stench

A killing stench

Something’s rotten...

People live in Glen Austin and surrounds for the peace and quiet, and to be next to the dams in the area. But it stinks, and the birds are dying. And neither the council nor the local dump site will take responsibility.

For the past six months, residents of Glen Austin near Olifantsfontein in Midrand have woken up to the unbearable reek of rotten eggs. Suspicion immediately fell on the Interwaste FG landfill site. Many locals have come down with health problems including stinging eyes, skin allergies, sinusitus, asthma, coughing and other respiratory ailments.

It is not only humans who are suffering. Scores of birds are dying daily and horses are coughing, yet there has been little or no official explanation of the smelly air, and possible poisoning of the environment. On September 23 during a clean-up, nearly 50 African sacred ibises were found dead at the Glen Austin Bird Sanctuary and the Bullfrog Reserve, as well as ten blacksmith plovers, one moorhen and a dog.

In vain, residents have asked both the Ekurhuleni council and Interwaste for an explanation, and have launched a petition calling on Ekurhuleni Metro as well as the provincial and national governments to “stop pollution of our streams, rivers, wetlands, stormwater channels and other water bodies with the continuous overflowing of sewerage and other toxic materials”.

The affected areas are North Eastern Johannesburg, incorporating Glen Austin, Clayville, Midstream and Olifantsfontein, as well as parts of Centurion. At a Midstream Estate residents’ meeting on 14 October, 77% complained that they were living with the stench constantly and some said they had gone so far as to tape up their doors and windows to keep out the smell.

Residents are convinced the source of the stench is Interwaste – which has denied responsibility.

Brave lawyer has regrets

Brave lawyer has regrets

Richard Spoor won the battle against the mining giants – but lost to Facebook.

Peering down from the press gallery in the Constitutional Court on 17 August 2010 one couldn’t help but notice the asymmetry between the “for” and “against” benches. That was the day that Thembekile Mankayi vs AngloGold Ashanti Ltd was being argued. On the applicant’s side of the court a single attorney “David” (Richard Spoor) stood with a British law student and a social worker passing him ammunition as he aimed his slingshot at the “Goliath” ranged against him – the gold mining industry.

Spoor was in pursuit of a claim for R2,6 million on behalf of his client because “AngloGold negligently exposed him to harmful dusts and gases as a result of which he contracted diseases in the form of tuberculosis, silicosis and chronic obstructive airways which have rendered him unable to work as a miner or in any other occupation”.

AngloGold did not deny the cause of Mankayi’s illness but argued that the R16,300 compensation he had already received under the prevailing legislation was all he was legally entitled to.

En route to the Constitutional Court, both the High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal had agreed with AngloGold. With an unpaid bill for the advocates he had briefed hitherto, Spoor had no option but to robe himself with an inky cloak, borrow a ruff and seek leave to appeal to the Constitutional Court. He was five days late in doing so because he had been scrambling for money.

Hospital horrors torture patient

Hospital horrors torture patient

Farcical treatment delays likely to leave young father a cripple.

When Linah Mkhonto’s boy was born on 16 December 1980 she named him Dingaan, after the Zulu king whose impis were defeated by the Voortrekkers at the Battle of Blood River 142 years earlier, on the 16 December 1838. If his mother hoped to prepare him for battle, her choice of name was  prescient: today the 34-year old Dingaan Mngomezulu is fighting the battle of his life – for the medical care to which he is entitled.

In the process, Mpumalanga’s MEC for Health, Gillion Mashego, has narrowly escaped being locked up – but the Sheriff was barred from entering the provincial offices ostensibly because it is a national key point.

After matriculating in 2003, Mngomezulu established himself as a handyman in the small farming town of Hazyview, next to the Kruger Nattional Park. Times were tough, but some months he managed to earn R5,000 to provide for wife, Edith, and their three children, now 14, 10 and 8.

But on 2 April this year Dingaan fractured the femur of his right leg while at work in his rural village, Marite. Although that same day he was admitted to the nearest medical facility, Matikwana Hospital, about 10km from Marite, he was seen by a doctor only two weeks later.

Meantime, his leg had been placed in makeshift traction, using building bricks as weights.

 

Patent nonsense

Patent nonsense

Experts say the draft intellectual property laws are laughable.

The Fix the Patent Laws (FTPL) Campaign issued a press release on 29 October, announcing that it had called on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) “to end years of pharmaceutical company price-gouging and broken promises for patent law reform, and produce a final intellectual property (IP) policy and bill to amend the Patents Act.”

The FTPL justified its call by saying that the prices of certain medicines for cancer, HIV and mental health “remain significantly higher in South Africa than in other countries, which prevents significant numbers of patients from getting the medicines they need”.

It said that it had drawn DTI Minister Rob Davies’s attention to the fact that there were a number medicines “for which generic and biosimilar products are available outside South Africa, but are blocked locally due to South Africa’s problematic patent laws”.

The FTPL placed much of the blame at the door of the drugs companies, talking of “significant efforts made by the large multinational pharmaceutical industry in the US and Europe to sideline reform”, and the so-called  “Pharmagate” plot, “in which international pharmaceutical companies sought to influence South Africa’s patent law reform process through a US-directed and funded front organisation”.

(When talk of this “plot” first emerged last year, Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi reacted in a way that certainly caught people’s attention, accusing the big drugs companies of being involved in an IP conspiracy of “satanic magnitude” and a “plan for genocide”).

Going places

Going places

Young South African tenor, Levy Sekgapane, has German opera audiences on their feet, cheering. The London Financial Times reviewer notes his ability to “nonchalantly deliver both fiendish coloratura and stratospheric high notes while giving every appearance of enjoying himself.”   Yves van der Haeghen  interviews Sekgapane after his  recent starring performance in Germany.

I have to be great; these people come for Non più mesta (the final pyrotechnical aria of Rossini’s Barber of Seville) and I can’t disappoint them, says Levy Sekgapane.

He’s still flushed with the success of the previous evening’s premiere in Krefeld, in Germany’s glum Ruhr Valley, where the audience was roused to a boisterously drawn-out standing ovation for the young South African tenor. Germany is home to a third of the opera houses in the world, and its audiences are notoriously hard to win over.

Sekgapane on the other hand is eager to please.

What bankers and lawyers will do for dosh

What bankers and lawyers will do for dosh

The Kebble saga continues: might Investec’s getaway plans still fall apart? The devil lay coiled in a small unlisted company. The world will be a duller place, was Noseweek’s first reaction (in October ...
 
Risky business

Risky business

Investec scores R2bn from Brett Kebble’s shady business empire, while lawyers walk off with a further R600 million of his tainted loot. What was it that bound Investec so intimately to Brett ...

Talking the party line

Talking the party line

Sihle Zikalala, newly elected ANC chairman in KZN, excites the young . Ten minutes with KwaZulu-Natal ANC’s new chairman, Sihle Zikalala, and his youth appeal is understandable: the man is confident to the point ...

Rude reception for honoured guest

Rude reception for honoured guest

Unisa and Home Affairs keep visiting professor unpaid and tied up in red tape for months. Early in 2013 the University of South Africa (Unisa) in Pretoria wrote to Professor Ulrich van der ...

Leaderguard: news from Mauritius

Leaderguard: news from Mauritius

News at last for Leaderguard scam victims. But is it good? The case of the inscrutable Chinese and KPMG. A blast from the past: the ten-year-old Leaderguard Spot Forex investment scam is back in ...

A killing stench

A killing stench

Something’s rotten... People live in Glen Austin and surrounds for the peace and quiet, and to be next to the dams in the area. But it stinks, and the birds are dying. And neither ...

Brave lawyer has regrets

Brave lawyer has regrets

Richard Spoor won the battle against the mining giants – but lost to Facebook. Peering down from the press gallery in the Constitutional Court on 17 August 2010 one couldn’t help but notice the ...

Hospital horrors torture patient

Hospital horrors torture patient

Farcical treatment delays likely to leave young father a cripple. When Linah Mkhonto’s boy was born on 16 December 1980 she named him Dingaan, after the Zulu king whose impis were defeated by the ...

Patent nonsense

Patent nonsense

Experts say the draft intellectual property laws are laughable. The Fix the Patent Laws (FTPL) Campaign issued a press release on 29 October, announcing that it had called on the Department of Trade and ...

Going places

Going places

Young South African tenor, Levy Sekgapane, has German opera audiences on their feet, cheering. The London Financial Times reviewer notes his ability to “nonchalantly deliver both fiendish coloratura and stratospheric high notes ...