On Monday 14 July 1997, Ian Deetlefs, an anglicised Afrikaner from KwaZulu-Natal, tall, neat and always the gentleman, informed his colleagues on the board of Log-Tek Holdings Ltd (a company listed on the JSE), that there was a possibility that the company could acquire Conlog – an electrical and water-metering business that at that stage was in the Anglo American stable – at a “favourable” price.

The board agreed and Deetlefs, a newcomer, wasted no time. He immediately set about negotiating with Anglo (Amic Industries to be precise) – but, surprisingly, not on behalf of Log-Tek, but on behalf of a company called Charleston Marketing.

On 5 August 1997 the deal was concluded: Charleston Marketing bought the business of Conlog – not the company – from Amic for R34m. Charleston didn’t have any money of its own to make the purchase: it borrowed the entire purchase sum from New Republic Bank, whose new Malaysian owners seemed eager to please this mystery new company.

On 28 August, Charleston Marketing changed its name to Conlog (Pty) Ltd.

Mr Deetlefs was ready to get back to his friends at Log-Tek. Log-Tek’s minute book records that in September he told the board that his negotiations on their behalf had advanced well. He recommended that Log-Tek proceed to purchase Conlog. The board minutes do not record any mention of Charleston Marketing – or of any deal that Deetlefs had done in advance of the proposed purchase of Conlog by Log-Tek, a logistics company listed on the JSE.

In November Log-Tek did a new share issue in order to raise the extra capital it needed to buy all the shares in Conlog (Pty) Ltd – for an agreed price of R124m! (The sellers were to get 22.5m Log-Tek shares, valued at R5.50 each. Log-Tek would also guarantee repayment of the NRB loan.) Log-Tek’s board were, presumably, none the wiser, but, thanks to Deetlefs – without having invested a cent of their own money and in less than four months – the shareholders of Conlog had bought a business for R34m and sold it for R124m, making themselves a cool R90m profit!

The lucky shareholders were a number of trusts, including the Letaba Trust, the Ad Astra Trust, the Khangela Trust, and the IDT Trust.

So what, you say? Well, for a start, the trustees and ultimate beneficiaries of those trusts were the self-same Ian Deetlefs – Major-General Deetlefs to you – who also happened to be head of state-owned arms conglomerate Denel. Former Armscor boss Ron Haywood, and minister of defence Joe Modise (since deceased).

The big boys of the old era were showing the big boys of the new how they made big bucks on the side without anyone finding out.

And how did we find out? Well, needless to say, not too long thereafter Log-Tek and its successor company, Dynamic Cables RSA Ltd, took a bad turn. And some people who subsequently bought those Log-Tek shares (a fair number of them at high prices from those trusts) are very, very angry. They have made it their business to find out.

But now for the seriously unfunny part. Old MK commander Joe Modise’s shares were held in a trust called the Letaba Trust. That trust was established in Pietermaritzburg in February (and registered in April) 1994 – several months before Modise became South Africa’s first post-apartheid minister of defence. A founding trustee of the trust was Ian Deetlefs. In terms of the trust deed, during Ian Deetlefs’s lifetime, no other person may be assumed as a trustee without his approval. This means that even before the new government had assumed power, military officers of the old order had “bought” Modise by seducing him into improper business relationships where they exercised a significant measure of control over his financial affairs.

And Deetlefs, Haywood and Modise would be key players – probably the key players – in driving South Africa’s arms procurement programme.

Ian Deetlefs was a pillar of the old military establishment. His urbane manner hides his decidedly shady approach to business. That much is immediately apparent once you get onto the trail of the many trusts he uses to hide his secret business interests.

For example: the Ad Astra Trust, registered in Pretoria in 1997, has Ian Deetlefs as trustee; its sole beneficiary is the Khangela Trust (trustee I Deetlefs), registered in 1984. Beneficiary of the Khangela Trust is the Idee Family Trust (registered in 1989 and not to be confused with the IDT Trust, of which Ian Deetlefs is also a trustee). Only when you get to the Idee Trust do you learn that the ultimate beneficiaries of the whole network are … Ian Deetlefs and his wife and children.

There’s another curious feature to all these trusts: names are frequently duplicated. For example, there’s a second Ad Astra Trust – also registered in Pretoria in 1997 – but it has Ron Haywood as a trustee. And its beneficiary is the Haywood Family Trust. (Deetlefs registered his Ad Astra Trust some months after Haywood’s.)

There’s also a second Letaba Trust, this one registered in Pretoria in 1997. Deetlefs is also a trustee of this trust – but its beneficiaries are not Joe Modise and his family. Its beneficiary is the Khangela trust that, down the line, as you will recall, benefits Ian Deetlefs and his family.

An unhappy purchaser of Log-Tek shares has observed in court papers: “Deetlefs’ conduct in establishing certain trusts which hold the selfsame name as other pre-existing trusts of which he is aware falls to be considered with circumspection and raises questions regarding the true identity of the parties to certain agreements.”

Indeed. n

♦ Armsdeal supplier Daimler-Chrysler's supplied a total of 33 Mercedes Benz vehicles at specially discounted prices to various politicians and officials able to smooth their way: the list included Armscor's chairman, Ron Haywood, and CEO Llew Swan. Haywood received a discounted Mercedes S210, registration number 000RFH GP in November 1999.

Arms Deal
Mercedes Benz
Ad Astra Trust
Letaba Trust
South Africa
Arms Procurement
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