We know it’s not polite to say “we told you so” – but, as usual, that’s not going to stop us.

For starters: in parliament on June 21, Patricia de Lille called for an investigation of a new list of characters connected to the – by now justly notorious – arms deals. One of those she named was Ron Haywood, former chairman of Armscor.

Haywood first featured in noseweek four years ago in an article entitled “The questions Selby [then Public Protector Selby Baqwa] won’t be asking”. In it we pointed out that the Armscor chairman was also a director of Conlog, a significant beneficiary of the arms deals.

In December 2003 we revealed how Haywood and friends made a quick profit of R90m by buying Conlog for R34m, and then, three months later, selling it – without disclosing their interest in the deal – to JSE-listed Log-Tek, of which he was a director, for R124m. The shareholders of Conlog included a trust of which Haywood was a beneficiary – as well as the Letaba Trust whose beneficiary was then Minister of Defence Joe Modise. Trustee of the Letaba Trust was Major-General Ian Deetleefs, then head of Denel, another indirect shareholder in Conlog and director of Log-Tek!

Clearly, we said, Hayward and Deetlefs were introducing the big boys of the new era to all the corrupt tricks of the old.

De Lille is correct. Haywood’s activities should be investigated as thoroughly as were Schabir Shaik’s.

And then there’s Mandela art. In August 2003 we wrote: “When Ross Calder and Ismail Ayob devised a scheme that set former president Nelson Mandela up as something of a circus act, if not actually a con artist, in the hope of pocketing the odd R100m from the sale of ‘Mandela art’… did they appreciate the damage they were likely to cause to the image of Mr Mandela, and the implied insult to all the people who have invested their hope and faith in his integrity?

“And it wasn’t even in aid of the Children’s Fund! At the very least, Mr Ayob, you owe the public an accounting of what you’ve done with the money.” It’s most gratifying, even if it is two years later, that Mr Mandela has now himself demanded just such an accounting. (For the latest update, see this issue for what Varenka Paschke now says.)

Finally, may we recall how seriously offended FirstRand Bank was – also in August 2003 – by our article “For whom the Road Tolls” in nose47? (“Which is reassuring. At least they care,” we replied.) In it we had described the close and seriously lucrative relationship that had developed between the banking group and Mac Maharaj, both while he was minister of transport and afterwards. These issues were brought to a head by troubling bits of information about Maharaj that were then being uncovered by the Scorpions in their Shaik enquiry.

We noted that both Maharaj and his director general had left the department to take senior, lucrative positions at FirstRand; that at least three FirstRand directors were, in the period that the department of transport became the banking group’s single largest client, also directors of various agencies of the department; and that Schabir Shaik’s father-in-law, Vahed, was a director on the FirstRand Holdings board.

“We don’t know what goes on in the minds of FirstRand’s directors – they might be pure as driven snow,” we said in our editorial at the time, “but what we do know is that all that traffic through the swing door between a government department and the FirstRand group looks bad.” We went on to suggest that the investigation into the allegedly improper payments by [Shaik’s] Nkobi Holdings to Maharaj should be extended to an investigation of all the dealings between Maharaj, Schabir Shaik and FirstRand itself. “Such an investigation is suggested by the extent of the apparent conflicts of interest and the huge sums of public money involved,” we said.

“That is but one of the reasons why we believe FirstRand’s [own, private] investigation of the allegations concerning Mac Maharaj was ill-advised, no matter what the outcome. [It exonerated him.] It all smacked of a panicky attempt to control a process that might otherwise go in directions the bank would not welcome.“Watch this space,” we concluded.

Now that it has been announced that charges are to be brought against Maharaj, to our dear friends at FirstRand: you can’t say we didn’t warn you.
- The Editor

PS: Business Day columnist Christine Qunta has recently had occasion to compliment us as “about the only publication that avoids racial profiling.” Thank you! We do kick-ass on an equal opportunity basis.

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