Memoir of a murder, a mistress, the mafia – and the mother who sacked him – with Lew Geffen

Property maverick Lew Geffen speaks about his book, Soul Mandate, a business memoir that contains a story of two extramarital affairs, one that ended in murder and the other that ended in happiness. He reveals what happened on the night Jason Rohde murdered his wife. He speaks about the happiness he has found with the woman who became his mistress 23 years ago. He relates how he had to personally buy back a house his sales agents had sold or be killed by assassins from the Israeli Mafia. He reveals why his mother, Aïda, sacked him in a note sent by scooter. He is the man who sold President Nelson Mandela’s first house in Houghton, marketed one to Princess Diana – and is now set to become the next Roald Dahl by writing children’s stories. – Chris Steyn

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:00 – Introductions
  • 01:11 – On Jason Rohde
  • 05:53 – The woman who has stood by him
  • 07:53 – How did his affair end so happily?
  • 09:25 – The time he was fired by his mother
  • 13:05 – On the Israeli mafia
  • 15:37 – On Nelson Mandela’s house
  • 17:02 – Trying to sell a house to Princess Diana
  • 17:52 – Incidents that will stay will him forever
  • 20:08 – His regrets
  • 20:28 – What he is currently doing
  • 22:40 – What’s next?
  • 23:28 – Conclusions

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Highlights from the interview

Not many business memoirs contain a story of two extramarital affairs, one that ended in murder and the other that ended in happiness. 

We speak to the author, property maverick Lew Geffen, about his book, Soul Mandate, S-O-U-L not S-O-L-E as one might have expected. 

Recalling the headline-grabbing murder at his company’s annual event in 2016, Geffen says: “I had a partner in the business who knew the story; that Jason (Rohde) was having an affair with Jolene (Alterskye). And I was not advised of this. Had I been advised of this, I would have immediately stopped Jolene from coming, knowing that the wife was also coming.”

Describing Susan Rohde’s “out of character” behaviour that night, Geffen says: “…she’s very gregarious. She’s, I would say, drunk and she’s talking to everybody, but it was a bit hysterical. I thought that was odd.”

The next morning as Geffen and his family finished breakfast, somebody approached them and said: “You’ve got to come to reception. There’s something wrong.”

When Geffen asked in whose room, he was told the Rohde’s. “…my blood went cold. Anyhow, we went through the room and what we found was Sue lying on the floor, on her back, completely naked. And one of our managers was applying resuscitation. And that was the scene. And of course there was a distraught Jason who was crying…put him in the car and he said what am I going to do about my kids? I recall that my daughter was comforting him and this went on for quite a while and then the police arrived. When the police arrived, they went, they did their thing, but by 11 o’clock there was a yellow ribbon around the room, in other words, crime scene.”

In sharp contrast to that “catastrophic” event, Geffen’s own extra-marital affair is a different tale. Not only is he still on daily speaking terms with his now ex-wife, but he and his former mistress, now partner, have shared 23 happy years.

“…firstly she’s a very affectionate person. Then, she’s very clever. She’s actually an artist by trade. And she sells her art all over the world through two online agencies….we got on. I mean, during the period of our relationship…we went on many hikes together, sometimes four days, sometimes five-day hikes…We were very happy in each other’s company. There was hardly any conflict, and it just grew and grew.”

Nevertheless, they have no wedding plans. “No, marriage is out, I’m 75 years old and I’m not getting married again. There’s no reason to get married again. Listen, either you trust or you don’t trust. So after 23 years, there’s trust.”

Geffen also relates how his mother, the formidable Aïda, fired him.  “Well, I was so elated at the time, because it was the birth of my first child, that I got so many good messages that this message came as a shock. But knowing my mother, I wasn’t surprised. I wasn’t surprised.”

This after Geffen had overspent by R20,000 on renovating a house. “Eventually we sold it for 20,000 Rand loss. And my mother was most upset. And that’s when I got the note sent by a scooter.”

And then there was the time he incurred the wrath of the Israeli Mafia when his agents sold them a property to develop 12 clusters when it had only been rezoned for four. “…basically, they said, listen. You’ve lied to us, your agents have lied. You have to bear the responsibility. We’ll give you four months to sell this property. Now, the property was bought for 5.7 million. It wasn’t that cheap a property. And they said, if it’s not sold after four months, you will buy the property from us. And if you want to know who we are, we took out…There was an assassination in Oaklands in the year before of Hazel Crane. They said, we’re the guys that did it. That’s all they had to say.”

(In 2003, Crane, a convicted diamond smuggler and close friend of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, was shot four times on her way to the Johannesburg High Court where Lior Saat, 33, a member of the so-called Israeli mafia, was appearing. Saat stood accused of murdering Crane’s ex-husband, Shai Avissar.)

“And after four months, I had to put my money where my mouth was, and I had to buy it for 5.7 million rand. And not only that, as I bought it, it was vandalized. They took out everything. So there was nothing. I couldn’t even rent it. I held onto the property for nine years and eventually sold it to an architect for 3 million.”

Over the years Geffen has sold the houses of many famous people, including former President Nelson Mandela’s first home in Houghton. He even marketed a house to Princess Diana.

Although he is still Chairman of Sotheby’s International Realty SA, Geffen now wants to focus on writing children’s stories, and reinvent himself as the next Roald Dahl.

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