Opposing the mafia state – Glynnis Breytenbach’s story: Herbst takes a closer look

Veteran journalist Ed Herbst

JOHANNESBURG — In the months leading up to Christmas (as well as the ANC’s ‘silly season’, aka the ‘elective conference’); there’s been a plethora of really fantastic political books hitting the shelves. Apart from Jacques Pauw’s blockbuster book ‘The President’s Keepers’ and the much-lauded ‘How to Steal a City’ by Crispian Olver; advocate-turned-politician Glynnis Breytenbach’s book ‘Rule of Law’ provides fascinating (and scary) insight into her life and happenings at the NPA. Her ordeal of having been forced out of the NPA provides much-needed perspective on South Africa’s general political crisis. And veteran journalist Ed Herbst provides a taster of what the book has to offer. – Gareth van Zyl

By Ed Herbst*

That the NPA subjected Glynnis, a senior member, to the humiliating ordeal of proceedings based on charges it could not sustain is a sad reflection on how far the NPA has strayed from the principles of fairness and objectivity – indeed from being the institution envisaged by our Constitution. – Dr Jan d’Oliviera SC in Rule of Law – A Memoir

South African journalists have done an outstanding job in exposing and documenting the depths to which the African National Congress has sunk and, as a result, we have been rewarded with a series of recent books which document the innate corruption within what has become more criminal enterprise than political party.

In the past year or so we have had Ray Hartley’s The Big Fix – How South Africa Stole the 2010 World Cup, Jessica Pitchford working together with General Johan Booysen on Blood on their Hands, Angelique Serrao’s Krejcir: Business As Usual, Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s The Republic of Gupta, Redi Tlhabi’s Khwezi, Claire Bisseker’s On the Brink  with its chapter on state capture by Rob Rose, Jacques Pauw’s The President’s Keepers and Rule of Law – A Memoir, which sees Nechama Brodie bringing to life the life and times of Glynnis Breytenbach.

This is not a review of the Breytenbach biography because two exist already which cover that terrain more than adequately. I approached Breytenbach, her co-author and the publishers, Pan Macmillan South Africa, for permission to post the following extract because it records a prescient warning of then-nascent Zuptoid corruption and of the way in which murder, or attempted murder in Breytenbach’s case, has become an integral part of ANC politics.

The extract I have chosen is headed The Kumba case and it outlines the crude and crass criminality which the Gupta/Zuma axis of evil employed in an illegal attempt to acquire the mining rights at the Sishen iron ore mine in the Northern Cape. This was a telling portent of what was later to play out in Eskom’s burgeoning corruption. There is nothing new in this – a decade ago John Block, one of the ANC’s most senior and revered criminals, illegally snouted a salt mine. But wait, there’s more – ask the malevolent Ben Ngubane what he knows about forging documents to illegally acquire mining rights. I felt however that this extract should be made to available to the public as an easily-accessed internet record which would help us  better understand the advent of Malusi Gigaba, Mosebenzi Zwane, Tom Moyane, Brian Molefe, Anoj Singh, Matshela Koko, Ben Ngubane, Richard Mdluli, Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi, all trailing a host of other ANC deployed parasites in their  slimy wake as they literally and figuratively desecrate the memories of people like Oliver Tambo.

The ICT scam was simply a prelude to the snouting of Optimum Coal and the shots fired on two occasions at Glynnis Breytenbach were a chilling portent of the untrammelled ANC slaughter now being investigated by the Moerane Commission.

Rule of Law is a fascinating and delightful read and Brodie has done an outstanding job in capturing the essence of Glynnis Breytenbach – a mensch with a heart of gold (witness her work on child abuse prosecutions) which is buttressed by a spine of steel.

The book is enhanced by a series of interviews with people who know Breytenbach, esteem her professionally and regard her personal idiosyncrasies with bemused endearment – Johann Kriegler, Vusi Pikoli and Mandy Wiener among them. The latter says: Glynnis can really vloek. She is probably the most creative vloeker I have ever encountered. But it is so descriptive and apt and, often, it is accurate. And it is usually done with affection.

This book is important because it is another sliver in the mosaic of the ANC’s pervasive criminality that has returned South Africa to the international pariah status which, in 1994, we naively believed we had put behind us for good.

Watchdogs. More of Zapiro’s brilliant work available at www.zapiro.com.

It gives a useful insight into the capture of the NPA and one reads with schadenfreude of how Breytenbach prevails (so far) over the unspeakable Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi. She did this with the help of an R8 million donation from the FW de Klerk Foundation to cover the legal costs that she incurred in fighting their attempts to further undermine the NPA by prosecuting her. That her persecution by the NPA was no momentary and transient ANC deployed cadre aberration is manifest in the subsequent and similarly futile attempts by Shaun the Sheep to intimidate and side-line Pravin Gordhan.

Breytenbach points out in the book that she earns far less as an MP than she did as a prosecutor but she adds significant strength to the DA team in parliament and her financial sacrifice benefits the common well being.

The Kumba case

Shortly before I was suspended — sometime in late November 2011 – I was summoned to the VGM building by Karen van Rensburg, then CEO of the NPA. Karen fancied herself as something of a prosecutor, but I have reservations about her ability and her commitment. When I got to VGM, I was told that they wanted to talk to me about a complaint they had received in connection with an ongoing case I was involved in, regarding mineral rights in the Northern Cape.

The case involved two companies, Kumba Iron Ore and Imperial Crown Trading (ICT). Both parties had tendered for mining rights at the Sishen iron-ore mine near Kathu. The rights had been granted to ICT. Kumba then alleged that ICT had fraudulently copied tender documents, and that there were irregularities in ICT’s winning tender submission. Although ICT was a new mining company, it was linked to the Gupta family, Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane Zuma, and Kgalema Motlanthe’s fiancée Prudence ‘Gugu’ Mtshali.

I had landed up with the case more by accident than design. The docket had come to my office because the Northern Cape chapter of the NPA had contacted us. Kimberley is a huge area to cover, but it has joint jurisdiction with Gauteng because the head office of the Department of Mineral Resources is in Pretoria and it made sense for our office to handle it. I wasn’t actually looking for more work, because I was already busy with Mdluli, and another multibillion-rand Ponzi scheme. I actually had someone else in mind to handle the Kumba-ICT case but when I became aware of the magnitude of the docket and saw who was involved, I could just see shit coming.

The case itself was amateurish. ICT had literally photocopied Kumba’s tender application and submitted the same documents. I could prove it, easily. Kumba’s documents had been certified by their attorney in Kimberley. ICT had literally just put a card over the stamped bit and copied the page. It wasn’t even done carefully. Sometimes the card they used cut off words, sometimes writing went past the card. In one place, they got very careless and turned the card over — I could see it was somebody’s unemployment card. If you blew up the two documents and compared them, there was no doubt that this was what had been done. It was like taking somebody else’s business plan. Someone inside the department in Kimberley had given Kumba’s papers to someone at ICT, they had photocopied it, given it back, submitted their tender late, and got it backdated. They thought they had Mineral Resources all sewn up.

The matter had already been in court once or twice, and advocate Mike Hellens was acting for Kumba. There had been a search and seizure at the ICT premises, which we (the NPA) had done. Unfortunately, because of what happened next at the NPA, I don’t know the outcome of that seizure. All the information that was seized was held at the registrar’s office pending the investigation. It’s probably still there. They took documents, computers, memory sticks …

ICT was losing badly. In the courts, on the search and seizure warrants, it was getting a hiding in Kimberley. A hiding that Mike Hellens was helping to deliver.

Now, I had known Mike since I988 or I989, and we had many cases against each other over the years. I think I won most of them. But ICT’s attorney, Ronnie Mendelow, had gone to the NPA and made representations that I was favouring Kumba and prejudicing his client, ICT, because I had an ‘unnaturally’ close relationship with Mike Hellens.

Funnily enough, Ronnie Mendelow and advocate Walg Wessels had come to see me two or three years previously, on a matter they wanted help with. But then, of course, they had no difficulty with that kind of assistance. As a point of interest, Wessels has only now just taken silk. The honour of ‘silk’, or Senior Counsel (SC), was typically bestowed upon an advocate by his or her peers, and came with a significant increase not only in the advocate’s status but also in earning power. However, advocates at the bar had to apply for the honour, and their status was reliant on the Bar Council approving the application. And somebody, it seems, was blackballing Walg every time.

I handed over the ICT-Kumba docket the very day I learned about the complaint. It was not above investigation. Why the NPA never prosecuted the matter after that, I don’t know. I think people lacked guts. They saw what happened to me, and they just followed the path of least resistance.

But I gave over the case. And then Karen said they wanted me to give up all my other cases too. And that I had to leave the SCCU offices to work at the DPP’s office. At that stage, as I have said, I was busy with a R12.8-billion Ponzi scheme, the Tannenbaum case. Plus the Mdluli case. So I said no. I said I would give the Kumba matter to someone else, but I would continue with all my other work. This was in November 2011.

A couple of months later Prince Mokotedi, head of the NPA’s so-called Integrity Management Unit, came into my office and said he wanted my laptop. I said that I was busy, and asked what entitled him to my laptop. He left. I didn’t hear from Mokotedi again for a while. In December they had appointed an internal team to conduct a preliminary investigation against me. This was headed by Hercules Wasserman, a senior manager in the Integrity Unit. Based on Wasserman and his team’s findings, on 1 February 2012 the NPA issued a notice of intention to suspend me — but was not able to clarify whether I was actually suspended or not. It was at this stage that I hired attorney Gerhard Wagenaar to represent me. A few days later Wasserman came and asked for my laptop, which I did not have with me at the time. I was prepared to make my laptop available, but Gerhard advised me that the NPA first had to give me an undertaking that they would not trawl through my personal stuff; and, second, they had to let me know what the charges were against me. This was at around the time when Zuma’s lawyer Michael Hulley was embroiled in some controversy around the confidentiality of the so-called Spy Tapes recordings and transcripts, which Hulley claimed to be in possession of but would not release to anyone. So, while I was prepared to hand over the computer, Gerhard suggested I take his advice, which I did. It then turned out that despite official statements, an article in the City Press, and an interview on a commercial radio station, I was not actually suspended, and so nothing further happened at the time.

I got shot at, the first time, in April 2012. I was driving between Johannesburg and Pretoria on the N14/Klerksdorp road. There were no lights, and there was a four-way stop that was notorious as a hijacking hot spot. I had already turned down the window of my car slightly and didn’t make a dead stop at the sign -just slowed enough to check that nothing was coming. As I started to turn, two shots rang out from somewhere just to the right of my car. Neither of them hit the car. I didn’t see anything or anyone, but they were certainly shooting at me because there was no one else. I got such a fright that I drove the car over a pavement and scratched the paint, which pissed me off. I called Piet Pieterse at the Hawks and said, ‘I’ve been shot at, I’m just telling you.’

A few days after that, there was another incident on my way back from gym. I took the same route every day at the same time. As I was leaving the gym — behind Makro in Centurion, where there are traffic circles – three guys on big BMW scramblers started riding alongside me, two on the sides, one just in front of me, trying to squash me off the road. I just thought, what a fucking cheek, I’ll drive right over you. So I aimed at the one in front and I floored my car, and I hit him. The other two stopped to help him, and I left the scene.

I was also followed a number of times, but they were not very good at it. They would park on the grass outside my house, and fall asleep in the car. Sometimes I would go and tap on their window to wake them up.

I was shot at again at least a year after that, near the John Vorster off-ramp. By then I was driving a bulletproof X5. There was a guy waiting at the off-ramp, and he fired three shots at the car. One hit, two missed. I tried to run him over but he got into a car on the other side of the road and drove off.

Shooting at me was a massive waste of time. They should have just chucked a grasshopper in my car, and I’d have rolled the vehicle and done the job for them.

In closing: The fraud of the Zuptoids in their attempted snouting of the Sishen mining rights was contemptuously brazen but, as usual, no attempt has been made to prosecute those responsible. This was a portent of what is happening now in parliament where the majority of ANC MPs supported the further criminalisation of the Beloved Country.

An employee monitors the processing of iron ore along conveyor belts in the Jig plant at Sishen mine, operated by Kumba Iron Ore Ltd. Photographer: Nadine Hutton/Bloomberg

Additional proof of the ANC’s incurable corruption comes in two recent books by party insiders, How to Steal a City by Crispian Oliver and Ronnie Kasrils’ A Simple Man: Kasrils and the Zuma Enigma.

When the ANC assisted one of its heroes, Omar al-Bashir, to escape and lied to our courts in the process I realised that fate, ANC corruption and our political system had returned us to the pariah status which we, as a country, last experienced under the likes of John Vorster and P W Botha. When Peter Hain recently revealed to the British Parliament the extent to which the ANC had made South Africa part of an international criminal network, my sense of foreboding increased.

In those dark apartheid days, patriotic heroes and heroines resisted.

That is happening again.

Glynnis Breytenbach is one of those patriots.

  • Ed Herbst is a retired veteran journalist who writes in his own capacity.
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