Nothing Left to Steal is Mzilikazi wa Afrika’s memoir of his infamous 2010 arrest, as well as the story of how he became a investigative journalist.
In his career Wa Afrika worked to expose corruption among the powerful and well-connected. He was to become the victim of a particularly sinister version of this corruption.
In the excerpt below, Wa Afrika describes the vendetta against him. It involved phone bugging, plotting, blatant lies, “honey traps” and, finally, a shady arrest.
Read the excerpt:
Nghunyupesu: The writing is on the wall
“Even in the jungle there are those that hunt the hunters.” – Mzwakhe Mbuli
A compromise verdict was reached. There was no other way: I must hang. I had to be flushed out and destroyed. I was the notorious party pooper who everybody loved to hate.
I was like a mosquito, the jury said, causing people sleepless nights and disturbing their peace.
I was sniffing around in the wrong places, like a stray dog. I was an agent provocateur. I had my probing eyes on the wrong people, very powerful people with political connections.
My pen had become more dangerous than a loaded gun; it was vicious and malicious; it spat venom and caused havoc. I had become their worst nightmare.
My name was discussed in boardrooms and whispered in the corridors of power. It had become a swear word: some people puked at the sound of it, and others cursed it.
A plan was cooked: they had brought in the best chefs, graduates from the University of Propaganda and Public Manipulation. The aroma from the kitchen was appetizing and permeated the air. Their buffet was delicious and the public would swallow it without asking about the ingredients or the recipe. There would be enough food for everyone, even for the hobos on the street.
For starters, they legally bugged my phone. They went to a High Court judge for the order. The poor judge was told that I was a dangerous criminal, involved in cross-border gun smuggling. My passport records showed more than a dozen entrances in and out of South Africa travelling to Mozambique and Swaziland in less than six months and this was enough to convince the judge.
The judge issued the order. It seemed the right thing to do. Anybody suspected of being a dangerous criminal, smuggling weapons that were used to arm the dangerous gangs involved in cash heists and bank robberies, should, if an application is made, have his phone bugged, the judge was told.
Besides telling the judge lies, their real motive was different. They wanted to know who my sources were and what they were telling me. They were also hoping that they would get something, a secret perhaps, that they could use to blackmail me. They had unleashed the dogs; they followed me around; they set up honey traps: beautiful women sent to seduce me and then scream, “Rape!”
After blowing a small fortune of the taxpayers’ money there was nothing to show from this costly exercise. My sources and I were talking in codes they could not crack. They couldn’t make head or tail of the text messages intercepted on my phone and their bevy of women were returning untouched and with nothing to report back.
The ammunition they needed to execute their plan came on 1 August 2010.
The Sunday Times on that day published a front-page story exposing the former national police commissioner General Bheki Cele in a R500 million property lease scandal.
My colleague Stephan Hofstatter and I broke that story.
Cele wanted to move the police head offices into a building owned by businessman Roux Shabangu, who is close to President Jacob Zuma. (Shabangu was a VIP guest at Zuma’s inauguration ceremony.) And Cele wanted to move without following prescribed government tender procedures, thus violating Treasury rules.
Numerous phone calls were made to Cele after the newspaper hit the streets, followed by meetings, and the police boss was hooked. There was a mouth-watering meal on their menu and I was the main course. My head would be delivered on a platter, but only if Cele came on board and was hungry enough for revenge.
Cele did not need anybody to whet his appetite. He was more than hungry: he was a wounded lion and our story hurt his pride. No journalists had ever written such a damning story about him as he was the darling of the media in KwaZulu-Natal, his home province. He was also a powerful politician. He did not think twice before ordering his meal from the menu.
He started his offensive in the media, calling a press conference two days after the story was published to test the waters. The conference was well attended and Ndosi (Cele’s clan name) seized the opportunity to denounce our story as “incorrect, worse and misleading”.
The maverick politician resorted to a personal onslaught at the press conference, calling me “a very shady journalist”.
The plan was in progress and the ball was rolling. They decided to pounce.
Six people were called to a secret meeting in Witbank, a vibrant Mpumalanga coal-mining town east of Johannesburg, the day before I was to be arrested. They were each given special assignments and a collection of calumnies against me.
Later a team of police officers handpicked to execute the task at hand were told that my arrest must achieve maximum impact.
“It must be felt in all the four corners of South Africa,” was their instruction, claimed one of the people who attended the meeting in Witbank.
I was arrested on 4 August 2010 at my place of work, the Sunday Times offices in Rosebank, Johannesburg, in full view of other journalists and distinguished members of SANEF who, ironically, had come to the building to discuss matters that affect the lives of journalists in this country.
The arrest was nothing but a daylight kidnapping of a man who is almost two metres tall. I had become a thorn in the flesh of many politicians. I had exposed their devious shenanigans on the front pages of one of Africa’s biggest and most influential newspapers.
I was taken from the office under the pretext that I was being taken to Rosebank police station, a stone’s throw away, to be charged with whatever charges they had concocted and would then be released on bail. But to everybody’s surprise including the Sunday Times lawyer, Eric van den Berg, who was handling the matter, I was handcuffed, bundled into an unmarked police vehicle parked on the road outside and whisked away to no man’s land. Not even my lawyer or my bosses or any member of my family were told of my whereabouts.
Pahad was banned during apartheid for his political activity, and spent time in exile in Europe where he played an important role in generating support for the ANC.
In the video, Manas congratulates Pahad on the achievement of writing this book. He says that he felt it a fitting way to celebrate 20 years of democracy and 130 years of the ANC. He thinks more people who were involved in the struggle should be writing the story of this period themselves so as to avoid distortions creeping into the records.
He says freedom fighters are made not born, and he shares some of the experiences and moments that made him what his is as a leader. He says he had a privileged childhood because he grew up in close proximity to so many great political minds.
De Wet Potgieter, investagative journalist and author of Black Widow White Widow, was interviewed by Shannon de Ryhove for Polity about his book and the startling untold story it brings.
In the book,Potgieter investigates whether the Al-Qaeda is working in South Africa. He explained to De Ryhove about the evidence of terrorist networks in South Africa, and explains the reasons for and effects of this. He says South Africa is a safe haven for terrorists and members of organised crime syndicates.
Zelda la Grange, author of Good Morning, Mr Mandela (also available in Afrikaans as Goeiemore, Mnr. Mandela), wrote a letter to Nelson Mandela last week to reflect on the anniversary of his death. The letter was published in the newly relaunched Rand Daily Mail.
La Grange’s letter testifies to the friendly but respectful relationship she had with Mandela. She catches Mandela up on her life and his family’s news, and speaks about the lessons South Africa still has to learn from him.
Read the letter:
You have been gone for almost a year now. Your passing has still not sunk in and the reality is difficult to accept.
We are grateful to be healthy and well. You would laugh at me telling you that I now have to wear glasses when I read. Yes, I’m becoming old and I can hear you responding with a laugh and your shoulders shrugging.
Justin Bonello’s journey into filmmaking started in the Karoo, also the setting of his latest cookbook Cooked in the Karoo.
“For anyone who’s ever spent any sort of time in the Karoo, you know how it gets under your skin. It takes just one trip and you are forever addicted,” Bonello says. In the short documentary he shares the story behind his new book and the accompanying television series, Karoo – land of thirst.
Bonello explains how he came to document this desert-like space and why he felt compelled to share the stories of the people living in one of the most desolate areas in South Africa.
Watch the video to find out more about the recipes and people in Cooked in the Karoo:
In the interview, Pahad shares his thoughts about what happens when governments resort to military aggression to resolve conflicts. He believes that after 9/11, global diplomacy became rooted in military action. Instead of looking for and resolving the root causes of extremism, the aim is simply to destroy. He says this will never root out extremism. Instead it creates “more people who will fight you”, as the cause for unrest remains.
Pahad says there needs to be communication between enemies. At the the end of the apartheid era, the ANC grasped the opportunity for peaceful negotiations. During this process, the shared interests of the adversaries were revealed. An armed revolution never would have established the same buy-in. Pahad suggests that this mode of negotiation needs to be applied in contemporary South Africa, and abroad.
Wa Afrika says that he wrote this memoir to tell people who he is, as an individual and as an investigative journalist, and to set the record straight about his arrest. He is working on a novel and says he may write a follow-up to Nothing Left to Steal.
Penguin Books het ’n uittreksel uit Alida Ryder se tweede kookboek, Kook uit die hart, gedeel.
Hierdie uittreksel bevat drie heerlike resepte vir “kos wat jou sal opkikker wanneer jy bedruk voel”. Ryder se disse sluit in donker-sjokolade-en-meringue- soentjies, toffie-appels en hoender-en-feta-quesadillas met guacamole.
Met elke resep vertel sy ’n storie of deel sy ’n herinnering. Kook uit die hart is ook in Engels beskikbaar as Cook from the Heart.
Lees die uittreksel:
Hier is resepte spesiaal geskep om by jou luim te pas – kos wat jou sal opkikker wanneer jy bedruk voel, wat jou vierings ekstra plesierig sal maak, ’n romantiese geleentheid sal laat uitblom tot iets fantasties, oomblikke van kalmte en rus sal verdiep, en selfs vir daardie dae voorsien wanneer jy te lui voel om te kook maar steeds jouself en jou gesin moet voer.
Loop jou hart oor van liefde?
Bros meringue. Gladde donkersjokolade. Alles in die vorm van ’n soet soentjie. Dis nie nodig om nog iets te sê nie.
In this book La Grange’s shares her highly unusual story of growing up as a young girl in a typical Afrikaner middle-class family during the height of apartheid to her appointment as personal assistant to Nelson Mandela, one of the most beloved leaders of all time and South Africa’s first democratically elected president.
In the excerpt below La Grange contextualises her family by sharing her parents’ history, describing her childhood and the way in which apartheid seemed normal to her. “So apartheid was in our home. We lived by segregation,” La Grange writes.
Read the excerpt:
* * * * * * * *
On 29 October 1970 in Boksburg to the east of Johannesburg, South Africa, I was born and not left to die but to make it good, like most babies that are brought into this world. On the same day, Nelson Mandela was already beginning his ninth year in prison. In prison since 1962, and then convicted for treason after the Rivonia Trial in 1964, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. He and other political prisoners were incarcerated on Robben Island, a desolate island off the coast of Cape Town, for opposing apartheid.
At the time my father worked at a construction company and my mother was a teacher. They were very poor. My only sibling, my brother Anton, was three years old when I was born. Because our parents were white, we were born to legal privilege. That was the way it was in South Africa in 1970. Even though my parents’ families shared the same holiday destination every December, my parents only met in Boksburg once my mother was studying to become a teacher and my father was working in the postal service.
My grandfather’s family originated from French Huguenots who fled the south of France during the 1680s to escape the persecution of Protestants by the Catholic authorities.
The La Grange family originated from a small town called Cabrières in the region of Avignon; a place I discovered and visited twice in the decades after my birth as a result of working for Nelson Mandela. My father was one of two siblings. Their parents lived in Mosselbay, a coastal town along the picturesque Garden Route in the Cape Province. My grandmother’s sister was the first qualified female pharmacist in South Africa and up to this day the Scholtz family own and run a reputable pharmacy in the town of Willowmore in the Eastern Cape. She was therefore quite an impressive woman and someone we automatically looked up to as a result of her unique achievement.
I was also very fond of my dad’s father. His name was Anthony Michael but we just called him ‘Oupa Mike’ (Grandpa Mike). He used to visit us a few times a year and then stay with us for a few weeks. He smoked a pipe and the smell of smoke irritated us. He would sit on one particular chair and constantly wipe his hand on the arm rest. His skin was old and cracked and the tobacco from stuffing his pipe stuck in those cracks. When he left our home the armrest was black, much to my mother’s irritation, but nobody ever said he couldn’t smoke in the house.
My mother was the eldest of three siblings from the Strydom family. The only famous family with that surname was that of J. G. Strijdom (also sometimes spelt Strydom), the sixth Prime Minister of
South Africa who served between 1954 and 1958. He was succeeded by the ‘Father of Apartheid’, H. F. Verwoerd. When I learned as a child about a Strijdom being Prime Minister, I convinced myself that we were somehow related even though no real connection exists.
My mother’s father died in a motorcycle accident when my mother was only twelve years of age. I often asked my mother whether she recalled the night they received the news about her father’s death. She has mostly avoided talking about it, but has said that she recalled been woken up by someone knocking on their front door and then hearing my grandmother crying hysterically. My grandmother had few options about the upbringing of her children. She had a clerical job at the South African Railways and it was financially impossible for her to raise three small children by herself.
She decided to send my mother, being the eldest, to an orphanage. The children’s home was in Cape Town, which is why my mother still detests the city. For her, it stinks of abandonment. Ma only saw her siblings and my grandmother once a year during the December holidays. Both the La Grange and Strydom families camped in the same area close to Mosselbay, called Hartenbos, during the December holidays, but they never knew about the other’s existence.
My mother’s childhood memories are limited to suffering, neglect, sadness. The world was suffering the consequences of the Second World War, slowly recovering from the economic recession, and my mother, even as an Afrikaans child in the 1940s in South Africa, felt those consequences through poverty. I greatly admire her for not holding a grudge against my grandmother, whatever the circumstances.
Grandma Tilly, my mother’s mother, was part of our everyday life, even though she had given up my mother as a child. She lived close to us and I would often visit her on my way from primary school, as she conveniently lived halfway between our house and the school. Before she moved closer to us, Grandma Tilly lived opposite the Union Buildings. Sitting on the hill overlooking the city of Pretoria, the administrative capital of South Africa, the Union Buildings were built by Herbert Baker and were the seat of the apartheid government. Imposing, monumental and beautiful – for my family, it was like living across from the White House.
On Sundays the La Granges and the Strydoms, my uncle’s family, would all visit my gran in her apartment for lunch and then go for a walk on the manicured lawns of the Union Buildings. The Union Buildings represented ultimate authority and we walked up the steps with great respect. My cousins, brother and I would play on the grounds, rolling down the sloping lawn, laughing all the time. We were happy children growing up in apartheid South Africa. Ours was a typical privileged white family, benefiting from apartheid through good education, access to basic services and a sense of entitlement to the land and its resources. Apartheid was our regime’s political solution to enforce segregation and the separation of races, classes and cultures.
Instituted by the Afrikaner leaders in the late 1950s, the then Prime Minister, Hendrik Verwoerd, called it ‘policy’. ‘Our policy is one of good neighbourliness’, implying that the Afrikaner cared for all racial groups in South Africa. But the reality was that apartheid was a way of ensuring that Afrikaners benefited from the economy, opportunities and wealth of the country’s natural resources, at the expense of others.
By the mid 1970s the apartheid government had created a racist state based on decisions taken in the Union Buildings. Black and white people were separated, not allowed to marry, befriend, have sex together or to live in the same cities. These were the so‑called Group Areas Act provisions in South Africa, an attempt to prevent people from freely moving around and living lives within the same
boundaries. Black people couldn’t ride in the same buses or swim in the same sea as whites. Due to its apartheid policies, South Africa was suspended from participating in the business of the United
Nations in 1974, and followed by a resolution passed in 1977 a mandatory arms embargo was imposed against us. However, the United States, Britain and France opposed the expulsion of South Africa
from the UN despite several resolutions calling for it.
Even though my country was an international pariah, we kept on playing and laughing at the seat of government. This was because my people were protected. Protected from men like Nelson Mandela.
It was people like him – black and determined to overthrow the government, challenging white superiority – who we feared. Neither of my parents were politicians or worked for the government.
But we supported the regime. We were, I suppose, racists. We epitomized the typical Afrikaner middle-class family at the time: law-abiding citizens, cheerleaders for whatever the church and government
dictated. Our respect for authority and the ties to the Dutch Reformed Church superseded common sense. Like any other Afrikaans family, we attended church services on Sunday morning without fail and participated in all related activities to exhibit our model citizenry.
So apartheid was in our home. We lived by segregation. It was all acceptable and unquestionable, not only because the National Party government in power dictated it but also because our church endorsed it.