Murder, mystery and making sense of it all

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The author of Killing Kebble speaks to the Cape Jewish Chronicle

Mandy Wiener

Killing Kebble is not about Brett Kebble, it’s not about Brett Kebble’s murder — it’s about how that one incident really blew the lid on the country’s underworld,” says Mandy Wiener, author of the bestselling book. She discusses the sinister story, what we can learn from it, and why she is still positive about South Africa.

As a young reporter, what drew you to this story and made you stick with it to the point of writing a book?
It was such a surreal story from the start. It’s not often that you have all the ingredients in one story such as this one — a corrupt national police commissioner, a flamboyant modernday Randlord, a gallery of rogues and bouncers, hardened hit-men… it truly is sensational. When I first started reporting on Brett Kebble’s murder, I had no idea what it would ultimately lead to.

Kebble was a symbol of South Africa’s leafy suburbs, but at the same time has come to symbolise South Africa’s dark underworld. What are your thoughts on this juxtaposition, and why do you think it is relevant for South Africa’s more privileged communities?
I think Kebble has illustrated, like so many other businessmen before him, what a fine line they tread. Often hubris is their downfall — they do whatever necessary to feed their insatiable greed. I have always been fascinated by what drove Kebble to that dark side — why did he go to the underworld to fetch his killer? The truth is, the two worlds aren’t that far apart. In fact, they are very closely aligned.

What have been the most challenging aspects of covering the Kebble story and writing the book?
It is the most convoluted story — it is incredibly complex. My greatest challenge has been to simplify it for the listener and the reader and make it accessible so that people can grasp what is really going on.

What have been the most rewarding aspects?
It is so rewarding to see the books flying off the shelves in the way that they are. The book has really struck a chord with the public. I think that’s largely because it’s in line with the zeitgeist — the timing was so fortuitous.

What do you think are the lessons that we as South Africans should be learning from the Kebble story?
I think it’s crucial that this story be captured for posterity because it must serve to remind us how close we came to the brink as a country. Our democracy was threatened so dangerously by the collision of business, politics and organised crime. We are at great risk of that happening again as the story continues to repeat itself. We must be very wary.

In what ways has Kebble’s murder and its implications been detrimental to South Africa, and in what ways has it helped South Africa move forward?
I think this case has exposed the critical flaws in the justice system in the country. I say in the book that the case against Glenn Agliotti was a victim of the criminal justice system in the country, as it became the battlefield for the fight between two agencies of the state — the SAPS and the Scorpions. It shows that if there is insufficient political will and ineffectual prosecutors, anyone can getaway with murder.

What is your opinion of who really killed Kebble?
I have no idea who is lying and who is not.

Has the Kebble story made you more or less optimistic about South Africa, and why?
I am incredibly patriotic and optimistic about the country, and one of my major concerns is that people will become disillusioned after reading the book. Sure, it exposes the country’s flaws for all they’re worth, but I don’t want people to only leave the book with that. This country has massive potential — I want people to learn from this story and ensure that it never happens again, so that our democracy can be strengthened.