Tymon Smith talks to Mandy Wiener about the Kebble murder case
Mandy Wiener is a journalist specialising in investigative reporting and legal matters. She recently scooped the National Press Club award in the social media category, having won the radio category in 2011. She has won a number of national and regional Vodacom Journalist of the Year awards, was chosen as the CNN African Radio Journalist of the Year in 2007 and has received several commendations in the Webber Wentzel Legal Journalist of the Year awards. She was also selected as the 2011 Rising Star in the Women in The Media awards.
When did you decide to write a book about Brett Kebble’s murder?
There was a point during Jackie Selebi’s trial when I decided I wanted to write a book. I started taking meticulous notes about every conversation I had, every off-the-record briefing, every detail about what people were wearing and eating because I knew I would need that detail.
How long did it take to write?
Three months and then the editing process was about four months. It needed to come out as quickly as possible for a couple of reasons. One is that the story is still changing; and also because people want to know about news now, they don’t want to hear about it down the line. Glenn Agliotti was only acquitted in November and I wanted to get it out as soon as possible so it would be current.
Do you think the killers have remorse for what they did?
I think there’s a definite acknowledgement on their part that what they did was wrong. I don’t think there’s any remorse about killing Kebble because they felt he wanted to die, but there’s an acknowledgement that they’ve transgressed the law. They don’t see it as evil because they see crimes such as rape and cold-blooded murder, where there’s no relationship between victim and perpetrator, as more evil, that’s the impression I got.
At the same time, I had to be very conscious of the fact that they have done horrible things. I heard stories about people being killed and driven around in boots of cars to be shown to rival gangs. Yet they were very careful to distance themselves from evil. I don’t think they wanted to be classified as such.
Obviously, the victim here is Kebble himself. What kind of picture emerged of the man from your research?
He is the victim but, at the same time, I don’t think he comes across as the victim. The difficulty for me is that I couldn’t interview him. He couldn’t speak for himself, so I had to speak to those closest to him, who don’t necessarily portray him in the most positive light. That’s why I would have liked to speak to his wife, who didn’t give me an interview. She could have probably portrayed him in the best possible light, or at least given us some understanding of his character.
I was lucky to speak to his father and brother, who were initially reticent. They cleared up a lot of misconceptions about him that had been perpetuated in the media . You have this idea of Kebble the mining magnate, this lavish life, the largesse and the bankrolling of politicians, but there’s more to him and you see it in the SMS about the relationship he had with his kids and how endearing that was. And the SMSes with his wife and the affectionate way they spoke to one another .
What do you think the family sees as justice in this case?
I think it’s someone goes to jail. Now you have a situation where no one goes to jail. It doesn’t change what happened, but for them there’s a kind of satisfaction in seeing someone being found guilty and being sentenced. I compare it in the book to the Dewani case, where you have plea-bargains, whereas in this case you have 204 indemnities where nobody gets a criminal record and no one does jail time. In the Dewani case, the driver got 18 years in exchange for his testimony. It’s international practice to give the so-called button men deals in order to bring down the top guy. In one sense, they did bring down the top guy – Jackie Selebi was found guilty of corruption, but in the Kebble matter, you’ve got everybody walking free. Was it really worth it?
How do you think the killers feel about their escape from prosecution?
I think they’re very, very aware that they got away with murder. Even when I speak to them now, they say: “In what country does that happen, that you kill someone and you don’t go to jail?” It’s bizarre. It’s astonishing. I think there is remorse that they got involved in a crime that was so high profile and had such implications. I don’t think they knew what they were getting into. They thought they were just going to go and kill some guy. But it wasn’t just some guy, it was one crime that spiraled and led to a fortune of other crimes and the exposure of this entire organised crime syndicate.
What did you learn from the experience?
I learnt the inherent value of loyalty and trust and about reputation as a journalist. You have to be so careful when you walk such a fine line because you have to be beyond reproach. Jacques Pauw says it’s a dance. You have to earn trust and loyalty, and you have to reciprocate with trust and loyalty, and you have to remember where you are in the bigger picture and that you’re a journalist and a storyteller and you have to be objective.
- Killing Kebble: An Underworld Exposed by Mandy Wiener
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