If this were a novel, set in Johannesburg in the same period, I would have chucked it in the bin on the basis that it was just too outlandish and unbelievable.
As it is, Killing Kebble: an Underworld Exposed, by Mandy Weiner, is apparently all true. As they say, truth is stranger than fiction.
Mandy Weiner, a young reporter with Eye Witness News, covered the Kebble case and the various cases that sprang from it. She comes across as sincere and I particularly liked her candid assessment of the various outlandish characters that she interviewed along the way. It would seem that she became quite close to some of them, and I rather like this too.
While the book is a “true crime” story, outlining the ins and outs of the murder of Brett Kebble, South African mining magnate, and the subsequent spin-off trials of Jack Selebi, erstwhile Chief of Police, and Glenn Agliotti, Mafiosi pretender, it also exposes the sleazy under-belly of South African society. What I found particularly striking was the peculiar naïveté of some of the main players. It feels almost as if they were playing a game which, even to them, was not really real.
A large part of the book is concerned with corruption – and corruption abounds in every form. On a moral level, Brett Kebble and his associates appear to have been entirely corrupt. It would seem that money, or at least access to money, had turned their heads, as it were, and had given them a completely false sense of the world. Money could be used to buy anything and anyone, and vast sums of it appear to have been floating around like so many potato chips. There is a carelessness that I found extremely disturbing; a carelessness with the money itself, but also with the outcomes of what the money was used for. One gets the sense that these people somehow felt that they were playing parts in a movie rather than living a real life.
What is also interesting is that this is a story about men. With the possible exception of Hazel Crane, women do not play any part in the action but are generally shadowy, supportive figures in the background. Meanwhile, the men swagger around, flexing, depending on their bent, their wallets, their muscles or their positions, living in what seems to me to be a kind of made up world – certainly not a world that I could consider real in any proper way. Oddly enough, it is the obvious “baddies” who come off best as they, at the very least, have some kind of meaningful moral code even if it is not one that I would necessarily subscribe to.
I see that I have three times alluded to my feeling that the characters in the book – real-life characters – are, in some way, not living real lives. This is, of course, nonsense because their lives are, quite obviously, real. Nevertheless, I can’t help feeling that they have not got a proper grasp on what being adult is about, and it is because they never became fully adult that they were each drawn into the peculiar drama that became their lives. In extrapolating this thought, I wonder if it is not this inability to become fully adult, to take adult responsibility, to make adult decisions, to live in a “real” adult world, that underlies the kind of corrupt behaviour that we see all around the globe at the moment.
Killing Kebble is well put together and certainly offers some fascinating insights into how the other half lives. It is well worth reading.