MoneyWeek book review: The Inside Story
A conspiracy theory concerning the unsolved murder of South African mining magnate Brett Kebble makes for racy reading. But is it true?
Conspiracy theories abound about the unsolved murder of South African mining magnate Brett Kebble since his death in September last year; he was shot seven times, allegedly at the hands of a hitman, while in his luxury car in Johannesburg.
Few of these theories are as controversial as those of journalist Barry Sergeant in his Brett Kebble: The Inside Story, which caused a stir on its release in South Africa: not only does Sergeant claim to know exactly who murdered Kebble and why, but the book itself was commissioned just one day after Kebble's death.
According to Sergeant, Kebble was killed by a hitman for his alleged involvement in an illicit diamond deal involving a Mr X. Kebble, he says, had been doing "dirty business" with Mr X, forming part of a global organised-crime syndicate of London gangsters, Irish mafia, Asian triads and African warlords.
Mr X, Sergeant claims, was parked on the overpass above where Kebble was murdered as the event took place and called Pretoria shortly after the "seven muzzle flashes cleaved the night", reporting Kebble's death to someone important. Sergeant refused to tell this interviewer any more about Mr X, saying only, "I've got a highly developed sense of self-preservation". So which figures in South African business and politics could have been on the receiving end of the call? Sergeant won't elaborate, but claims South Africa faces a constitutional crisis should the "numbers of people involved, the amounts of money involved and the names" be made public.
Sergeant, who previously claimed Kebble and his business colleagues tried to "bust my balls", is adamant his claims are accurate, notably in the prologue, which details Kebble's last movements. "I'd like to believe that I've got a network of the highest possible quality. Otherwise I wouldn't have written that prologue, unless I know it actually happened," he said in a recent interview. The book adds that Kebble, a renowned arts patron in South Africa, had been involved with contraband in order to get the much-needed cash to continue his fraudulent business transactions, alleged to amount to some R2bn. The event has become known as South Africa's Enron.
The book ranges from trashy prose ("The Duke sat down, holding his glass of whisky as if he were fondling a woman's breast") to meticulous analysis of Kebble's share transactions, which lend it credibility, but also make it unreadable in parts and the Dan Brown-style prologue does little to dispel the reader's doubts as to whether to take the book seriously or not. Maybe it would be better to wait for the movie.
Heather D'Alton is a business writer for Iafrica.com.
Brett Kebble: The Inside Story by Barry Sergeant is published by Struik Publishers, Exclusivebooks.com or Kalahari.net, and costs between R143 and R184 (£11-£14).