The men who?got away with?murder

2014-11-16 15:00

Director Warren Batchelor has created a powerful, ­probing and no-holds-barred local documentary you won’t forget, writes Gugulethu Mhlungu. The killers of notorious mining magnate Brett Kebble have re-enacted the murder and are given a chance to tell their side of the story

Film: 204: Getting Away with Murder

Director: Warren Batchelor

‘Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light.” This famous quote by George Washington opens director Warren Batchelor’s 204: Getting Away with Murder, a new documentary on infamous mining magnate Brett Kebble.

The doccie features all the critical players: Kebble’s father Roger; his brother Guy; drug dealer Glenn Agliotti; late Teazers boss Lolly Jackson; former NPA head Vusi Pikoli; former national police commissioner and convicted fraudster Jackie Selebi; as well as Kebble’s killers – Mikey Schultz, Nigel McGurk and Faizel “Kappie” Smith – re-enacting the murder.

Batchelor claims this is the first time a re-enactment of this nature has been done in a South African film. Kebble’s killers, who received indemnity for agreeing to cooperate with the state, are central to the storytelling and are offered the opportunity to tell their version of events. Schultz and company literally got away with murder.

One of my main criticisms of the doccie is that it paints broad brushstrokes over the part apartheid played in the corruption we see today. The doccie’s narrator says racketeering, white-collar crime, corruption, prostitution and drug-dealing have “all become commonplace” in the new democratic South Africa – as if South Africa did not have a long history of crime and violence before 1994.

In spite of this, the documentary holds together multiple plots and story lines. It shows how the murder of Kebble goes way up in the political hierarchy.

The case ultimately caused the dissolution of the Scorpions and the recalling of then president Thabo Mbeki after he was found to have interfered with the work of the Directorate of Special Operations.

It looks at Schultz’s underworld dealings with Elite Security (which used private security to run a drug and racketeering business in the 1990s), Kebble’s rise as a randlord and the manner in which he accumulated huge amounts of wealth.

In the last 10 minutes or so it reveals its real question: were the number of plea bargains, deals, catastrophic errors, missteps and seismic political implications of what one journalist called “the biggest fraud in SA history by a multiplicity of smart?...?individuals” – excluding, of course, apartheid, which was grand corruption – worth the conviction of just one man, Selebi?

The doccie reads as an indictment of corruptible authority figures who undermine the country’s ability to deal with rampant fraud. It leaves many questions, including the murder of Kebble, unanswered.

Despite some gushing about how great and innovative a businessman Kebble was, this doccie does not paint Kebble as a hero. Instead, he is portrayed as a small player in a large web of corruption.

Whether or not he was, in fact, merely a scapegoat depends entirely on the viewer’s opinion.

A story of big men with clay feet – and one well worth seeing.

» 204: Getting Away with Murder is screening in major cinemas nationwide

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