Book Extract | The Matanzima brothers’ spectacular pillaging of the Transkei state coffers

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Rogues’ Gallery by Matthew Blackman & Nick Dall. Picture: Supplied
Rogues’ Gallery by Matthew Blackman & Nick Dall. Picture: Supplied

BOOK EXTRACT


Rogues’ Gallery is not an exhaustive (read boring) history of corruption in South Africa. Instead it dishes dirt, drawing on often eyebrow-raising primary sources to bring the tales of half a dozen of our biggest skelms to a modern audience.

With rogues from a range of eras, the book shows that corruption is endemic in South Africa and that the tricks people play haven’t changed a jot. On the flip side, every chapter also features at least one brave whistle-blower – the true heroes of history.

In this chapter 10 extract, Matthew Blackman and Nick Dall recount the Matanzima brothers’ spectacular pillaging of the Transkei state coffers (we all know about the Arms Deal, but have you heard of the Austrian tractor deal?) while also being taken for a ride by some even slimier international shysters. There are bribes aplenty, including an admission of guilt from business magnate Sol Kerzner and one in which R500 000 of “tobacco money” was handed over in, wait for it, a cardboard box.

Rogues’ Gallery: An Irreverent History of Corruption in South Africa, from the VOC to the ANC

Matthew Blackman and Nick Dall

Penguin Random House

R290

Chapter 10: The Brothers Matanzima

Corruption’s Homeland 1964-1988

Born with it

Kaiser Daliwonga Matanzima was born in Qamata [in the Eastern Cape] on June 15 1915 to regional chief Mhlolo Mvuzo Matanzima Mtirara and his wife, Mogedi. Three years later, George, his only brother, came along. Despite the fact that their dad had only completed Standard 4 and their mum had no formal education, the boys easily obtained their junior certificates from the prestigious Lovedale Missionary Institute before going on to study at the University of Fort Hare, where Kaiser did a BA in Roman law and Politics, and George a BSc.

Fort Hare in the 1930s was a hotbed of political activism, where future leaders of the ANC, including Nelson Mandela (the Matanzimas’ uncle) and Oliver Tambo, forged their beliefs. But the Matanzimas did not allow student politics to concern them overly much, having only a brief dalliance with the All-African Convention (ironically, given what was to follow, this radical organisation urged “non-collaboration” and called for “universal franchise and equal rights irrespective of race, colour and sex”) and avoiding the ANC altogether.

While a student at Fort Hare, write Streek and Wicksteed, Kaiser was “studious and anxious to absorb all he could … Student flirtations with radicalism and liberalism were not for him. Others could talk on the campus of the realignment of racial forces, of the emergence of the sleeping black man. He remained a conservative with his interests centred on the chieftainship waiting for him at Qamata.”

As it turned out, Kaiser was a shrewd operator who was able to secure much more than a mere chieftainship for himself. Within 20-odd years he would have conjured up an entire nation (well, sort of) for himself and his dishonest younger brother to share.

Kaiser began his legal articles in 1940, but was soon distracted by the puppet show that was the Bunga – the half-arsed Transkeian Council System overseen by Pretoria. In 1948 he was eventually admitted as an attorney, although he never practised law. Seven years later, he returned to the Transkei’s Bunga “with the object of killing it”, as he had recognised that the Bantu Authorities Act “laid the foundation for the eventual independence of the African people”.

It is perhaps worth considering here that the quotes above are from Kaiser’s Independence My Way, a narcissistic 1976 autobiography bankrolled by the apartheid government’s Foreign Affairs Association.

Chief George, meanwhile, completed his legal articles soon after graduating and began practising law in 1952. After an uneventful decade as a country attorney, he was struck from the roll in 1963 for abusing trust funds.

The cousin who wouldn’t go away

What sets Kaiser Matanzima apart from some of the other rogues in this book is that he played a pivotal role in the invention of the “country” he would eventually bleed dry.

One of the easier ways to appreciate his political expediency is through the lens of his lifelong feud with his cousin, Sabata Dalindyebo.

Dalindyebo was everything Kaiser was not – unscholarly, belligerent and fiercely opposed to the apartheid government. Thanks to his royal lineage, he was also a much bigger tribal cheese than Kaiser could ever hope to be.

In 1954, Dalindyebo was installed as paramount chief of the Thembu – the big boss of the region where Kaiser was a minor chief. It’s not hard to understand how he, a go-getting attorney, might have been pissed off at being beaten to a promotion by a high-school drop-out 13 years his junior. But a man who staked his entire existence on the sanctity of Xhosa traditions should have been able to allow Xhosa tradition to run its course.

As Streek and Wicksteed put it, Kaiser was “visibly angered whenever Dalindyebo [was] referred to as king of the Thembus … which [was] strange for someone who appear[ed] so wedded to the upholding of traditional values and systems”.

Ever the technocrat, Kaiser worked with the apartheid government to outmanoeuvre his arch-rival and cousin, inventing the title of paramount chief of the emigrant Thembu for himself and getting Pretoria to cede lands traditionally administered by anti-apartheid Dalindyebo to himself, the pliant stooge.

“This provided [Kaiser] with the power base he needed in Transkei and established a pattern of support for him as apartheid’s expedient champion,” write Streek and Wicksteed.

“For [Kaiser], his brother and many of his political colleagues, the material rewards of collaboration have been great.”

Dalindyebo did not take this affront lying down. And by 1963, when the apartheid government handed over “self-government” to the Transkei, Kaiser and Dalindyebo would go head-to-head. In the lead-up to the landmark 1963 elections, Dalindyebo’s ancestral lands in Engcobo and Umtata (now Mthatha) were the sites of some serious violence. Dalindyebo openly supported Victor Poto’s opposition party and even called the Matanzima brothers “spies and good boys for the South African government”.

Given that Kaiser had the full backing of Pretoria, the vote that took place in the Bunga was surprisingly close. He, the good boy, edged out Poto by 54 votes to 49, thanks to the fact that tribal chiefs significantly outnumbered elected officials.

In 1979 Dalindyebo went further, telling a rally that “the Transkei president [Kaiser] visited Pretoria at the insistence of the Boers and accepted independence on terms dictated by them … The president has an abundance of the necessities of life while his people have to live on excreta.”

Later that year, Dalindyebo (rightly) described the Transkei passport as “a useless piece of paper”.

On the back of these comments, Dalindyebo was charged with “subverting the sovereignty of Parliament and the constitutional independence of Transkei, and for violating and injuring the dignity of the state president”. In a trial held at Port St Johns (far away from his raucous home base), Dalindyebo was found guilty on the latter charge and ordered to pay a R700 fine or serve 18 months in prison.

Angered by the lenient decision (you’ve got to hate an insufficiently impartial judiciary), Kaiser stepped in to depose his cousin and superior. Five days later, on August 11 1980, Dalindyebo fled the “country” for good. After a thrilling escape via Swaziland, Transkei’s last outspoken critic of the brothers Matanzima died in exile in Zambia in 1986.


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