EXTRACT: The President's Keepers - how the Guptas tried to capture Johan Booysen

The President's Keepers (Publisher: Tafelberg)
The President's Keepers (Publisher: Tafelberg)

In the winter of 2017, I again sat down with Johan Booysen, now employed as the head of investigations at Fidelity Security Group. He said he was doing basically the same as before – combating attacks on cash-in-transit vans and staff – but he was now wanted and respected. “We have to deal with the mess that Ntlemeza and his cronies have left behind,” said Booysen, referring to crime statistics that show that cash-in-transit heists and ATM bombings increased by 30 per cent between 2015 and 2017. “We are going to harvest their fruit for years to come. I believe I could have made a difference, had I been allowed.”

I waited for Booysen to finish his penne arrabiata (extra chilli on the side) before I said: “Johan, I want to ask you about a meeting you had on 16 August 2015.”

He looked up from his plate, grasped his wine glass, took a sip of sauvignon blanc and said: “What about that day? I had many meetings.”

“That was the day you visited the Guptas. It was three days before your interview for Hawks head.”

He looked for a moment as though he had taken a blade in his back, his eyes stabbing into mine. I’m sure that stare has convinced many a criminal that it was in their own interests to confess. “How do you know about it?”

“You made an affidavit about the visit and gave it to General Matakata [the acting Hawks head]. You did it after you left the police.”

“And how did you get hold of it?”

“Someone in the Hawks gave me some stuff. It was among it.” “Bliksems!” he growled. “Nothing is safe any longer.”

Booysen has never spoken about his visit to the Guptas, and has probably not even told his biographer, Jessica Pitchford. And if he has, he has sworn her to silence.

“Excuse me for a moment,” Booysen said and walked away. He spoke with someone for a few minutes.

“I’ve spoken to my attorney. I said to him I’m going to play open cards with you. What do you want to know?”

*             *             *

Duduzane Zuma must be the envy of his older brother Edward. While Edward scavenges at the door of tobacco smugglers to scrape together a living, Duduzane has cast his destiny with the mega-wealthy Gupta family. Edward couldn’t pay for his own wedding and neither would anyone else; the Guptas settled the bill for Duduzane and Shanice’s lavish nuptials in April 2015.

The Guptas needed someone close to the president to serve as a vital channel and conduit to influence his official decision-making. Their man was Duduzane, who became truly kept and captured.

The release of thousands of personal e-mails from the Gupta family and their associates – known as #GuptaLeaks – has exposed Duduzane Zuma as the key middleman for the Guptas to ensure that their choice of ministers, parastatal CEOs and top officials were appointed to divert lucrative con- tracts to some of their companies.

The Guptas early on appointed Duduzane as a director of Sahara Computers but he has since then been elevated to directorships of key Gupta companies. They took care of his every need, from paying for a Mauritian getaway for him and his girlfriend to setting him up with a R18 million Dubai apartment in the world’s tallest skyscraper, the iconic Burj Khalifa.

He flew first class, was chauffeured by limousine and stayed in five-star hotels, among them the Oberoi in Dubai and the Hotel National in Moscow. The Guptas took care of some R180,000 in arrears on municipal charges that he had built up on his Saxonwold abode, around the corner from the Gupta compound. In March 2015, he drew R300,000 per month in director’s fees, more than any other director, including the Gupta brothers. Atul Gupta questioned the veracity of the emails in a BBC interview in August 2017, but they show that on the night of 1 February 2014, when Zuma lost control of his Porsche and slammed into the back of a minibus taxi, killing Phumzile Dube, the first person he telephoned was the youngest Gupta brother, Rajesh “Tony” Gupta. When the young Zuma allegedly impregnated another woman, the family’s lawyer provided advice on the terms of a R3.5 million maintenance settlement for the child and mother.

This was the man that on 19 August 2014 called Johan Booysen and said he wanted to introduce him to someone.

Booysen initially met Duduzane Zuma through a police colleague. The young man had invested money in a scheme that appeared fraudulent and laid a charge. He saw Duduzane several times after this. Booysen had also met Jacob Zuma on several occasions. He has been to Nkandla a few times and was the investigating officer when one of Zuma’s wives was raped in 1998. Zuma mentioned the incident in 2014 as a justification for the security upgrades at Nkandla. Booysen returned to Nkandla several times after that, and once met the president in Durban to discuss taxi violence.

“When you got into the Rolls, did you know where you were going?” I asked Booysen.

“I had no idea,” he said. “I didn’t say a word. I wanted to see what was going to happen.”

“And when did you realise where you were going?”

“When we got to the Zoo, we turned. I saw the military museum. We were in Saxonwold.”

They were taken into the house, where they were asked to hand their phones to a member of the house staff. They were then ushered into a lounge and introduced to Rajesh Gupta, known as Tony. He is at 45 the youngest of the brothers and, according to the #GuptaLeaks, he enjoys a close relationship with Duduzane Zuma.

The #GuptaLeaks e-mails suggest that Tony holds some unpleasant racial attitudes, having called security guards “monkeys” and having asked Sun City to confirm that all butlers used at his niece’s wedding would be white. Booysen said they drank tea and discussed the education of their children. Gupta said to Eben Booysen that if he had any business ventures that he needed to get off the ground, he should talk to the family. This is an old ploy of the Guptas: to dish out benevolence and generosity to the children of those they wish to capture. This extends far beyond Duduzane Zuma. Take the case of Free State premier Ace Magashule, an avid Gupta acolyte. The Gupta leaks and amaBhungane have revealed how Magashule’s provincial government handed the family control of a dairy farm project in the Free State town of Vrede. The Guptas sucked some R84 million of the farm project to a company of theirs in the United Arab Emirates.

In much the same way that Duduzane Zuma was captured, the e-mails suggest that Magashule’s sons were similarly primed to become Gupta intermediaries. Tshepiso Magashule started working for the Guptas as a consultant in November 2010, the year after Duduzane was brought into the Gupta fold. Tshepiso was getting R90,000 a month. Both he and Magashule’s other son, Thato, were treated to an eight-day stay at the super-luxurious Oberoi Hotel in Dubai, paid for by Gupta company Sahara.

When Eben declined Tony Gupta’s generosity, the latter turned to Johan Booysen and said: “And so, we hear that you might soon become the new head of the Hawks?”

Booysen said he was shocked and taken aback that Gupta was privy to information outside the public domain. He said he didn’t want to engage the businessman and merely answered: “We will have to see where it goes.”

Gupta said: “If you do get elected, there will be a dinner in Durban.”

Booysen said that this was the extent of their discussion about the Hawks job and they left shortly afterwards in his son’s Toyota. He didn’t make any promises or create any expectations.

“What do you think Tony Gupta tried to achieve?”

“The only thing I can think is that he tried to create the impression that should I get elected, it was because of his or their input and doing. They could then expect a quid pro quo in one form or another. There would have been a Gupta dinner, probably also with the other brothers. Who knows what then? An offer of a directorship for my son?”

“How did he know you were on the shortlist?”

“I have no idea. He also knew I was in Johannesburg on that day. Who knows, maybe he had also met some of the other candidates as well.”

“Do you think the Guptas tried to capture you?”

“Without a doubt.”

“Why have you never told anyone?”

“I couldn’t. My boss was Ntlemeza, and we had a terrible relationship. He tried to charge me and wanted me out. I didn’t trust him. The day after he left the police, I made an affidavit and gave it to his acting successor, Yolisa Matakata, whom I know and whom I trust.”

* This extract was taken from The President's Keepers by Jacques Pauw published by Tafelberg, R280, 352 pp.

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