Intense in-fighting is developing behind the scenes for control of the “Nelson Mandela story”.
Official arrangements for Mandela’s release are being made by the Mass Democratic Movement’s National Reception Committee, which has rented a building in central Johannesburg to be used as offices for Mandela.
However, some individuals and networks are believed to be bypassing official organs. One of those trying to move in on the release is a mysterious French businessman, Dr Alain Guenon, who sought an invitation to Winnie Mandela, grew close to her and became involved in the affairs of the family and the plans for the release.
He is believed to be part of an attempt to open a press centre to coordinate the media coverage of the release. He approached the South African Youth Congress to assist with this.
Winnie Mandela’s relationship with Guenon has given rise to some tension between her and the National Reception Committee. The Mass Democratic Movement is concerned to centralise planning for Mandela’s release and attempts have been made to persuade Winnie Mandela to drop Guenon.
Sources say the African National Congress has asked Winnie Mandela to disassociate herself from Guenon. Control of media access to Mandela after his release will have major financial and political consequences.
There is speculation that millions of dollars are being offered by the immensely powerful American television networks for exclusive access to the ANC leader. Access to Mandela and the presentation of what he says and does will be a powerful political weapon.
Guenon has produced an historical film about the ANC and another on the South African Defence Force. He has also produced more than one series for the SABC.
He hunts with Minister of Defence Magnus Malan, stayed with Swapo leader Anton Lubowski shortly before his assassination, and is involved in deals for the establishment of a Sheraton Hotel in Namibia. He said this week he was a former professor of philosophy from La Sorbonne in Paris.
He is also known to be a collector of 16th- century European art. He runs “a small news agency” in Johannesburg, Adage News. Adage is a registered company in Paris, though its clients are not known. Adage also recently produced a film about the ANC, directed by Jurgen Schadeberg and due to be shown soon on M-Net.
Research conducted by the Weekly Mail in Paris showed Adage is linked with a number of typical front companies — institutions which have no employees, no assets, no normal office work, no products, and yet large amounts of money passing in and out of their accounts.
Guenon is believed to have been involved in financial dealings with Winnie Mandela in the past. His name cropped up recently in connection with the killing in Namibia of the Swapo politbureau member Anton Lubowski. It was reported in Windhoek last year that some of the money found in the Lubowski estate belonged to Guenon.
The Mandela family has recently been referring media inquiries to Sayco. Sayco has said that it was not happy with the way the MDM distanced itself from her after the “football club” scandal of last year.
Asked yesterday if he was involved in business with Winnie Mandela, Guenon said: “She is not a capitalist, as far as I know.” Asked if he was setting up a press Centre for the Mandela release, Guenon said: ‘I’ve been asked to help, but there is nothing very serious so far”.