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Spinning out of control

Carl Niehaus, the African National Congress’s (ANC) former spin doctor, tried some spinning of his own this week as allegations mounted that he owed millions to creditors.

His attorney said that the situation he now found himself had been due to the effects of time spent in prison after his “principled opposition to apartheid”. He is also apparently “obtaining assistance in settling his debts”, which have reportedly been estimated at R4,4-million.

Niehaus served seven-and-a-half years of a 15-year jail term in the 1980s for treason.

The ANC also this week moved swiftly to distance itself from Niehaus, saying he was not an elected member of their national executive committee and had been employed by the party in a “functionary role”.

However, the party opted to place him on leave after realising he had “withheld” information about his financial dealings, spokesperson Lindiwe Zulu said.

“There are quite a number of things that Carl himself did not tell the ANC when he came about to say I have a problem. Carl did declare some parts but he did not declare everything. He withheld information from the ANC. The ANC took him on the basis that he declared what had happened and now as the things are coming out and tumbling out, the ANC itself is realising there was more to it than what he had given us,” Zulu said.

What is surprising in the affair is that prior to the Mail & Guardian article, there were no reports of impropriety about Niehaus. Now that the floodgates have been opened, there is a torrent, with creditors lining up to smear his name.

Perhaps the most explosive of Niehaus’s confessions was that he forged the signatures of senior Gauteng officials, including Paul Mashatile — who is now Gauteng premier — while he was at the helm of the Gauteng Economic Development Agency.

Mashatile said this week that he had warned ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe about Carl Niehaus, adding by this time Niehaus had already been hired by the party.

ANC spokesperson Jessie Duarte confirmed this, saying Mantashe had been warned “there were behavioural problems at [the Gauteng Economic Development Agency ] that weren’t professional”.

She said that this message from Mashatile resulted in a meeting between Carl Niehaus, Mantashe and ANC national executive committee member Pallo Jordan.

“[They] talked about his behavioural problems related to debt,” said Duarte.

She added that the leadership was concerned that there could be “repercussions” regarding his personal debt.

Mashatile said that once it became clear that an investigation was imminent, Niehaus resigned. Since there was no monetary loss and Niehaus had resigned, Mashatile said the board of Geda decided to drop its investigation.

This does not look good for the ruling party and smacks, as the Democratic Alliance shrilly proclaimed this week, of “crony capitalism”.

The ANC for their part accused the DA of clutching at straws.

But why should the ruling party worry when they’ve got an endorsement from Mandela?

Barack Obama
Obama this week moved to shore up the stuttering United States economy by pledging up to $275-billion to help stem a spate of home foreclosures, the troubled housing market being a main cause of the economic slump. According to officials, the plan would give up to nine million families the chance to refinance their mortgages.
Carl Niehaus
Niehaus’s world came crashing down after revelations over fraud and other dubious activities were published in the Mail & Guardian. Following the fall-out, Niehaus blamed his less-than-exemplary behaviour on “time spent in prison for his principled opposition to apartheid”.

Most-read stories

February 12 to 18 2009

1. Tearful Niehaus admits fraud
He has been entrusted by the ANC with the strategic job of spokesperson. But Carl Niehaus has left a broad trail of bad debt and broken promises behind him.

2. Shilowa may be drawn into Niehaus fracas
The aftershocks from former African National Congress spokesperson Carl Niehaus’s revelations to the Mail & Guardian continued to reverberate through South African politics on Monday.

3. ANC hauls Malema over the coals
Comments by African National Congress Youth League President Julius Malema that Minister of Education Naledi Pandor “must use her fake accent to address our problems” were unacceptable and disrespectful, the ANC said on Wednesday.

4. Visas the tip of an iceberg
Britain’s imposition of visa requirements on South Africans entering the United Kingdom — a reaction to South Africa’s chronic passport insecurity — has highlighted the increasingly frosty relations between the two countries.

5. Carl Niehaus’s litany of lies
Former ANC spokesperson Carl Niehaus does not have a doctor’s degree in theology as claimed and allegedly got a R100 000 holiday to Mauritius for free, two newspapers reported on Tuesday.

6. The personal is political
If evidence were ever really needed to show that “the personal is political”, then Pallo Jordan’s attempt to wave his flaccid intellect in the Mail & Guardian editor’s face provided that evidence in spades.

7. Loverboy presidents are the bomb
So, our president-in-waiting Jacob Zuma “likes women —” And ditto for that tall, dark and mysterious gentleman currently warming his seat, President Kgalema Motlanthe.

8. Niehaus blames prison, apartheid for woes
Former ANC spokesperson Carl Niehaus’s current “personal situation” was the effects of his “time spent in prison for his principled opposition to apartheid”, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

9. Let’s forget about Mugabe, says Zimbabwe’s new PM
Zimbabwe’s new prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, has called on the world “to get over” Robert Mugabe and stop seeing him as the country’s principal problem.

10. ANC won’t throw Niehaus ‘in the dustbin’
The ANC accepted Carl Niehaus’s resignation as one of the party’s spokespersons, it announced on Friday.

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