Sishen Part 2: Mystery death of a lonely official

Hennie Jansen van Rensburg was ideally placed to know exactly what happened in the fateful week when both Kumba and Imperial Crown Trading applied for the same mining right from the department of mineral resources office in Kimberley.

Jansen van Rensburg was the acting regional manager of the department that month, standing in for Pieter Swart, who had taken leave.

Fifteen months later, in August 2010, colleagues found Jansen van Rensburg dead in his Kimberley home after he had failed to come to work on a Monday morning.

Sishen Part 1: The lawyer people trusted

Sishen Part 3: Prosecutor takes flak

Sake 24 speculated that “stress from the Sishen scandal” could have contributed to his death.

Now lawyer Gawie Hendriksz, who claimed he had developed a close working relationship with Jansen van Rensburg, said that before his death Jansen van Rensburg had made known his intention to spill the beans about his colleagues.

“It was clear that he had a deep struggle with his conscience and that the criminal matters in which he had become involved were increasingly troubling him,” said Hendriksz.

Going to make a statement

“The Friday afternoon before his death we had a discussion. Hennie said he had told Swart he was going to make a statement that Monday to Captain Strydom of the [police] commercial unit telling everything about ... Imperial.”

But Monday never came for Jansen van Rensburg.

Hendriksz said that the first person who called early on the Monday morning to tell him about Jansen van Rensburg’s death was Charles Lerumo, a department official who Hendriksz accuses of taking bribes from Imperial Crown Trading (“The lawyer people trusted”).

“Lerumo advised me that he ... had been very relieved to hear about Jansen van Rensburg’s death,” Hendriksz said.

The Mail & Guardian tracked down two people who were at Jansen van Rensburg’s home the morning he died.

Katie Mopedi, his domestic worker, arrived at 8.30am to find police and an ambulance already present. She said she had noticed that Jansen van Rensburg had packed a suitcase containing his pyjamas, even though he rarely went away.

Mopedi phoned friends and former neighbours of Jansen van Rensburg, the Fouries, to inform them that he had died. The couple then drove to his house. According to Hanneke Fourie, a man who introduced himself as “Mr Swart” was present.

Pieter Swart, the regional manager, was Jansen van Rensburg’s superior.

What were they working on?

According to Fourie, Swart told her that “they had worked very late the previous afternoon with Hennie”, which she found “strange” because that would have been a Sunday afternoon. “What were they working on?” she asked.

Fourie said that Jansen van Rensburg was visibly stressed in the weeks before he died. “He didn’t say anything about what it was, but if you knew him well, like we did, you could see that he was stressed,” she said.

Jansen van Rensburg was unmarried and lived alone. His closest relatives, a brother and a sister, live in North West.

Swart reacted angrily to questions from the M&G, saying they were “insensitive and hurtful in the extreme”.

He denied “any improper conduct” regarding Jansen van Rensburg’s death, but did not specifically respond to a question about whether he knew the latter planned to make a statement to the police, or whether he had worked with him late on the Sunday.

Very good friends

“The working relationship between [him] and me was never strained and we were very good friends and colleagues to the day of his death,” said Swart.

Lerumo refused to respond to questions from the M&G.

Jansen van Rensburg’s death certificate states that he died of natural causes. The accompanying medical report reads: “Most likely CVA ‘stroke’ or MI ‘heart attack’.” —Additional reporting by Heidi Swart

* Got a tip-off for us about this story? Email amabhungane@mg.co.za

The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit initiative to develop investigative journalism in the public interest, produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for all our stories, activities and sources of funding.

Lionel Faull

Lionel Faull

Lionel is a reporter at the Mail & Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism, Amabhungane.
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