Did Yster play ace in the hole?

Tuesday.

It’s way past my bedtime. I’m nowhere near asleep, despite having been up since 4am. 

A quick run to the casino in the early evening to satisfy (at last) my seven-month craving for a tandoori prawn naan turned into a quick punt at the roulette table. 

It was a weird experience — no mask, no entry; three people to a table; Perspex screens between the punters; no call bets; hand sanitising every 10 minutes — very different to the mad press of pre-Covid punting.

The wrap was tops though, as spicy and juicy and crispy as it was before the lockdown, better even, after 194 days of abstinence.


Fortunately, the riskiest thing I’ve done since March 26 turned out well — so far at least — and my R200 turned into R3 000 before the house changed croupiers to close me down. I cashed out before the killer could break my run of luck. Headed home rather than give the house its money back. 

I’m counting my winnings on the couch when the mobile goes.

This ANC WhatsApp group one comrade added me to by mistake starts blowing up. The comrades are going mad. Posting and reposting the same tweet about Ace Magashule, the secretary general of the governing party, being arrested by the Hawks. 

The comrades are incensed. A warrant has been issued for Ace’s arrest for failing to exercise oversight in the Estina Dairy scandal. The Hawks are about to pick him up, secretary general of the governing party or not. 

It’s like a mad game of electronic ping-pong, with pictures of Bra Yster’s head hurtling between participants in the group.

The tweet multiplies. 

Mutates.

Ace knows about the warrant. His arrest is coming, “Hollywood style”, all cameras and Hawkmobiles and cavity searches. Ace’s lawyers say there’s no warrant for Bra Yster. So do the Hawks.

I mute the mobile. 

Something’s not right. 

Why would the Hawks be moving on Ace over Estina, for failure to exercise oversight, when the asbestos matter is already before court, with some potential co-accused to squeeze as witnesses? 

The dairy doesn’t make sense.

Neither does the warrant story. The Hawks normally execute a warrant as soon as they get it, for obvious reasons. In the case of somebody with the reach that Ace has, they would be at Luthuli House before the ink on the warrant dried, rather than telegraphing their punches and waiting for the networks to do their job.

There’s more that doesn’t add up.

Where’s the warrant?

If Ace got tipped off about a warrant, why is there not a picture of it being circulated? Surely the comrade in the National Prosecuting Authority or wherever, who saw the warrant and gave the secretary general a heads up that the circling Hawks were getting closer to swooping on him, would have taken a picture of it as proof?

Perhaps the comrade who told Ace to hit the back door and keep going had an old mobile, one that doesn’t have a camera? 

Perhaps the comrade did have a smartphone, but didn’t have data, and couldn’t WhatsApp a picture to the Pierneef-preferring previous premier, and sent him a “please call me” instead?

Perhaps there is no leak, or warrant, and this is Ace himself shaking the tree. 

Perhaps this is Ace using the Guptabots in social media and elsewhere to find out if his name is among the three of those who are to be arrested over the Free State asbestos scandal, or whether he still has time before one of the accused who has already been picked up becomes a section 205 state witness and agrees to give evidence against him?

Perhaps Ace, like me, is a gambling man. 

Perhaps Ace just fancies his chances and he’s just spinning the wheel to see where the ball ends up.

Perhaps he doesn’t have any other choice.

The mobile goes.

It’s the office WhatsApp group. 

There’s a debate raging about what to do, given the apparent leak.

Do we follow this, like everybody else is doing and give credibility to what could quite easily be a scam being run by Carl Niehaus, the poor man’s Joseph Goebbels? Do we wait and see, keep quiet and let things play themselves out, in case this is a con aimed at whipping up support for Ace ahead of him eventually being charged?

I keep quiet. 

I’ve been caught up in too many setups over the years to move without caution in times like these. 

I’ve turned down too many CDs full of gory-as-fuck crime scene photos, overly convenient death squad conspiracies and too many fake intelligence reports to fall for a trick as cheap and obvious as this one.

I stash my winnings and head to bed. 

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

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