Explosive new book lifts lid on how ANC insiders milked millions from metro
A web of lies, threats and a sophisticated political syndicate designed to milk a city dry. This is how an insider has described the last years of the ANC’s rule in Nelson Mandela Bay.
In a tell-all book to be launched in Port Elizabeth on Monday, businessman and former ANC Bay leader Crispian Olver blows the lid on the inner workings of what he said were political gangs that siphoned millions out of the metro’s coffers.
The book, titled How To Steal A City, offers a rare insider’s account into behind-the-scenes dealings by prominent personalities, some of whom had become synonymous with the city’s biggest corruption scandals.
A seasoned government bureaucrat, Olver was commissioned by then minister Pravin Gordhan in 2015 to head a clean-up intervention in the metro.
He likened what he said were the metro’s shadow operations to the state capture phenomenon unfolding nationally.
“I had been familiar with the day-to-day fiddling of the procurement process,” Olver said in an exclusive interview this week.
“What I didn’t understand was how you could capture an entire organisation and subject it under your will. The sheer extent of their determination was jaw-dropping. It was carefully thought out.” Olver refused to have extracts of the book published in the media until the launch on Monday.
The book dedicates chapters to focus areas, including the municipality’s human settlements department, the Integrated Public Transport System, the disciplinary processes held against accused officials, the ANC’s municipal election campaign and its scramble for funding.
Olver was also part of the ANC regional task team’s fundraising committee.
It is this role that placed him at the crossroads between being a corruptionbuster and a potential accomplice as the ANC grew more desperate to raise campaign funds last year.
In the book, Olver admits that he compromised his integrity.
“I don’t think I did anything illegal, but I did use my position to influence administration people and decisions,” he said. “In this book I am trying to be as honest as possible. I’m not trying to point a finger. But I hope that I am being as self-critical as I am about others.
Asked if he was concerned about possible legal challenges by those implicated in the book, Olver said: “Some may challenge it, but I’m not sure if that will be in their best interest.
“I wrote this book from recorded interviews, forensic archives and audit reports. My facts are carefully referenced.”
Olver painted a picture of a powerful faction of the ANC, which he said had over the years disintegrated based on looting patterns.
“The full scale of the housing [department] operation, for example, became ring-fenced [from the rest of the political network]. It accounted elsewhere.
“It was a far more focused operation which did not depend on capturing the politics or administration.
“It manipulated community sentiments through protests to support particular land and housing operations. It would then buy land at inflated prices for gain. I’d never seen this level of political manipulation.”
Olver said he had been threatened while still in the city.
“I had people tailing me, looking for me. On one occasion I went to a restaurant and I left earlier than I anticipated. Shortly thereafter a group of thugs arrived there looking for me. I’m still a little wary.” Asked why many of the alleged perpetrators had not been jailed, Olver said: “Whether the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] has capacity to press ahead I do not know.
“We cooperated closely with the NPA while we were there, but got very little traction. At the end of the day, the municipality had to focus on what it had to do. Yes, there is so much to be jailed for. Many people should be in prison.”
He said the metro’s story was a microcosm of what the ANC had become nationally.
“The electorate do not buy lies and propaganda. You can’t come with change a year or 18 months before an election and expect voters to roll over,” he warned.
Olver said although it was necessary, it had been difficult writing the book.
“Many of these people are my friends. This will be the last time they talk to me.”
ANC leader in the Nelson Mandela Bay council Bicks Ndoni said he was aware of the book as Olver had hinted at it to some people in the early part of the year.
“I have no knowledge of anyone trying to engage him [about it].
“I’m told he has indeed implicated individuals. I have not read the book so it’s difficult for me to make any judgment. I’ll be able to comment as soon as I go through it,” Ndoni said.
The book launch will be at the GFI Art Gallery, where former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas is expected to speak.