South African mining magnate Brett Kebble became a depressive, suicidal recluse and had a fistfight with his father in the months before he was shot dead, his former butler testified in a Johannesburg court.
Kebble’s eating habits changed and fewer people than usual visited his home in the month before he was killed, Andrew Minnaar told the South Gauteng High Court today during Glenn Agliotti’s trial on charges of murder and conspiracy to murder. The 41-year-old drank three gin and tonics and a bottle of wine on the morning he died, Minnaar said.
Agliotti, a convicted drug dealer, pleaded not guilty to ordering Kebble’s murder on Sept. 27, 2005, describing it as an “assisted suicide.” Kebble, who was forced to resign as chief executive officer of three mining companies, faced a probe after assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars went missing from gold miner Randgold & Exploration Ltd., which he led.
The ex-butler said he saw a broken lamp after he had heard Kebble and his father, Roger, have a fistfight in July 2005. Asked by Agliotti’s lawyer, Laurence Hodes, whether Kebble was suicidal, Minnaar said, “Yes, you could say that.”
Four men who admitted being involved in shooting Kebble have testified against Agliotti in exchange for immunity from prosecution. In an 11-year career in South Africa’s gold mining industry, Kebble, who also led JCI Ltd. and Western Areas Ltd., helped set up two of the country’s four biggest gold companies, Harmony Gold Mining Co. and DRDGold Ltd.
Kebble sold his Johannesburg house and members of his household staff were told they were no longer needed, days before his death, Minnaar said.
On the night Kebble died, he abandoned his habit of going to parties in his dinner jacket and with a gift of chocolates and wine, Minnaar said. After finishing a meal of steak and French fries, Kebble left the house with his sleeves rolled up, having uncharacteristically given his driver the night off, Minnaar said.
Three men fired seven rounds into Kebble as he drove through Johannesburg at night, with their efforts almost foiled by a jammed gun that evening and an overheating car during an attempt the night before, witnesses including former nightclub bouncer Nigel McGurk, who was among the killers, told the court previously.
Former police chief and one-time Interpol President Jackie Selebi, who is appealing a 15-year jail sentence for corruption, received 15 million rand ($2.1 million) from Kebble in exchange for protection from the law, Minnaar said. Selebi visited Kebble’s home at least once a month, the former butler said.
Selebi’s lawyer, Wynanda Coetzee, didn’t immediately respond to a message left on her mobile phone seeking comment.
Kebble spoke to Deputy Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula, who then led the ruling African National Congress’s youth wing, on a dedicated pay-as-you-go mobile phone to avoid detection, Minnaar testified. The ex-servant was unable to give details of what Kebble discussed with the politician.
Mbalula’s spokesman, Paena Galane, declined to comment immediately when reached on his mobile phone.
Minnaar said it was impossible to determine the basis for Kebble’s relationship with Agliotti.