The web of untruth that former ANC spokesperson Dr Carl Niehaus seems to have spun around his life continues to unravel. Beeld newspaper reported on Tuesday that contrary to claims made by Niehaus, he never received a doctorate in theology from the University of Utrecht.
The website of M&C Investment Holdings - the company owned by Niehaus and his wife -claims that "While in the Netherlands, he [Niehaus] also studied and obtained his Masters and Doctorates in Theology Summa cum Laude from the University of Utrecht." A similar claim is made on Niehaus's biography on the Litnet site. In his capacity as ANC spokesperson a number of party statements were "issued by Dr Carl Niehaus".
However, Beeld reports that a spokesperson for the university could find no record of Niehaus having received a doctoral degree from them. The newspaper states that according to it's enquires in the Netherlands Niehaus was a "doctorandus" - a halfway stage on the way to a doctorate. Ecumenical News International meanwhile quotes Ludo Koks, a spokesperson for the university, as saying: "Mr Niehaus has not received a doctorate degree from our university."
There was some good news for Niehaus on Monday. The Star reported that the Durban businessman, Vivian Reddy, was planning to come to the former ANC spin doctor's rescue. According to the newspaper Reddy said "Niehaus was one of the first white Afrikaners to have spoken out against apartheid; that he was gang-raped and tortured in prison for his political activities; and that when someone like that approached him for assistance, it was ‘in his nature' to agree."
Niehaus had been sentenced to 15 years in prison in the Rand Supreme Court on November 24 1983 after having been found guilty on charges of high treason. His fiancée and later wife Jansie Lourens was sentenced to four years imprisonment. Beeld reported the following day (November 25) that an "apparently relaxed" Niehaus - dressed in a neat three piece grey suit - and Lourens "spoke and laughed with friends" before the judge entered the courtroom to pass sentence." According to the Rand Daily Mail report (November 25) following sentencing "Niehaus bellowed ‘Amandla', snatched up a crude bouquet of flowers and stormed down the stone staircase which took him to the first night of a 15 year stretch in jail."
In an open letter to his 11 year old daughter, posted on Litnet in June last year, Niehaus made the dramatic revelation that on the night before sentencing he had been "gang-raped in Diepkloof prison." He recounted how, one "of the warders who hated me for, in his view, having betrayed the Afrikaners took me out of my single cell and locked me up for the night in a cell with common-law prisoners. I do not know exactly how many men did it, but it was more than twenty. It just went on-and-on. At the end I was torn and bleeding badly, the next morning when I had to get up those stairs from the cells underneath the courtroom I couldn't without the assistance of one of the warders."
A Beeld article (June 13 2008) on this letter noted that the incident had not been mentioned in Niehaus's 1994 autobiography, Fighting for Hope. And although Niehaus's ANC comrades were aware of the beatings he had suffered while in detention, they had been "shocked" to hear about the sexual assault. The article quoted Niehaus as saying that he had "for a long time suppressed what had happened. But it didn't work." Beeld now reports that "questions are being asked once again" about his claims. The newspaper notes that, thus far, no independent corroborating evidence has been produced to substantiate them.
UPDATE: The Star reported this morning that several years ago Cheryl Clur, an owner of a travel agency in East London, had been approached by Niehaus to organise a last-minute trip to Mauritius. "He told me he had been ill with leukaemia, had chemotherapy and wanted a holiday for his wife and two children. He played on my emotions with his illness," she said.
She paid for the holiday upfront as "He kept on promising he would pay the next day. Then he left for the holiday." When Niehaus returned from the holiday Clur was unable to get him to settle the debt. Eventually, she tracked him down to the Rhema Church in Randburg, and he ended up paying back a token amount of R20,000. The newspaper quoted Clur as saying "He ducked and dived, he threw around big names and he caught me very nicely."
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