Brutus stabs the Prince

David Bullard on the insider who outed the 'The Outsider' as anything but unauthorised


On Saturday 20th May, around lunchtime, Prince Mashele was one of a distinguished panel of experts and analysts ‘exploring the future of South Africa beyond the 2024 elections’ at the Franschhoek Literary Festival.

The festival biography for him read as follows:

Prince Mashele is the Executive Director of the Centre for Politics and Research, a leading political commentator on South African politics, and a writer. He authored The Death of Our Society in 2011 and is co-author of the best-selling book The Fall of the ANC: What Next?

Prince has written articles for South Africa’s top newspapers, including the Sunday Times, Sunday Independent, Business Day, Sowetan, and others. He will release his new book, The Outsider: An unauthorised biography of Herman Mashaba in 2023.

The following day Prince Mashele was rather better known in the SA media as the ‘disgraced former political activist and analyst’ after it was revealed that he had managed to wangle the extraordinary amount of R12.5 million out of Herman Mashaba to write his ‘unauthorised’ biography. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

The fall out was predictable. Furious journos who might be lucky to make a few hundred thousand in royalties from a rare best selling book were spitting blood. Then there was the whole matter of whether a biography can be unauthorised if the subject of the biography has handed over the price of a pretty decent luxury apartment in Cape Town plus a sporty runabout to the author of that ‘biography’.

The official response to that was that the twelve and a half million were for the research that would be required to produce the book. That sounds a bit pricey to me but what do I know about research? I make things up as I go along like most journos.

Zapiro produced a particularly vicious cartoon on The Daily Maverick website. It depicted the cover of the book with Mashaba labelled as “the party misleader” with Prince Mashele next to him, up to his shoulders in a pile of money and the label “The Bullshit artist formerly known as Prince”. The word ‘Unauthorised’ on the book cover was captioned “The Big Lie”. All in all rather career limiting stuff.

But not only had the author's reputation plummeted overnight; the reputation of Herman Mashaba was also in tatters as was the reputation of his party, Action SA (now known as Auction SA). How could we possibly trust a leader in waiting who had already demonstrated that he was not averse to some financial skulduggery to make himself look good? South Africans have already been there and done that.

Unlike Prince Mashele I am no talking head, political commentator who frequently appears on TV panel sessions but my guess would be that the election chances for Action SA next year are somewhat reduced after this debacle. A debacle celebrated by some of Mashaba’s political enemies.

With an appropriate literary flourish Prince Mashele’s downfall came about in an almost Shakespearian way when Brutus plunged the dagger into his back. This was Brutus Malada who had apparently been a good friend of Prince Mashele in the past and had been paid the derisory sum of R3 million to help research the book but had received no credit for his hard work.

It is, I’m sure, a complete coincidence that Brutus is the hubby of DA politician and serial Jo’burg mayor Mpho Phalatse and that there is no possibility that pillow talk may have led to the literary defenestration of Prince Mashele.

When ‘The Outsider’ first appeared at the beginning of the month there were a couple of promotional interviews that are now assured of social media immortality. One was a TV interview by Stephen Grootes who gushingly introduced Prince Mashele with the words “The first thing to say is he knows his stuff. He knows what he’s talking about. The second thing is (and I don’t say this about everybody) he is very honest. You know where he stands” Oops.

The other appearance which will come back to haunt him forever was an interview with the flamboyantly named Ongkopotse JJ Tabane on eNCA where he told his interviewer that the book was self-funded. Tabane then went on to obligingly write a ‘shout’ on the front cover which read “What a masterpiece…irreverent, educational and entertaining”.

Since his humiliating outing Mashele has appeared on virtually every TV and radio station to explain the situation. It’s obvious that he may have told a huge porky to JJ Tabane but the reasons appear to differ depending on which interview you tune into.

One explanation is that he had a contract of non-disclosure and couldn’t reveal his source of funding. Another is that this was only a loan from Mashaba to keep the wolf from the door and tide him over the period it would take to write the book. The intimation was that the loan would then be repaid. The visibly uncomfortable Mashele simply didn’t have a convincing answer as he squirmed under questioning.

Obviously the word ‘Unauthorised’ on the cover of a book would suggest that what you are about to read is a no holds barred, stripped down to bare bones analysis of the subject matter. That is clearly not the case with ‘The Outsider’ where the subject matter was heavily (and very expensively) involved in the whole process.

I’ve never been offered R12.5 million to write an unauthorised biography but if I had been, by my old chum JZ for example, I would have made pretty sure that I downplayed some of the bad things like his corrupt connections and concentrated more on his superb singing voice and love of dancing. So an ‘unauthorised’ biography that turns out not to be so is a con.

However, this gets more interesting. Realizing that the hot smelly stuff was hitting the fan Mashele’s publisher, Jonathan Ball, publicly announced that they were withdrawing the book with immediate effect. Very ethical of them.

Presumably all copies would be collected from bookstores and pulped and then Jonathan Ball would be having a chat with lawyers to recover the publication costs from the now fabulously wealthy Mashele.

So it was with some surprise that I discovered copies of ‘The Outsider’ under the ‘Recommended reading’ sign at my local Exclusive Books. When I questioned why they were still on display I was assured by staff that there had been no attempt to collect them. A promise to ‘withdraw’ copies could apparently sometimes boost sales by creating an artificial rarity scare in the interim.  

I did visit a couple of other bookshops and ‘The Outsider’ was easily available. One shop admitted that they had moved their copies to the back of the store but were quite happy to sell it under the counter if a customer asked for one (rather like doing a clandestine cocaine deal I imagine). They only had one copy left.

I have to admit that I am not particularly surprised or appalled by the dodginess displayed by various sides in this matter. We live in a massively dishonest country and maybe the only way to survive is to embrace our culture and be as dodgy as possible.

The ANC credo of ‘lie and deny’ must be on all our lips after almost thirty years. However, when it comes to books I would have hoped for more transparency, particularly from the publisher. Having said that, my new book ‘David Bullard…the unauthorised autobiography’ has already been commissioned from ChatGPT and any research donations of R1mln or more would be most welcome. Mums the word.

(Admission of ignorance: I have Googled and tried to find an answer but to no avail. Is Prince Mashele, like that other highly imaginative royal author Prince Harry, in line for the Mashele crown one day? Or is it just his first name? In which case... does he regularly get upgraded to business class on flights?)


If you’re still a little wary of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the potential damage it can do then you have good reason.

Last week I got talking about the subject of AI to one of my tech savvy neighbours over a post meeting wine tasting. He had already downloaded ChatGPT4 on his various devices and even had it on his smart phone. He is a convert and he offered to get ChatGPT to write my biography to demonstrate its versatility. This it did in less than a minute which was hugely impressive. The only problem was that it was wildly inaccurate.

I appear to have been born in October in the year before I was actually born in December. I became known for my blunt and provocative writing style. Fair enough but I never attended University College London and I never worked for various British newspapers and magazines. I also never hosted a radio show in SA.

The 2008 sacking from the Sunday Times was apparently because of controversial comments I made about the victims of a plane crash in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I went on to publish books including one called ‘The Book of Bullard’ and I’ve now retired and live in the UK. Fortunately, my “legacy as a controversial figure in South African journalism is secure”.

I told my neighbour that this was mostly bullshit and he kindly offered to get ChatGPT to rewrite the biography with a 007 theme. It begins… “David Bullard is a suave and sophisticated writer who brought his own brand of shaken, not stirred, controversy to South African journalism”.

That’s more like it. As the ANC has taught us over the years, if you’re going to tell a lie, make it a whopper.