Liars, damned liars, and Carl Niehaus

Andrew Donaldson on the re-emergence of the disgraced former ANC spokesperson as a Gupta apologist

IT is said that 90% of politicians give the other 10% a bad name. Which is perhaps generous. Good politicians, the American journalist HL Mencken noted, are as unthinkable as honest burglars.

Then there’s the low-level entity that is Carl Niehaus, now back to bother us as a member of the MK Military Veterans Association’s national executive.

Such was the chorus of surprised gasps at Niehaus’s return to public life that the association’s president, Kebby Maphatsoe, was moved to suggest that the former ANC NEC member should not be judged by his controversial past.

“No one is perfect in the ranks of the ANC and MK,” Maphatsoe told the African News Agency last month. Which is certainly true where Niehaus is concerned. 

“So you’re here raising Carl’s credibility? Do not take lightly that he is just a fraudster, no. We are very proud of his struggle credentials, that is why we elected him to the MKMVA NEC and hope he will do good work for the association … he is a communication commissar.”

He’s a liar, is what he is, and a pro at that. He lies even when he doesn’t need to, just to keep his hand in, and he’s been very busy in recent weeks. 

Last weekend, for example, the Sunday Independent published Niehaus’s attempts to detail the crimes of dastardly White Monopoly Capital, which apparently are legion. 

WMC bankrolled former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report on state capture, for example. Ditto the reports on wholesale Zupta corruption by academics and the SA Council of Churches. Somehow they were also responsible for the #GuptaEmail leaks and, just for good measure, control most of the mainstream media.

Here at the Mahogany Ridge, we were taken aback that Niehaus neglected to mention WMC’s role in the outbreaks of rinderpest as well.

But elsewhere, he’d told ANN7, the infotainment channel, that whole bunches of the ruling party’s former NEC, from Pravin Gordhan to Trevor Manuel, have now been captured by WMC and “are doing their bidding for them”.

Manuel, in particular, was “the personification of exactly what was wrong with this country”, Niehaus claimed. “Living in the lap of luxury has made Trevor Manuel forget his struggle history and an agent of white monopoly capital.”

How irritating for Manuel. It is one thing to be thus maligned, but to be maligned by Niehaus? How then do you respond? 

Can you ignore the sliming of a worm? True, it’s not life-threatening. But it is a bother, like having dog sh*t on your shoe; it’s a mess not of your making, and you’re going to have to deal with it sooner rather than later.

Perhaps Derek Hanekom had the right approach. Responding to Niehaus’s new role as Gupta Monopoly Capital’s mbongi wallah, the former tourism minister bluntly tweeted, “Carl Niehaus is a liar and a con artist.”

It’s worth recalling some of his most shameful porkies. 

He claimed that he earned a doctorate in theology from the University of Utrecht during his stint as ambassador at The Hague. Not so, said the university. No degree from us.

In 2003, he apparently persuaded East London travel agent Cheryl Clur to stump up R100 000 for a free holiday in Mauritius after telling her he had cancer. Clur told The Star, “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.”

Facing eviction from his R45 000 a month Midrand home in 2009, Niehaus told his landlord, to whom he owed more than R300 000, that the ANC’s “serious organisation challenges” were to blame for “payment delays”.

He lied about his father’s passing, and bummed money from the then deputy justice minister Andries Nel to transport the body from the Western Cape to his home in Zeerust, in the North West. Wanting to offer his friend support, Nel drove to Zeerust on the day of the supposed funeral, only to find he’d been taken for a patsy. There was no such death.

There’s a common thread here. Together with his history of forging signatures to get his hands on tom when he was chief executive of the Gauteng Economic Development Agency, the years of borrowing from ANC colleagues and business leaders, and his wheedling attempts to cosy up to the late Brett Kebble, it does seem that Niehaus has an ongoing problem with money.

That he’s now hanging out at the Saxonwold Shebeen does suggest that his grubbing days are far from over. But, given the Guptas’ unfettered access to our money, financial security may at last be in the offing.

This article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.