Picture: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS
Picture: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS

The words make chilling reading. They are placed on the record on page 119 of journalist Jacques Pauw’s new book, The President’s Keepers.

The gangster Glenn Agliotti, organiser of the disorganised killing of Brett Kebble, is talking to business associates Paul de Robillard and Yusuf Kajee about the cigarette smuggling business. One of them recorded the conversation for posterity:

Agliotti: "Get the product [cigarettes] and we will run it. I will give you all the protection in writing. They know I’m a gangster."

Kajee: "Will it be with their blessing?"

Agliotti: "SAPS [the SA police], Hawks, Sars [the SA Revenue Service] all the way down. We already negotiated the whole thing. Three years. That is my retirement. I said, ‘Zuma you are going to pay. I helped you become president or you would have been arrested’."

Kajee: "But he is a genuine guy."

Agliotti: "No, he is fine. He is a gangster like us."

There you have it from the mouth of someone who is something of an expert on the subject of who is or is not a gangster in SA.

So, is Zuma a gangster?

According to Urban Dictionary there are two types of gangster: "wannabes", who hang out on street corners talking tough; and real gangsters, who are "behind organised crime".

What Agliotti is describing above would suggest that when he awards Zuma the accolade "a gangster like us", he is talking about organised crime. The scenario he describes is a network of bribed and colluding organisations from "SAPS, Hawks, Sars all the way down" that are going to support the operation of a criminal enterprise.

In Howard Abadinsky’s book, Organised Crime, the definition is further embellished: "Garden variety/conventional crime is different from organised crime."

Jesse James was an ordinary criminal but Al Capone worked at a higher (lower?) level. He was involved with organised crime.

When James died, his crimes died with him, but Capone’s criminal organisation lives on long after his death in 1947.

"Thus perpetuity is a variable that can distinguish organised from conventional crime," concludes Abadinsky.

So where does Zuma — assuming that Agliotti is correct to characterise him as a "gangster" — sit on this continuum?

At the moment, he is an ordinary gangster, but if he is able to ensure that the enterprise Agliotti alleges he is involved with outlives his presidency, he will graduate to the big leagues of "organised crime".

Taking this to its logical conclusion, the ANC will decide Zuma’s ranking in the gangster hierarchy in December.

hartleyr@tisoblackstar.co.za

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