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How to Steal a City: The Battle for Nelson Mandela Bay

PARI researcher and doctoral fellow, Crispian Olver, launched his controversial book, “How to Steal a City: The battle for Nelson Mandela Bay” on October 23. Olver was a government “fixer” and the book is an inside scoop on the web of lies, threats and a sophisticated political syndicate designed to milk the city dry. With a strict embargo on its contents right up until the launch, security was reported to be very tight.

How to Steal a City recounts the climate of fear and intimidation as the backdrop to a rare insider’s account into behind-the-scenes dealings by prominent personalities, some of whom had featured in the city’s biggest corruption scandals.

A seasoned government bureaucrat, Olver was commissioned by then minister Pravin Gordhan to head a clean-up intervention in the Nelson Mandela Bay in 2015.

The metro’s shadow operations are likened to the state capture phenomenon on a national level.

Olver is quoted in an exclusive interview, “I had been familiar with the day-to-day fiddling of the procurement process. What I didn’t understand was how you could capture an entire organisation and subject it under your will. The sheer extent of their determination was jaw-dropping. It was carefully thought out.”

The Herald reported that, among several accusations against Olver at the launch, a senior ANC member called him a spy gathering damning information on the ANC in Nelson Mandela Bay, to put in a book and damage the party ahead of the 2019 elections. Olver was also blatantly accused of not doing his job and of betraying confidentiality around party funding, and of dealing with corruption “selectively’.

The Eastern Cape newspaper also mentions that Olver was confident of his facts, and had gathered a massive paper trail from letters, correspondence and reports, using the basic forensic skills of a journalist. In response to having crossed a line of confidentiality, he said that the story focused mainly on what he had done and why he had done it.

It was reported that after the launch, Nelson Mandela Bay mayor, Athol Trollip, said the city would investigate some of the allegations in Olver’s book.

Ferial Haffajee is quoted on the front cover of How to Steal a City: “There will be lots of books about the ANC this year. This is the best one.”