September 28, 2005

S.Africa mining tycoon Kebble killed in gun attack

By Marius Bosch

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Colorful South African mining
magnate Brett Kebble was gunned down in his car gangland-style
in a killing that has shocked the business community in a
country with a high murder rate.

Police said Kebble, a backer of the ruling African National
Congress (ANC) and its youth league, died in a hail of bullets
in a classy Johannesburg district on Tuesday night.

His blood-spattered body was removed by police from the
scene before they loaded his bullet-riddled limousine on a tow
truck just before the early morning rush-hour traffic.

Kebble's killing as he headed for a business dinner stunned
even South Africans used to almost daily reports of killings in
one of world's most crime-ridden countries. The news spread
quickly among delegates attending the World Petroleum Congress
in Johannesburg amid tight security.

The South African Chamber of Mines said it was "deeply
saddened and shocked by the senseless act of violence" that
claimed the life of its flamboyant member.

Both the ANC and its youth league voiced similar outrage in
separate statements.

Police said they did not yet know if Kebble's death was
deliberate assassination or a car hijacking that went wrong.
Nothing was taken from the Mercedes Benz car in which he was
traveling alone, according to police.

"We are looking at both options," said police spokesman
Chris Wilken. "But we haven't made any breakthrough yet."

But some witnesses and many commentators on talk shows
noted that the murder of the controversial businessman had the
hallmarks of a hit.


Kebble, 41, recently resigned as chief executive of three
interlinked South African mining firms. He had well publicized
legal disputes with some former business partners.

A gritty personality with an unruly mop of hair, Kebble
could tell risqu© jokes in speeches at mining luncheons, then
switch to quoting Shakespeare.

"For some he was a crook whose empire had collapsed," the
Star said. "For others he was a creative and quick-thinking
businessman who dared to make deals that others shied away

Kebble trained as a lawyer and worked as a corporate
financier before following his father Roger into the family
business. He headed their three companies -- Western Areas,
Randgold & Exploration and one of South Africa's oldest mining
firms JCI Ltd.

A dapper dresser, Kebble put together an expensive modern
art collection and launched an annual awards competition named
after himself to foster young artists.

A series of deals, however, got father and son embroiled in
a web of litigations.

Last month he resigned from all three companies under
pressure from major shareholders worried about financial
problems at the firms.

In a statement Kebble said he had tried to mend fences. JCI
got a cash injection and new management, while Western Areas
said it would go ahead with a rights issue to raise cash.

The Johannesburg stock exchange last month suspended the
listings of JCI and Randgold and Exploration after they failed
to file annual financial statements. New York's Nasdaq delisted
Randgold last week for the same reason.

(Additional reporting by Eric Onstad and Peter Apps)