“LOOTED GOLD” – A REVIEW
By Ian Laxton
Numerous books have been written in recent years that deal, broadly, with issues of State Capture, corruption and political intrigue in South Africa. Indeed, local readers have been saturated with depressing accounts about the capture of their country and the incredible lengths to which the political elite and their cronies will go to accumulate massive wealth without meaningful risk. It seems like a new wave of corruption has suddenly hit our country.
Looted Gold proves this isn’t true at all. State Capture in SA began many years ago.
The book reveals in startling detail previously unknown facts about the famed “Kruger Millions”, until now not much more than the stuff of legend involving Paul Kruger, the president of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR) at the turn of the 20th century, around the time of the Anglo-Boer War.
The authors write in their introduction, “Looted Gold explodes the myth of the missing Kruger Millions with startling evidence that exposes for the first time the committed plundering of the ZAR by the political elite of the time over a number of years.”
They continue: “No one will ever be able to establish exactly how much gold … was siphoned out of the ZAR illegally during the turbulent period leading up to the declaration of war in 1899. Surely billions of dollars in current values.”
The book also details the vast network of “concessions,” in other words licences awarded to friends for them to secure lucrative and monopolistic supply contracts for everything from railways, water and land to dynamite and cyanide.
The web of intrigue extends beyond Kruger himself and the political elite of the ZAR and includes the famed Eloff family and even goes so far as to point fingers at the secretive banking system in Switzerland.
It asks the intriguing question, “Who continues, more than a century later, to hide the enormous wealth gained by underhand means during Kruger’s reign?”
Amazingly, the story began in the most unlikely place, New Zealand, when the diaries of a Kiwi soldier, fighting alongside the British in South Africa, explain in detail how he witnessed first-hand the secret transfer of large quantities of gold from the home of the Eloff family. These previously unknown, but now fully-authenticated diaries, discovered in a house in New Zealand, give startling details about how this gold was moved out of the ZAR into Switzerland as the British were closing in on Kruger.
Two years of painstaking research by the authors (all detailed in the book) present a picture that for the first time explains exactly what happened. It is a fine work of investigative journalism that will surely stand scrutiny by current experts of SA’s history.
Nevertheless, we live in times of fake news and discerning readers and consumers of the media have learned the hard way to dissect what they read in terms of verifiable sources and clear scientific evidence. Reading a book like Looted Gold, which after all took place well over a century ago, cynics would say that it would be easy to “fabricate” evidence and take advantage of a famous legend such as the “missing Kruger millions” and build yet another incredible tale of corruption and intrigue.
To my (cynical and deeply inquisitive) mind, Looted Gold’s authors have gone the extra mile, and then some, to authenticate their story. The research appears to be impeccable and numerous references can easily be verified by suspicious readers. The book is therefore entirely credible.
It goes without saying that the reader will fast-forward 110 years to the present times and come to the sad conclusion that, effectively, State-Capture and the plundering of national treasures by those wielding the levers of power did not start a mere 20 years ago. It goes back way, far earlier than that. “State Capture” in South Africa actually began when Kruger and his merry men decided that personal wealth trumped the needs of the people they were supposed to be governing and the country they were supposed to be building.