The meeting with the bank of Baroda consultant ended at about 17h00 on the Friday afternoon. I was grateful knowing that traffic on the M1 was going to be insane. I needed to cry and figure out what just happened. Traffic afforded me some time to get things clear in my mind. I was broken! I wasn’t angry. Reading the Bank’s agreement and terms – an overdraft facility of R300 million and then giving all rights to that account Marc! I could not comprehend R300 million in my personal capacity and I knew that I could never comprehend that type of money in my lifetime! If Marc did something silly, all liability would sit on me. How on earth could I ever pay back R300 million? My grandchildren will have to work to pay off a debt like that!
Whilst driving home the smoke seemed to be lifting a little bit … what was Clive and Marc thinking? Why did I have to open the account? If I was going to sign all authority of the account over to Marc, why didn’t Marc open the account or Tebogo? Tebogo was the CFO after all. Besides, I had already opened an ABSA business bank account for TMC in January 2016. When I asked Clive why we needed another bank account earlier in the day, he said that it was to facilitate payments to EGateway. Why then Clive, did the TMC business bank account (ABSA) have an overdraft facility of R30 million and the bank of Baroda R300 million? These questions pointed in one direction only – I was the fall guy for something that I didn’t know yet. My heart sank. I knew instantly that these people were using me. I kept asking myself, Bianca what have you done? Why are you associated with these people?
I called Peter between sobs so that he knew what to expect when I arrived home. We didn’t speak much when I got home. I just drank an insane amount of wine. I eventually went to bed only to wake up at 2am. I woke Peter up and told him that I had to resign and I had to do it now. He said that he supported me. By the time Peter woke up at 6am, I was finally done with my resignation letter. He read through it, asked me if I really wanted to send it. I sent it and that was it.
When I resigned, the bank of Baroda incident was the straw that broke the camel’s back. But in fact, the week leading up to my resignation was more than enough reason. Regardless of the bank of Baroda incident, I am pretty sure that I was going to resign anyway. I didn’t have proof of my concerns – I resigned on speculation - and I didn’t want to throw any of my colleagues under the bus for what they shared with me. I didn’t want to come across like a crazy person to Clive and resign purely on suspicion. I wrote my resignation letter so that it was final and referred to things that Clive was particularly aware of.
How could I work for a company where the CFO was concerned about decisions made by the leadership of the company as if he was not part of the leadership? How could I work for a company where replacing Finance Ministers was coffee conversation? The company was a joke – they had no procedures nor policies in place. For example, there was nothing in place to govern how employee expenses were managed. Yet, the company was going to earn R5 billion in three years from one contact? How do you manage that magnitude of money without the correct governance structures in place? Ben and I were still in the process of establishing these procedures and policies. There was no protocol that governed who opened bank of Baroda accounts … or perhaps there was? I was reminded of what Daniel said to me back in October 2015 – perhaps I was not high up enough on the food chain to know this information...
Anglo American was my definition of normal, and that experience was still fresh. With figurative scales in mind, Anglo was the neutral position and reference of a ‘normal’ company.
My scale looked like this:
On the one hand, the intention was significant – being afforded the opportunity to build a proudly South African management consultancy that could turnaround State entities and departments and make South African a better place for generations after me – things were looking great!
On the other hand, although I believe that I could realise my intention, I was not heard by anyone. McKinsey, Clive and Eric all appeared to have agendas which I did not know.
These people and by extension, me, were dabbling in matters of national importance with tax payer’s funds and without any ‘normal’ governance procedures in place. On top of that, the magnitude of their greed exceeded anything that I could ever imagine. I also took a financial knock to demonstrate my effort and was losing my family in the process.
My scale was clear – the risk was not worth it. Although I believed I could deliver on my intention, the people that could support me in achieving it were not trying to achieve the same objective. I was the only idiot to think that this dream could actually happen. I had no choice but to leave. If I was wrong and Trillian did in fact turn out to be that proudly South African company the worst is that I would learn a lesson to not be so paranoid and hope that I would get a similar opportunity again. If I was right and Trillian was dodgy, I could end up killed or in jail. My decision was easy – I had to leave.
Tebogo called at 9am on Saturday pleading with me to reconsider. He said that he knew nothing about the bank of Baroda account and he should have been the person to sign such documents – not me. That was enough for me – Clive and Marc had shown their hand. A CFO was bypassed and I was the lucky one to collect R200 after passing start – oh no, it was rather the go straight to jail card.
There was a tiny sense of relief later that day – I was glad that I had walked away, but fear started building up in my head – what was I part of? Visions of a Hollywood conspiracy movie started flashing in my mind. You know, the movie where a really bad guy does everything that he can to protect his wealth – and makes every attempt to stop the little guy who is trying to do the right thing? I felt like the little guy and the bad guys stood to gain the anticipated cashflow for the Turnaround program of R10billion over three years. I assumed that people who receive that kind of money, may kill for it. Back in 2015 it was my clothes that initially made me feel like a fish out of water. Now, I knew for certain that I was a fish out of water. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to feel nor what to think. I was scared and confused. So much so that I couldn’t even explain it to Peter.
My head was a mess! I was scared for so many reasons – did my resignation piss off the Clive, Salim and Eric? Peter wasn’t working and I had just resigned. How were we going to support our family? Was I in trouble?
Never in my life, have I ever been this irresponsible. I felt that I was being irresponsible towards my family’s security. After I sent off my resignation, the thought of not having any money coming into the family crippled me. How could I do this? Peter accepted a VSP assuming that I would carry on working. I had never resigned without another job lined up.
“Oh my God, what have I done?” I didn’t have a plan B. I used to be very responsible.
I felt scared. When Peter asked me why, I couldn’t explain but I had this sense of overwhelming fear – the kind of fear that would break your family and potentially kill me and worst of all, I had nothing to support my feelings. I didn't know then that this is trauma.
Coincidentally, we had a planned family break for the week following my resignation – the change of scenery was going to be good. I sent Ben a text telling him that I’m switching off my phone and if he needed me, he should contact Peter. No one else from Trillian had Peter’s number so I was good. I focused on my parents, my Daughter, Peter and my niece and nephew. For a very short time, I convinced myself that I was just like everyone else around me. I fantasized about having their problems and not my own. This mindset was very short lived. On the 24th March 2016, five days after I resigned, amaBhungane published an article entitled “the gupta owned state enterprises”. I dropped to my knees and prayed! I was grateful to God that I had left when I did and knowing that my suspicions of dodgy-ness was right. The problem about having your suspicions confirmed is that the fear is confirmed too. On the one hand I was grateful and so thankful that I resigned when I did and on the basis that I did – I left before confirmation and not after. I am glad that I didn’t wait to know that Trillian was bad – my gut was right and I acted on my gut. On the other hand, my fear was confirmed and continued to grow. The article painted a picture much worse than what I thought. I had no idea that the web was so vast and so tangled and spanned to Transnet too – who was I associated with and what were these people doing? I feared so much of what I was part of.
At this point, sleep was a luxury that I hadn't experienced since the bank of Baroda incident. I was stressed, exhausted and scared. I started drinking a lot – at least a bottle of wine a day.
When I returned to Johannesburg, both Eric and Clive wanted to see me. I had spoken to Ben and he was shocked that I had left without hinting anything to him. Suddenly, he had a lot more on his plate. I felt really guilty for not considering him so offered to help for a month at most. He had met with the TCP leadership and had taken on the role of CEO for TMC. He delegated some work to me that I could do from home.
Eric made a very lame attempt at trying to keep me - he asked what TCP leadership could do to make me stay. I told him the truth – I would stay if the subsidiary executives were told the truth about Trillian and were empowered to make all operational decisions for their respective subsidiaries – you know, what normal CEOs would do …? Obviously, that was not accepted. In light of the agreement with Ben, Eric agreed that I would stay on the payroll until the end of April, delivering what Ben had asked of me. Later that day I had to meet Clive. I met him because I felt that it was the right thing to do. I couldn’t stop crying when we met. It didn’t matter what Clive had to say. I met with him to tell him what I thought of him and not to hear whatever he had to say. I had been listening to him for over three months and I had had enough. This time he would listen to me. I was almost screaming at him – how dare he put me in a position of risk like this? Who did he think he was and how stupid did he assume I am? He lied to me from the very beginning and I would no longer take it. It was obvious to Clive that I hurt deeply. I was disappointed because a sincerely good intention on my part had been so blatantly exploited. Couldn’t they get an equally bad person to be the CEO of TMC? Why use someone like me?
Later that day Clive called me to say that the leadership had agreed to pay me for two months following the end of my tenure. I was grateful. At least our family would have some income until June. I have never seen nor spoke to Clive again since then.
Following my resignation, the media was going crazy in terms of Gupta related stories and uncovering evidence of state capture. Educated through the media, I understood State Capture to be a process where the leadership of the country were working with private individuals to exploit state funds. In this case, the private individuals were the Gupta family and Salim Essa (referred to as the 4th Gupta brother). I got educated in these things called google alerts. I had these alerts set up of everything that I feared – myself, Clive, Trillian, Regiments, Eskom, Transnet, McKinsey and Mohammed Bobat. I read the news multiple times a day – I figured that if I do get in trouble for being on the Trillian train, although brief, best I try to find out straight away. Every time I would read an article about State Capture the hair on the back of my neck would stand up and I cried. I cried because I was slowly finding out who these people were, what they were doing and the extent of this problem. The president was implicated in State Capture – how many Hollywood movies have been made with a similar story line? This was crazy and I was part of it! With the articles been published and in my state of constant insobriety, I was able to articulate my concerns to Peter and he started getting my position although his remedy was that I find a rock somewhere and hide. He’s view was that if I wasn’t a threat, no one would threaten me. Besides, I was only there for three months, I had a copy of my entire PC so I could prove what I did and didn’t do (blissful naivety). I listened to the head of my family and started the process of brain washing myself. I kept telling myself that I am out of there, I did nothing wrong, move on with life. Every morning I would sing this mantra whilst Peter read the Bible and then the google alerts would return some new articles that would render me freaked out yet again. There was no calming down for me. i wanted to fight, but I was in freeze mode instead.
One day I got a call from Sam Sole from amaBhungane. He got my details from Cipro and noticed that I had resigned. He wanted to know if I would speak to him. I listened to his voice mail message a few times over before calling back. I asked Peter for his opinion – should I speak to the press? What should I do? Peter was adamant – say nothing! In this instance, I am just like my mother – “fuck you! I will stand by truth!” is what I really felt like but it was right to obey my husband.
Before I called Sam back, I knew that I may be in trouble. Whilst I worked at Anglo American and every other employer prior to Trillian, journalists never ever called me. Something was wrong and I was part of it. I told Sam that I wasn’t comfortable to discuss anything – I feared for my family and simply wanted to move on with my life. Ending that call I cried and cried. It felt wrong to not do anything if there was wrongdoing at Trillian, but I didn’t know what to do and I had no idea if the media were in fact right.
Between April and September of 2016 my life was really rough. Both Peter and I were unemployed and the intent was to focus on our relationship and family. The pastors encouraged us to get legally married, which we planned for the 21 October 2016. Those five months were filled with self-condemnation and fear. With every article that appeared in the media, my fear grew. I was scared that I may not ever be able to get another job. I feared been unemployed. I hated myself for working at Trillian. I felt bad for the people that I recruited – I felt that I had ruined their lives and careers. How could they get another job? At the same time, Mosilo was at the CCMA with Eric and they (Eric) were malicious towards her. For what Mosilo was going through, I was so scared to even breathe thinking that any day I can expect a lawyer’s letter of similar sorts.
I stopped blow drying my hair – I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror for that length of time. I stopped wearing makeup. I completely stopped caring about myself. I also became a functional alcoholic. Insobriety made me stop thinking about this mess, so I welcomed it.
Often, I would discuss Trillian with Peter … my resentment towards Peter grew in direct proportion to the fear that grew within me. Peter thought that I was over reacting and when questioned if he would’ve also resigned, he said that he would’ve stuck it out for a little longer. I was slowly losing respect for Peter but thought that when we get married, God was going to bless us for living an honest life. I accepted that I was wrong and needed to focus on my marriage. The conflicts became more difficult to manage – I put my head down and tried to forget about Trillian but then I had to contend with the articles been published and the momentum that the press was gaining in their fight against state capture and had to convince myself that Peter is a great partner, although I detest the position that he is taking on this Trillian matter. I drank more. I couldn’t manage the conflict between us but I had no idea how I could tackle either it. I felt like a plastic bottle in the sea – tossed about by the waves with no control over what happens in the next 30 seconds of my life.
It was a really nice sunny morning at about 9am that my phone rang. It was the public protector’s office. I put the microphone on mute and convulsed whilst crying. Peter was making these gestures to try and understand what was going on. I eventually spoke and asked a simple question – do I need a lawyer? He (the public protector’s representative) said that it wasn’t required but advised. I ended the call, ran to the bathroom and vomited profusely. There was no way that the public protector would be contacting me if nothing was wrong.
I called a cousin that once worked for a government department. He put the fear of God in me! He instructed me to make copies of all the information that I have and distribute it to multiple places. He said its best to not have the data in the house because that would increase the risk of break ins etc. He said that I couldn’t trust the public protector and needed a lawyer. He said that my life was in danger and that I needed help. Peter and I were flawed! My fear was confirmed. For the next few hours the toilet was my best friend. I couldn’t breathe – I put my family’s safety at risk. My Daughter was four years old then. She needed a mother. What if I went to jail for something that I didn’t even know I did? I felt guilty for a crime that I didn’t even know that perhaps I committed? I condemned myself for been the worst wife, daughter and mother. Who takes on a job that could threaten the safety of their family? What if I spoke to the public protector and Trillian didn’t like it? Would they come after me, as they did Mosilo?
I called lawyers and lawyers and more lawyers. Peter and I had no money for legal fees so we needed support pro bono. We got turned down so much – either there was a conflict of interest or they weren’t prepared to support me pro-bono.
I called Mosilo. She confessed to contacting the Public protector. She told me that she passed on my contact details. She found an attorney that didn’t have a conflict. I called that same attorney and arranged to meet. Peter said that he wanted me to never talk to Mosilo again – what kind of friend does this, he said. Round about now, the mental loneliness started dominating my feelings – no one understood the fear. I couldn’t speak to anyone. Mosilo was the only person who got it because she was in it too. Out of respect for my husband, I was completely isolated with only voices in my head. The thing about those bloody voices is that they are on heroine – they never ever stop!
Johan (the unconflicted attorney) met with Peter and I. When I explained my tenure at Trillian and subsequently how I felt about my involvement with the company, I couldn’t stop crying. I told him that I felt so guilty for keeping bad company (it’s funny how you can’t shake familiarity). I asked him if I had done anything wrong? He said that at worst, I didn’t comply with the Company’s Act as a Director – I should have gone to the police or raised the alarm earlier. But given the information that I had and the potential implications, he said that it was very unlikely that I am guilty of anything. He said that he would consider helping me. Later that day I received a call from Johan saying that he would support me on a pro-bono basis on condition that I spoke to and got advice from David Lewis. He gave me David’s details and a meeting was arranged for first thing the following week.
When I met with David one of my first questions to him, after explaining what information I had, was whether the information that I had was even valuable? I only worked for Trillian for three months and during that time the contract with Eskom wasn’t signed, we didn’t really have people working towards the program and not much was done. David instantly said that the information that I had was damning towards McKinsey and that this type of contract was categorically not aligned to the PFMA – there was no justification for a contract of this size to be awarded without going on tender. There were no specialised services conducted through typical management consulting methodologies.
Peter and I questioned my safety, considering the political climate and focus on state capture at the time. David said that I would be safest in the public domain – if I made a public declaration. I was scared and said no. Besides, this was also Peter’s stance and I needed to respect my husband.
A few days later, David Lewis, Johan and Harris met with Peter and I – they would support me pro-bono in preparation for my interview with the public protector. Harris and Johan feared for my safety and started talking about safe houses! It was just like a movie and was a starring character … the kind that I never ever wanted for my life! What the fuck?! A safe house? Are you kidding me? My Daughter has school. Has my life that I once knew, just ended? WTF?!
Sleep was still a luxury that I couldn’t afford – the voices were having a party – I hated myself but drinking made me, tolerable to me.
I compiled what I thought was an extensive statement of relevant facts. Although this was so subjective. I had no idea what corruption was – I didn’t know the PFMA. I didn’t know if anything that I was part of was in fact corrupt, but I feared that it could be.
Johan made it clear; ignorance on my part was not a defence. Corruption Watch encouraged me to over share as opposed to be selective. Peter felt that I should trust no one and be selective. The conflicts kept growing. Who is right? My husband or the people who are helping me/ us for free?
All the while, I had to make decisions that would be right and in the best interest of my family. Everyone had opinions, yet I was the only one implicated. Its these conflicts with people whom I trust, that made me start going mad. They made it impossible to have a clear head. How do I choose between my husband and lawyer? How do I choose between myself and my husband? How do I choose between my family and my country? It really pains me to admit this, but honestly, drinking was the only thing that helped. I was a functional alcoholic.
About a week later, I met with the public protector’s investigative team. I gave them all the information that I had. I also handed over my prepared statement and supporting annexures. Following the interview, I asked the team (Peter, numerous lawyers and representatives from the Public protectors office) if my information was useful. They said it was, but unfortunately received too late in the investigation – the final report on state capture was due to be released within the month.
Driving home from the meeting I felt relieved. I felt that I had done the right thing and for some reason, I convinced myself that the worst was over. What more could I possibly do to support investigations into state capture? I was anxious for the final report – hoping that the findings would put an end to any wrong doing by Trillian and potentially other entities. To me, I needed to pick up the pieces and start rebuilding my life.
In the car on the way home, I asked Peter if he thought I did okay in the interview. He said that I had over shared and I shouldn’t have. Hearing that was like a slap in the face! A klaap bigger than Cape Town! All that I wanted was support. I wanted a hug of reassurance that everything was going to be okay and that I did the right thing for our kids. I wanted to hear him tell me that he was proud of me because I was shitting myself with fear. Instead, I got criticism. The voices got a new chant – your husband thinks you’re weak! you’re not a good wife!
Regardless, the wedding was coming up and that should be the focus now. I am a good kid. I am a good wife, I kept telling myself! Get married, receive God’s blessing for living an honest life, then get a job and live a good life.
Peter and I were having a really difficult time communicating. From my side I have to own the fact that I was fried, broken, decomposed etc. At that time, I felt that I was the most stressed that I have ever been in my life. Not knowing what would happen with the State Capture stuff, been weary that my association with Trillian wouldn’t help my efforts in finding a job and having no income in our household was rough. All the while, the media was still relentless in publishing articles about the Guptas. I struggled to sleep and still couldn’t look at myself in the mirror.
A week before the wedding Peter and I had a fight and I didn’t want to proceed with the wedding. My mother told me to not mess with God and I should proceed. The Pastors that were counselling us also encouraged me to reconsider my position so I did.
The wedding was cute – we got married in our back yard and only had immediate family present. The day after the wedding, the Sunday times headlines featured the “nenegate whistle-blower” – how Trillian knew about finance minister Nene been fired before it was actually announced. My heart sank for Mosilo. I knew it was her – she told me what Eric had told her and she had emails to prove it. She was so cautious about keeping her anonymity. Out of respect for Peter, I didn’t reach out to Mosilo. Although that article started a whole new wave of focus on Trillian – my anxiety and fear grew. I was impatient for the Public Protector’s report.
Eventually on the 2nd November the report was released. It appears as though none of the information that I provided was referenced in the report other than recommendations of further investigations in the next phase. What was clear though, state capture was definitely real. All suspicions of Trillian been involved in this mess were categorically confirmed through this report. It was disheartening that not enough evidence was produced to stop their behaviour at that point.
Reading the report, I got this growing desire to help the cause. My attorneys said that my information was useful – should I do something more to help save the country? I begged Peter to reconsider his position – he didn’t want me to speak to journalist and still maintained that an anonymous position was safest for the family. His view was supported when news broke that Trillian was suing Mosilo on numerous charges. For a brief moment, I was grateful that I had listened to him. Again, I decided to put my head down and focus on my family.
Straight after getting married Peter and I were fighting relentlessly. It was rough. We were stressed. The entire year was dominated by a 3-month tenure of working at Trillian and we were soon going to run out of money.
At the end of 2016, we thought that there is no way that 2017 could be worse than 2016. We were both optimistic for a new start and expectant that the Trillian drama had finally passed.