Who's the real Present? Even his wife is clueless
Is ANC worker a cash-in-transit robber or just a loving father and husband who was in the wrong place at the wrong time?
Errol Velile Present. A Jekyll and Hyde or an innocent and humble man?
A cash-in-transit robber who for years led a double life as a loyal ANC party cadre, or a loving father and husband who was in the wrong place at the wrong time?
Present, the Dobsonville ANC branch secretary in Soweto and a national ANC organiser, was arrested along with 22 others in a police raids two weeks ago which saw officers nab other heist suspects, seize rifles, explosives and bulletproof vests and recover hijacked vehicles.
The raid was apparently part of a larger Hawks operation to catch one of the country’s most wanted heist suspects, Wellington “Bibi” Cenenda, whose gangs have stolen over R46-million.It is not the first time Present has courted controversy, with him taking to Facebook in September 2017 to thank those who had supported him through a tough trial the previous month.
“I’m now a free man acquitted of all charges thanks to the almighty and my ancestors …”It is not known what charges he was accused of. This week Police Minister Bheki Cele said the ANC’s security unit had raised suspicions about him and that he had been linked to two other heists, something a Hawks source denied.
An officer said the investigation into Present’s involvement in the other heists was continuing.
“For now, what we know is he has a drunk driving charge and a house robbery case against him. But that was dropped. It is a very old case,” the officer said.Asked to elaborate on Present’s previous convictions or any other pending matters against him, Cele’s spokeswoman Reneilwe Serero would only say that “details of an accused’s previous conviction can only be made known in the passing of sentence after a … conviction”.
But this is not normal protocol as details of an accused's previous cases are usually shared in the early stages of the case.
Serero would not be drawn into commenting whether Present had been formally charged in relation to the two other heists.She and Brigadier Vish Naidoo refused to give further details on how police had cracked down on Present and his co-accused. Last year the Sunday Times revealed how Present and his then business partner, Moses Boshomane, were given a R97-million Limpopo farm eight months after a meeting with then Land Reform minister Gugile Nkwinti in 2011, who attended Present’s wedding in October 2011.
The involvement of Nkwinti, now Water and Sanitation minister, in the deal was revealed in a forensic investigation by auditors Deloitte. Neither men had an ancestral claim to the farm or experience in agriculture.
Speaking outside the ANC KwaZulu-Natal elective conference in Durban, the party’s election head, Fikile Mbalula, said last week the party had been forewarned about a Luthuli House employee who was recently arrested for his alleged involvement in a cash heist.
“We just thought that … he is a young person and on his own explanation that he was not involved in any criminal activities.”His wife Zanele Present told Times Select she did not know who to trust.
“I cannot bring myself to believe that the man of my dreams, the father to my children, who was my high school sweetheart, is the thug people say he is,” she said.
Zanele had just dropped off her husband at a house in Dobsonville, Soweto, on Thursday, July 5, and was returning to their Roodepoort home when police surrounded her car.
Driven to a police station, she was questioned before she was bundled into a police car.
“As they put me in the car I saw Errol in another car. He looked shocked. He called to me to ask me why I was there and told me he loves me.”
For hours Zanele was driven around Johannesburg as cops rounded up her husband’s co-accused, Barrinton Zondi, Bheki Biyela and Itumuleng Manama and hunted for firearms and cash the four allegedly stole in a heist earlier this month in Dobsonville.
Eventually released, she returned home bewildered and scared.
“Errol’s world is our children, his community and the ANC who have now abandoned him. At our wedding he told me the ANC was his first wife and I his second. He served the community through the ANC, getting people food parcels and helping them bury their dead.”On her husband's friends, Zanele she said she hardly knew them, except for Zondi.
“ANC volunteers constantly come into our house. You cannot tell the difference between a common criminal and an ordinary person. If Errol was living a double life it was deeply hidden. If I look how we struggle financially every month, saving for years to buy a simple lounge suite, then there’s no way he can be this thug.”
Asked about the farm, the charges Present claims he was acquitted of, and those that he faces, Zanele said: “I have never been to the farm. I have no idea about these or any other things.”Solomon Chauke, who lives close to Present, described him as someone who always laughed and was respectful.
“I have never seen anything untoward about him. He drives a modest red VW Polo.”
ANC Johannesburg spokesperson Jolidee Matango also described Present as “humble, dedicated to the party since high school”.
He said Present had never displayed a life of opulence.
“Look at his house. Its modest, nothing flashy.
“He certainly didn’t look like those who live off money from heists. He didn’t splash the cash. If it is true then it means he had a unique way of hiding his double life.”