Saturday, April 17, 2010

'Jani Allan bewitched ET'

17 April 2010, 10:35
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By David Jones

Amid the speculation surrounding the recent murder of South African white supremacist leader Eugene Terre'Blanche, the most intriguing figure in his lurid past has, until now, maintained a curious and very uncharacteristic silence.

She is the British-born former society model and star newspaper columnist Jani Allan, who was alleged to have embarked on a scandalous secret affair with the hulking Afrikaner - a supposedly devout family man and moral pillar - in the late Eighties.

Sent by her liberal-leaning Johannesburg newspaper to poke fun at Terre'Blanche, at a time when the iniquities of apartheid were finally being redressed, she penned a breathlessly flattering profile in which she confessed to being "impaled" by his "blowtorch blue eyes".

The article sounded the death knell for Allan's glittering career. Having once topped a South African popularity poll, she became a national pariah and received death threats; and rumours that she had become the buffoonish arch-racist's mistress soon began to circulate.

Four years later, when their alleged relationship was mentioned in an acclaimed Channel 4 documentary about Terre'Blanche, Allan sued for defamation, and for 13 days, in the summer of 1992, her libel case in London's High Court was the only show in town.

It literally offered a through-the-keyhole glimpse of debauchery among South Africa's white elite, for the star defence witness - Allan's former flatmate Linda Shaw - told of peering through the lock of her friend's bedroom door to see the unlikely lovers having sex on the floor.

In a devastatingly detailed piece of testimony which probably sealed victory for the TV company Shaw admitted that she couldn't see their faces, but identified Terre'Blanche from his huge white bottom, which rose and fell between Allan's recognisably "gnarled" toes.

Another witness recalled finding a drunken Terre'Blanche lolloping on Allan's couch, wearing little more than his hole-riddled green underpants.

For the fading beauty, who had been courted by South Africa's top politicians and celebrities, lived in a sumptuous Italianate villa and drove a Ferrari, the collapse of her libel case was the final, crushing humiliation.

Unable to pay Channel 4's estimated £300 000 costs - she has still not paid them - exiled from South Africa, and rejected by Fleet Street, she was forced to sleep on a friend's floor in Hampstead; and by the late Nineties she had disappeared into obscurity.

Apart from one failed attempt to reinvent herself as a radio hostess, she has remained there ever since, surfacing from her unknown bunker only to fire off angry round-robin emails decrying the heinous mistreatment of South Africa's 'down-trodden' white minority.

This week, however, I tracked down the woman who has proved so elusive since Terre'Blanche was stripped naked and hacked to death on his farm in Ventersdorp earlier this month, and the extent of her downfall became poignantly apparent.

Now aged 58 - "or thereabouts", she says enigmatically - she was divorced five years ago from her second husband, an American inventor named Peter Kulish (or 'Pol Pot' as she prefers to call him), whom she met while working as his PR.

Their marriage lasted three years, until she fled in the middle of the night, never to return. Allan is now so hard-up that she works as a restaurant hostess in the anonymous little town of Lambertville, New Jersey.

She lives just behind the restaurant, in a small and slightly rundown rented cottage on a terrace beside the Delaware Canal, sharing her home with three immaculately groomed Pomeranian dogs; her only "children".

With her striking red mane, heavy gold bangles, figure-hugging black cocktail dress and suede high-heels which offer a glimpse of those tell-tale toes, she stands out a mile from the locals, many of whom are ageing hippies, artists and antique dealers.

Despite being so broke that she can't afford a much-needed dentist, she informs me, she has been accepted into the wealthy local milieu because, she says smiling, "they find me entertaining".

However, very few Lambertville residents know of her colourful past, and she is so determined to preserve her anonymity that she now calls herself Juliett, the pet-name her mother used when she was a little girl.

"How would you like it if your wife or mother was forever known as the tart who slept with a far-Right racist buffoon who fell off his horse?" she says, explaining in cut-glass English tones, honed at Roedean School, why she has gone into hiding.

"My life has been ruined. I've so much to say about the terrible things that are happening to white people in South Africa and I want to become a talking head.

"But no one takes me seriously any more - everything I say is devalued by what supposedly happened 20 years ago with Eugene Terre'Blanche."

The key word here is "supposedly". For Allan maintains that the bearded AWB leader was never anything more than a useful journalistic contact whom she met formally on a handful of occasions.

According to her High Court nemesis, Linda Shaw, then a fellow journalist and now a much-followed South African TV astrologist, this is preposterous.

Indeed, when I spoke to her this week, she insisted that Allan and Terre'Blanche had enjoyed a romance lasting fully 18 months, and her memory of the scene she witnessed through the keyhole remained as vivid as ever.

Allan was hard at work in the restaurant when a friend phoned with news of Terre'Blanche's murder.

If she was upset, she is a mighty fine actress, for she shrugs her bony shoulders matter-of-factly when I ask how she reacted.

"I suppose at some level I always thought he would come to a very violent end. He lived a violent existence and I knew he wasn't going to die peacefully in his bed. I think he knew it, too." Allan dismisses the theory that Terre'Blanche was murdered over some petty dispute about unpaid wages - or because he had been having a homosexual relationship with one of his two alleged killers.

She has no doubt his murder was politically orchestrated - "why else would the attackers wait around to be caught?" - and links it with what she believes to be a Mugabe-style systematic slaughter of South Africa's white farmers.

With a candour some will find distasteful, however, she admits that she regards Terre'Blanche's grim passing as a golden opportunity to revive her career and restore her reputation.

For she just happens to be mid-way through writing her biography, which contains two chapters about him (the working title is A Nettle That Must Be Grasped, a phrase often used by Charles Gray QC, who represented her in the libel case).

Allan says her publisher is convinced it will become a blockbusting movie. This explains why, after much procrastination, she has agreed to break her long silence.

Her life would stretch the imagination of even the most committed conspiracy theorist.

She claims the story of her affair was an invention of the South African intelligence service. It was designed, she says, to discredit the white separatist chief at a time when his determination to create a whites-only homeland threatened national security.

Before we assess the truth of this extraordinary version of events, we should recall how a part-time glamour model became one of most influential opinion formers during the last years of apartheid.

The adopted daughter of Janet Fry, a well-to-do British widow who moved to South Africa after her husband died, Allan was a beautiful and gifted child raised to a life of privilege in the exclusive white suburbs.

But she seems to have spent her early life trying and singularly failing to impress her mother, by all accounts a cold, remote figure.

After completing her expensive English schooling, she returned home to study the history of art, and at university met her first husband, Gordon Schachat, the scion of a wealthy Jewish South African family and recently named as the 71st richest man in the country.

Schachat, she says, was besotted with her and would arrive for their dates in "a Rolls Royce filled with roses".

Their marriage lasted just two years, however, for he wanted a stay-at-home trophy wife and she became a career-obsessed journalist.

She landed her 'Just Jani' column in the South African Sunday Times in her late 20s after impressing the editor with a few florid music reviews, and soon she was the paper's doyenne writer.

Her usual subjects were celebrities such as Bill Haley of the Comets and Oliver Reed (whom she interviewed at his insistence in a steam-bath).

And when she was sent to meet Terre'Blanche, in early 1988, she admits she'd never even heard of him.

After hastily reading up about him on the way to his Pretoria office, however, she found a very different man than she had expected.

"Eugene Terre'Blanche doesn't walk into a room, he takes occupation of it - to be honest he's a hunk, far more attractive than his telegenic image," her description of the bearded, potbellied bigot began.

His manners were "impeccable" she said and belied his boorish reputation. "Where is the crazed political threshing machine?

Could it be that people have the wrong image of him? Right now I've got to remind myself to breathe. I'm impaled on the blue flames of his blow-torch eyes, you see."

Her editor, a legendary figure in South African journalism named Tertius Myburgh, was shocked by the tome of her article but declared it "pure Jani" and published it anyway. She thinks she now knows why.

For the late Myburgh, she claims, was secretly working closely with the South African intelligence service, and was embroiled in the plot to ruin Terre'Blanche by revealing him to be cheating on his wife, Martie.

Allan portrays herself as the innocent dupe, though colleagues who knew her in her days as a ruthlessly ambitious newsroom queen-bee in love with her own photo by-line find this hard to credit.

Because she was the only journalist outside the Afrikaner Press to write anything complimentary about Terre'Blanche, he would talk to no one else, so she interviewed him again and again.

Fixing me with a gazed that defies contradiction, she swears theatrically - on the lives of her prized Pomeranians - that they never slept together.

In fact, she says, she only ever met Terreblanche in his office, in the presence of his minders, and anyway never much cared for him or his brutal band of extremism.

However, she and Terre'Blanche were reported to have been caught together in a car one night, and rumours they were having an affair appeared in the Afrikaner papers.

If this slur really was the invention of the secret service's dirty tricks department, it hit the wrong target.

While the AWB leader escaped with his reputation unsullied among his adoring "volk" (and even enhanced by some male supporters, who thought an attractive white writer in, then her late 30s, to be a prime catch) Allan's was wrecked.

Reviled by blacks and liberal whites alike, her bulging sacks of fan-mail turned to poison.
She was stripped of her precious column, banished to work in her paper's London office, and then fired for committing that cardinal journalistic sin - becoming the story.

By then, her apartment had also been fire-bombed by a supporter of the African National Congress, and she was in fear for her life.

Though she had been a star in South Africa, she was then unknown in Fleet Street and had to scrape a living by writing occasional freelance articles.

But when two British publications repeated the affair allegations, her fortunes took a turn for the better. She sued and won £35 000 damages.

With these lucrative victories secured, Allan doubtless believed a defamation suit against Channel 4 would provide more easy pickings, even though Nick Broomfield's documentary - The Leader, His Driver And The Driver's Wife - alluded only in passing to her "relationship" with Terreblanche.

But the TV station hired the most formidable libel lawyer of his day, George Carman QC, and mounted a determined defence, arguing that it had not implied a sexual relationship - but even if it had, it would have been justified.

Though Terre'Blanche sent an affidavit denying any impropriety, he somewhat unchivalrously declined to travel to London to give evidence.

However, a procession of compelling witnesses flew 6,000 miles to testify against Jani Allan (and her personal diary - which chronicled in excruciating detail her sexual adventures with an Italian airline pilot - was also mysteriously couriered to the defence team, mid-trial).

Why were they so eager to destroy her reputation?

Allan tosses her red mane. They had done it for money, she snorts, remembering the generous out-of-pocket expenses paid to the defence witnesses.

Her friend Linda Shaw was also motivated by personal and professional jealousy, she says, adding acidly: "In those days I was better looking, and she has a face like a hatful of a***holes." Two years ago, she says, Shaw sent her an email in which she begged her forgiveness.

Though Allan became a born-again Christian as a result of her humbling in the High Court ("it's not easy to find God when you've got a column and a Ferrari," she remarks) she didn't deign to reply.

When I contacted Shaw this week, however, she interpreted the email rather differently. After all these years, she said, she had suggested that they should bury the hatchet and "forgive each other".

But Shaw stood by every word of her evidence and even embellished her most damning anecdote.

It happened on one of the nights when Terreblanche descended on the Johannesburg apartment she shared with Allan. After she retired to bed, Shaw recalls, one of his hulking bodyguards burst into her bedroom demanding sex, and she was afraid he would rape her.

She persuaded him to leave, but later heard a pair of heavy boots clumping towards Allan's bedroom. Then the radio and TV seemed to have been turned up to maximum volume and the apartment was a cacophony of noise.

Gripped by a fear that her flatmate was being murdered and the noise was intended to drown her screams - she padded down the hall and banged at Allan's door.

It was when only she got no response that she put her eye to the keyhole, she says, adding "it's not something I would normally do".

Listening to Shaw recall the scene with such detail, it becomes clear why the jury chose her word over Allan's. In one crucial respect, though, Shaw says Jani was telling the truth.

For she is also convinced the intelligence services used the affair story as part of a plot to discredit Terre'Blanche; but they had no need to invent it because it really happened.

Jani Allan will doubtless go to her grave denying as much. Two days after our meeting, she sends me a typically pithy email. "It is my fervent hope that your story may resurrect me!" it reads. "May one and one's Poms (her beloved dogs) be cautiously optimistic?"

When she was a columnist, she concedes, "I was a dreadful human being. I used to say things like: "My public must see me in a Ferrari." I wouldn't put the rubbish out without putting on my false nails first." But losing the libel case taught her humility.

Whether the fallen writer can rise again remains to be seen - she somewhat fancifully says she wants to revive her "superannuated modelling career".

One fears, though, that the mention of her name will always stir the unedifying image of a huge white posterior and a set of unmanicured toes. - Daily Mail

Saturday Star

Comments by Sonny

Die Padda by Paardekraal!

Jani Allen has a sure hit!

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