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Prominent entrepreneur fatally shot in S. Africa

ANC backer had business woes

JOHANNESBURG -- A prominent South African mining entrepreneur, African National Congress supporter, and cultural philanthropist, Brett Kebble, whose business dealings had come under scrutiny, was found shot to death Tuesday night in Johannesburg.

Police opened a murder investigation into Kebble's death, according to a statement posted yesterday on a website devoted to Kebble's grant program for South African artists.

Kebble, 41, was found shot several times in his car on a highway overpass, the South African Press Association quoted police as saying.

In August, Kebble announced that he was stepping down as chief executive of the Randgold & Exploration and Western Areas mining concerns. A statement at the time referred to large loans that another of his companies, JCI, had made to Western Areas.

Weeks later, Randgold officials said they were bringing in new auditors and were indefinitely postponing the announcement of earnings.

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange suspended Randgold shares and Nasdaq delisted it.

The shooting in a country struggling with a high violent crime rate drew attention, not only because of Kebble's business troubles, but also because of his prominence on the South African contemporary art scene and his ties to the governing African National Congress.

His Brett Kebble Art Awards, established in 2003, have brought tens of thousands of dollars to South African artists. Kebble also had a large personal art collection.

Kebble, who was white, was a proponent of the ANC campaign to open more opportunities to blacks in business, and he was a major contributor to the party.

The arts and culture minister, Pallo Jordan, an ANC leader, praised Kebble's efforts to bring art to wider attention.

''Through the Brett Kebble Awards he set an example of how corporate sector support can give impetus to the development and collection of indigenous fine arts, craft, and sculpture," Jordan was quoted as telling the South African Press Association.

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