Read of the Week

Enemy of the People: How Jacob Zuma stole South Africa and how the people fought back

Adriaan Basson & Pieter du Toit

Jonathan Ball Publishers

Review: John Harvey

Enough column inches have been devoted to Jacob Zuma’s tenure as president to fill a small library.

“Number 1”, as he was commonly referred to in the fall-out from the Waterkloof Airforce Base scandal, will go down in the country’s annals as Public Enemy Number 1, lest the future brings a leader even more reviled for his shady relationships and strategic positioning of loyal but rapacious apparatchiks.

Although Basson and Du Toit’s book was released towards the end of last year, it retains a harrowing poignancy despite Zuma now facing a myriad charges and the Gupta brothers fleeing the country. Amid the talk of a “new dawn” for South Africa, it is easy to forget how close the country came to being captured to the point of no return. From the aforementioned Waterkloof incident, involving the Guptas making use of the national keypoint as their own private airport, to the brazen attempted takeover of the finance family – SARS, the Reserve Bank and Treasury -as well as Eskom, SAA and other state-owned enterprises, Zuma’s reign was an all-out assault on the nation’s coffers, plunging a country already on the brink into further chaos.

Somewhat disappointingly, the authors fail to go much deeper than what is already known to the public. It is an unfortunate side-effect that current affairs titles rushed out by publishers often are devoid of new revelations, and so it is with Enemy of the People.

That is not to say it has no value. Joining the dots and compiling a timeline of events that ultimately crippled the economy required meticulous research, and in this regard Basson and Du Toit cannot be faulted. There are fascinating sections as well. The authors explore the “strange” fondness Zuma has for disgraced SABC head Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

“…the latter has no struggle record and was effectively working for a former Bantustan leader, QwaQwa’s Kenneth Mopeli, while the ANC was fighting apartheid (ANC leaders have found it strange that Zuma associated closely with figures like Motsoeneng, (Richard) Mdluli, and (Berning) Ntlemeza, who were servants of the apartheid state.”

Former public protector Thuli Madonsela plays a prominent role in the book, and the included transcription of parts of her “attempted” interview with Zuma, his ever faithful lawyer Michael Hulley by his side, shows to what extent he was prepared to stonewall and sidestep the basic questions of a nation.

It’s not pretty reading, but the truth seldom is when it comes to political gamesmanship.