by Martin Plaut and Paul Holden (Jonathan Ball Publishers)
Through extensive research and good presentation, authors Martin Plaut and Paul Holden have fashioned something of a political soap opera in the lead-up to the ANC’s important five-year conference coming up in Mangaung in December.
What we see are members of a massive political family (the ANC-led Tripartite Alliance) pulling in different directions, sometimes scandalously and clandestinely, but somehow still trying to keep the old, warm blood that was created during the struggle days running in a body filled with communists, capitalists and centrists, who are all lobbying for power.
Some passages of the 358-page book might make you consider packing for Perth, not least the bits about crime and corruption, but you will be equally tantalised by others that detail the internal battles of the Alliance, the personalities at play and, of course, who is buying whose influence.
The writers are far from virgins in terms of having the right experience to put such a big and bold story together.
Holden is the author of The Arms Deal in Your Pocket (2009) and The Devil in the Detail (2011), while Plaut is the Africa editor of the BBC World Service News and has been reporting on the continent for more than 25 years.
What they are largely putting forward is, if the previous ANC conference in 2007 primarily took care of the aloofness of Thabo Mbeki rather than cross into stirring intellectual debates over the varied political beliefs of Alliance members and how to put the country straight, then what does Mangaung hold in store for Jacob Zuma in this centenary year of the ANC?
As you know, the prolific parent from rural Nkandla may only have been educated in the so-called university of life, but he is certainly no second-rate player in the game of power.
He is fighting for survival this year and, in the picture painted so professionally by Plaut and Holden, there may be much to gain for the victorious faction in Mangaung, including lots of dollar bills.
Though they did not see the need to include more black political commentators in a publication that can be digested locally and abroad, the white ones used are known to be quite astute.
On to the mania of Mangaung! – Carl Peters