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Book: Zuma Exposed
Author: Adriaan Basson
Publisher: Jonathan Ball
Review: Colleen Dardagan
Adriaan Basson’s book Zuma Exposed was unexpectedly brilliant. The words raced as those in a top class thriller, the only difference was that this wasn’t fiction but a hard hitting, backed-up, factual account of our first citizen’s dodgy dealings to keep himself out of jail.
The account is sobering, shocking and should be a “must-read” for all South Africans.
The book leaves us with no room to say we did not know, nor to plead political naivety, nor ignorance of what has gone on in the halls of power since democracy.
Indeed as the flyleaf suggests, “Zuma Exposed is the book Jacob Zuma does not want us to read”.
An award-winning journalist, Basson answers how Zuma, with the support of the ANC, wriggled out of corruption charges to become president of the ANC and the country.
He settles the question of who supplied the secret spy tapes that handed him his “get out of jail free” card and launched him into the most powerful job on the continent.
And now as “Number One” hangs on by the skin of his teeth for a second term Basson answers why the president appointed so many of his cronies to high office including chief prosecutor, Menzi Simelane, who was later declared unfit by the courts for the job.
At ease with his subject, Basson’s cast of characters include 36 high-profile South Africans, many of whom have been either fired or convicted of corruption, or feature weekly in the country’s newspapers embroiled in one controversy or another – all close allies of the president and his many wives and lovers.
He gives the inside track on City Press’s stand on the controversial painting The Spear by Brett Murray which depicted Zuma as Stalin with his genitals exposed. The painting was finally defaced while the Communist Party’s Blade Nzimande called for a boycott of the newspaper.
He puts into context how the ANC used the painting for political point scoring.
In an address at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, editor Ferial Haffajee told how, in hindsight, she would not have removed the painting from the newspaper website, explaining how “The Spear became Zuma’s political scapegoat” and how the call for a boycott of City Press almost became the focal point of a presidential campaign”.
“The upshot of all this is that I am a changed person,” she said. “Less a child of Mandela’s generation, more a freedom of expression fundamentalist.
“I would not take down that image knowing what I do now…” she said.
Julius Malema, the ANC Youth League firebrand, once the president’s handmaiden, who turned on his former master earlier this year, is cast in a lead role as businessmen complain that “everybody is asking for bribes, from the top to the bottom…
“It’s now just about politics. If you’re not in the right faction, you can forget about tenders.”
Forty political killings in KwaZulu-Natal, the Limpopo textbook crisis, “languishing public hospitals, tender corruption, dissatisfied soldiers, a criminal justice leadership crisis, a paralysed intelligence service”, Basson address them all.
And how “Zuma became his own worst enemy as he failed to deal swiftly and decisively with all these matters of national interest”.
And the biggest shock, the Marikana massacre, where over 30 mineworkers and two police officers were shot and butchered to death.
Basson brings it all to light, a Shakespearian-styled tragedy, the only difference is this book is no comedy of errors, but a factual account of Zuma’s leadership and how he managed to get the corner office in the Union Buildings.
In conclusion, with the ANC elective conference in Mangaung just days away, Basson asks the question: “Is he (JZ) the ultimate survivor, able to surmount the consequences of bad decisions, bad judgement and bad leadership choices?”