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The best political books of 2017 – an Ed Herbst review

CAPE TOWN — South Africa’s Fourth Estate, wounded by significant political sell-out in the national broadcaster, ANN7 propaganda television and Independent Newspapers, nevertheless remains in rude health overall. That’s the inescapable conclusion you reach upon reading veteran journalist and seasoned observer of the interface between media and politics, Ed Herbst in his analysis of the top political books of 2017. They, and ongoing Gupta-leaks reporting, represent the lime in the cesspit that our ruling party has descended into, losing all semblance of a liberation movement that once prided itself on representing the best interests of the people. A Better Life for All is today an empty slogan perverted to a Sumptuous Life for a Privileged Few, with attendant civic protests, mass protest marches and a slew of damning court judgements. Interestingly, three of the books were written by journalists currently or once employed by Naspers. Potential propaganda rebuttal material for the ANC? Only if you haven’t read any of the books. Crammed with incontrovertible facts, one can only hope the perverted NPA succeeds in getting the latest author, Jacques Pauw, before a court. There we’d see its ugly and naked political agenda once again exposed – as if you needed any more convincing. – Chris Bateman

By Ed Herbst*

Ed Herbst with his new book, 'South African Fishing flies – an anthology of milestone patterns'.
Ed Herbst with his new book, ‘South African Fishing flies – an
anthology of milestone patterns’.

It has been a fascinating political year culminating in joy for much of the country – with the exception of the Zuma faction – when Cyril Ramaphosa triumphed at the recent ANC elective conference.

That joy was compounded with the recent Concourt decision which saw the ANC’s Stalingrad strategy – financed by you and me – grind to a halt.

This all resulted in an unprecedented number of political books being published before the start of the festive season to capitalise on 13th cheques and the goodwill of gifting.

The books that garnered the most public attention were those focused on the ANC’s pervasive and innate corruption, hardly surprising given revelations contained in the Guptaleaks and the deluge of articles and broadcast programmes about malfeasance and self-enrichment scandals at PRASA, SARS, SASSA, Eskom, SABC and SAA – and daily manifestations of almost incomprehensible incompetence at every other government department under ANC control where it is nothing unusual for deployed cadres to be paid for doing nothing. John Kane-Berman makes the telling point that, under the ANC, investment in mining has halved in the last few years. All part, you understand, of the glorious National Democratic Revolution with its heart-warming ubuntu ability to succour the poor.        

As someone fascinated by the interface between media and politics, I took note that three best sellers were written by reporters who were either employed by Naspers or who had worked there until recently.

The first to be published was the Republic of Gupta – A Story of State Capture by Pieter Louis Myburgh who works for News 24. He blew everybody’s doors off on the PRASA investigation. This led me to write an article for the Litnet website about the stellar role that Afrikaans investigative journalists are playing in exposing systemic ANC corruption as things fall apart, looting reaches a frenzied crescendo and nothing and nobody is safe anymore while the ANC builds on the experience it gained in the People’s War.

Then came Jacques Pauw’s blockbuster and slithery Tom Moyane’s predictable fightback. Pauw’s last article for Naspers before he started a new life as a restauranteur in Riebeek West was Spies plunder R1bn Slush Fund in October 2014.

Pauw’s book was followed by Enemy of the People – How Jacob Zuma stole South Africa and how the People fought Back by Adriaan Basson, the editor of the biggest South African news website, News 24 and Pieter du Toit who worked for Naspers before being appointed as editor-in- chief of HuffPost late last year.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is well written and moves along at a cracking pace. What makes it invaluable is that it is indexed and pulls together in a chronology the multitudinous threads which comprise state capture and Zuptoid corruption, starting with Polokwane in 2007.

Other than these books with their Naspers heritage, two others stood out for me and I approached the publishers of each for permission to publish excerpts on Biznews.

One was by Glynnis Breytenbach with the assistance of yet another journalist, Nechama Brodie.

Her book provides chilling detail of how the Zuptoids captured SA’s justice system starting with a plagiarised Hong Kong judgment.

On Mokotedi Mpshe

By April 2009, Mpshe had withdrawn the charges against Jacob Zuma, for a litany of bad reasons that were not sustainable in law. It was clearly an irrational decision. Mpshe had not applied his mind. It was immediately clear that the ANC was running rampant in the NPA. The following month, Zuma  was elected president of South Africa.

On Menzi Simelane

Simelane arrived at the NPA while we were having a national management meeting. Mpshe was still acting head, Menzi was incoming. But Menzi had a few words for us. He told us, bluntly, that he was there to implement the policy of the ruling party: Which, if you want to prosecute independently, was vomit-inducing. He didn’t say a thing about the law, the Constitution. Fuck all.

Things hit the skids from there. It was downhill all the way, and it was a steep slope. Which was Menzi’s intention, in my opinion: to destroy the institution. To dismantle any functional, positive structure within the NPA. To destroy any vestige of independence. To remodel the NPA into I-don’t-know-what … a ball of shit, compliant with political will. Now political interference was in my office — in everybody else’s office — and in my cases.

On Nomgcobo Jiba

But before Simelane had even packed his bags and left, an email arrived  announcing that Nomgcobo Jiba had been appointed as an acting national director. There was no warning, no nothing. In one email, Jiba had skipped three ranks. That just doesn’t happen in the civil service. Of course, Shaun Abrahams went one better, leaping from senior state advocate to national director.

What was very clear to me from day one, was that Jiba was there with a different agenda. And her agenda, in my opinion, was to destroy what Simelane had not yet destroyed.

The staff was in uproar about Jiba’s appointment. They knew she had lied and cheated and they did not want to work with her.

Jiba’s attempts to prosecute Breytenbach were as successful as her attempts to prosecute Gerrie Nel but with the backing of her ally, the somnolent Shaun the Sheep – a man of impeccable ethical probity you understand – she is not giving up.

Breytenbach is not fazed:

I don’t know why they thought they could mess with me. Why, so many years later, they are still clinging to this computer thing. They know I can’t be bought, not by them or anything else. All of this shit of theirs, the intimidation, can never work with me. It’s not who I am.

If she thought she had experienced the worst of ANC corruption at the NPA, parliament revealed another facet to her:

When they shout at us in parliament, ‘It’s our turn to eat!’ they mean that literally. They don’t mean ordinary South Africans. They mean their turn. That spirit of the ANC, of sacrificing everything for the common good, is gone. I am not sure they can ever get back to where they were.

As Breytenbach sums up:

Nkandla is a symptom of where we are: a one-man kleptocracy. They have sold their soul to the devil, and the devil is Jacob Zuma. This is not the party of Nelson Mandela.

The second was Crispian Olver’s must-read, The Stealing of A city.

I say must-read because it provides an insight into the countrywide collapse of municipal governance under the ANC.

Watch, I implore you, this Creamer Media TV interview with Olver and you will begin to get an insight into the African National Congress as a completely amoral criminal enterprise to whom and to which the concepts of truth, couth and grace are completely alien, and where evil presides. Under the ANC, municipal governance has effectively collapsed and one ANC-controlled municipality after another has been placed under administration as enormous salaries are paid to incompetent and indolent municipal officials who spend much of their time on sick leave and millions are splurged on luxuries to the detriment of the poor and the vulnerable.  Wasteful expenditure is regarded as a not-negotiable imperative at ANC-controlled municipalities, as is paying grotesquely inflated prices to favoured suppliers. Shoddy workmanship  or no workmanship at all is routine and never punished – despite the cost which is borne by you and I. Indeed, if you have the right family connections, you get rewarded.  The rewards can include Lamborghinis and riverside mansions, even if you provide nothing of consequence. Only the desperately naïve believe ANC promises – particularly just before an election. Self-enrichment while not paying creditors, – at every level of government – is a hallmark of the cynically callous African National Congress. As a deployed parasite you are expected to rack up humongous cellphone bills  and citizens should feel honoured to fund this vital expenditure.  A criminal record is no impediment to getting an appointment at an ANC municipality but you have to know how to party – preferably without spending your own money. An affinity for Cuban cigars, Johnny Walker Blue and pimped-to-the-max SUVs and luxury saloons of impeccable colonial heritage will enhance your ANC CV.  A strong work ethic is discouraged. Expensive local and overseas jaunts are a routine perk for ANC councillors and musical accompaniment is much appreciated. Golden handshake rewards for non-performing cadres of questionable ethical probity is de facto ANC policy. Taxpayers are expected to pay for ANC ‘Big Vegetable’ blue light convoys no matter who dies in the process. Legal costs are incurred with wanton recklessness in the full knowledge that they will devolve to the taxpayer. The levels of incompetence beggar belief as does the arrogance. Accounts of property being attached in ANC-controlled municipalities have become routine. Staggering amounts in debt are casually written off as, like dominos, these ANC municipalities topple into bankruptcy and debt accrues by the minute. Despite billions being spent on consultants, the situation continues to deteriorate. Service delivery fails at its most basic level and this has led to increasing levels of urban protest with its concomitant violence and destruction. Under ANC municipal governance, urban decay has become a given and, in some instances, is life-threatening. The concept of ‘It’s our turn to eat’ becomes a reality when the ANC’s deployed cadres feast at the taxpayers’ expense while the poor starve.  Snouting, of course, is more important than education. Oh, and don’t forget the statues. And all the while they slaughter one another.

In short, the mafia state at municipal level but, as President Jacob Zuma will assure you, the reasons for this – after two decades of ANC governance – are the legacy of apartheid, those wretched missionaries and those wretched whites  (not to mention those wretched Coloureds and Indians) who are such an impediment to achieving the goals of the glorious National Democratic Revolution.  To give but one example, ‘undermining whites’ are exclusively to blame, according to the ANC, for the fact that insufficient schools have been built resulting in overcrowding. Furthermore, former Model C schools are anti-ANC.  Youth development programs – funded by the taxpayer of course – must be restricted to black participants and non-racial charities must not be encouraged. In fact, anything associated with whites must, despite the Constitution and the Freedom Charter, be avoided. For all of the above reasons the ANC finds it necessary to denigrate the Democratic Alliance with ethnic slurs.

Olver’s book and the interview with him will resonate with Capetonians who saw their municipality looted of more than R2 billion when the ANC controlled the city between 2003 and 2006.

First the ANC paid out R60 million – your money and mine – to incentivise dozens of senior white managers to accept retrenchment packages because Loot-freely House saw them as potential gatekeepers who would seek to thwart the ANC’s planned looting which was, ineluctably, to follow. The next step was to close tender meetings to the public and then the corruption floodgates opened. For months on end the leads in local newspapers and on local radio stations – with the exception of the state broadcaster of course – were ANC tender scandals – Jewellery City and  BTH and Thubelisha Homes – the latter involving Jesse Duarte’s ex-husband, John.

A highlight for mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo,  a Zuma  acolyte of note who has just been nominated at position 71 on the ANC’s national executive committee and city manager Wallace Mgoqi who now works for Iqbal Survé, was the R37 million ‘discount’ to Tokyo Sexwale in the Big Bay 1 and Big Bay 2 scandals. This discount was attributed by Mfeketo to the fact that black South Africans were no longer prepared to ‘accept crumbs from the white man’s table.’ That’s some crumb and she was amply rewarded for her efforts but, as always, the poor were not. The houses for the poor, which were supposed to be part of the Big Bay deal, never materialised. Also rewarded by the ANC, was the man who made it all possible and whose thirty-pieces-of silver, floor-crossing betrayal of his former political party resulted in him now being our ambassador in Greece.

Olver’s book and the above-mentioned interview will resonate with Johannesburg residents and will help them understand the tip-of-the-Turdberg R12 billion corruption exposed by the DA so far.

Olver’s book  and the above-mentioned interview will help the residents of East London understand the way in which the name of Nelson Mandela was shamelessly defiled in the funeral scam by the ANC’s deployed parasites to enrich the few at the expense of the poor. Three years later, not a single ANC politician involved has faced sanction and Luthuli House signalled its approval of those implicated by appointing an alleged ringleader as its regional secretary in the Eastern Cape.

Olver’s book  and the above-mentioned interview will help the residents of Durban understand why the local municipality first tried to thwart  the Manase forensic report, never acted upon it, why everything is a stuff-up, why service delivery is so abysmal and once again highlight the ANC’s concept of ‘due diligence’.

Such conduct and the ethos which motivates it obviously impacts on the life expectancy of South African citizens.

Another book of political interest which was published just before Christmas was A Simple Man – Kasrils and the Zuma Enigma.

A decade and a half ago, in a previous life, I interviewed JGZ and my experience of him mirrored the assessment of Helen Zille in her autobiography which was published last year.

I was standby night reporter for SABC TV news in Cape Town and got a call about 7:30 pm from the news editor, a Snuki Zikalala recruit from a trade union. He told me that Zuma was the guest speaker at a graduation ceremony at the University of the Western Cape and instructed me – to cover his back obviously – to report on the event. I pointed out that by the time the camera operator and I got there the ceremony would be over and that, in any case, if Zuma had something momentous to say he would have called a press conference. To no avail – but it was instructive of how the ANC had the state broadcaster by throat. When we got there the place was in darkness and I saw Zuma climbing into his blue light vehicle and about to depart. Cursing the arsehole who had sent me on this fruitless mission, I hurdled flowerbeds and stammered my apology. I asked him to summarise the gist of what he had told the students and it was the usual platitudes – in no way newsworthy. Much as Zille had been, however, I was blown away by his warmth and charm.

A Simple Man makes the point that this disarming geniality hides a sinister purpose.

I felt that After Mandela – The Struggle for Freedom in Post-Apartheid South Africa by Douglas Foster provided valuable insights into the thinking of Jacob Zuma as did Jeremy Gordin’s Zuma: a Biography.  Kasrils provides further detail in a chapter of our political journey, a chapter which is far from complete.

Read it and you will come to the conclusion that Jacob Zuma would not be your best bet as a prospective son in law – ask Orlando Pirates kingpin Irvin Khoza, he’ll tell you – and he would not be your first choice as a business partner either. Unless, of course, your objective was state capture and propagating  and promoting the Bell Pottinger anti-white hymn of ethnic hate – ‘White Monopoly Capital’.

What is common to all these books is ANC corruption. Without the ANC’s Tsunami of Sleaze, none of these books would have been necessary, none of these books would have been written. We are indebted, nevertheless to the Fourth Estate – with the glaring exception of the Gupta and Sekunjalo-controlled newspapers – for the singular role it has played in speaking truth to power and holding an unprincipled regime to account.

  • Ed Herbst is a retired veteran journalist who writes in his own capacity.
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