President Jacob Zuma’s dismissal of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on 30 March 2017 has been met with opposition from South African politicians and citizens alike.
The following seven books serve as recommended background reading on South Africa’s socio-political history, including its state of affairs since Zuma’s presidency:
South Africa’s Corporatised Liberation
Dale T. McKinley
South Africa’s democracy is in trouble. The present situation is, in objective terms, a house divided; a house that is tottering on rotten foundations. Despite the more general advances that have been made under the ANC’s rule since 1994, power has not only remained in the hands of a small minority but has increasingly been exercised in service to capital. The ANC has become the key political vehicle – in party and state form as well as application – of corporate capital: domestic and international, black and white, local and national, and constitutive of a range of different fractions. As a result, ‘transformation’ has largely taken the form of acceptance of, combined with incorporation into, the capitalist ‘house’, now minus its formal apartheid frame.
What has happened in South Africa over the last 22 years is the corporatisation of liberation, the political and economic commodification of the ANC and societal development. Those in positions of leadership and power within the ANC have allowed themselves to be lured by the siren calls of power and money, to be sucked in by the prize of ‘capturing’ institutional sites of power, to be seduced by the egoism and lifestyles of the capitalist elite.
This book tells that ‘story’ by offering a critical, fact-based and actively informed holistic analysis of the ANC in power, as a means to: better explain and understand the ANC and its politics as well as South Africa’s post-1994 trajectory; contribute to renewed discussion and debate about power and democracy; and help identify possible sign-posts to reclaim revolutionary, universalist and humanist values as part of the individual and collective struggle for the systemic change South Africa’s democracy needs.
Policy, Politics and Poverty in South Africa
Jeremy Seekings & Nicoli Nattrass
Along with inequality and unemployment, poverty is seen as South Africa’s biggest challenge with over half of South Africans living below the national poverty line. Poverty is arguably the most pressing social, economic and political problem faced in South Africa. When South Africa finally held its first democratic elections in 1994, the country had a much higher poverty rate than in other countries at a similar level of development. While the exclusion of the poor occurs in very many countries, in South Africa it has a distinctive extra dimension. Here, poverty has been profoundly racialised by law, by social practice, and by prejudice. This was the legacy of apartheid. Over twenty years later, poverty is still widespread. Poverty, Politics & Policy in South Africa explains why poverty has persisted in South Africa since 1994.
In the book, authors Jeremy Seekings and Nicoli Nattrass demonstrate who has and who has not remained poor, how public policies both mitigated and reproduced poverty, and how and why these policies were adopted. Their analysis of the South African welfare state, labour market policies and the growth path of the South African economy challenges conventional accounts that focus only on ‘neoliberalism’. They argue, instead, that the ANC government’s policies have been, in important respects, social democratic.
The book shows how social-democratic policies both mitigate and reproduce poverty in countries like South Africa, reflecting the contradictory nature of social democracy in the global South.
Dead President Walking
Zapiro comes of age in this 21st annual. Zuma once again takes centre stage for all the wrong reasons along with his cronies the Guptas and his nemesis Malema. It’s the year of the hashtag. #RhodesMustFall begat #FeesMustFall, also #Racism/#Sexism and #ZumaMustFall. With Nenegate and SARS wars, it’s the rand that’s really falling. Meanwhile, Pravin and Thuli fight the good fight.
Each cartoon is worth a thousand words and helps us make sense of our crazy, beautiful country where fact is indeed stranger than fiction.
How Long will South Africa Survive?
In 1977, RW Johnson’s best-selling How Long Will South Africa Survive? provided a controversial and highly original analysis of the survival prospects of apartheid. Now, after more than twenty years of ANC rule, he believes the situation has become so critical that the question must be posed again.
‘The big question about ANC rule’, he writes, ‘is whether African nationalism would be able to cope with the challenges of running a modern industrial economy. Twenty years of ANC rule have shown conclusively that the party is hopelessly ill-equipped for this task. Indeed, everything suggests that South Africa under the ANC is fast slipping backward and that even the survival of South Africa as a unitary state cannot be taken for granted. The fundamental reason why the question of regime change has to be posed is that it is now clear that South Africa can either choose to have an ANC government or it can have a modern industrial economy. It cannot have both.’ Johnson’s analysis is strikingly original and cogently argued. He has for several decades now been the senior international commentator on South African affairs, known for his lucid analysis and complete lack of deference towards the conventional wisdom. (Also available as an eBook.)
Tucked up in bed, President Zuma says goodnight to all the familiar things in his softly lit world. Goodnight to the pictures of his favourite wives, to the Gupta brothers and to the helipad at Nkandla. To everything, one by one, he says goodnight.
Generations of children have been lulled to sleep with Margaret Wise Brown’s and illustrator Clement Hurd’s classic bedtime story Goodnight Moon. In 2008, Little Brown US published the New York Times bestseller, Goodnight Bush. It became a runaway bestseller and viral sensation. In 2009 Bush left office. Now it is our turn, with Goodnight Zzzuma! A must-read for anyone still possessing a sense of outrage.
Clever Blacks, Jesus and Nkandla
Gareth van Onselen
Gareth van Onselen has put together a comprehensive collection of Zuma’s most controversial – and often contradictory – public statements. With some 350 quotes collected along ten themes that define Zuma’s personal beliefs, Clever Blacks, Jesus and Nkandla documents some of Zuma’s most notorious moments. It aims to serve as both an easy guide to Zuma’s personal philosophy and a reference point for some of the debates that have defined his political career. The quotes represent one of the fundamental fault lines that run through South African discourse today – a society trapped between its Third World realities and its much-vaunted First World ambitions. In many ways, Zuma is the epicentre around which the subsequent debate has unfolded. (Also available as an eBook.)
When Zuma Goes
South Africa has been in the grip of the ‘Zunami’ since May 2009: Scandal, corruption and allegations of state capture have become synonymous with the Zuma era, leaving the country and its people disheartened. But Jacob Zuma’s time is running out. What impact will his departure have on South Africa, its people and on the ruling party? Can we fix the damage, and how? Ralph Mathekga answers these questions and more as he puts Zuma’s leadership, and what will come after, in the spotlight.