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Seven books to read in the light of Pravin Gordhan's dismissal

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 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 AfricaPolicy, 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 WalkingDead 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? How Long will South Africa Survive?
RW Johnson

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.)

Goodnight Zzzuma! Goodnight Zzzuma

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 NkandlaClever 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 GoesWhen Zuma Goes
Ralph Mathekga

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.
Book details

Zapiro launches his new book Dead President Walking at The Market Theatre

Dead President Walking

Jonathan Shapiro, the cartoonist popularly known as Zapiro, launched his new book, Dead President Walking, at the John Kani Theatre at the Market Theatre in Newtown, Johannesburg recently.


The book could have been titled “Buy the Beloved Country” in reference to Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country and the alleged Gupta influence on national issues, Shapiro said.

But because the state capture report had been the biggest story of the year, with potential to ultimately topple Jacob Zuma, Shapiro had decided to focus on the president instead. And while the African National Congress (ANC) at times criticised itself, Shapiro said the party finds it difficult to deal with ridicule and differing opinions.

Shapiro produced a few giggles from the audience when he presented his most provocative cartoons, which he accompanied with sometimes cutting commentary.

Former president Thabo Mbeki was “Mr Paranoid”. His successor, Zuma, “Mr Complete Idiot”. University activist, Chumani Maxwele, “an interesting guy, but a bit psychotic”. Hlaudi Motsoeneng, now head of Corporate Affairs at the SABC “thinks he’s God”.


Another public figure to have been subjected to Shapiro’s ridicule is Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. While the pair have sorted out their differences, Shapiro believes Dikgang Moseneke, the former Deputy Chief Justice, would have made a better Chief Justice.

Asked whether he didn’t find his work hurtful to targets, invading their privacy, Shapiro said that because they are public figures, “I absolutely don’t care.”


Zuma has sued Shapiro in the past, but Shapiro stands by work – no matter how offensive. He did however single out a cartoon that “brought him grief”. The cartoon depicted Shaun Abrahams as a monkey and Zuma an organ grinder.

Black people had been offended and called him racist, he said. But people who subscribed to this view had selective memory, Shapiro insists, as his work has depicted and ridiculed those who stepped out of line regardless of race.


“The real racists are out there,” he said, adding that it was unfair to be compared to Penny Sparrow, a former estate agent who came under fire for describing black people as monkeys earlier in the year.

Themba Siwela, cartoonist with the Citizen newspaper, found nothing wrong with the cartoon. But Shapiro could have looked at the “timing” before publishing, Siwela believes.

Shapiro said cartoonists have an important role to play in any democracy, and that South Africa is one of the countries in the world that has made an impact with its cartoons.

“We put a lot of pressure on someone who is stepping out of line.”


Elections produce rich material for cartoonists, Shapiro said: “Local government elections are hot stuff.”

In one “hot” cartoon, Shapiro shows Motsoeneng approving good news footage and ignoring violent protests. But Shapiro condemns destructive protests, and believes it is counterproductive to burn things.

On last year’s statue demolitions, Shapiro said the statues had no right to be in prominent sites: “Why the hell should they be in our urban spaces?”


Zapiro also revealed his naughty side – a side his editors and lawyers have to put up with when dealing with him. “There’s a certain adrenaline fighting editors and lawyers,” he grinned.

Deadlines were a pain, he said, commenting that sometimes his cartoons would be late or just in time for publication.

Dead President Walking is Zuma’s 21st annual; “A remarkable feat for anyone to achieve,” Jacana, his publisher, said.

Book details

Die Groot Drie deur Francois Verster: Afrikaner-nasionalisme vanuit die perspektief van drie wêreldklas-satirici

Die Groot DrieDie Groot Drie: ’n Eeu van spotprente in Die Burger deur François Verster is nou beskikbaar by Penguin:

Die Groot Drie bied ’n sonderlinge blik op die opkoms, hoogbloei en uiteindelike ondergang van Afrikaner-nasionalisme vanuit die perspektief van drie wêreldklas-satirici: D.C. Boonzaier, T.O. Honiball en Fred Mouton.

Die Burger is in 1915 in die lewe geroep om as mondstuk te dien vir Afrikaners wat aan die begin van die 20ste eeu op hul knieë gedwing is deur die Anglo-Boereoorlog, verstedeliking en grootskaalse armoede. In die eerste honderd jaar van die koerant se bestaan het net dié drie kunstenaars diens gedoen as spotprenttekenaars. Boonzaier het skerp en raak aanvalle op opponente van die Nasionale Party geloods, en die karikatuurkuns ten volle bemeester; die veelsydige Honiball het lesers se empatie gewek met sy speelse styl; en Mouton se uitbeelding van tipies Suid-Afrikaanse tonele het van hom ’n gewilde humorskepper en belangrike meningsvormer gemaak.

In hierdie boek gee Verster, Naspers se maatskappy-argivaris, ’n onderhoudende historiese oorsig van die bydrae wat elk van dié spotprenttekenaars gelewer het.

Oor die outeur

Dr. François Verster het vir 17 jaar as staatsargivaris gewerk en het in 2007 by Naspers as maatskappy-argivaris en geskiedskrywer aangesluit. Hy het drie romans en sy memoires gepubliseer, en nie-fiksiewerke insluitend Van Kaspaas tot Kaas, die lewe en werk van T.O. Honiball. Hy is die skrywer van talle artikels oor spotprente en strokieskuns vir beide vakkundige en populêre publikasies. Hy werk ook as vryskut-joernalis en is veral bekend om sy rubriek “Geskiedenis vandag” in die streekskoerant Bolander.


Nostalgies, humoristies en hartroerend: Wat die hart van vol is deur Peter Veldsman en Elmari Rautenbach

Wat die hart van vol isWat die hart van vol is: Herinneringsreise van ‘n fynkok deur Peter Veldsman, met Elmari Rautenbach, is nou beskikbaar by Penguin:

’n Wydlopende herinneringsreis, deurspek met staaltjies, deur een van ons land se fynkospioniers …

Met erfeniskos wat deesdae internasionaal hoogmode is, staan een kok uit: Peter Veldsman. As enigste kind op ’n plaas in die Klein-Karoo het Peter ’n fyn waarnemingsvermoë en goddelose sin vir humor ontwikkel. Die resultaat is eindeloos vermaaklike stories oor die kos en mense in sy lewe, van sy dae as kosredakteur van die tydskrif Sarie, waar Peter twee generasies Afrikaanse vroue voor die stoof touwys gemaak het, toe as kosskrywer van Rapport en, uiteindelik, as “Mister V”, eienaar van Emily’s, waar hy hom amper 20 jaar lank beywer het om van streekskos fynkos te maak en só ’n formidabele restaurant-nalatenskap gevestig het.

Baie van die stories is snaaks. Ander is soet-nostalgies. Sommige kyk eerlik na kwessies ná aan sy hart, soos gay-wees en die kerk. En tog, al het hy al vir bekendes en selfs beroemdes gekook en die wêreld deurkruis op soek na nuwe smake, is dit sy tante Julia en haar “koskys” wat hy steeds die helderste voor die oog roep, sy Skotse ouma, en die dag toe hy as ’n vierjarige op sy oupa se plaas in die Klein-Karoo die eerste keer ’n doukomkommer tussen sy tande geknars het …

Nostalgies, humoristies en hartroerend – ’n boek wat jou terugvat na Ouma se kombuis, maar dan ook die drumpel oor, na die wye wêreld daarbuite.


'I feel angst and self-doubt' - Zapiro chats about his glittering career and why it's not easy being a cartoonist

Jonathan Shapiro, better known as Zapiro, is a brilliant cartoonist but he’s often racked by self-doubt, writes Claire Keeton for the Sunday Times


Dead President WalkingLife as South Africa’s most celebrated and controversial political cartoonist isn’t all deadlines and stress, even though Zapiro’s anxiety levels after years in the game seem similar to stand-up comedians and pilots.

One of the highlights for Jonathan Shapiro, known as Zapiro, came out of the blue when he got a call on Christmas Day in 2001.

It was the agent of jazz singer and actor Harry Belafonte. Belafonte said he would like to meet Shapiro. A Belafonte fan, Shapiro said that it would be fantastic.

“He walked through the gate in a huge fur coat in the middle of summer and gave me a massive bear hug, then we sat in my studio and started talking,” Shapiro remembers.

“He said to me: ‘I have a confession to make. I was expecting a black man. God has a sense of humour.’”

Belafonte, who had been attending a world conference against racism in Durban and had seen Shapiro’s cartoons, assumed the cartoonist was a black South African from the way he “tapped into” society.

Shapiro’s progressive upbringing and experiences as an activist with the United Democratic Front in the 1980s – we were together in the South African Youth Congress and on the UDF coordinating committee in Cape Town – sharpened his commitment to fight institutionalised racism and oppression.

And his sense of outrage at injustice has not diminished.

Shapiro is brilliant but not infallible. He’s a battle-weary warrior for the constitution who has on rare occasions fallen out of step with the public whose rights he defends.

“I feel angst and self-doubt. I’m second-guessing myself all the time. I wonder if I’m becoming more reactionary. Have I changed, or has the politics changed? It’s my sense that it’s the politics I’m trying to interrogate.”

‘I feel angst and self-doubt’ – Zapiro chats about his glittering career and why it’s not easy being a cartoonist

While Nelson Mandela praised his creations as “accurate and very exciting”, President Jacob Zuma, with his Zapiro-anointed showerhead, is not a fan.

Zuma has sued him twice, for the maiden showerhead cartoon in 2006 and for the controversial Lady Justice cartoon, which appeared in 2008. Both cases were dropped.

“That [Lady Justice] cartoon has a life of its own. It was selected as one of the 15 cartoons that changed the world, at number 15, along with cartoons by heavy-hitters from around the world, and by the American student cartooning world,” he said.

The launch of Shapiro’s 21st book, Dead President Walking, once again exposes the ways in which Zuma is failing South Africa’s democracy. It also provides an incisive and uncensored view on major political developments in the past year.

Not surprisingly, former public protector Thuli Madonsela endorses the collection on the back of the book with the comment:

I don’t always agree with Zapiro’s cartoons, but his wit, brilliance and relevance can’t be ignored.

It’s not easy being a cartoonist, and Shapiro spends hours conceptualising his works before putting pen to paper.

The process usually kicks off after too little sleep and too much coffee, with him “taking his news intravenously”, as a friend put it when he saw Shapiro at dawn with a radio the size of a lighter glued to his ear.

“My Sony radio is my lifeline,” says Shapiro, who listens to news for hours over breakfast, during the school run and throughout the day.

By early afternoon he hopes to have a rough drawing for the next day, but that can be a “little euphemistic”, he admits.

For about a decade he produced six editorial cartoons a week, taking off only Saturday afternoons and evenings, but he now does only four a week.

This allows him more time to do talks and walk trails with his family, and ahead of the Cape Town Cycle Tour he gets in last-minute training for the race he has ridden nine times.

Madiba Planet

Shapiro started his career as an editorial cartoonist in 1987 for the alternative newspaper South before taking up a Fulbright scholarship to study media arts at the School of Visual Arts in New York.

“In South Africa we had unity and they had diversity, issues I hadn’t even thought of,” he says of his exposure to social activism there.

Another defining moment of his life in New York was marrying Karina Turok, his wife of 28 years with whom he has a son of 21 and a daughter of 16.

When the couple had been together for four years they decided to leave to study in the United States, but his mother asked him to wait and have a wedding at home.

He assured her they would, but after a month of facing visa complications, they were married in the city hall in Harlem, after which they went to the top of the World Trade Center to celebrate.

One of their favourite activities then was playing ultimate frisbee in Central Park, taking part in one of the world’s long-running games (where I joined them while studying there).

“We got addicted, and my wife and I like to believe we were among the first who brought the game here and played it for years,” said Shapiro, who played it on Camps Bay beach.

When he returned to South Africa, he had a change of pace and for three years he drew educational comics on the themes of HIV/Aids awareness and preventing child abuse.

Even though he joined the ANC, he became more of an observer than activist and he drew the main voter education poster in 1994.

Zapiro - freestyle cartooning!

In the same year he was invited to draw for the Mail & Guardian.

In 1998 he started contributing to the Sunday Times, which has also proved an enduring relationship, and in 2009 he became regular cartoonist in The Times.

He also contributed to a satirical puppet show for TV and has since sculpted caricatured figurines of politicians.

Shapiro has won a host of international awards. This year he won the annual EWK-Prize by the EWK-Society, based in Norrköping, Sweden.

He has exhibited all over the world, from the US and Australia to Cameroon and Germany.

Through his cartooning he has met celebrities and artists he admires, attending the World Economic Forum as part of a group of creatives.

“I have come in contact with fascinating people, people who are my heroes like Joan Armatrading, Youssou N’dour, Peter Gabriel, Richard Gere and Nadine Gordimer,” Shapiro says. “I had to pinch myself.”

In the post-Trump-as-president world he’s not the only one pinching himself, but in South Africa at least we have Zapiro’s unique take on out-of-control presidents to keep us alert.

‘I feel angst and self-doubt’ – Zapiro chats about his glittering career and why it’s not easy being a cartoonist

Book details

Jay McInerney: darkness falls over South Africa

For a hip New Yorker, Jay McInerney has a surprisingly red-neck view of our  beloved country.  McInerney comes to South Africa next week to promote his latest book, Bright, Precious Days, in which we get a bit part. One of its characters, Luke McGavock, acquires a wine farm and a game farm in South Africa as part of a private equity deal.   Says Luke: “I loved the idea of Africa. And I loved the reality too. Its primal, cradle-of-life, origin-of-the-species aliveness.  The smells, not just the fertile dung smell of the veldt; even the wood smoke, seared meat and raw sewage smell of the townships.”

But it soon all turns to shit.

“…late night farm invasions had become increasingly common to the north, armed gangs breaking in and murdering white families, with the tacit approval of the ANC, which advocated the redistribution of land and sent out periodic calls for ‘colonialists’ to abandon their farms. Rape, torture and mutilation were common features of these attacks, which usually began with the intruders cutting phone and power lines…”   Really?

Luke is portrayed as “a good man, a generous soul”, who builds clinics and schools in the townships. But the natives don’t deserve him.

He decides to pack it in in South Africa after being badly injured in a car accident. “I was in the car alone, coming home from Cape Town one night. I got hit by a van that crossed the line into my lane. The driver drunk, of course. He died, along with his passenger. Not my fault at all apparently….. that didn’t keep it from getting ugly. White survivor, two dead black men.” Really?

In McInerney’s version of it, South Africa has just two sides: primal idyll for jaded sophisticates or savage and lawless jungle.

His writing purports to authenticity with much real-life detail: the farm is in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. Eskom is identified as being responsible for an erratic power supply.

The narrative this celebrated author conveys is influential.  It’s unfortunate that the one he presents is so ignorant.

To be fair, the South African strand is a very small part of a big and ambitious book and McInerney’s rendering of his main subject, New York’s literary and financial elite, is wonderfully subtle and acute. I’ve loved his earlier books. And Bright, Precious Days is a great read when McInerney sticks to what he knows. But brightness falls on Manhattan and South Africa remains dark.

I hope that when McInerney comes to Cape Town next week – he is speaking at the Book Lounge – he takes the time to discover that South Africa is every bit as richly complex and nuanced.

McGregor is author of Khabzela; and co-editor At Risk and Load-shedding: Writing on and over the Edge of South Africa (Jonathan Ball Publishers)