Zuma Exposed by Adriaan Basson (Jonathan Ball publishers)
I found this review fairly tricky to write. Every South African has an opinion on Jacob Zuma – actually if you are a South African without one, why and how? – it might not always be nice, but you’re bound to have some sort of view on him.
So tackling a book where he’s “exposed” made it challenging to separate everything out there on him, and focus on reviewing the book itself. Yes, it is a book about Mr Zuma, but the subject and how it’s handled says a lot about the writer too.
One thing you do notice, right off the bat is that Adriaan Basson has spent a lot of time following events related to Jacob Zuma, and the Zuma family. Another can’t be ignored thing is that the first part of the book is boring.
There’s no hiding from it, the first part of the book is terrible. Perhaps it’s due to the corrupt relationship with Schabir Shaik, and spy tape elements being something that has been hashed out time and time again in the media.
Perhaps it’s even, that although there are added details that you really notice – and shake your head about - with everything condensed into one space, that Basson’s style just doesn’t seem as suited to anything longer than you’d find in a newspaper.
However, there must be two sides to Basson’s writing, because for all that part one lacked, part two made up for in spades. Once I hit the second part of the book it turned into something that grabbed me, and I didn’t want to put it down.
It probably has to do with how well Basson laid out exactly just how well the Zuma family – immediate and extended – started to do financially once Jacob became the president. That does remind me, that the power grab, was the best part of part one.
I digress; shocking doesn’t even begin to cover just how blatant the financial gain accrued by his family is. Since his rise to power in December 2007 his extended family became more active in business, their profiles boosted by proximity to power and as such their wealth grew.
Adriaan Basson includes a great chart in the book detailing the many, many interests of the family. All of which grew considerably since 2007.
What this book does do is paint a fuller picture of the president. There is discussion about his judgement being his fundamental weakness.
This is aptly demonstrated by the “president of our country [not] understand[ing] corruption; that he thinks there's nothing wrong with letting Schabir Shaik fund his lifestyle while he promoted Shaik's business interests on the side; and that Zuma, once head of the National Aids Council, thought it was okay to continue to have unprotected sex, even after his public apology to the nation for doing so following his infamous 2006 rape trail."(pg 133 -134)
Ok, so that might not be a surprise to some, and you’re probably wondering why I’d say it paints a fuller picture of Jacob Zuma. I see it as painting a fuller picture of the president, because what at first seemed to be the actions of someone who may be arrogant; clearly has more to it.
All in all this is definitely an interesting read. You are left with the impression that Zuma doesn’t have a clear plan for the country, that things are all about grabbing power to waylay those pesky corruption charges, and financial gain.
However, if you’re mildly interested in politics; in knowing more about the person occupying the highest position in the country, once you get past part one, you’ll enjoy it.
Read more reviews on Cassey's blog.
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