Book review: The President's Keepers by Jacques Pauw
There is much that is new in veteran journalist Jacques Pauw’s latest book, which hit the Amazon bestseller list last week when booksellers couldn’t keep up with the demand for print copies created by the State Security Agency’s "cease and desist" order.
There is much too that builds on details in other books and media reports that have painted a picture for two decades of ANC leaders who had committed themselves to uplifting the poor but used their positions to enrich themselves and their families at taxpayers’ expense.
The major difference between The President’s Keepers and all that has been published before is its tone. Pauw is outraged and he has infected far more people with his ire than the usually dismally small group that buys and reads books in SA. What’s new in the tale of ANC governance failures is that President Jacob Zuma was moonlighting for a security company that paid him R1m a month even after he took the highest office, that Zuma did not submit tax returns for years and that his tax liability was paid by someone else. Also new is the extent to which the State Security Agency and the police crime intelligence unit have been looted by officers — some with criminal records and many without the requisite education or training — who do nothing but protect Zuma from his political enemies.
And most importantly, he gives spanking fresh details on how criminals are setting themselves up to capture the state after the Guptas are brought down, by "buying" Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma through donations to her campaign to become the next president of the ANC.
Pauw had the contacts and the experience to dig up details of the "shadow state" that Zuma had established for the sole purpose of keeping himself in power and out of prison. Pauw uncovered the death squads eliminating apartheid’s foes and had interviewed apartheid killers for his previous books.
Judging from the reaction on social media, the tens of thousands of South Africans who have read The President’s Keepers are horrified by the extent of the looting and machinations of the president and his gangster allies to keep him and other senior public servants out of jail. Yet, early in the book, throughout its dismal recitation of the extent of the criminality at the heart of SA’s politics and again in his conclusion, Pauw salutes the dedicated and incorruptible public servants who have risked their jobs and their lives to uncover the rot.
The book can be read in two ways: how easy it is to bypass Parliament and the ANC national executive committee to confer wealth and political influence up to the level of appointing cabinet ministers to gangsters and crooks, or the consolation that there are dedicated public servants chased out of their jobs who are prepared to return and fix the mess.
Another huge consolation is the extent of the files of dirt unearthed by investigators in the public service, locked away by the gangsters Zuma brought in to replace them. There is little doubt that a new set of whistle-blowers will emerge after the fall of the ANC and they will have no political allegiance to stop them.
"A new troop of hyenas, keepers and benefactors are already circling, enticed by the lure of a promised carcass should Dlamini-Zuma become ANC president and possibly future head of state.
"Sponsoring and funding her campaign is an investment, much like the investment the Guptas made in Jacob Zuma, Duduzane Zuma, Ace Magashule, Des van Rooyen, Brian Molefe and Mosebenzi Zwane," Pauw writes.
Many have queried the timing of the book — most of them ANC members who believe that only they have the right to chart the future of the country and the spending of its budget of eleventy-twenty rand.
But taxpayers and journalists who watched Dlamini-Zuma get away with corruption of R14m in 1995 and saw state graft bloom into the billions during Zuma’s second term may not wish to allow it to head into the trillions and may vote for another ANC leadership candidate in December or another party in 2019.