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Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC Paperback – 1 Nov 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Zed Books Ltd; 2nd Revised edition edition (1 Nov. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184277848X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842778487
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 3 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 934,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


'A timely, well-written and important book' The Economist 'I happened to be in South Africa when William Gumede's book first came out and watched as it inspired apoplectic fits of rage (and clandestine delight...) at the highest reaches of the ANC government. Finally the real story of how Thabo Mbeki had betrayed the founding principles of the Party was being told -- and the person shining the flashlight into the backrooms was one of the country's most respected investigative journalists and a third generation ANC loyalist. This is a definitive account of how one of the greatest liberation struggles of our time failed millions of people in whose name it fought, told with revelatory research, a cool head and expert storytelling'- Naomi Klein, author "No Logo"

About the Author

William Mervin Gumede is a columnist for the Sunday Independent, and he also does work for the Economist Intelligence Unit (London), BBC World Service (London), African Intelligence Newsletter (Paris) and Omvarlden (Stockholm). He was deputy editor of the Sowetan and senior editor at the Financial Mail. He has won several journalism awards, including the South African Courageous Journalism Award (1997), the FBJ's Excellence in Business Journalism Award (2001) and the Sanlam South African Excellence in Financial Journalism Award (2000). William was educated at the University of Utrecht, Wolfson College, Cambridge, and the London School of Economics. He is a visiting research fellow at the Graduate School of Public and Development Management at Wits, and is a former Clive Menell Fellow at Duke University, US.

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By abclaret on 24 April 2011
Format: Paperback
I picked this book up because the chapter on South Africa in Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism is formed in major part by this book.

The better parts of the book deal with how the ANC did a U-turn from being a left-nationalist organisation to becoming an organisation which unshackled the burden of the left, workers and the poor in favour of big business and privatisation a la GEAR (Growth Employment and Re-distribution). Its a very good case study for how radicalism can become recuperated from the pressures put on them by international agencies and the domestic economy. Maybe everything would have been different under communist hardliner - Chris Hani, but Mbeki's leftist rival was killed by fearful Afrikaners before events could truly unfold. Has the author acknowledges, "if there is a single defining event in the battle for the organisations soul, it must be the internal struggle over economic policy." (Page 165)

The immediate post-apartheid narrative however is the pinnacle of the book. Alongside this there are some good commentaries on AIDS, Mbeki's Tony Blair style of political cronyism, the ANC's relationship with Robert Mugabe and the anti-globalisation currents that are gaining in South Africa. The remaining and for the most part, reoccurring theme is that of a scatter-gun approach which imbues the dialogue with an exhausting hint towards social policy and political commentary which makes for difficult reading.

A book whereby the essays should be selected according to relevance, rather than something to be read from cover to cover.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Munich97 on 6 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
excellent book. has been really helpfull for my research. Is intelligently written and very well researched. the chapters on 'Escaping Mandela's Power' and 'Mbeki's AIDS Denial' are especially good.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Timely, despite mostly written a few years ago 12 Sept. 2008
By Philip Machanick - Published on
Format: Paperback
Mbeki set up what's happening now in South Africa in several ways. He subverted the ANC's internal democracy, centralising power in the presidency, he started the tradition of riding populist demagogues to the leadership even if he wasn't one himself, and he pushed Jacob Zuma to the limelight as someone he thought he could ride as a substitute for his own lack of the common touch.

The second edition updates some events like the rise of Jacob Zuma as Mbeki's heir apparent, and the chaos in Zimbabwe though naturally with such fast-moving events, you can't expect the book to be up to date. It does however provide very useful background even for events that overtook it.

I don't agree with everything Gumede says but separate out the opinion and the fact is pretty good on the whole: he seems to have real insider contacts.

Some of his nostrums -- more state intervention in the economy for example -- are not terribly likely to have had a significant effect without a much wider change the style at the top -- but he presents a compelling case that South Africa's first 15 years of democracy, the Mbeki era (even if most see the first 5 years as belonging to Mandela), are a big disappointment. From the mismanagement of the HIV-AIDS pandemic through the glacially slow implosion of Zimbabwe, it's hard to see anything that the ordinary person would count as a success. Managing the economy more prudently than the apartheid regime should count perhaps as a bigger success than Gumede credits Mbeki with. However, he does have a good point that in some sense, the government may have had it backwards. Whereas other emerging economies have at times managed to get away with talking fiscal conservatism, while acting a little socialist behind the scenes, Gumede accuses the Mbeki-ites of doing the opposite: talking left, while acting right. The effect (I am guessing, he doesn't spell it out) is little delivery, while frightening off investors.

Overall, the book is a compelling read, despite the odd editing lapse (some unnecessary repetitions, the odd sentence where it becomes hard to untangle the references). Strongly recommended for anyone wanting to understand current trends in South and Southern Africa.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
first edition- good info, but rambling style 30 April 2010
By W. Schworer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This review is for the first edition. If you can get past this book's character flaws-- flamboyant journalistic metaphors, tons of dropped quotations, and at times, a wandering prose-- Gumede's book does contain valuable insight into South African politics. That said, I've read one chapter in the second edition and it seems to have been cleaned up a bit. If you're going to purchase this book, be sure to get the latest edition.
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