Book Review: The President’s Keepers by Jacques Pauw

November 7, 2017



The President’s Keepers by Jacques Pauw (Tafelberg)


When Jacob Zuma was elevated to president-in-waiting, a columnist consoled readers by opining that Zuma’s “minders” would keep him under control. What we have instead is a president who maintains, at our huge expense, a pack of devoted dogs whom he unleashes to do his bidding.

This is an astounding book: astounding in what Pauw has managed to uncover; in the speed with which he has compiled his findings into easily comprehensible sections; and in the tenacity, courage and insight which Pauw displays.

The book concentrates on Zuma Incorporated – the President’s personal history, his profligacy, his incompetence in all matters of finance and administration, his disregard for his constitutional role, his disregard for his responsibility to the electorate and the impoverished, and his political astuteness. He is a survivor and relies on those who are equally venal. It does appear that he will occasionally have one or other of the dogs “put down”, but only if inflicts injuries too carelessly and publicly.

There are various horror stories in this book. The appointment of loyalist Tom Moyane to head the most respected of our public service institutions, SARS, and the subsequent hounding out of the most able and dedicated of the professionals, must rank as the worst. I say “the worst” because the health of the country depends on good tax administration and because SARS had easily the best record of uncovering corruption and of successful prosecutions. This is no longer the case. Gangsters have had their dockets disappear. Politicians, including the President, can ignore the rules that bind ordinary citizens. The Guptas could jump the queue for a refund, and get it in a week, paid into an illicit account, while others, beyond suspicion, wait for months or even years.

Then: what about gang warfare on the Cape Flats? Surely not under Zuma’s watch? The fact is that the most able, professional and experienced officers in the Western Cape SAPS were sidelined because they were actually getting illicit guns off the streets. Gang lords simply don’t like their territory messed with. Major-General Jeremy Veary was once in exile on Robben Island. He is a dedicated policeman. He just did not know when to pursue criminals and when not to, apparently.

The law-enforcement agencies are in total disarray: we know that from daily experiences and observations of crime around us. How this has come about is one of the themes of this book. The consistent dismantling of working structures, the removal of the professional and efficient and the astonishing waste of our money on special units, including family members who, with no qualifications, become high-ranking and highly-paid officers. Ever heard of Major-General Dumuzweni Anthony Zimu? You had better read up about him, because you are paying him and his cohort enormous salaries and providing a fleet of luxury cars for his use.

The National Prosecuting Authority is not headed by one of Zuma’s bloodhounds, but by a sheep-like creature. A sheepdog would have at least been more credible. In this account is also the tragic story of Zuma stalwarts Jiba and Mrwebi, disbarred but still on the payroll of the NPA. How does such a crucial institution fulfil its role in making this a safer, more democratic, more egalitarian society under these conditions? Put simply, it does not.

The greatest single merit of this book for me is that it provides a map that helps me to understand the many news items and reports over the past seven or eight years. On this map, I can see Marikana and the roads leading to it and from it. I can trace the inroads of the Guptas, their mines and their businesses. I can put in perspective the Aurora mine and Zuma’s morally and physically gross nephew; even the Rodavan Kreijcirs, the Agliottis, the illicit cigarette manufacturers, and the present and future roles of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

What will happen now? This could be a watershed in our political history.

This book put me in mind of the dialogue in Macbeth between mother and son, after his father had been killed:

Prince: What is a traitor?

Lady MacDuff: Why, one that swears and lies.

Prince: And be all traitors that so do?

Lady MacDuff: Everyone that does so is a traitor and must be hanged.

Prince: And must they all be hanged that swear and lie?

Lady MacDuff: Every one.

Prince: Who must hang them?

Lady MacDuff: Why, the honest men.

Prince: Then the liars and swearers are fools, for there are liars and swearers enough to beat the honest men and hang up them.