Book Review: A good enough look at SA’s bumpy sixth administration

2019-12-13 13:48

The behind-the-scenes political horse-trading that took place within the ANC leading up to the party’s 54th elective conference in 2017 – and, in particular, the intricacies of the lobbying that landed Cyril Ramaphosa his presidency – are some well-researched details provided by journalist Qaanitah Hunter in her new current affairs book, Balance of Power: Ramaphosa and the Future of South Africa.

Her front-row seat as a political journalist and her access to those involved are evident as she weaves less publicised insights into the removal of former president Jacob Zuma and the rise of Ramaphosa to the highest office in the land.

The most captivating details explore the roles played by former Zuma allies in canvassing support for his former deputy, now turned nemesis, as well as the important roles that provinces such as Limpopo and Gauteng played in supporting Ramaphosa during this period.

Hunter also outlines the significant roles played by Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane and his Northern Cape counterpart, Zamani Saul, in cementing Ramaphosa’s fortunes.

She outdoes herself in her analysis of the balancing acts and machinations that Ramaphosa has had to perform since his election – in particular, in analysing the reasons for his cleanup campaign, which has targeted individuals compromised from their days serving in Zuma’s administration.

Balance of Power: Ramaphosa and the Future of South Africa, by Qaanitah Hunter

Kwela Books, an imprint of NB Books

272 pages


She also delves into the continued backlash against Ramaphoria from the ANC’s fight-back faction.

Even the banal is dissected by Hunter, especially in relation to what others might overlook – for instance, the slogan “Thuma Mina”, which catapulted Ramaphosa’s presidency into the echelons of public discourse. There is an interesting twist to who the phrase was initially scripted for and how critical it has since turned out to be in framing people's perceptions of the Ramaphosa presidency.

While the book goes a long way towards widening the scope of thinking about the balance of power and how it has shifted within the ANC, it falls short of doing the same for how this has affected the nation's fortunes.

It fails to follow through on the promises made by the title, which suggests a comprehensive exploration of Ramaphosa’s election and how this will influence the future of South Africa.

The book also fails to adequately explore the relationship between the balance of power, now that it has been gained by Ramaphosa, and the realities that are still faced by South Africans.

To Hunter's credit, though, she not only sings Ramaphosa’s praises but also engages the reader on his complicit nature as former deputy president, and how most of those in his Cabinet are failing to expose the now demonised fifth administration, in which many of them served.

The honeymoon is officially over. It is obvious that South Africa’s sixth administration is on a bumpy ride.

For those who do not follow South African politics closely, Hunter’s book will offer an interesting take on the behind-the-scenes trade-offs that all political parties in the country engage in.

To the political enthusiast, the book will answer questions regarding the outcomes of the Nasrec conference and the animosity that remains between the CR17 faction and those who backed contender Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

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April 5 2020