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Jonathan Ball

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

The ghost of Ahmed Kathrada will haunt his corrupt successors, writes Richard Poplak for The Atlantic

In a recent article for The Atlantic, journalist and author Richard Poplak examines South Africa’s democratic future – and the future of current ruling party, the ANC – in the aftermath of Ahmed Kathrada’s death.
“South African democracy has failed to craft a coherent nation from the wreckage of apartheid,” Poplak wrote, asking “[i]f Zuma does fall, what will replace him?”
An extract from The Quiet Death of an Anti-Apartheid Hero:

In a relentless attempt to control every aspect of the state, the day after Kathrada’s funeral, and for the second time in 15 months, Zuma unilaterally fired his finance minister. The casualty on this occasion was Pravin Gordhan, something of a superstar among the global financial elite, who was just settling into his second stint atop the ministry. The sacking was premised on a widely dismissed, undercooked intelligence report claiming that Gordhan wanted to undermine Zuma.

But from the moment he assumed the position in December 2015, Gordhan has faced an unrelenting assault from Zuma stemming from his refusal to sign off on spending initiatives in various ministries and state-owned enterprises. His removal, along with a wider cabinet reshuffle, has precipitated what could be one of the major crises of the democratic era.

Kathrada’s funeral, meticulously curated by his family, was a pre-emptive response to Gordhan’s axing, designed as a rebuke for an inevitable act of political sabotage. The Kathrada family had made it clear to Zuma that while his presence at the ceremony would be tolerated, he would not be asked to speak.

This was not the first of Uncle Kathy’s political broadsides.

At the outset of last year’s treasury crisis, Kathrada sent Zuma an open letter culminating with the line, “Submit to the will of the people, and resign.” From a wooden box draped in the ANC flag, Uncle Kathy was leading calls for the president’s removal, voluntary or otherwise. In this way, it represented a national first: a state funeral without a state president.

Read the full article here.
Poplak’s Continental Shift has been longlisted for the Alan Paton Award for Non-fiction.

Continental Shift

Book details


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