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Book review: ‘War Party’ by Greg Arde

Greg Arde’s great talent is to get people to trust and talk to him about “difficult” matters.

In War Party they are people like councillors, politicians, widows, brothers and sisters, rivals, friends-turned-rivals, security heavies and officials, and journalists.

Author Greg Arde. Picture: Twitter

And he’s also proved himself expert at pulling together the intricate spider’s web of links and connections between the roleplayers and villains behind the corruption and political murders plaguing the province of KwaZulu-Natal and the ANC in particular.

I have an image in my head of a bunch of whiteboards all going at once with names, lines and illustrations of how all these connected and wannabe individuals – all lusting for power and wealth – were drawn together overtly and covertly feeding on the system of patronage. Countless hours must have been spent poring over newspaper reports, confirming details with journalists and interviewing experts to check that the writer’s perceptions of the complex political scenarios and repercussions were correct.

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As a former journalist I can testify to the fatigue and nonchalance that can creep into newsrooms around political killings in SA … the “it’s just another politician” scenario. It takes strong editors and news editors to acknowledge the significance and give justice to the lives lost and the people and lives destroyed.

Micro-tragedy

Just as each of these killings is a micro-tragedy, they are also part of a system that has ravaged the once-proud liberation party and, it must be said, bedevilled some rival parties as well. Cadre deployment, blatant corruption, a failure to discipline and prosecute guilty party members, redeployment to cushy sideline jobs are all evidence of wrongdoing, all part of “the game”.

What is the impact of this, the message sent to party “foot soldiers” and regular members, and the voting public?

Sometimes the figures in this book, implicated in one dodgy saga, then pop up in another region or municipality … redeployed to another party position with little or no consequences, while remaining on the payroll. Just one example from War Party is the goings on in Umzimkhulu and Richmond.

For those who follow the news, some of the names involved in these cases and killings roll off the tongue, so much has been written about them: names like Sifiso Nkabinde; “Sputla” Mpungose; Mandla Gcaba; Sindiso Magaqa.

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It takes guts and great stamina to write a book like this. Guts because you are writing about cold killers and corrupt officials, stamina because of the Herculean effort to describe and document what has transpired.

Has the ANC become a “War Party”? Picture: Jens Lelie on Unsplash

Has the ANC, indeed, become a “War Party”, or is there over-exaggeration? Read Arde’s book and follow the lines, the vectors that connect the individuals to the branches, committees, local municipalities, regions and provincial power, all in the pursuit of advancement, power and money.

Back-stabbing

It’s an epic effort, a great read if you are into politics and the kind of intrigue and back-stabbing under investigation. There can be fatigue reading through the various cases, through no fault of the author’s, but due to the number of roleplayers and depressing, mind-numbing reality described.

It’s all about the money. Picture: Mujid Majnun on Unsplash

A commendation by Jacques Pauw printed on the cover of the book reads: “Beautifully written and impeccably researched. This book is so good, so important and so relevant that it left me speechless.” – Review by Garth Johnstone

**Published by Tafelberg

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