Bring Me My Machine Gun: The Battle for the Soul of South Africa, from Mandela to Zuma

Bring Me My Machine Gun: The Battle for the Soul of South Africa, from Mandela to Zuma Award Winning Journalist Alec Russell Was In South Africa To Witness The Fall Of Apartheid And The Remarkable Reconciliation Of Nelson Mandela S Rule And Returned In To See Mandela S Successor, Thabo Mbeki, Fritter Away The Country S Reputation South Africa Is Now Perched On A Precipice, As It Prepares To Elect Jacob Zuma As President Signaling A Potential Slide Back To The Bad Old Days Of Post Colonial African Leadership, And Disaster For A Country That Was Once The Beacon Of The ContinentDrawing On His Long Relationships With All The Key Senior Figures Including Mandela, Mbeki, Desmond Tutu, And Zuma, And A Host Of South Africans He Has Known Over The Years Including Former Activists Turned Billionaires And Reactionary Boers Alec Russell S Bring Me My Machine Gun Is A Beautifully Told And Expertly Researched Account Of South Africa S Great Tragedy The Tragedy Of Hope Unfulfilled

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  • Hardcover
  • 336 pages
  • Bring Me My Machine Gun: The Battle for the Soul of South Africa, from Mandela to Zuma
  • Alec Russell
  • English
  • 12 June 2019
  • 9781586487386

10 thoughts on “Bring Me My Machine Gun: The Battle for the Soul of South Africa, from Mandela to Zuma

  1. says:

    A fascinating history of South Africa since the end of the apartheid regime in the early 1990s It shows how far ZA has come in a short time, but also the rampant inequality that remains in a country with 40% unemployment.The author, a foreign correspondent with a deep knowledge of Africa, describes the complex history in a way that makes it both understandable and highly readable He also does a great job of setting the larger context South Africa stands at the precipice the ANC could lead the African continent toward greater piece and prosperity, or it its ideals could degenerate to corruption a familiar story in post colonialism Africa.The I read, the fascinated I am to be heading to ZA at such a critical time in the history of the nation, and the continent.

  2. says:

    This is an analytical book that is peppered with anecdotes and nuggets of understanding of modern South Africa It looks at contemporary South Africa from Mandela to Zuma and asks if the country and the ANC has what it takes to give up its revolutionary past and move forward to make it a country for all.The book commends Mandela s visionary leadership to steer the country through hatred and turbulence towards shores of reconciliation It is obvious that would never have been easy to succeed a saint and this early realization has come to be proved right Mandela s era focussed on transformation from divisions to unity and while the spirit of apartheid is by far not dead, the miracle of peace and progress in that direction is impressive He also governed with a deep sense of idealism His unflinching support to judiciary built it into the institution it is He shunned reverse apartheid In forgiving anyone who came forward and confessed his or her crimes committed during the apartheid era to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission presided over by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the country under him displayed a large heartedness that is unprecedented It must be said though that not all blacks supported such generosity But his towering presence pushed the idea through.Mandela, however, was not perfect He had an autocratic streak, he was too willing to accommodate even the inefficient under his big tent and he ignored during his presidency the AIDS pandemic He was also a politician at heart who had to make his share of grubby compromises with businessmen.Thabo Mbeki who succeeded him even though Mandela had misgivings about him was an academic and an intellectual who it appears wanted to reverse many of Mandela s policies He believed that time for fuzzy nationalism was over He, however, did not prove to be a success He was intolerant of criticism, not open to change, vindictive and somewhat out of touch with the common man His biggest failure was his persistent refusal to recognize AIDS as a serious problem Based on his studies and the findings of activists who believed that HIV did not cause AIDS and anti retroviral treatment was unnecessary, he probably consigned many to an early death His denial and obduracy caused a situation that has been described as genocide.The transition from a white rule to black empowerment has not been easy It is a work in progress with goals still far away The ANC activists who had fought for freedom from apartheid found that the task of governance was very different and difficult ANC was a democratic party and the new MPs were prone to debating each issue than the white MPs ever had been For the former rulers, getting the job done was important than endless debates the new set of legislatures made process the king The party also focussed on maintaining unity a throwback from the days of the struggle This has led to slow and ponderous decision making based on consensus The unity has largely held and the only major exceptions have been the struggle for power between Zuma and Mbeki and the breaking away of Congress of People or COPE in 2008 The other problem that the party has faced is its relationship with business While, by embracing capitalism, the ANC proved its critics wrong, many of its members have had an equation with business that can only be described as unsavoury Zuma himself has been tried and acquitted on technicalities for accepting millions of Rand from a businessman friend Indeed, Zuma was fired by Mbeki once the charges were levelled in court and, in turn, Mbeki was recalled by the party from the post of nation s presidency once the court ruled that he had interfered with due process of law against Zuma.There were other transgressions ANC dismantled Scorpions, a highly effective if controversial police and investigation force, once it began to unearth skeletons in the cupboards of ANC leaders Mbeki also controlled SABC the state run media in a manner that can hardly be described as democratic Under Mbeki, parliament too became a rubber stamp.After the end of apartheid, the country has faced many difficulties in maintaining the growth curve Many Whites were asked to leave handsome compensations were awarded so that Blacks could rise But the lack of expertise among blacks has posed major challenges Given the fact that, when it came to education, Blacks had been hugely disadvantaged this was no surprise Even teachers were not available in Black schools and Whites continued to send their children to exclusive private schools Some even moved out of the country Though there have been improvements in the lot of the poor and some visible symbols such as shiny malls have come up in Black areas, the divide between the rich and the poor has widened Crime is one of South Africa s biggest issues It is a legacy of the days of apartheid, argue some, because the violence in the society coupled with lack of education and employment came from that period Most people blame the levels of crime on poverty, inequality and the brutal culture of apartheid The fact is that parts of the country particularly the area of Johannesburg Pretoria and Eastern Cape have eight times the level of violence as compared to the US and twenty times of Western Europe Brutality is the hallmark of the violence in the country Mob lynching and mafia style killings are not unknown Police is inadequate, corrupt and largely ineffective It is no wonder that private security business is worth many billion dollars In some ways, government has lived in denial over this too and blamed it on perceptions of White racists Many Afrikaners did not believe that a majority led rule will be a possibility, much less desirable But gradually, the view is changing The Nationalist Party even dissolved itself and merged with the ANC The Democratic Party is now the main opposition Many Afrikaners worry about the dilution of their culture They have, however, largely kept their head down by staying out of politics to make known their grievance Most have focussed on making money instead.After the end of apartheid, many new Randlords have appeared on the scene Some have developed wealth with genuine entrepreneurship Yet, most others, are beneficiaries of the Black Economic Empowerment or BEE The transfer of business stakes to Blacks was at the heart of the policies of majority government It is obvious, however, that it is the former politicians who have gained the most from this policy The newly rich Blacks complain that their flashy lifestyles and not their achievements are highlighted by the media and others.Land reform is another area of potential strife Blacks were asked to file claims by 1998 for their land that had been forcibly taken by the Whites The distribution of land, however, has been slow and problematic An even bigger challenge has been to support Blacks who have become the new landlords without expertise and loans, they have been able to achieve little in an enterprise that was dominated by the Whites Some fear that if progress is not made on this front, Zimbabwe style invasion may be mounted by the dispossessed Mbeki has now been replaced by Jacob Zuma, the 100 percent Zulu boy Unlike Mbeki, Zuma is not well educated he had no formal school education He relies on his people skills, is a accomplished politician, has mass following and is, in the words of Mandela, an African man This too is in contrast with the aloof Mbeki Zuma has being charged with rape and corruption and acquitted on both counts He has adopted a policy towards AIDs which, thankfully, is in complete departure from one followed by his predecessor.Finally, the book talks about the troubles in Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe and how it plays on the consciousness of South Africa While some fear that South Africa too could go the Zimbabwe way, the fact is that the two are different in many ways South Africa is a strong economy, the land has not been used as means of settling old scores, its democratic institutions are better developed and, above all, it has far better leadership.An excellent book for understanding contemporary South Africa.

  3. says:

    The first chapter of this book is entitled Succeeding a Saint, which, if you knew nothing about South Africa since the glory days of Nelson Mandela and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, gives you a decent idea of what to expect The main subject is Mandela s successor, Thabo Mbeki, who is most well known globally, I m guessing, for his denial of the AIDS crisis in South Africa and the subsequent devastation that disease has wrought on the country Russell doesn t get into that issue until Chapter 9 there were plenty of other additional challenges to meet in the years following the end of apartheid The African National Congress apartheid s main opposition movement and now the country s ruling political party has had the job of rebuilding a collapsing economy, reconciling a severely fractured multi racial society, reforming white dominated land ownership, instituting affirmative action, closing the gap between rich and poor, resisting corruption, re engaging SA with the global economy and in foreign diplomacy, and in some sense carrying the burden of proving to the world that an African government can succeed This last task is a major theme in Russell s analysis of Mbeki After years of fighting oppression under white supremacy, the former freedom fighters in the ANC, including Mbeki, found themselves in control of the government and deeply wary of the racism not only of the white population of South Africa, but of Europe and America as well The result is a conflict between the need for Western investment and assistance and a mistrust of Western condescension and criticism Even internal criticism from within the ANC or from opposition parties was often labeled racist by Mbeki This partly explains Mbeki s resistance to letting Western governments evaluate South Africa s AIDS crisis both their diagnosis of the problem and their prescription of Western made ant retroviral drugs Additionally, says Russell, Mbeki had, according to the Reverend Frank Chikane, one of his closest aides, an obsession with challenging the consensus To understand Mbeki s stance on AIDS, you had to appreciate that he was an intellectual president who raises questions His sin was to raise the question Because he s not a classic politician he did not back off At the end of the day, all he was saying is there are lots of unknowns and that poverty worsens the situation Because he s too intellectual he asks those questions He read a lot He paid a price on AIDS because he approached the issue as an academic Mbeki s intellectualism also set him in stark contrast to his successor and South Africa s newest president, Jacob Zuma Zuma is a man of the people He appears comfortable sitting with clansmen in his home village in rural Zululand, telling stories and passing around a vat of sorghum beer, than discussing policy His upbringing should have led him to live a short life in a gang He learned to read and write while imprisoned on Robben Island during apartheid Mbeki, in contrast, went to university in the West on exile, and is known to quote Shakespeare or speak in Latin Zuma is a charismatic leader, and if he can be a strong, democratic leader and save South Africa from the fate of Zimbabwe with its disastrous land reform policy and autocratic rule, or of other big men governments poisoned by corruption, he may be just the sort of consultative leader the country might want after nearly a decade under a cerebral and prickly president Or he may be a disaster In the words of a South African business owner and activist, What kind of president sings Mshini Wami Bring Me My Machine Gun Opinions are divided Russell knows the answer no than any one else he interviews around the country The challenges for South Africa are immense, and Russell gives fair and deserved credit to Mandela, Mbeki, and Zuma, among many other former freedom fighters, for the country s progress since the end of apartheid in 1994 But he is also critical of the mistakes and compromises of the ANC, a dominant and aging political party with no significant opposition to hold it accountable The book chapters tended to lose focus on occasion, making the chronology somewhat confusing at times Russell occasionally assumes too much background knowledge from the reader, and it would have been helpful, for example, to describe in clear chronology the political contest between Mbeki and Zuma which led to Mbeki s ouster from the ANC and Zuma s assumption of the presidency Zuma sort of appears here and there as the book progresses, and then suddenly becomes the president Nevertheless, Russell paints an engaging picture of South Africa s challenges and progress and raises the important questions about its future South Africa did defy all predicitons in reaching an agreement between Africans and Afrikaners But that is the past As Mandela wrote, ending apartheid was only the first of many hills South Africa had to climb Since then, some have been conquered, but rather too many others have been skirted If the ANC is to stop atrophying, it needs to forget about the past and remember the clarion call of the first election campaign a better life for all.

  4. says:

    My favorite chapters dealt with racial reconciliation, the AIDS epidemic and government denial, and land use policy Well written and easy to follow Russell closes the book with this uncharacteristic quote Dreaming it up must have kept him up nights South Africa will in a decade or so find itself led by an ossified ruling party overseen by bickering apparatchiks presiding over a sclerotic dysfunctional state unless the ruling ANC makes appropriate changes to its ruling structure.

  5. says:

    At times it s dry, especially the parts about s africa s economic woes, which I couldn t for the life of meunderstand, but overall this is a fascinating look at s africa s post apartheid era The old leaders of the struggle against apartheid oppression have had to make a sometimes topsy turvy shift to governance.

  6. says:

    This was a really good book on South African politics, but also help me see the complexity of politics in general In the end, my personal take away but not necessarily the message of the book good leaders lead because they love their people and do whatever they can to solve their problems.

  7. says:

    A succinct and gripping narrative of South Africa s political, economic, and social landscape over the last 15 years and the major challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the country and the ANC.

  8. says:

    I found this book technically interesting at times slow and uninterested The chapters on Mbeki s AIDS denial and his thought process was riveting Learning about Zuma and Zimbabwe was good also Overall good read if you like details.

  9. says:

    Read this

  10. says:

    Having visited South Africa last year I found this book absolutely fascinating.

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