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REVIEW: The Arrogance of Power: The South Africa’s Leadership Meltdown

arrogance (2)

aThe Arrogance of Power: The South Africa’s Leadership Meltdown

Xolela Mangcu

Tafelberg

REVIEW: Mvelase Peppetta 

For me, politics is more than just mere politics. It can be as much a piece of entertainment as good a movie. At various points in my life, I’ve found myself deeply invested in politics as strange as following the merry-go-round of Japanese Prime-Ministers to small district races in the US.

South African politics, however, are slightly less entertaining.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, our politicians rank right up there with their international counterparts in having hidden agendas, murky pasts, and the ability to stab a former colleague in the back at the turn of a dime. What hampers my ability to enjoy the gamesmanship of South African politics is that South African political skulduggery is something that has consequences on my life and being the person I am, can make me rather emotional.

As such, beyond following what’s happening in the news, I try not to get too enmeshed in South African politics which often means steering clear of books on South African politics.

However, with Xolela Mangcu’s The Arrogance of Power – South Africa’s Leadership Meltdown I thought that it just being a collection of his columns from the past 16 years, it wouldn’t be too distressing.

But, in Mangcu’s own words the reasoning for this collection is because of a “sense of shame about the direction we (South Africa) have taken in the past 20 years.”

I fully agree that in the past 20 years South African politicians have failed us. For me, Mangcu’s decision to publish The Arrogance of Power because of that immediately placed me on guard. It in no way, detracted from how much I enjoyed the collection, just altered the frame in which I viewed it. In saying that he put it out because of a sense of shame, I knew that there was a narrative arc he was building in the columns he chose to include, and those he chose to exclude. It’s not necessarily a negative thing, just something readers should keep in mind.

What I found most fascinating in this collection was reading up on the early-Mbeki years.

I knew the facts of that period, but Mangcu’s collection – as it does throughout – gave a jolt to the memory of what that time was actually like. We now know what an unmitigated disaster Mbeki’s presidency ultimately was for South Africa. But through Mangcu’s columns from that time you remember how hopeful he, and South Africans in general, were at the start of his presidency.

By presenting you with Mangcu’s, generally mainstream, analysis written from the times that became political watersheds for South Africa, the reader is transported back to that time.

That, more than being a narrative driven by a sense of shame, is where Mangcu’s collection is strongest.

It not only reminds of where we’ve been, but also dredges up all the feelings from that time. As I see it, if South Africa is ever to get itself on the correct path again, being aware of both the facts of a particular time and also the emotions from that time, will be key.

 

QUICK REVIEW: Dancing To The Beat Of The Drum

Dance

DancingDancing To The Beat Of The Drum

Pamela Nomvete

Kwela

ISBN: 9780795706875

Mvelase Peppetta

The tale of a star’s rise and ultimate fall due to drugs, alcohol, and any other variety of maladies, may not be new, but it’s always fascinating.

Pamela Nomvete’s autobiography neatly fits into this genre and pulls you into the crazy world of late-90s early-2000s celebrity Johannesburg. As with all celebrity autobiographies, it titillates with backstage gossip and innocently told, but ultimately snide, asides on other celebrities.

What is of particular worth with Nomvete’s book is the clear sense that this was her story, written by her. Unlike many other celebrity “autobiographies”, Nomvete’s book lacks the polish given to these works through a collaboration with a professional writer.

While some may find this problematic, I found this plainness refreshing and a more honest way to tell a tale that is at times harrowing and painful to read, but ultimately uplifting.

  • This review first appeared in the Cape Times in November 2014.

QUICK REVIEW: Things A Little Bird Told Me: Confessions Of A Creative Mind

Things a little bird

Things a little birdThings A Little Bird Told Me: Confessions Of A Creative Mind

Biz Stone

Macmillan

ISBN-13: 9781478927754

REVIEW BY: Mvelase Peppetta

One can’t deny that “Things A Little Bird Told Me,” is a fascinating read. How can one not be curious about the back-story of how an idea to send out 140 character-long messages turned into a global and cultural behemoth that’s been lauded with everything from toppling decades old dictatorships (whether correctly or incorrectly), to filling our days with the inanities of what our “friends” are doing. Oh, and of course becoming a company worth billions on the side.

Of less interest to me were Stone’s trite business lessons for would-be entrepreneurs – or “confessions of a creative mind” as he’s termed them – gleaned from his unique set of circumstances. While there is certainly a market for this, I’m not it. The relative scarcity of these lessons, however, did not ultimately detract from my overall enjoyment of his story.

  • This review first appeared in the Cape Times in October 2014.