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Bring Me My Machine Gun: The Battle for the Soul of South Africa, from Mandela to Zuma Hardcover – April 13, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

From 1993 to 1997, British journalist Russell reported from Johannesburg and witnessed the “fairy-tale” ending of apartheid with the release of Mandela. Now he returns to find South Africa still has one of the world’s starkest divides between rich and poor, little redistribution of land, and continuing rampant corruption. In open, journalistic style, he looks in depth and detail at the stalled dream of peace and reconciliation, and he speaks to the leaders, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Jacob Zuma, and also to many ordinary people: Afrikaners in a small town, with their casual, unacknowledged racism about “they” and “them”; blacks in the poverty-stricken townships, who want just modest change: running water and electricity, health care, education. Scathing in his criticism of newly rich magnates, he also exposes the two-faced liberals. He shows close-up that the widely reported attacks on immigrants are rooted in the anger and anguish of the poor and dispossessed. This is exciting contemporary history, a must for anyone concerned with what is happening now. --Hazel Rochman

Review

Peter Godwin, author of When a Crocodile Eats the Sun
“A vivid portrait of post-apartheid South Africa, briskly depicting the dramas of a young nation and the telling threats to its future.”

Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2009
Financial Times world news editor Russell offers a cogent study of the political perils ensnaring South Africa since the fall of apartheid…. An important dispatch from a journalist in the trenches.”

Booklist, review 4/15
“In open, journalistic style, Russell looks in depth and detail at the stalled dream of peace and reconciliation…. This is exciting contemporary history, a must for anyone concerned with what is happening now.”

Gillian Slovo, Financial Times, 4/4
Bring Me My Machine Gun, layered with anecdote, historical background and close scrutiny of recent events, stands as an informative, nuanced, and provocative end-of-era report…. A valuable contribution to the debate about the future of the rainbow nation. Alec Russell has looked at the country with a sympathetic and knowledgeable eye and he leaves his reader with a deep understanding of the challenges to come.”

Washington Post
“Sweeping, up-to-date…. Russell offers an acute look at the remarkable period when apartheid unraveled and a new political system under the African National Congress (ANC) took shape…. A compelling, bracing chronicle of the 15-year campaign to make the promise of 1994 a reality.”

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1 edition (April 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586487388
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586487386
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,336,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By D. Maree on April 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"South Africa's negotiated transition from white rule to democracy was one of the wonders of the late twentieth century. But it was only the first chapter of the postliberation narrative."

In Bring Me My Machine Gun Financial Times journalist Alec Russell skillfully chronicles the new struggle underway in South Africa: that of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to deliver on its democratic promise and avoid the tragic trend of African liberation movements--and dominant political parties from Mexico to India--of descending into corrupt, stagnant, and ultimately dysfunctional states.

In this way, Bring Me My Machine Gun echoes Andrew Feinstein's After the Party, an inside account of the ANC's disastrous arms deal, and Justin Arenstein's exhaustive 2004 investigative report on corruption in South Africa. If, as Arenstein writes, the ongoing saga symbolizes "a painful dissection of the South African psyche," Russell's book is a timely travelogue of this trauma.

On April 22, just two weeks after narrowly escaping prosecution for corruption, Jacob Zuma will take the world stage as President of the Republic of South Africa. The question is whether this marks the beginning or end of the ongoing battle for the country's democratic soul--a complex battle which Russell covers with great depth and detail, borrowing heavily from the insights and high-level sources acquired during his two tours as a foreign correspondent in South Africa.

"Building a new society out of the rubble of an unjust system is invariably an ugly and harsh process," concludes Russell. "But fifteen years into their task, the time for excusing the ANC is over." As it eventually came to do of the apartheid regime, the world must hold the ANC accountable before it's too late.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Selim Gool on July 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
South Africa's political economy continues to revolve around an odd combination of new political power (and patronage) without money and old money without power, each needing the other to advance its interests. This is structurally disposed to advance corruption and nepotism, which has become an 'incestuous relationship'. This is the theme of Alec Russel's important new book [elsewehere, the book is sold as: "After Mandela: The Battle for the Soul of South Africa, Hutchinson", London, 2009].

Alec Russel was a correspondent of the London Financial Times, who first come to South Africa in 1994 and whose interviews and on-the-spot reports makes his one of the more illuminating of the books named above. His focus, not surprisingly, is on the economics of the current transition process and he presents much in the way of statistical evidence to bolster his arguments. In the end, he can be described as a "pessimist". His "solutions" to some of South Africa's economic woes may be summed up by a 'social liberal' philosophy where a 'regulated market' predominates.

At the onset of 'Liberation/Freedom", a new African kleptocracy was being born while "Die Stem" was still hanging in the air! The rest is history, as they say. Sleaze, undercover operations and character assinations (and 'real' ones) became part of the ANC's modus operandi in power. "Ideology" and the once professed goals of poverty amelioration and a "Better Life for All" (ANCs election slogan of 1994), was soon pushed aside as monetary "self-interest", or plain "greed", took its place as an (African) nationalist bourgeoisie was simply replacing an old (Afrikaner) nationalist bourgeoisie at the helm of the state.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By P. Leahey on January 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fascinating insights into the political motivations and characters behind South Africa since the end of apartheid. Opened my eyes to many new facets of politics - the fact that the fall of Communism in Europe recast the ANC into a party that the white apartheid government believed that it could deal with (they were more afraid of communism than black nationalism) - the Reagan-like qualities of Zuma, an uneducated glad-hander on the surface, with political skills beyond any of his contemporaries - the scale of the AIDS denial disaster propogated by Mbeki who was responsible for a wave of death on the scale of the Holocaust - the mechanics and consequences of BEE (Black Economic Empowerment)and the resulting new, small band of black "oligarchs" in South Africa.
Be sure to read Meredith's "Diamonds, Blood and War" to learn how the events of just 40 years since the discovery of diamonds shaped the country.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jedrury VINE VOICE on July 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In post apartheid South Africa, only the color of one's skin matters. It was that way under the Afrikaners. So what has changed? Alex Russell's well written dissection of modern South Africa suspends most moral judgments in describing the African National Congress' corrupt political control of South Africa. The facts speak; the ANC's "trade of political contacts for shareholding;" how "politics could be expected to take primacy over law;" and how "affirmative action compound[s] a shortage of skilled workers." The emigration of young educated whites and the daily flight of engineers can not bode well for this country, seriously in need of "a new business culture." South Africa's crime statistics overwhelm the reader. Chose your adjective when it comes to Russell's condemnation of Mbeki's AIDs policy; "putting politics over science . . . outlandish . . . deranged." Jacob Zuma's elevation to power is Capone's Chicago, circa 2009. Russell's treatment of the Zimbabwean issue fascinates; at the end, he asks if the Mugabe experience is the future of South Africa. His ANC to Zanu-PF comparison is worthy of Pol Sci 301 on the fate of revolutionary movements at Oxford or Georgetown. He does not mention the coming World Cup to South Africa in 2010. His prototype of the present day white south South African is a khaki clad racist spouting apartheid gibberish. This may be a journalistic penchant to characterize the extremes of society as Russell is fair and reasonable in his views. His book takes the reader many places and is a worthy and welcome addition to the public affairs' book shelf.
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