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Fri Nov 28 02:17:47 SAST 2014

Political books get SA's vote

ANDILE NDLOVU | 02 November, 2012 00:05
Trevor Manuel. File photo
Image by: City Press / Muntu Vilakazi / Gallo Images

The heated debate on the Facebook page for 'Zuma Exposed' vindicates the release of a slew of political books ahead of the ANC's elective conference in December. Citizens appear hungry to know more about the inner workings of the ANC and the party's leaders.

Take a trip to an Exclusive Books store and you will see Road to Mangaung posters promoting titles such as From Aardvark to Zuma by Alex Latimer, Mangaung: Kings and Kingmakers by Mandy Rossouw and the soon-to-be-released Zuma Exposed by Adriaan Basson.

Just as Mark Gevisser's biography of former president Thabo Mbeki, The Dream Deferred, and William Gumede's The Battle for the Soul of the ANC were released mere months before the 2007 elective conference, this year many books on the nation's political landscape are being published.

Basson's book - which focuses on the spy tapes, Zuma's relationship with Schabir Shaik and the furore over The Spear painting - is but one of many that will fill the bookshelves before the Mangaung conference .

In March, the Rev Frank Chikane released Eight Days in September, more than 20 000 copies of which have been sold.

Released at the beginning of October, Ebrahim Harvey's authorised biography of Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe is also performing well. Kgalema Motlanthe: A Political Biography is seventh on Exclusive Books' bestseller list.

According to the book retailer's David Leak, "it has surpassed expectations for a local political biography".

There is also the excellent and meticulously researched External Mission by Stephen Ellis, a book that strips away the secrecy about the life of ANC cadres in exile.

The publishing director at Jonathan Ball Publishers, Jeremy Boraine, said: "Certainly in the run-up to any ANC conference we see an increase in the number of political books.

"Of course we're not the only publishers - there are a spate of these books. We deliberately commissioned [some], but we were also approached by writers because it is a good time. The general populace is interested."

Contrasting the build-up to the previous elective conference in Polokwane and the coming Mangaung conference, Boraine said five years ago the market was a lot stronger because e-readers did not pose competition and there was no recession.

"In the year after the 2007 conference, there was less interest, although it didn't die away entirely. I suspect that again in 2013 there will be a dissipation. Then it will build up again for 2014 [when a general election will be held], but it's hard to sustain a constant interest," Boraine said.

"There is a saturation point, but certainly if one were to publish Zuma Exposed in five months' time, I suspect it wouldn't do as well."

The international market is interested in our politics too. Boraine said the rights to Paul Holden and Martin Plaut's Who Rules South Africa? had been bought by a UK publisher. A Chinese publisher had shown interest in it.

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