Maverick Life

BEHIND-THE-BOOK

Days of Zondo: Mission accomplished

Days of Zondo: Mission accomplished
Award winning journalist Ferial Haffajee’s latest book, Days of Zondo: The Fight for Freedom from Corruption, arrives at Daily Maverick offices in Cape Town, South Africa on 22 September 2022. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

Early in 2021, Ferial Haffajee began to work on a book about the commission – ‘Days of Zondo’. It was due for release at the end of last year and then the first of many delays in the delivery of the reports from the commission began. This is a short account of how it all happened.

The Daily Maverick newsroom is an exciting place to work. That’s an understatement. There are times when it shifts from “never boring” to hurricane-level news storms with a side of “Parliament’s on fire”. 

We on the “business” side of the newsroom respect our journalists enormously. We see first-hand what they endure to get the story, the truth, written and out into the public domain. 

For almost four years these journalists covered the Zondo Commission, reporting back on the most important testimonies and revelations. They have pored over thousands of pages of reports and distilled them into articles so that the public could make sense of what happened during those State Capture years. 

Early in 2021, Ferial Haffajee began to work on a book about the commission – Days of Zondo. It was due for release at the end of last year and then the first of many delays in the delivery of the reports from the commission began. 

We pushed out the publication date again and again as we waited for the final report to arrive. I have read Ferial’s work for 13 years, so when the opportunity arose to publish this book I knew that this was far more than a commercial endeavour. Ferial has infinite talents as a journalist and editor but as a writer her ability to explain the inexplicable succinctly and devoid of legal jargon has made this book a page-turner. 

I anticipated that she would deliver great writing. I anticipated understanding State Capture and the Zondo Commission better. What I didn’t anticipate were those moments when I would have to walk away from my desk with a renewed anger towards the perpetrators of this grand-scale corruption. Nor did I anticipate the lump in my throat as I read about those in Treasury, SAA and elsewhere who did everything in their power to hold the line. 

I didn’t anticipate respecting my colleagues even more for their part in exposing State Capture, and also for their dogged reporting on the commission and its findings. 

Days of Zondo’s intention is not to be a tome recounting every detail of what emerged during those three years of testimony. It’s also not trying to be a PhD thesis in political science. 

Its purpose is to explain to the public what happened, to pull at the threads of why and how State Capture occurred and to record a phenomenal achievement by the judiciary in the commission itself. 

This book acknowledges that State Capture was a trauma inflicted on the ordinary people of South Africa. And like any trauma, understanding it and having it acknowledged feels like the first steps of catharsis. 

The Zondo Commission heard testimony in 429 hearings from hundreds of people; 779 videos were broadcast to the public. These testimonies are contained in 429 transcripts over 138,019 pages.

Attempting to write and publish a book of this magnitude was, unsurprisingly, not without challenges. Aside from the frequent delays in the release of the reports there was also the small detail of deciding, much like the commission itself, what one should focus on. And (as a courtesy to the reader who might risk repetitive strain injury from lifting the book) who should be omitted. It was not an easy task but one that Ferial, through her in-depth knowledge and years of experience as a journalist covering State Capture from its infancy, was able to tackle with skill. 

One of the more surreal experiences in the production of this book was reading about certain nefarious figures and then immediately getting an alert on my phone that those same characters had just been arrested. The NPA has begun where the commission ended.

Days of Zondo has given me hope that justice will prevail. 

It has reminded me that for every corrupt official there are infinitely more people holding the line at Treasury, blowing the whistle in our SOEs, investigators inching closer, members of our judiciary preparing prosecutions and you, our Daily Maverick readers, who continue to support our journalism. 

We created our book-publishing division with the intent of publishing “great stories that matter”. With Days of Zondo, I’m happy to report: mission accomplished. DM/ML

Days of Zondo is now available at the Daily Maverick Shop. We deliver for free anywhere in South Africa.
Fran Beighton is Daily Maverick’s Reader Revenue general manager and publisher at Maverick451.


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  • Gerhardt Strydom says:

    Yes, “very well done” on Days of Zondo, a DM masterpiece. Just wished that SA was a country which would have pounced on the Zondo Report with arrests. But we have a lame duck President.

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