Days of Zondo: Mission accomplished

That Daily misfit Newsroom is an exciting place to work. That’s an understatement. There are times when it goes from “never boring” to hurricane-force news storms with a side of “parliament is on fire”.

We on the “business” side of the editorial board have tremendous respect for our journalists. We see firsthand what they endure to get the story, the truth, written down and out to the public.

For nearly four years, these journalists have covered the Zondo Commission and reported on the key testimonies and revelations. They have pored over thousands of pages of reports and distilled them into articles so the public can understand what happened during those years of state captivity.

In early 2021, Ferial Haffajee began work on a book about the assignment – Days of Zondo. It was due to be published late last year, and then the first of many delays in the delivery of the Commission’s reports began.

We kept pushing back the release date while waiting for the final report to arrive. I have been reading Ferial’s work for 13 years and when the opportunity to publish this book arose I knew it was far more than a commercial endeavor. Ferial has infinite talents as a journalist and editor, but as a writer her ability to explain the inexplicable succinctly and without legal jargon made this book a page turner.

I expected her to deliver great lyrics. I expected to understand State Capture and the Zondo Commission better. What I didn’t expect were the moments when I had to leave my desk with renewed anger at the perpetrators of this large-scale corruption. Nor did I expect the lump in my throat to read about those in the Treasury Department, the SAA, and elsewhere who were doing everything in their power to hold the fort.

I didn’t expect to respect my colleagues even more for their role in exposing the government capture and also for their persistent reporting of the commission and its findings.

Days of Zondois not intended to be a tome, recounting every detail of what has come to light in these three years of testimony. It also doesn’t try to be a PhD in political science.

Its purpose is to explain to the public what happened, pull the strings why and how state capture occurred, and record a phenomenal feat of justice in the commission itself.

This book recognizes that state capture was a trauma inflicted on ordinary people in South Africa. And as with any trauma, understanding and acknowledging it feels like the first steps of catharsis.

The Zondo Commission heard hundreds of people in 429 hearings; 779 videos were broadcast publicly. These testimonies are contained in 429 copies on 138,019 pages.

Not surprisingly, attempting to write and publish a book of this magnitude has not been without its challenges. Aside from the frequent delays in publishing the reports, there was also that little detail, much like the Commission itself deciding what to focus on. And (out of courtesy to the reader, who might risk repetitive strain injury by lifting the book) who should be omitted. It wasn’t an easy task, but one that Ferial handled with aplomb thanks to her in-depth knowledge and years of experience as a journalist covering state capture from the start.

One of the more surreal experiences of making this book was reading about certain nefarious characters and then immediately getting a notification on my phone that those same characters had just been arrested. The NPA started where the Commission left off.

Days of Zondo gave me hope that justice will prevail.

It reminded me that for every corrupt official, there are infinitely more people running the Treasury, whistling in our SOEs, investigators closing in, members of our judiciary preparing prosecutions, and you, ours Daily misfit Readers who continue to support our journalism.

We established our book publishing division with the intention of publishing “great stories that matter”. With Days of ZondoI’m pleased to announce that mission accomplished. DM/ML

Days of Zondo is now available at Daily misfit Business. We deliver for free anywhere in South Africa.
Fran Beighton is Daily Mavericks Reader Revenue General Manager and Editor at outsider451.

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