Book review - He became South African president in 2009 already deeply compromised by the arms deal. Subsequently Jacob Zuma has behaved like an archetypal dictator, amassing wealth for himself and his vast family through deals with shady operators.Jacques Pauw provides details: the Guptas, obviously, but also the Pietermaritzburg tobacco smuggler Yusuf Kajee, Durban businessmen Roy Moodley and Thoshan Panday, plus assorted criminals and gangsters. Zuma’s income stream is steady, fruitful and highly varied and unlikely to have been revealed to the tax authorities.How has Zuma stayed in office and away from the courts? The answer is a campaign of fabrication and dirty tricks, the hijacking and undermining of state institutions and the neutralising of individuals brave enough to act against criminal activity. Key allies have been Arthur Fraser, the country’s top spy who allegedly in the past set up a parallel, illegal intelligence system with a server in his own home, and the notorious suspended head of police crime intelligence, Richard Mdluli. Together with a background cast of moral defectives and liars such as Berning Ntlemeza and Nomgcobo Jiba, they have engineered the downfall of principled and dedicated public servants. For example, Ivan Pillay, Johann van Loggerenberg, Shadrack Sibiya, Johan Booysen and Mxolisi Nxasana. Zuma is kept in power by a state within the state. One of its many sinister features is rogue police units linked to Ntlemeza.The standard tactic is the grand lie dressed up as “intelligence” from Fraser’s State Security Agency or Mdluli, inexplicably still a power in the police. Some of this deception was turned into supposed news stories by now disgraced journalists at the Sunday Times. There was no rogue investigative unit in the South African Revenue Service, although there probably is now under Tom Moyane, whom Pauw accuses of bending VAT refund rules for the Guptas. One of the world’s best tax collection services has shed competent staff, now fails to meet its targets, and is allowing major criminals and tax evaders escape with billions owed to the South African people.Similarly, there was no Cato Manor hit squad, just a web of distortion and contrivance designed to protect the nefarious activities of corrupt Durban businesspeople and police officers bankrolling the state president. Nor was there an anti-Zuma conspiracy hatched in Estcourt by Tokyo Sexwale, Mathews Phosa and others.In bringing a “cease and desist” demand against the publishers of Pauw’s book, its detractors have simply acted as a very effective marketing agency. Much of its content is in fact old news: Pauw has introduced new revelations and joined up many dots to produce a big picture that points straight at the highest office in the land as the epicentre of corruption and state subversion. He has some wonderful turns of phrase — “gangster state” and “legal delinquents” — but also an irritating tendency to florid and sometimes ugly prose.If South Africa were a democracy this book would have immediately brought down the government. The ANC would have been removed from power until it had reconstructed itself and cleaned out the corrupt and compromised. But the situation is even more dire. Zuma and his keepers have created a state of political instability and consequent economic breakdown that threatens the future of every South African.There is an old-fashioned word for this. It is treason. • Christopher Merrett is a former academic librarian, university administrator and journalist based in Pietermaritzburg. He has a blog called From the Thornveld.• See “Don’t threaten the messenger” by Ralph Mathekga on page 6.