SA Power 100 2012: Andrew Feinstein

By Jeremy Kuper 

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The South African

Bullet Biography

Born Cape Town 1964

Education King’s College Cambridge, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Cape Town. He has also spent time at the London School of Economics as a participant in that university’s Distinguished Visitors Programme and at the London Business School.

Career trajectory

  • ANC Member of Parliament from 1994-2001
  • He was an Open Society Institute Fellow in 2010 and 2011,
  • Chairman the Friends of the Treatment Action Campaign, FoTAC, a UK-based organisation campaigning for access to treatment for people living with HIV/Aids in South Africa
  • Founding Director of Corruption Watch, an NGO using case studies of grand corruption to develop policy proposals to combat corrupt behaviour by corporations and governments.
  • Works extensively with investigators, prosecutors and investigative journalists around the world, including currently in the US, Sweden, Austria, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland and Bosnia.

Media appearances Appears regularly in range of print and broadcast media. These include the BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN, Sky, NPR, the Guardian, the New York Times, Die Zeit and the New Statesman. He recently co-authored the lead article in the Sipri Yearbook 2011 and a chapter in the Oxford Handbook of Organised Crime.


  • “The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade”, which was short-listed for the Alan Paton Prize for Non-fiction.
  • “After the Party: A Personal and Political Journey Inside the ANC”.

Lives In London with his wife and two children

I think Jacob Zuma is likely to win re-election at Mangaung in December. Look I think there’s a small chance that he won’t, but my instinct is that he will and I think that for a number of reasons

Andrew Feinstein



What’s your most important achievement?

Oh my, I’m not sure I’m the one who should answer it…

Raising the profile of the issue of the role of the global trade in arms in global corruption and in undermining the way we’re governed.

The book, ‘The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade,’ (Feinstein’s second) is being sold all over the place. A Chinese publishing company recently bought the rights to it. So it’s been translated into German, Dutch, Spanish and is in the process of being translated into Chinese.

And we’re making a film of the book with a New York production company. It’s a full-length documentary feature that will come out in January 2014.

And literally until about mid-July, from the time the book came out, the previous November, I didn’t stop travelling. Besides the Christmas and New Year period, there were two weeks this year, until I went on holiday in July, where I hadn’t travelled out of London… I mean it was just crazy.

Nobody had written on the global arms trade since 1979, and it had become almost a forgotten political issue. So I think that would probably be it.

And I suppose related to that is using my position in parliament and my resignation from parliament in South Africa to place the issue of our corrupt arms deal on the political agenda in the country.

And bizarrely, not because of me, because of a small group of people, it has remained at the forefront of the political agenda for well over a decade now. [These people include:] investigative journalists, some investigators in South Africa, activists, and someone like [the author] Paul Holden, who’s actually written more than me on the South Africa arms deal.

I do find it very difficult. I don’t think I should be the one who should assess what is successful and not.

Who will be the next ANC leader after Mangaung?

I think it will be Jacob Zuma. I think Jacob Zuma is likely to win re-election at Mangaung in December. Look I think there’s a small chance that he won’t, but my instinct is that he will and I think that for a number of reasons.

The obvious alternative is Kgalema Motlanthe, the Deputy President, and I’m not even sure yet whether Motlanthe will stand, but I think what is crucial is that Zuma’s patronage network takes in significant sections of the ANC and therefore keeps them on-side.

And as importantly as that, he has control over the intelligence services. What happened when he deposed Mbeki is that the intelligence services started splitting between Mbeki and Zuma, because Zuma has a background in intelligence. He was head of intelligence in exile for many years and in power struggles within the ANC, the intelligence agencies are absolutely crucial.

They enable one to keep tabs on one’s opponents, to use information about one’s opponents that can be very damaging to them. And to attempt to undermine potential opponents efforts to mobilise against one.

The intelligence structures have become really crucial players in ANC politics, and I believe Zuma has far more control of intelligence structures than Mbeki did when he was deposed. So I think it’s going to be a lot more difficult to depose Zuma, which is a shame, because I think he’s been an absolutely appalling president.

If he wins re-election at Mangaung in December, he then has another six and a half years as the country’s president.

Coming to London

I came straight after I resigned from Parliament and the idea was that we would be here for a couple of years while I wrote my first book: ‘After the Party.’ Because I thought it would be much easier to write it here than in South Africa.

And I also just couldn’t get a job in South Africa, no one would employ me. Because I’d had this very public falling out with Mbeki, who was at the time very powerful, that was end of 2001.

And it took me over five years to finish the book, and then I suppose I got so involved in researching the global dimensions of the arms trade, that London just seemed a very convenient place to be based – because it’s so much easier to get anywhere in the world from here.

Any plans to return to politics and to South Africa?

[He laughs at the idea of returning to politics.]

The nature of my work at the moment makes it important for me to be based in London, because I just wouldn’t have the same global access in South Africa.

I have a little NGO called Corruption Watch, and work on the film, which is primarily US based. What we do for Corruption Watch is investigations of big cases of corruption and that’s on a global-scale, and that sort of work would be difficult to do from South Africa.

But what I would ideally like, is a situation where I would spend part of the year here and part of the year based in Cape Town. That would be my ideal. But it’s very difficult to do with kids of school going age, which is the problem I have at the moment.

Jeremy Kuper is a journalist and editor of Gateway to Africa. His work has appeared in a number of publications including The Guardian and Mail & Guardian.

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