President Jacob Zuma has presided over a “silent coup” under the cover of supposed radical economic transformation, researchers from the universities of Cape Town, Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and Stellenbosch said this week.

Now that the evidence is available, the nation must “defend the founding promise of democracy … by doing all that is necessary to stop the systemic and institutionalised process of betrayal that is now in its final stage of execution. It is not too late,” they say.

Zuma’s presidency has gone beyond corruption, the academics argue in their collaborative work, Betrayal of the Promise: How South Africa is Being Stolen, and even goes beyond state capture.

The report says: “Commentators, opposition groups and ordinary South Africans underestimate Jacob Zuma, not simply because he is more brazen, wily and brutal than they expect but because they reduce him to caricature.