Janice Warman Launches The Class of 79, a Personal Tribute to Activists from Rhodes, at The Book Lounge
In 1979, young Janice Warman made a decision that would forever change her life and her understanding of life around her: she went to Rhodes University to study Journalism. While the content of her studies undoubtedly moulded who she was to become, it is the people in her class that seem to have left the biggest impression on her, and who inspired The Class of 79.
Mervyn Sloman welcomed Warman to The Book Lounge, saying that The Class of 79 is an important book because it reminds South Africans that we have “heroes in our midst”.
Warman said: “I wrote The Class of 79 to honour those activists from my classes at Rhodes who were brave enough to fight and destroy apartheid, and to honour those thousands of people who died more or less unknown.”
Having just written a book celebrating great people who lived and died struggling for freedom and equality, Warman says that her visit to South Africa to launch this book has changed her opinion of the country. She believes the people of this country have been betrayed, and “the hope that arrived with the first democratic election in has died”.
Warman read the introduction to her book to explain why she wanted to write it, despite the feeling of hopelessness she gets from the country. She says that what needs to be said about this country is not more about “poverty, crime, fears about the new president or even the world economy” because “luckily South Africa is made up not just of statistics and politicians; it’s also made up of people”.
For this reason, Warman believes that South Africa still needs activists to fight to right the wrongs and fight the malevolent indulgence of the present government. South Africa needs more people like Zubeida Jaffer, Guy Berger and Marion Sparg to change the country for the better again.
Jaffer thanked Warman for the generous tribute that this book represents. She says that although she hasn’t stayed in close contact, the extreme politics they shared means that the class of 79 have a very special bond, unaffected of the passage of time.
In response to Warman’s worries about the state of South Africa, Jaffer tells a story about waiting for Mandela’s release. She says she was comforting a friend who worrying that freedom would never come. She said: “We are going to have a democratic South Africa, my only difficult is I don’t know when. But I can assure you that this is going to happen.”
This is how she feels about South Africa today, because she sees “all the hope” on her travels around South Africa, and believes it is only a matter of time until it is realised.
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