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Archive for the ‘Non-fiction’ Category

Launch – Pride and Prejudice: African Perspectives on Gender, Social Justice and Sexuality

Pride and Prejudice: The Gerald Kraak Anthology African Perspectives on Gender, Social Justice and Sexuality

    The Other Foundation and the Jacana Literary Foundation invite you to be our guest at the presentation of the inaugural Gerald Kraak Prize and the launch of Pride and Prejudice, the inaugural edition of the Gerald Kraak Anthology of African Perspectives on Gender, Social Justice, and Sexuality. RSVP by Thursday, 25 May at 12PM.

    Pride and Prejudice is a collection of the short-listed entries to the inaugural award, named after Gerald Kraak (1956–2014), who was a passionate champion of social justice and an anti-apartheid activist.

    “This book is a shelter, a place where slums are not art, they are simply where we live. It’s a place where albinos are not unicorns, they are only beautiful and ordinary. And it’s a place where gays are pained and also completely conventional. In this book, strange choppers fly and Africa is a landscape not simply for the past but for projections of the future,” says Sisonke Msimang, Editor in Chief and Head Judge.

    The Gerald Kraak Award is a joint initiative between The Other Foundation and the Jacana Literary Foundation.

    A judging panel made up of distinguished gender activist Sisonke Msimang, prominent social and political analyst Eusebius McKaiser and leading African feminist Sylvia Tamale selected thirteen finalists.

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We Die Like Brothers highlights the story of the SANLC

The SS Mendi is a wreck site off the Isle of Wight under the protection of Historic England. Nearly 650 mean, mostly from the South African Native Labour Corps (SANLC), lost their lives in February 1917 following a collision in fog as they travelled to serve as labourers on the Western Front, in one of the largest single losses of life during the conflict.

The loss of the SS Mendi occupies a special place in South African military history. Prevented from being trained as fighting troops by their own government, the men of the SANLC hoped that their contribution to the war effort would lead to greater civil rights and economic opportunities in the new white-ruled nation of South Africa after the war.

These hopes proved unfounded, and the SS Mendi became a focus of black resistance before and during the apartheid era in South Africa.

One hundred years on, the wreck of the SS Mendi is a physical symbol of black South Africans’ long fight for social and political justice and equality and is one of a very select group of historic shipwrecks from which contemporary political and social meaning can be drawn, and whose loss has rippled forward in time to influence later events; a loss that is now an important part of the story of a ‘rainbow nation’.

The wreck of the SS Mendi is now recognised as one of England’s most important First World War heritage assets and the wreck site is listed under the Protection of Military Remains Act. New archaeological investigation has provided real and direct information about the wreck for the first time.

The loss of the Mendi is used to highlight the story of the SANLC and other labour corps as well as the wilder treatment of British imperial subjects in wartime.

John Gribble is an experienced diver who has explored the SS Mendi site and runs his own marine archaeology consultancy.

Graham Scott is an archaeologist for Wessex Archaeology.

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“The entire framework of prison existence is aimed at turning the prisoner into a passive object” – read an excerpt from Raymond Suttner’s Inside Apartheid’s Prison

First published by Oceanbooks, New York and Melbourne, and University of Natal Press, Pietermaritzburg in 2001, Raymond Suttner’s Inside Apartheid’s Prison was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Alan Paton award in 2002.

15 years later, Suttner’s account of his incarceration as political prisoner and anti-apartheid activist includes a new forward.

The following extract covers his first of two periods in prison:

Although this chapter of Inside Apartheid’s Prison covers more than seven years of my life, it is comparatively short. This is due, I think, to the sameness of prison life. All days in prison seem alike and it is difficult to accurately recall when things have happened. Outside, there are various rites of passage and landmarks that fix the phases of one’s life – the achievement of certain goals, changing relationships through marriage, parenthood, divorce and so on. This is not the case inside prison.

Even when one does have knowledge of a significant event – such as the birth of a child to a relative or close friend – it is impossible to relate to the event directly. The child, in the absence of a personal relationship and direct experience, remains just a name – like the name of a person in a novel or history book. While I was in jail, two of my brothers and one sister married and became parents. Over time, I received photographs of my new relatives, but it was impossible for me to relate to these changes as I would have done under normal circumstances.

The entire framework of prison existence is aimed at turning the prisoner into a passive object – an object whose every movement, whether inside or outside his or her cell, is either determined by others or severely limited. The prisoner’s number was said by officials to be the most important part of his or her identity and there was a pre-numbering period when prisoners were deemed to have no identity at all. To be allocated a prison number was to be saved from this nothingness.

The language of prisons expressed the view of prisoners being regarded as things – as objects whose management was in the hands of warders. Thus it was common to refer to prisoners in Afrikaans – the language of the prisons and police force – as eenhede, or units. You would often hear announcements directing a particular warder to come and collect his “units”. The words used for “collect” and “to bring” are afhaal and aflaai, and both are associated with the delivery or loading of things. Many of the ordinary criminal prisoners conformed to these expectations. They waited for their cells to be opened for exercise – and said nothing if this was later than regulations demanded. They waited to be asked before speaking, went back to their cells when told to do so, showered at the times allowed, accepted food when it was given and ate it hot or cold, all without complaint.

In “Maximum” [Maximum Security Prison where I was held immediately after conviction, and experienced further interrogation by security police, before joining the others], they returned to their cells at night, first putting their shoes and spoons outside the door, as was required for security reasons.

In February 1976, I was transferred from the Maximum Security section of Pretoria Central to Pretoria Local, where I joined a number of other political prisoners. Together, we challenged this dehumanised concept of prisoners and the prison world and generally prevented it from being applied to us.

For example, we did not hold out our numbered prison cards at “inspections.” In most prisons, a daily feature of life was to have the head of the prison inspect the prisoners. This was to see that everything was in order, that all the prisoners were present, that the prison had been cleaned and to hear complaints. Most prisoners stood to attention and held out their cards at these inspections, with their clothes neatly ironed and shoes shining. But the hearing of “complaints” or “requests” was generally a formality.

Denis Goldberg tells the story of how, when he was in Pretoria Central, he responded to a request for complaints. The officer was moving so quickly that he skidded some yards down the passage before he could come back to hear Denis.

As political prisoners, we were very conscious of our dignity and any attempt to undermine it. We expected, and demanded, respect. If they called us we would go, but we would not run or move with undue haste. It was common for warders to shout “Kom, kom, kom!” at prisoners; which in English literally means “Come, come, come!” But in Afrikaans it sounds much harsher and more degrading. If a warder shouted this at us – and new warders would sometimes try – we would normally object to being summoned as if we were dogs. The prison regulations made reference to treating prisoners in a civil manner – as we would never fail to remind officials who deviated from this rule.

Prisoners were expected to stand to attention when speaking to an officer. Our version of being at attention was by no means a military one. We would not fawn or beg, though we adopted various stratagems to win concessions that might improve our conditions.

Continue reading on the Daily Maverick’s website.

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In light of the death of Karabo Mokoena, read an excerpt from It’s Me, Marah in which Marah Louw writes about a similar experience

With the recent incident of Karabo Mokoena being killed and burnt by her boyfriend, Blackbird Books wanted to share the following excerpt from Marah Louw’s autobiography It’s Me, Marah, describing a similar incident of this horrific tragedy. Rest in peace, Karabo.

The beginning of May 1972 was the end of my family as we knew it. One morning around six, as I was getting ready to go to the technical college, there was a knock on the door. My father had already left for work but my mother was home. When we answered, David Mofokeng, my sister Mabasotho’s boyfriend staggered in. Both his arms were bandaged and he looked depressed and anxious. We had barely got over our shock when David started weeping and talking at the same time.

‘Dumelang mama.’

He continued to speak through his sobs, making it difficult for us to hear, let alone understand what he was saying. My mom pleaded with him to speak slowly and eventually, even though it was still hard to hear him, he said, ‘Re hlahetswe ke kotsi kwana ntlung Senaoane. Ho bile lekotsi ya setofo sa paraffin, Mabasotho o lemetse, le nna ke tjhele matsohong ke leka ho tima mollo.’

I looked him straight in the eye and asked him to repeat himself. My heart was beating fast and hard and I wanted to make sure that I had heard him right.

David and Mabasotho lived in an ordinary four-room house in Mapetla, a section of Soweto. Images of their house started flooding my head; I could not remember seeing a paraffin stove. They had electricity – all the houses in the township did – so where the hell did a paraffin stove come from? I had been to their house just two days earlier and remembered my sister cooking on the electric stove. Their house had two bedrooms, a dining room and a kitchen. The toilet was outside and there was no bathroom, just like the other houses in that township, and it was simply furnished.

I started shouting at David, demanding that he tell me where the paraffin stove came from. ‘Se tswa kae setofo sa paraffin maan?’

My rage would not let me wait for him to finish the story. I was already dressed for college, so I grabbed my bag and shot out of the door. All I could think of was that I had to get to Baragwanath Hospital.

Not much was happening in the streets besides a few people rushing to work. It was early in the morning and a bit misty; winter was coming. Instead of taking the train I was meant to catch to town, I sought a taxi that would get me to the hospital. Luckily, it was not a long wait. There are always taxis and buses passing below Mzimhlophe railway station, that part of Mzimhlophe called Ezi’Ndlovini. I flagged down one of the popular Chrysler Valiant taxis (the ordinary sedans). There was room for one more passenger. It was a bit squashed but I didn’t care; I needed to get to the hospital.

Baragwanath Hospital is the largest in the country. I arrived around 7am and since visitors are not normally allowed in at that time of day, I pretended to be a patient and security let me through.

I walked through the corridors, not sure where to go. At reception at the admissions ward, I spoke to one of the nurses, my heart racing. I told her my sister had been admitted that morning with burn wounds. I gave her my sister’s full name and surname. She told me to return during visiting hours but I insisted on seeing her. The nurse checked the registration book, found her name and directed me to the burns ward. It was a long walk, through other wards, and the smell was unpleasant. I didn’t really mind the smell though, because I needed to see my sister as soon as possible.

When I finally arrived at the burns ward a nurse pointed me to where my sister was, but I could not find her and started to panic, walking up and down, tears running down my face, talking to myself. I didn’t know what I was saying and struggled to even look at the many burn victims lying helpless on the beds. I returned to the nurse’s station, frustrated to the point of anger, and confronted one of them: ‘Nurse please ke kopa o mpontse hore Ausi wa ka o kae.’

She seemed a bit agitated with me and almost dismissive. I was tempted to shout at the nurses for traumatising me by watching me wander around the ward. Finally a nurse asked me to follow her. As we walked down the ward I started feeling weak at the knees, my feet tired, my shoes pinching my feet. I wanted to sit down and rest my legs but there was nowhere to sit.

I had little time to think about my sore feet, however, because she suddenly stopped and pointed at a person covered with bandages and lying elevated on the bed. My heart nearly stopped; I had walked past this person earlier.

I slowly approached this body of bandages, got as close to the ear as I could and whispered, ‘E be kewena Mabasotho Louw?’

With great difficulty, she managed to say yes. Her whole body, including her face, was covered with bandages. Only her mouth was exposed. Her lips were swollen. I wept as I spoke my name.

‘Ke nna Teboho.’

A nurse came up to me, pleading with me not to cry but to try to speak to my sister; she might respond to my questions.

I tearfully asked Trueblue, ‘Ho etsahetseng?’

She had difficulty breathing but murmured, ‘David.’

‘Abuti David? O entseng?’

It was a little while before she spoke again and said ‘Petrol.’

I was leaning so close to her that my face was almost touching her bandages. Her speech and breathing were laboured and I wanted to hear and understand her properly. Tears streaming down my face, I asked her once more, and then she says,‘O ntshisitseka Petrol,’ she said.

I felt numb as if my heart were about to stop beating. I was shaking, angry and in despair because I wanted to hug my sister but I was scared I might hurt her. I felt completely helpless. The nurse was still standing beside me and I asked her, ‘O lemetse hakakang?’

‘O na le,’ she said. ‘Third-degree burns.’

The emotions inside me intensified. My mind raced back to the time when my Trueblue was married to David Kunene and the physical abuse she endured. I was filled with anger and bitterness towards the men in her life, cursing everyone named David. I asked myself how I could have seen so much pain at a young age. I thought of my mother’s pain when, in a rage, Ntate had scarred her face with a broken mirror. It was too much to bear; I let out a loud cry, calling the nurses and asking them to call the police so they could take my sister’s statement. I begged God to spare her for me, weeping uncontrollably until the police arrived. I asked her to tell them what she had just told me.

A policeman asked Trueblue the same questions I had. She repeated her answers about David and the petrol. The policeman asked me if I knew the home address and I accompanied them in their van to the house.

Trueblue’s house was in Mapetla, Soweto. I didn’t have the keys, so we went around to the back of the house to try the back door. It was only partially closed. When I walked in I was hit by fumes and a strange smell I didn’t recognise.

‘Ke monkgo wa eng ona?’ I asked the police. They told me that ke monkgo wa ho tjha ha motho.

The curtains in the kitchen were burnt. There were pieces of what looked like flesh on the walls, even in the dining room. I told the police what David had told us – that a primus stove had burst and caused the fire. We could not find a primus stove. One of the policemen called us outside. He’d found a tin that smelt of petrol behind the outside toilet. I did not wait to see the rest; I told the police that David was at my home in Mzimhlophe, and we rushed there in the police van.

David was shocked to see the police. I wanted to hurt him so badly I ran out to the back of the house to fetch an axe. The police restrained me. A neighbour was already at the house and I told everyone what my sister had revealed at the hospital, and what we discovered at her house. David clearly hadn’t expected me to find my sister alive or in a condition to speak. The police arrested him immediately. There was so much sadness in the house.

I used a neighbour’s telephone to call my father at work. He came home and, together with my uncle the Reverend Mlibazisi Nkolongwane, they went to the hospital to visit my sister and see for themselves the condition she was in. They returned that afternoon with the news that she had died.

It was clear to me that God had kept her alive until someone in the family could hear the truth of what happened. I’m glad I got to the hospital in time to see and speak to her before she passed on, and for the police to hear the story for themselves so they could accompany me to the scene of the tragedy to gather evidence. We learnt the full truth of what happened that fateful night, however.

It was our family’s most traumatic week. Relatives arrived from Herschel and other parts of South Africa for the burial. Mabasotho Trueblue Louw’s funeral was something I will never forget. David came, escorted by the police. My family freaked out when they saw him and chased him away. We never attended the court case; my father refused, saying he couldn’t see the point because his daughter was gone. David was sentenced and spent a few years in jail. Many years later, I heard that he died there. Nobody from his family ever came to our house to pay their respects or show any sympathy.

Trueblue’s death left me with many unanswered questions.

It's Me, Marah

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We have entered a digital, networked age. Future-proof your business with John Sanei’s What’s Your Moonshot?

We live in a disrupted world. A world on the brink of great transformation and exponential growth – in which:

- Wearable and embedded devices are no longer just fantasies in sci-fi movies; they have arrived;
- Drone delivery systems are not an April Fool’s joke;
- Off-grid electricity is becoming widely accessible;
- The “gig economy” is taking off;
- Hyper-convenient, hyper-personalised services are changing the way the world does business;
- Tech is disrupting every industry, be it travel, taxis, media, books… ;
- And this disruption is happening everywhere, be it in First World cities or among less affluent Third World markets. As examples of the first, think of Uber, Airbnb, Facebook and drone deliveries.

As of today, more than 3.5-billion people are connected to the internet; by 2023 that number will be around 7-billion.

The end of the monopoly of oil and coal power is nearing as renewable energy emerges.

Transport is being revolutionised with the arrival of driverless cars and autonomous drones.

Massive, transformative “moonshot” ideas are shaping our future.
 
 
People no longer want to pay for content, but they will pay to be emotionally invested in a product if it prioritises personalisation, convenience, trust and brand recognition – never before has it been as important to understand your customers’ needs. And now you must understand your employees’ needs, too.

People no longer want to commute to work, but they will work harder and smarter if you give them the right tools and opportunities.

In What’s Your Moonshot? trend and innovation strategist John Sanei invites you to prepare for this brave new world by understanding the digital, networked age we have entered and learning how to future-proof your business.

The first step is to get your internal strategy right: are you seeing yourself as a victim of the future, or an architect of it? The second step is to decipher which business strategies, trends and innovations are relevant to you as you create your moonshot ideas.

Strap in and get ready to become the new type of “billionaire”: one who possesses the courage to think bigger, aim higher and make a positive impact on billions of people.

John Sanei is a trend specialist, innovation strategist and public speaker, with a client list that includes De Beers, Microsoft, Dell and Standard Bank. He lives in Cape Town, but workcations regularly around the world – and puts his apartment on Airbnb when he does.

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Book launch: Apartheid Guns and Money by Hennie van Vuuren

Join Exclusive Books and Jacana Media as we lift the embargo on the much-anticipated book Apartheid Guns and Money: A tale of Profit.

The author, Hennie van Vuuren, talk-show host Redi Thlabi and David Lewis from Corruption Watch will discuss the implications of this book for dealing with our past and what it means for our troubled past.

This is necessary reading for anyone wanting to navigate the long shadow of state capture.

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Apartheid Guns and Money a meticulously researched book which lifts the lid on some of the darkest secrets of apartheid’s economic crimes

The apartheid state was at war. For two decades before 1994, while internal resistance grew, mandatory sanctions prohibited the sale of strategic goods and arms to South Africa.

The last white regime was confronted with an existential threat.

A global covert network of nearly 50 countries was constructed to counter sanctions. In complete secrecy, allies in corporations, banks, governments and intelligence agencies helped move cash, illegally supply guns and create the apartheid arms money machine. Whistleblowers were assassinated and ordinary people suffered.

This is an exposé of that machinery created in defence of apartheid and the people who made this possible: heads of state, arms dealers, aristocrats, plutocrats, senators, bankers, spies, journalists and members of secret lobby groups.

They were all complicit in a crime against humanity. Motivated by ideology or kinship most sought to simply profit from the war.

Many have until now relied on lingering silence to erase the uncomfortable truth.

This meticulously researched book lifts the lid on some of the darkest secrets of apartheid’s economic crimes, weaving together material collected in over two-dozen archives in eight countries with an insight into tens of thousands of pages of newly declassified documents.

Networks of state capture persist in our democratic political system because the past and present are interconnected. In forging its future a new generation needs to grapple with the persistent silence regarding apartheid-era economic crime and ask difficult questions of those who benefited from it.

This book provides the evidence and the motivation to do so.

Hennie van Vuuren is an activist, writer and Director of Open Secrets, focusing on accountability for economic crimes and human rights violations. He works from within civil society, challenging corruption and the abuse of power.

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Apartheid Guns and Money can also be purchased via Exclusive Books Online and Takealot.


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Watch: Jonathan Ancer on Spy: Uncovering Craig Williamson

Jonathan Ancer recently discussed his latest book Spy: Uncovering Craig Williamson on Polity.org.za.

Spy is Ancer’s account of the apartheid ‘super-spy’ Craig Williamson.

Williamson registered at Wits University and joined the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) in 1972. He was elected NUSAS’s vice president and in January 1977, when his career in student politics came to an abrupt end, he fled the country and from Europe continued his anti-apartheid ‘work’.

But Williamson was not the activist his friends and comrades thought he was. In January 1980, Captain Williamson was unmasked as a South African spy. Williamson returned to South Africa and during the turbulent 1980s worked for the foreign section of the South African Police’s notorious Security Branch and South Africa’s ‘super-spy’ transformed into a parcel-bomb assassin.

Through a series of interviews with the many people Williamson interacted with while he was undercover and after his secret identity was eventually exposed, Jonathan Ancer details Williamson’s double life, the stories of a generation of courageous activists, and the book eventually culminates with Ancer interviewing South Africa’s ‘super-spy’ face-to-face.

It deals with crucial issues of justice, reconciliation, forgiveness, betrayal and the consequences of apartheid that South Africans are still grappling with.

Watch the full interview here:

 
 

Spy

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Raymond Suttner’s Inside Apartheid’s Prison an intensely personal struggle memoir

First published by Oceanbooks, New York and Melbourne, and University of Natal Press, Pietermaritzburg, in 2001, Inside Apartheid’s Prison was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Alan Paton award in 2002.

In the public imagination the struggle that saw the end of apartheid and inauguration of a democratic South Africa is seen as one waged by black people who were often imprisoned or killed for their efforts. Raymond Suttner, an academic, is one of a small group of white South Africans who was imprisoned for his efforts to overthrow the apartheid regime.

He was first arrested in 1975 and tortured with electric shocks because he refused to supply information to the police. He then served eight years for underground activities for the African National Congress (ANC) and South African Communist Party (SACP).

After his release in 1983, he returned to the struggle and was forced to go underground to evade arrest, but was re-detained in 1986 for 27 months; 18 of these being spent in solitary confinement.

In the last months of this detention Suttner was allowed to have a pet lovebird, which he tamed and used to keep inside his tracksuit. When he was eventually released from detention in September 1988 the bird was on his shoulder.

Suttner was held under stringent house arrest conditions, imposed to impede further political activities. He however defied his house arrest restrictions and attended an Organisation for African Unity meeting in Harare, where he remained for five months. Shortly after his return to SA, when he anticipated being re-arrested, the state of emergency was lifted and the ANC and other banned organisations were unbanned.

The book describes Suttner’s experience of prison in a low-key, unromantic voice, providing the texture of prison life. This ‘struggle memoir’ is also intensely personal, as Suttner is not averse to admitting his fears and anxieties.

The new edition contains an afterword where Suttner describes his break with the ANC and SACP. But he argues that the reasons for his rupturing this connection that had been so important to his life were the same ethical reasons that had led him to join in the first place. He remains convinced that what he did was right and continues to act in accordance with those convictions.

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Malebo Sephodi’s memoir, Miss Behave, challenges society’s beliefs about what it means to be an obedient woman

Upon encountering historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s quote, ‘well-behaved women seldom make history’, Malebo Sephodi knew that she was tired of everyone else having a say on who and what she should be.

Appropriating this quote, Malebo boldly renounces societal expectations placed on her as a black woman and shares her journey towards misbehaviour.

According to Malebo, it is the norm for a black woman to live in a society that prescribes what it means to be a well-behaved woman. Acting like this prescribed woman equals good behaviour.

But what happens when a black woman decides to live her own life and becomes her own form of who she wants to be? She is often seen as misbehaving.

Miss-Behave challenges society’s deep-seated beliefs about what it means to be an obedient woman. In this book, Malebo tracks her journey on a path towards achieving total autonomy and self-determinism.

Miss-Behave will challenge, rattle and occasionally cause you to scream ‘yassss, yassss, yassss’ at various intervals.

 
 
 
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