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Archive for the ‘Non-fiction’ Category

Six local authors and publishers on decolonising editing in South Africa: a panel discussion

Malebo Sephodi, Sabata-Mpho Mokae, Rehana Rossouw, Helen Moffett, Dudu Busani-Dube, Redi Tlhabi, and Thabiso Mahlape

 
A panel discussion on decolonising South African editing was recently hosted by Jacana Media at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Panelists Sabata-Mpho Mokae, Malebo Sephodi, Rehana Rossouw, Helen Moffett, and Dudu Busani-Dube were in conversation with the author of Endings & Beginnings and radio presenter, Redi Tlhabi.

Redi opened the floor by posing the question what decolonisation means and how it manifests in African literature.

Sabata-Mpho Mokae, who writes in both English and Setswana, responded by stating that one should Africanise African language writing and not allow colonialism to impact upon it. He used the example of the Setswana word for Sunday, “tshipi”, which roughly translates to “the day we attend church”; a clear remnant of colonialism, yet an established word in Setswana which he continues to use in his work. Sabata added that South Africa has its own English and that he writes any form of English he deems fit.

According to Dudu Busani-Dube, the self-published author of the Hlomu The Wife-series, the only way we can decolonise literature is “if we write in our languages.” She spoke out against the rules which box your writing, emphasising an inherent fear of grammatical errors. Helen Moffett, freelance publisher, journalist, and author, spoke from a publisher’s persepctive, adding that aspirant writers still have the distorted idea of the “model of the old school teacher”; a figure which tells you how and what to write. Many young African writers are deterred from pitching their manuscript ideas to publishers as they’re concerned about possible grammatical mistakes which might count in their disfavour, or that their work lacks a certain literary prestige. Helen dismisses this Eurocentric approach to writing, stating that “nobody else can write your story.”

Dudu Busani-Dube

 

Malebo Sephodi, who’s recent memoir Miss Behave has been met with acclaim by critics and bibliophiles alike, spoke of her duty as an academic to write accessible texts which can reach black women without alienating them. Malebo described academia as western-centric and exclusionary, and she intended to write Miss Behave as a book which will include everyone in the conversation around race, sex, and gender roles in South Africa. She also pertinently mentioned that she wanted a black woman to publish the memoir; someone who could relate to her lived experiences, and refrain from editing critical issues addressed in texts. The book was published by Thabiso Mahlape of BlackBird Books, who was also present at the event.

Malebo Sephodi

 

Journalist and author of What Will People Say, Rehana Rossouw, stated that people learn us through our language, and that her decision to include the slang spoken on the Cape Flats (in What Will People Say) and not the “queen’s English” was a deliberate one. She shared an amusing anecdote of a trip to Lagos where a Lagosian described What Will People Say as a “kwaai” book, with a cousin of him exclaiming “no, no, it was lekker!” She asserted that she writes in English because it’s the language she was raised in, and that she’s going to claim it as such.

Rehana Rossouw

 

Helen expanded on Rehana’s comment on reaching a wide audience and how we’re restricting ourselves as we are not giving ourselves permission to write our own stories; that the presence of the legacy of colonialism is prohibiting African writers to create decolonised texts, without preconceived notions of what writing and literature, as taught in schools, ‘ought’ to be. She added that for an African writer to publish in their own language, they should have already attained a level of success in English.

Sabata reaffirmed this statement, saying that one does reach a wider audience by writing in English, yet he criticised the notion of African authors’ work being set as prescribed books for school children, as “those who write for schools, write in English”, thus ignoring the market for African language texts. He added that students are then forced to read in English, which detracts from encouraging a reading culture in their own indigenous languages.

Redi was curious as to whether Malebo experiences a sense of responsibility, writing as a young, black woman. Malebo responded yes, she has a sense of burden and expectation to write about any subject matter whilst destabilising the trope of black women in South Africa.

Here, Redi made the powerful statement that “black writers invariably become activists” which was met with agreeing murmurs and nods from the audience.

She asked Rehana whether she also felt a sense of burden, to which Rehana drily replied “Yes, I’m very burdened.” Attendees and panelists alike enjoyed a hearty laugh…

“It was my life,” Rehana explained, referring to apartheid-era South Africa. “I want to explain things in my way, the way they have been to me … The past plays out every single day in this country.

“We have to explain things to each other, that’s how we learn.”

***

Watch the live streaming of the discussion here.

And take a look at the audience’s reaction to the discussion here:

 
 

Endings and Beginnings

Book details

 
 
Miss Behave

 
 
 
 
What Will People Say


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Declassified: Apartheid profits – Who funded the National Party?

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.

Open Secrets recently ran the following piece via the Daily Maverick as means to inform the public about the crimes committed as means to fund apartheid:

While researching the recently published book Apartheid Guns and Money: A Tale of Profit, Open Secrets collected approximately 40,000 archival documents from 25 archives in seven countries. This treasure trove contains damning details of the individuals and corporations that propped up apartheid and profited in return. Many of these documents were kept secret until now. Most remain hidden despite South Africa’s transition to democracy. Open Secrets believes that it is vital to allow the public to scrutinise the primary evidence. Here we invite you behind the scenes to look at the documents that informed the book.

The Archive for Contemporary Affairs, a four-storey brown facebrick building at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, is an unassuming place. Yet its 3.5km long shelves of files contain some of the shadiest secrets from South Africa’s past. Many of the National Party’s (NP) most prominent politicians sent their collections, including official NP documents, to this archive. There is no longer a National Party, and it is unclear whether anyone really wants to “own” this memory of oppression that delivered so much paperwork. It is nonetheless a national treasure worthy of far more attention by researchers from across the country.

Despite reading through hundreds of folders from PW Botha’s and FW de Klerk’s archives, the Open Secrets team never expected to be delivered a series of folders marked “National Party donations”. Out of the folders came the signed cheques, fawning letters of thanks and promises of anonymity that secretive party funding demands. Around 70 individual donors were identified in these pages.

The names in the folders? Some of South Africa’s most prominent businessmen, past and present, a few of whom we highlight. While the story of party finance is often revealed only through whispers, in this unassuming archive we had found indisputable documentary evidence. The letters featured here provide a glimpse into the complicity between big business and the oppressive apartheid regime that was, until now, kept secret.

Some donors were unsurprising, given their long-term complicity with the regime. In a letter written in 1988, FW de Klerk informed PW Botha of a R50,000 donation from Barlow Rand (now trading as the large conglomerate, Barloworld). De Klerk notes, “They prefer to keep their contribution confidential…” before stating that one of the companies directors, D.E. Cooper, would handle the donations. Barlow Rand was one of the chief suppliers of technology to the government. Between the 1960s and 1980s the corporation’s leadership sat on PW Botha’s Defence Advisory Board, all the while presenting itself as an enlightened opponent of apartheid. The two-faced nature of many of these corporations and their executives is a theme that runs throughout this collection.

Continue reading here.

Apartheid Guns and Money

Book details


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Launch: Reflecting Rogue by Pumla Dineo Gqola (10 August)

Reflecting Rogue is the much anticipated and brilliant collection of experimental autobiographical essays on power, pleasure and South African culture by Professor Pumla Dineo Gqola.

In her most personal book to date, written from classic Gqola antiracist, feminist perspectives, Reflecting Rogue delivers 20 essays of deliciously incisive brain food, all extremely accessible to a general critical readership, without sacrificing intellectual rigour.

These include essays on ‘Disappearing Women’, where Gqola spends time exploring what it means to live in a country where women can simply disappear – from a secure Centurion estate in one case, to being a cop in another, and being taken by men who know them.

‘On the beauty of feminist rage’ magically weaves together the shift in gender discourse in South Africa’s public spheres, using examples from #RUReferenceList, #RapeAtAzania and #RememberingKhwezi.

Reflecting Rogue takes on both the difficulties and rewards of wilfully inhabiting our bodies in ‘Growing into my body’, while ‘Belonging to myself’ uncovers what it means to refuse the adversarial, self-harming lessons patriarchy teaches us about femininity.

In ‘Mothering while feminist’ Gqola explores raising boys as a feminist – a lesson in humour, humility and patience from the inside. In ‘Becoming my mother’ the themes of fear, envy, adoration and resentment are unpacked in mother-daughter relationships. While ‘I’ve got all my sisters with me’ explores the heady heights of feminist joy, ‘A meditation on feminist friendship with gratitude’ exposes a new, and more personal side to ever-incisive Gqola.

Reflecting Rogue comes to a breath-taking end in ‘A love letter to the Blackman who raised me’.

Gender activist, award-winning author and full professor of African Literature at Wits University, Pumla Dineo Gqola has written extensively for both local and international academic journals. She is the author of What is Slavery to Me? (Wits University Press), A Renegade Called Simphiwe (MFBooks Joburg) and Rape: A South African Nightmare (MFBooks Joburg).

Event Details

  • Date: Thursday, 10 August 2017
  • Time: 6:00 PM for 6:30 PM
  • Venue: Love Books, The Bamboo Lifestyle Centre, 53 Rustenburg Road, Melville, Johannesburg | Map
  • RSVP: Savannah Lucas, rsvp@jacana.co.za
     

    Book Details


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Miss Behave a manifesto for South African black women, writes Nkateko Mabasa

Miss BehaveUpon 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.

Nkateko Mabasa recently reviewed Miss-Behave for The Huffington Post, describing Malebo’s memoir as “a manifesto for South African black women”:

In the coming revolution, it seems to me, that it will be women who shall lead us. Or rather it shall be a black radical feminist. For it is them, who not only have a true sense of reality but honestly seek to fight oppressions of all kind, having been subjected to it all.

And it is in the work of debut writer Malebo Sephodi that one has a glimpse of what that liberated future might look like. In her insightful and deeply personal book “Miss Bahave”, Malebo presents a world of the black woman in South Africa.

A world of hidden anxiety, maltreatment and nervousness, not to mention the inner turmoil of being silenced. Bearing society’s burden on a body that does not belong to itself. It is the world hidden from view but existing nonetheless. And as a society, we refuse to see this body, let alone hear it. It’s absence and silence confirms to us our sense of normal; it hides our moral depravity. But then appears in this deep and lonesome night, a bright light.

Sephodi, much like a skilful director of a play, breaks the fourth wall. The audience is shocked, realising it is actually participants in this play called life. Shocked not out of horror but out of the responsibility they must accept. One is moved from passive observer, to face up to one’s role in the continued subjugation of black women.

Though Sephodi seeks to write about how ‘to navigate life as a woman’, she does more. Miss behave is about women refusing to ‘know their place and stay there’, refusing to behave, to be docile and submissive.

Society is put on trial and has been found wanting. But all hope is not lost.

To enjoy the democracy and freedom of our ideas, black women cannot be ignored any longer. Here is a brave voice to speak on the issues that matter.

Continue reading Nkateko’s review here.

Book details


» read article

Pumla Dineo Gqola’s Reflecting Rogue delivers 20 essays of deliciously incisive brain food written from anti-racist, feminist perspectives

Reflecting Rogue is the much anticipated and brilliant collection of experimental autobiographical essays on power, pleasure and South African culture by Professor Pumla Dineo Gqola.

In her most personal book to date, written from classic Gqola antiracist, feminist perspectives, Reflecting Rogue delivers 20 essays of deliciously incisive brain food, all extremely accessible to a general critical readership, without sacrificing intellectual rigour.

These include essays on ‘Disappearing Women’, where Gqola spends time exploring what it means to live in a country where women can simply disappear – from a secure Centurion estate in one case, to being a cop in another, and being taken by men who know them.

‘On the beauty of feminist rage’ magically weaves together the shift in gender discourse in South Africa’s public spheres, using examples from #RUReferenceList, #RapeAtAzania and #RememberingKhwezi.

Reflecting Rogue takes on both the difficulties and rewards of wilfully inhabiting our bodies in ‘Growing into my body’, while ‘Belonging to myself’ uncovers what it means to refuse the adversarial, self-harming lessons patriarchy teaches us about femininity.

In ‘Mothering while feminist’ Gqola explores raising boys as a feminist – a lesson in humour, humility and patience from the inside. In ‘Becoming my mother’ the themes of fear, envy, adoration and resentment are unpacked in mother-daughter relationships. While ‘I’ve got all my sisters with me’ explores the heady heights of feminist joy, ‘A meditation on feminist friendship with gratitude’ exposes a new, and more personal side to ever-incisive Gqola.

Reflecting Rogue comes to a breath-taking end in ‘A love letter to the Blackman who raised me’.

Gender activist, award-winning author and full professor of African Literature at Wits University, Pumla Dineo Gqola has written extensively for both local and international academic journals. She is the author of What is Slavery to Me? (Wits University Press), A Renegade Called Simphiwe (MFBooks Joburg) and Rape: A South African Nightmare (MFBooks Joburg).

Book details


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Watch Malebo Sephodi’s TED Talk on the importance of self-care as tool of liberation

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.

Here, Malebo discusses the complex relationship women have with themselves, societal pressure, the marginilisation of women’s bodies, balancing your domestic life with your professional life, and the importance of self-care as tool of liberation:

Miss Behave

Book details


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Hennie van Vuuren and Michael Marchant discuss seven key concepts in Apartheid Guns and Money

Apartheid Guns and MoneyThe 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.

Here, Van Vuuren and Michael Marchant, a researcher at Open Secrets, expand on seven key concepts found in this remarkable book:

Secrecy breeds corruption

PW Botha’s apartheid government relied on legislated secrecy to shield his government’s economic crimes from scrutiny. In this context even government oversight bodies were prohibited from seeing into the arms procurement world, corruption thrived. Journalists were shut down and persecuted, and the public interest suffered. This is why current indications from the South African government of a move back toward securitization and secrecy should so concern us. It is also why South Africans must guard against the intimidation and pressure on investigative journalists who continue to tell the vital stories of state capture and corruption today.

Who funded the National Party?

Large South African corporations and their leaders went to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and argued that they had never supported apartheid and that it was ‘bad for business’. The archival records of the National Party and its leaders PW Botha and FW de Klerk tell a different story. There we found the annual cheques from business giants from all sectors, made out to the National Party, and often accompanied by fawning letters of praise to the party’s leadership. From billionaires like Christo Wiese to media giant Naspers, South African corporations were willing to grease the apartheid political machine.

Their influence was always suspected, but secrecy around the funding of political parties prevented the public from truly knowing how these relationships operated, and what they may have received in return. This problem persists today, with secrecy allowing big money to corrupt political parties and South African politics more broadly. Reform is desperately needed and must be demanded.

Kredietbank and the Arms Money Machine

While Swiss banks and their executives enjoyed cosy relationships with the apartheid state and private sector, profiting vastly off selling South African gold, it was a Belgian bank and its Luxembourg subsidiary that was at the centre of apartheid’s money laundering machine that was essential in keeping apartheid armed in times of the UN embargoes. Kredietbank Luxembourg, in exchange for vast profits, helped Armscor establish a global money laundering network of secret bank accounts and shell companies in order to bust the UN arms embargo against apartheid.

Based on the evidence we gathered Apartheid Guns & Money identified over 800 such bank accounts and over 100 secret companies between Panama and Liberia.

Continue reading here.

Book details


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Watch: late SA jazz legend Ray Phiri discusses the iconic Bassline

Last Night at the Bassline

Legendary South African jazz musician Ray Phiri recently passed away from lung cancer. Phiri was a regular performer at the iconic live-music venue, Bassline, opened in 1994 by Brad and Paige Holmes. Bassline, situated in the bohemian suburb of Melville in Johannesburg, soon became synonymous with cigarette smoke, great jazz and nights you wished would never end.

They later moved the club to Newtown where it grew in prominence as the ultimate venue for live music, hosting amazing artists like Thandiswa Mazwai, Jimmy Dludlu, Lera, The Soil and Grammy
Award-winning group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

In 2016 word spread like wildfire that everyone’s favourite club was closing its doors forever; this place that held all the promises of a new South Africa, a place where people of all races could come together, share a drink, dance and fall in love was to be no more.

But as Bassline starts its new journey with Live @ the Bassline, yet another great story begins with Last Night at the Bassline, in which Phiri features prominently.

In this book, esteemed music historian Professor David Coplan tells the story of Bassline and the Holmes’s journey in it, thus giving musicians and jazz fans something to hold on to even after its closure. This book is a tangible piece of the magic to take home and savour. And those who were never there will be given a chance to experience this dream.

With more than fifty iconic photographs from Oscar Gutierrez and other great photographers. The book is more than just a memoir. It is a gritty, smoky, passionate slice of time. Bassline will always be a reminder of what it feels like to live the impossible.

Here, Phiri discusses this iconic night club:

Book details


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Watch: Malebo Sephodi discusses her memoir Miss Behave (Yasss!)

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.


 
Miss Behave

Book details


» read article

Listen: Vanessa Levenstein reviews Raymond Suttner’s Inside Apartheid’s Prison for FMR

Inside Apartheid's PrisonFirst 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.

Listen to Levenstein’s review here:


 

Book details


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