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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Jan Theron argues that to understand Marikana you need to examine trade union history in Solidarity Road

Solidarity RoadJacana Media is proud to present Solidarity Road: The Story of a Trade Union in the Ending of Apartheid by Jan Theron:

The events leading to the Marikana massacre not only shattered South Africa’s image of itself as a democracy in which workers had a respected place, but also the image of Cosatu and its largest affiliate at the time. Subsequent events confirm that South Africa’s pre-eminent trade union federation has lost its way. To understand why this has happened, Theron argues, it is necessary to understand the choices made by the trade unions that formed it in the 1980s.

The Food and Canning Workers’ Union (FCWU) was perhaps the most famous of these, and had produced some of the country’s most prominent labour leaders – Ray Alexander, Oscar Mpetha and Liz Abrahams, among others. But by 1976, when Theron became its general secretary, it was on its last legs and riddled with corruption. Solidarity Road is an uncompromising account of a struggle to overcome corruption, as well as to revive a tradition of non-racial solidarity. A demonstration of non-racial solidarity by the workforce of Fatti’s and Moni’s in Cape Town catapulted the union into national prominence, in the same week as government tabled its race-based labour “reforms” in Parliament.

FCWU’s unprecedented victory in this strike meant it was well-placed to initiate the talks that eventually led to the formation of Cosatu. This was to be an independent federation, allied to political organisations fighting to end apartheid. However, for FCWU the basis of independence was always financial self-sufficiency coupled with zero tolerance of corruption. In this regard it was unlike the other trade unions involved in these talks. When the formation of a federation became imperative in the wake of the death in detention of Neil Aggett, FCWU’s Transvaal Secretary, FCWU merged with other trade unions to become Food and Allied Workers’ Union (FAWU). Compromises were made in this process that its members came to regret, and that were to facilitate the capture of a federation with so much promise. This is a story about the values that shaped the trade union struggle and the decisions and practices which undermined them.

About the author

Jan Theron was born and educated in Cape Town. At the age of 26 he became general secretary of FCWU, a position he occupied until 1986, when he became general secretary of FAWU. At the end of 1988 he took long leave to write a book, but did not return to the trade union. In 1990 he embarked on qualifying as an attorney, and has since combined legal practice with a part-time post at the University of Cape Town, where he has coordinated a research project on labour market policy and the changing nature of work. He has published in local and international journals and books.

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Don’t miss the launch of Promise and Despair by Martin Plaut at The Book Lounge

Invitation to the launch of Promise and Despair: The First Struggle for a Non-Racial South Africa by Martin Plaut

 

Promise and Despair: The First Struggle for a Non-Racial South AfricaJoin Jacana Media and The Book Lounge for the launch of Promise and Despair: The First Struggle for a Non-Racial South Africa by Martin Plaut to find out about the lobbyists who fought for the vote in 1909.

The struggle for freedom in South Africa goes back a long way, to the very founding of the country in 1910. Spearheading that struggle was a multi-ethnic delegation of South Africans who travelled in 1909 to London to lobby for a non-racial constitution. Drawing on fresh research, Promise and Despair is the extraordinary story of the founding of the first South Africa.

The event will take place on Thursday, 9 June, at The Book Lounge in Cape Town, with Plaut in conversation with Xolela Mangcu.

Don’t miss it!
Event Details

  • Date: Thursday, 9 June 2016
  • Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
  • Venue: The Book Lounge
    71 Roeland St
    Cape Town | Map
  • Guest: Xolela Mangcu
  • Refreshments: Come and join us for a glass of wine
  • RSVP: The Book Lounge, booklounge@gmail.com, 021 462 2425

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Don’t miss the launch of Promise and Despair by Martin Plaut at Kalk Bay Books

Promise and Despair: The First Struggle for a Non-Racial South AfricaKalk Bay Books invites you to the launch of Promise and Despair: The First Struggle for a Non-Racial South Africa by Martin Plaut, published by Jacana Media.

The struggle for freedom in South Africa goes back a long way, to the very founding of the country in 1910. Spearheading that struggle was a multi-ethnic delegation of South Africans who travelled in 1909 to London to lobby for a non-racial constitution. Drawing on fresh research, Promise and Despair is the extraordinary story of the founding of the first South Africa.

The event will take place on Tuesday, 14 June. Don’t miss it!

Event Details

  • Date: Tuesday, 14 June 2016
  • Time: 6:00 PM for 6:30 PM
  • Venue: Kalk Bay Books
    124 Main Rd
    Kalk Bay
    Cape Town | Map
  • Refreshments: Come and join us for a glass of Leopard’s Leap wine
  • RSVP: Kalk Bay Books, events@kalkbaybooks.co.za, 021 788 2266

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How a South African delegation to London in 1909 spearheaded the Struggle: Martin Plaut’s Promise and Despair

Promise and DespairComing soon from Jacana Media – Promise and Despair: The First Struggle for a Non-Racial South Africa by Martin Plaut:

The Struggle for freedom in South Africa goes back a long way, to the very founding of the country in 1910.

Spearheading that struggle was a remarkable delegation of South Africans of all colours who travelled to London to lobby for a non-racial constitution. Led by Will Schreiner, a famous lawyer, former Cape Prime Minister and brother of the novelist Olive Schreiner, it included some of the greatest African and Coloured leaders of the day – equivalent in stature to the black leaders who helped found the second South Africa in 1994.

The discussions in London in 1909 would in fact prove seminal to the founding of the African National Congress.

About the author

Born in South Africa in 1950, Martin Plaut received his first degree from the University of Cape town before going on to do an MA at the University of Warwick. In 1984 he joined the BBC, working primarily on Africa. He has reported from many parts of the continent but specialised in the horn ofAfrica and Southern Africa. He became Africa editor of BBC World Service News in 2003 and retired from the BBC in 2013. He then joined the Institute of Commonwealth Studies as senior research Fellow. In April and May 2013 he was based at the University of Cape Town as Writer in Residence at the Centre for African Studies.

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When the promise of democracy never materialises: Writing the Decline, the new book by Richard Pithouse

Writing the DeclinePresenting the much-anticipated new book from Richard Pithouse, Writing the Decline: On the Struggle for South Africa’s Democracy.

Pithouse, an activist intellectual who has been an important contributor to the South African public sphere for 20 years, offers a penetrating and beautifully written exploration of the escalating crisis in South Africa in the Zuma era.

Writing the Decline, often written with a view from the underside of society but also always acutely aware of global developments, brings activist and academic knowledge together to provide a searing account of our condition. It takes on xenophobia, racism, homophobia, inequality and political repression.

In a moment when old certainties are breaking down, and new ideas and social forces are taking the stage, this book offers a compelling invitation to take democracy seriously.

Praise for the book:

Richard Pithouse is one of the most elegant writers I know – and also lucid, rational and egalitarian in the best possible way.

- Niren Tolsi

This is writing that dresses the oppressed in human clothing.

- S’bu Zikode, founding president of Abahlali baseMjondolo

This collection by Richard Pithouse shows a deep commitment to connecting the struggles of vulnerable people across the globe, doing so with an enviable appreciation of history and structural analysis, and refusing to fall into the South African temptation of parochial analysis.

- Eusebius McKaiser, political analyst, broadcaster, lecturer and writer

The elegance of Richard’s writing is unparalleled, and the power of his arguments striking. This book reveals, in the starkest terms, what is at stake in the discourse and practice of emancipation in contemporary SA.

- Achille Mbembe, author of On the Postcolony

Richard Pithouse is one of our finest essayists. He is the proverbial canary in the coalmine.

- Sisonke Msimang, writer and activist

Richard Pithouse’s chronicle of the past seven years of struggles from South Africa’s underside … is written with such clarity, succinctness, and unusual beauty that it stands as a powerful testament of what it means to love a country, its people and their aspirations.

- Lewis Gordon, author of What Fanon Said

About the author

Richard Pithouse teaches politics at Rhodes University, where he lectures on contemporary political theory and urban studies. He writes regularly for journals and newspapers, both print and online, and his commentary is widely read.

 
Related stories:

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Presenting the penultimate volume of the definitive documentary history of the South African Struggle

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From Protest to Challenge Volume 2In 2008, Jacana Media proposed republishing a revised and updated second edition of the entire From Protest to Challenge series, which is a multivolume account of the struggle to achieve democracy and end racial discrimination in South Africa.

Professor Gail Gerhart agreed to oversee the revisions and, within the limits of space and time available, to update the original series to take into account more recent academic work by other authors. We are now adding the revised and updated second edition of Volume 2: Hope and Challenge 1935-1952 to the books already published: Volume 1: Protest and Hope 1882-1934; Volume 3: Challenge and Violence 1953-1964; Volume 5: Nadir and Resurgence 1964-1979; and Volume 6: Challenge and Victory 1980-1990.

The second edition of From Protest to Challenge is different in several ways from the first. The three oldest documentary volumes have been reorganised into conventional chapters to make them more user-friendly. All the documentary volumes now contain maps and photographs, as well as more comprehensive indexes than those in the original series.

During two extended periods of pioneering field research by Gwendolen Carter, Thomas Karis and Sheridan Johns in South Africa in 1963 and 1964 – a period of growing political tension – dozens of South Africans gave them documents or loaned them material to photocopy, often in the hope of preventing irreplaceable records from falling into the hands of the police. In addition, lawyers for the defendants in the 1956-61 treason trial contributed a complete set of the trial transcript and the preliminary examination, as well as a set of virtually all the documents assembled by the defence in preparation for the trial. Added to the materials that the team was able to photocopy from archival collections at several South African universities and at the South African Institute of Race Relations, these months of fieldwork provided the initial foundation for what was to become the first four volumes of From Protest to Challenge.

About the authors

Gail M Gerhart is the author of Black Power in South Africa: the Evolution of an Ideology, the co-author of volumes 3, 4, 5 and 6 of From Protest to Challenge, and the editor of the second edition of the series.

Sheridan Johns is the author of the first edition of Volume 1 of From Protest to Challenge (1972), and Raising the Red Flag: The International Socialist League and the Communist Party of South Africa, 1914–1932, and the co-editor of the two-volume series South Africa and the Communist International: A Documentary History, and Mining for Development in the Third World.

Thomas G Karis is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the City College, City University of New York.

From Protest to Challenge Volume 1From Protest to Challenge Volume 3From Protest to Challenge Volume 5From Protest to Challenge Volume 6

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  • From Protest to Challenge Volume 1: Protest and Hope 1882-1934 by Sheridan Johns and Gail Gerhart
    Volume 1 reproduces ninety-nine primary source documents, accompanied by a test that sets the documents in historical context. Authors of the documents include John Dube, Josiah Gumede, John Tengo Jabavu, Clements Kadalie, Charlotte Maxeke, Sol Plaatje and Pixlet Seme. New documents by Abdullah Abdurahman, Margery Perham, Mohandas Gandhi and the Communist Party of South Africa have been added.
    Book homepage
    EAN: 978770098800
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  • From Protest to Challenge Volume 3: Challenge and Violence 1953-1964 by Thomas G Karis and Gail M Gerhart
    Volume 3 deals with the crucial period of the 1950s and the early 1960s. These were years of mass passive resistance to apartheid; years when the ANC was able to rally hundreds of thousands of supporters for its strategy of non-violent protest. This was the period when the increasingly brutal repressive measures of the state, culminating in the Sharpeville massacre and the banning of the ANC and PAC, finally turned the movement away from its proud tradition of non-violence into the difficult and protracted path of armed struggle.
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    EAN: 9781770098824
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  • From Protest to Challenge Volume 5: Nadir and Resurgence 1964-1979 by Thomas G Karis and Gail M Gerhart
    Volume 5 of this magnificent historical record continues the indispensable study of the struggle for freedom and justice in South Africa. In addition to extensive background essays, it includes formal documents, underground and ephemeral materials, and statements written in exile or in Robben Island prison that have not previously been published.
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    EAN: 9781770098848
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  • From Protest to Challenge Volume 6: Challenge and Victory 1980-1990 by Clive L Glaser and Gail M Gerhart
    Volume 6 takes up the story in 1980 and examines the crucial decade that preceded the collapse of the apartheid system. As with earlier volumes in the series, it combines narrative with a wealth of primary source materials that record the words of the men and women who shaped South Africa’s complex history.
    Book homepage
    EAN: 9781770098855
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‘One of the most important voices and writers in the country’ – Eusebius McKaiser on Richard Pithouse

Writing the DeclineRichard Pithouse’s forthcoming book, Writing the Decline: On the Struggle for South Africa’s Democracy, comes recommended by Eusebius McKaiser.

McKaiser, a political analyst and writer whose most recent book is Run Racist Run, calls Pithouse “one of the most important voices and writers in the country”.

Pithouse teaches politics at Rhodes University, lecturing on contemporary political theory and urban studies. He writes regularly for journals and newspapers, and his previous publications include Fanon: A Critical Reader (contributor, 1999), Asinamali: University Struggles in Post-apartheid South Africa (editor, 2006), Fanonian Practices in South Africa: From Steve Biko to Abahlali baseMjondolo (contributor, 2011), The New South Africa at Twenty (contributor, 2014).

Writing the Decline is due for publication in March.

Read McKaiser’s piece, as shared on his Facebook Page:

A book to look forward to coming out soon is ‘Writing the Decline’ by Richard Pithouse.

I read the manuscript over December and it’s good. It’s an overdue collection of his writing that was not published in mainstream media and before he finally accepted that social media can be used as a platform for effective engagement if you set your own rules and stick to them.

I usually – as Richard knows – chuckle at columnists who Google their past columns and stick them in a book.

But this collection isn’t quite that. Besides a very thoughtful first entry that pulls it all together, Richard has not been as widely read as he should.

He is one of the most important voices and writers in the country but also has a humility that robs us of ‘hearing’ his writing voice as often as we should because he is not into self-promotion.

In terms of content: this collection shows the design flaws in liberal institutions set up at the dawn of democracy to deal with our justice challenges; it shows how Richard, long before some of us caught up (and are still catching up), understood early on the neocolonial tendencies and features of the post-apartheid state with detailed case studies of how popular movements have for a long time now been violently repressed by our democratic state; Richard shows off, too, urgent moral probing of popular movements, civil society and the left despite overlapping agreement with some of their goals; and a broader range of thematic analysis.

The collection is a fantastic interplay of activist writing, political analysis and showing off the importance of historicism when approaching contemporary problems in our society that have, not just proximate apartheid causes, but colonial roots.
And the writing is beautiful. He pens a lyrical sentence.

Watch out for this anthology, friends!

‪#‎ForTheLoveOfReading‬ ‪#‎ForTheLoveOfBooks‬

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Julian Brown argues for the positives of disruption in South Africa’s Insurgent Citizens

South Africa's Insurgent CitizensBusiness Day has shared an excerpt from South Africa’s Insurgent Citizens: On Dissent and the Possibility of Politics by Julian Brown.

In his book Brown, who teaches Political Studies at Wits University, counters the political despair that is prevalent in South Africa at the moment, arguing that “politics is alive and well – if you know where to look”.

According to Brown, there is a “new kind of politics” developing on the streets and in the courtrooms of the country, made by a new type of citizen, an “insurgent citizen”.

Read the excerpt:

THERE is one story everybody knows about SA: how the violent struggle against apartheid gave way to concessions, discussions and negotiations at the end of the 20th century, and how the leadership of Nelson Mandela and others brought about the “miracle” of a peaceful post-colonial transition.

It is a story of how a civil war was averted and how a social consensus was built around a political project — the making of a “New SA”.

It is an unsurprisingly popular story. It has been told and retold in one medium after another. It can be found in textbooks and scholarly books; in the memoirs and autobiographies of SA’s leaders; and in biopics of politicians or famous sportsmen.

It is also a dated story. Apartheid ended in 1994: its political institutions were dismantled and politics changed. And yet, two decades later, SA is once again in flux — caught in a moment in which the boundaries of politics and society are unstable and liable to change without notice.

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Nelson Mandela’s life in brief: Latest Jacana Pocket Biography by Colin Bundy launched with Ronnie Kasrils

Colin Bundy

The launch of the latest in the Jacana pocket biography series took place in early December when the highly respected historian and academic Colin Bundy presented his most recent book, A Jacana Pocket Biography: Nelson Mandela at The Book Lounge.

Ronnie Kasrils and Colin BundyA Jacana Pocket Biography: Nelson MandelaThe author was joined in a fascinating conversation with Ronnie Kasrils, the former freedom fighter and Minister for Intelligence Services who wrote the prize-winning memoir, The Unlikely Secret Agent.

Kasrils described the book as “eminently well done” while highlighting the challenge that the demands of brevity imposed upon an author. He cited the letter Karl Marx wrote to Ludwig Kugelmann where he says: “I’m begging your pardon with my letter because of the length… You see I’m in a hurry and I haven’t had time to make it more succinct.”

Bundy reflected on the fortuitous nature of the project that made it easier in some regards than his previous book, Govan Mbeki: A Jacana Pocket Biography. Because Mandela’s life was so widely documented he could leave out some of the widely known facts and “go for the telling details, the anecdote that nailed the subject, leaving plenty of room for opinion as well as detail …”

For well over an hour a passionate discussion on the life of the first president of a democratic South Africa held everyone in the audience enthralled. The speakers explored the dramatic political changes that occurred at the time of Mandela’s liberation and election, weighed the decisions that were taken at the time and considered the spontaneous unfolding of events that occurred some 20 years ago. Kasrils reflected on the legacy of remembrance, noting that Mandela became the face of the ANC on his 60th birthday when people around the world flooded the postmaster at Robben Island with postcards.

“This began the process of his becoming an icon and the personification of the struggle, shifting the awareness from the 10 Rivonia trialists to a single face, that ultimately became larger than life.”

In Bundy’s view, icons are a short cut to understanding that help people formulate their thinking. He said:

The South African drama played out in the full glare of the world media. What made their job a little easier was that it came with a ready made hero. Since 1978 there had been an accretion of symbolism around his absence. His silence reverberated. Then on 11 February 1990, suddenly the myth became man. There he was, beautifully dressed. We remember the famous iconic photo where he stands hand in hand with Winnie. The next morning he gives that rather exhausted address from Cape Town City Hall balcony.

The next morning he meets over 200 local and international journalists in the garden at Tutu’s mansion. The press conference lasts two hours. Every time a journalist puts up his hand, Mandela would recognise him and say, ‘Oh, I read your article in so-and-so …’ but more than that, he did this extraordinary thing that later became so familiar to us: that mixture of gravitas, dignity, self deprecating humour, and very careful balance. At the end of that press conference, 200 hard-bitten journalists swallow their objectivity, forgot that they were reporters, and stood up to applaud the man.

Bundy noted that this was a particularly significant moment that was about myth, a sudden icon, and an icon living up to a degree of what was expected of him. “It foretold a lot of what came later, his position as anointed leader, his willingness to adopt that position and to speak for the movement,” he said.

Kasrils suggested there was an element of the confident play actor in this moment, that Mandela knew he had people eating out of his hand. “Because he could afford to be that modest one has to ask whether it was genuine,” he continued.

Bundy pinpoints 1978 as the moment when a conscious myth-making began about Mandela:

It’s also the moment when regulations on Robben Island become more relaxed. From 1979 onwards, Mandela wrote daily on big full page calendars. Over the years, Mandela logs various peace prizes, honorary doctorates and external affirmations of his position of leadership.

He’s very consumed with the realisation that he will have to live up to the expectations. He senses fully what they are. He spoke from Cape Town saying, ‘I’m here as a servant of the people’, but he’s very consciously adopting a leadership role.

Kasrils reflected on the fall out on Robben Island between two groups of ANC leaders that left Govan Mbeki and Nelson Mandela in a locked position, where issues of temperament and personality were involved. Mandela was one of “a pantheon of capable leaders” but his leadership was contested by Govan Mbeki. Kasrils said, “While none could compete with his stature, he was a boring speaker … but by God they deferred to his leadership! He was the messiah. Not just of the ordinary people, but of those with money, those that fix things, the corporate world, here and internationally. He was the answer to their prayers.”

Another fascinating turn taken in the discussion between Bundy and Kasrils was the mention of An Inconvenient Youth by Fiona Forde. Kasrils reflected on the issue of how Julius Malema touches a raw nerve calling Mandela a sell-out. “He’s a rough diamond. He makes people think. You might not like what he says …”

Bundy said that Malema did not invent a criticism of Mandela:

In 1993 a young black truck driver told Jeremy Cronin that the real Mandela had been killed in prison, that his lookalike had been coached for years until he was ready to be released and that was the man they could do business with.

It’s a nice fable but when Mandela is in his prime, in the run up to the elections and as president, it became very difficult for people to voice their criticism. Once he was ailing and very old the occasional, usually partisan critique was expressed. So vehement was the media and State disapproval that few could offer their dissent.

Zakes Mda, an independent minded author, wrote an obituary that lacked the reverence dripping from the obituaries. He wrote: ‘There is an increasingly vocal segment of black South Africans who feel that Mandela sold out the liberation struggle to white interests.’

Bundy also cited the composer Neo Muyanga saying that the criticism of Mandela is kind of code for black anger at white South Africans, positing the question: If Mandela is so sacrosanct for whites, must he not be suspect in some way?

In Bundy’s view, Malema caused such a furore because he is criticising something beyond himself and the EFF. “The last six months, Rhodes Must Fall, and particularly during Fees Must Fall, has seen youth and student activists increasingly distancing themselves from the 1994 settlement and therefore, from Mandela, because he is so closely associated with it,” Bundy said.

“Fees Must Fall has potentially been the moment where the ANC loses the allegiance of better educated, urban Born Frees. That scares the political party rigid. It certain should,” he said.

“It’s because Malema is voicing those undercurrents, that kind of sussuration of discontent that echoes with Africanist impatience, that have made his remarks so combustible!” Of particular significance was the parallel drawn between Julius Malema and the young Nelson Mandela.

Kasrils believed it was vital to assess the context in which the changes took place between 1990 and 1994:

There’s aspects of Mandela’s life with which we are all very well acquainted. Everybody was petrified that we were looking into the abyss as we faced Boipatong and the ‘Third Force’.

Nobody thought or imagined that the leviathan National Party was moving towards universal franchise. We then have a Mandela – in brilliance – who is able to bring round those of us who didn’t believe. He was absolutely correct. It was possible. In retrospect it is easy to see how the barons of industry emerged intact. Because we didn’t have a grip on economic controls, we have not been able to deal with poverty, with rubbish education and health. Therefore, you put it off, when the chickens come home to roost, they’re as big as turkeys!

Bundy reflected on the critique of the “sellout”. There’s a fascinating way in which that individualised and personalised critique is a mirror image of the lionisation of Mandela as the saviour. “They’re both historically barren and mythic. Mandela’s key role was symbolic. More than any other single politician he voiced the aspiration of the black, disenfranchised majority, and at the same time, he assured white South Africans that they were part of the future. Obviously, he didn’t do it on his own. He did it because there were very strong intellectual, political, social, local and international forces driving those decisions.”

Bundy and Kasrils noted that the economics were overlooked:

Mandela was not an economist. On 11 February he said we’ll nationalise the banks and the land and everything else in a speech written by a committee. By the time he gets to Davos 18 months later, he personally removes nationalisation from the agenda, but he was moving in step with the leadership of the party, and in particular, the exiled leadership.

By that time they’ve bought into an acceptance of the need to compromise, specially on issues of the economy. Mandela’s role was twofold. First, he was personally susceptible to the blandishments, flattery and persuasion and arguments of capitalists. Malema’s right. If Madiba is lunching at Brenthurst, why shouldn’t the ANC executive?

The dire situation South Africa now faces is a measure of the truth that “the chickens are coming home to roost”. Of particular prescience was Kasrils’ “mea culpa”. He repeated a number of times the deep regret that he did not stand up to Mandela on the importance of addressing poverty via economic remedies.

This was an evening to remember and those who were present benefited hugely from hearing this eloquent, passionate and well informed dialogue.

 

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Liesl Jobson (@LieslJobson) tweeted live from the event using the hashtag #livebooks:


 

 

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Join Colin Bundy and Ronnie Kasrils for the Launch of A Jacana Pocket Biography: Nelson Mandela at The Book Lounge

Invitation to the launch of Nelson Mandela: A Jacana Pocket Biography

 
A Jacana Pocket Biography: Nelson MandelaJacana and The Book Lounge would like to invite you to the launch of A Jacana Pocket Biography: Nelson Mandela by Colin Bundy.

In A Jacana Pocket Biography: Nelson Mandela, Bundy sets out to extricate the person of Mandela from a pervasive sense of Mandela; distinguishing between the actual, historical Mandela and a generalised and essentially mythical Mandela.

Bundy will be speaking about his book with Ronnie Kasrils.

The launch will take place on Tuesday, 8 December, at 5:30 for 6 PM at The Book Lounge.

Don’t miss out!

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