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Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

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.

Event Details


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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.

Book details

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


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Joburg launch: Son by Neil Sonnekus

Son is a stunning achievement in post-apartheid writing.

The debut novel by South African writer, Neil Sonnekus, Son brims with brio, verve and swagger. Though laugh-out-loud funny at times, it is also achingly poignant and deeply moving.

In Son, Sonnekus brilliantly captures the so-called Noughties with his tragi-comic creation Len Bezuidenhout, a recent divorcee whose quest for sex is as funny as his attempts to tease a hungover narrative fromhis father, a puritanical old curmudgeon. The two couldn’t be more different – or similar. They are both storytellers, but when the tale Len starts extracting from his old man is slowly revealed, it is everything but funny.

Through scalding humour, caustic wit and brutally frank interrogation into the country’s ‘post Rainbow Nation’ pathology, this stylistically imposing work is one of hilarity, bitter warmth and eventual grace.

Son is at times uproarious and unremittingly frank as it exposes politics as a tragic farce. It is both self-deprecating and sensual as it traverses the dark arts of sexual conquest and desire while it simultaneously unearths brutal anxieties around crime, alienation and aging.

As the author carves out an archaeological excavation of trauma, the fallout of war, masculinity, inter-generational memory and grief is unloaded. Central to Son is the brutal mirror of what it means to be a white man in South Africa, confronting a rapid loss of power while struggling to come to terms with stark socio-political change and the possibilities of living an unfulfilled and alienated life.

While it hums and whirs with sound, movement and humour, Son seamlessly takes the reader on a profound journey of compassion and self-understanding. In a dark and disturbing turn, it argues that the dominant colour of the rainbow has become not white nor black, but red. Blood red.

Son ultimately triumphs in laying to rest its personal and political ghosts.

Event Details

  • Date: Thursday, 04 May 2017
  • Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
  • Venue: Love Books, The Bamboo Lifestyle Centre, 53 Rustenburg Road, Melville, Johannesburg | Map
  • Guest Speaker: Bridget Hilton Barber
  • RSVP: Savannah Lucas, rsvp@jacana.co.za, 011 628 3200

Book Details


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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

Book details


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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.

Book details


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“I wanted to understand my being a black person from a positive point of view” – Mongane Wally Serote on why he writes

Acclaimed South African author Mongane Wally Serote was recently awarded an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Johannesburg in recognition of his contributions to poetry, literature and philosophy in South Africa.

The following extract on Serote’s reasons for writing was published by Michelle Bao for City Press.

As a young boy, Mongane Wally Serote read a lot.

From novels to newspapers, he read everything he could get hold of while attending school in Alexandra in the 1950s.

But his favourite was always poetry. Reading the likes of William Wordsworth, DH Lawrence and John Keats, Serote was inspired.

“There was something about the manner in which they wrote and the content about which they wrote that inspired me to write,” Serote said.

“It made me want to write poetry for me.”

And so, at the age of 14, Serote started to write his own poetry.

Little did he know it would mark the start of a long and celebrated career as a poet, a writer and an activist both in the Black Consciousness Movement and in the South African struggle for liberation.

“I was inspired by English poetry, but then I discovered that I could write about our own situation and that’s what I set out to do: to write about South Africa and to write about the life that we live,” Serote said.

His critically acclaimed novel To Every Birth Its Blood (1981) deals with the 1976 Soweto uprising and its aftermath, and his celebrated poems, including City Johannesburg and Alexandra, explore the nuances of life under apartheid.

Serote’s vast body of work is often credited with introducing the voice of Black Consciousness to South African literature and advancing principles of social activism and resistance.

Serote was awarded The Order of Ikhamanga in Silver in 2007 for his “excellent contribution to literature, with emphasis on poetry, and for putting his artistic talents at the service of democracy in South Africa”.

And on Monday Serote received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Johannesburg in recognition of his contributions to poetry, literature and philosophy in South Africa.

“Mongane Serote is a true African intellectual in the tradition of the African philosophic sage: a profoundly wise person.

“He is the embodiment of philosophy as the love of wisdom, in the context of both traditional and modern Africa,” said Alex Broadbent, a professor of philosophy and the executive dean of the faculty of humanities at the University of Johannesburg.

“Serote’s commitment to ‘intervene and disrupt racism in all fields of human agency’ is evident in his widely-celebrated contribution to the literature and poetry of black identity and resistance.”

But according to Serote, the purpose behind his prose is much more personal.

Continue reading here.
 

To Every Birth Its Blood

Book details


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Neil Sonnekus’ Son unremittingly frank as it exposes politics as a tragic farce

Son is a stunning achievement in post-apartheid writing.

The debut novel by South African writer, Neil Sonnekus, Son brims with brio, verve and swagger. Though laugh-out-loud funny at times, it is also achingly poignant and deeply moving.

In Son, Sonnekus brilliantly captures the so-called Noughties with his tragi-comic creation Len Bezuidenhout, a recent divorcee whose quest for sex is as funny as his attempts to tease a hungover narrative fromhis father, a puritanical old curmudgeon. The two couldn’t be more different – or similar. They are both storytellers, but when the tale Len starts extracting from his old man is slowly revealed, it is everything but funny.

Through scalding humour, caustic wit and brutally frank interrogation into the country’s ‘post Rainbow Nation’ pathology, this stylistically imposing work is one of hilarity, bitter warmth and eventual grace.

Son is at times uproarious and unremittingly frank as it exposes politics as a tragic farce. It is both self-deprecating and sensual as it traverses the dark arts of sexual conquest and desire while it simultaneously unearths brutal anxieties around crime, alienation and aging.

As the author carves out an archaeological excavation of trauma, the fallout of war, masculinity, inter-generational memory and grief is unloaded. Central to Son is the brutal mirror of what it means to be a white man in South Africa, confronting a rapid loss of power while struggling to come to terms with stark socio-political change and the possibilities of living an unfulfilled and alienated life.

While it hums and whirs with sound, movement and humour, Son seamlessly takes the reader on a profound journey of compassion and self-understanding. In a dark and disturbing turn, it argues that the dominant colour of the rainbow has become not white nor black, but red. Blood red.

Son ultimately triumphs in laying to rest its personal and political ghosts.

Son

Book details


» read article

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.

 
 
 
Book details


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“I had to trust that I was able to hear his voice clearly” – Alison Lowry on posthumously completing Gerald Kraak’s Shadow Play

In the early evening I pulled up outside The Eyrie. The gate was open. I stepped through the space in the creeper-covered fence, expecting to find everything as usual, the kitchen door open, the scent of curry coming from inside and a strain of Coltrane drifting down to the pear orchard. Except that the house was gutted. The smoke I had smelled on the road, that I had put down to sundown cooking in the township, was suddenly and pungent. This was a different kind of smoke. I stood and stared. My feet would not move, forward or back.

When confronted with his call-up papers for the apartheid army, with his fellow student activists either scattered or in jail, Matthew chooses exile in Europe.

In Amsterdam, he reconnects with his friend Oliver, who is studying music there. As he falls into a different rhythm of life, as contended as he is in a loving relationship and a job in a music store, the pull of his homeland never leaves him.

When he receives an unexpected call from a former activist comrade, he makes a decision that will put at risk everything he has built in his new life. And when he meets Mandla for the first time, he knows there will be no going back.

Mandla went into exile long before ’76. After undergoing military training for the movement in Russia, and working as an operative in different African countries, he is infiltrated back into SA through Swaziland in order to fulfil and important mission.

His comrade and cover is a white graduate student, Rachel, who is simultaneously conducting research for her studies in a rural area where local communities are being systematically removed from their ancestral land and forced into poverty and degradation.

Theirs becomes a rare and precious friendship, tender and intimate. An unwelcome visitor disrupts their lives, however, and threatens their mission, causing damage and uncertainty in an already fragile relationship.

Editor’s note:

Gerald Kraak’s intention was that Shadow Play would be the middle volume in a trilogy, but his untimely death while he was writing the book meant that this would not be realised. As I understood it from those who were close to him, especially friends in an informal writing group where their various works in progress would be discussed and chapters shared, his intention was to bring the stories of Matthew, Oliver, Mandla and Pru to conclusion in present-day South Africa. It was also his intention that each novel would be a free-standing work.

The acclaimed first book, Ice in the Lungs, for which Kraak was joint winner of the European Union Literary Award, led the way. At the time of its publication in 2006 it was hailed as an important contribution to South African literature and the book flagged Kraak as a strong, new, reflective and challenging voice.

The themes he explored and would continue to explore in Shadow Play are universal ones – identity, belonging, difference, sexuality, acceptance, betrayal – ordinary in the naming but extraordinary from the pen of a writer as subtle and as sensitive as Kraak.

The political environment in South Africa during the period covered in Shadow Play – late 70s and early 80s – for anyone opposing the regime’s apartheid laws was one of repression, punishment, torture and death. The liberation struggle was largely fought underground and directed from countries abroad. If you were a young white male, conscription into the apartheid army was not a choice.

Many activists, like Kraak himself, chose exile rather than be called up to serve an illegitimate regime. His own years of exile were spent in Amsterdam and it is to this city that Matthew travels when he makes the same choice. It is where Shadow Play begins and where the book is largely set.

When Kraak’s literary executor approached me with the unusual request to complete his unfinished novel and to see it through to publication, I was intrigued, but I was hesitant.

As an editor, I spend much of my working day inside the heads and behind the words of writers. It is a sacred place, one in which I always try to tread lightly and with respect. Trust between writer and editor is key to a relationship that is perhaps more intimate than any other. The primary task of a fiction editor, in my view, is to listen. To listen to the words, to the voices who might speak them, to the author who has something to say but might not yet be saying it as effectively as he could. Then, preferably, to discuss in person, listen some more, read many drafts, make careful suggestions, and offer hopefully useful feedback throughout the process. It is a process that is animated by a continual two-way conversation between writer and editor.

It is not the editor’s footprints one wants to see on a novel in the end. The editor’s personal satisfaction lies elsewhere.

With Shadow Play, instead of those conversations, and the drafts that would usually take shape as a result of them, I had silence. This meant that I would have to listen extra carefully and pay a different kind of attention to my author.

Shadow Play was unfinished in many ways. I took from the executor a couple of hard copy volumes, a flashdrive, and early and later notes, some typed, some scribbled in pen, often not very legibly, and by different hands. It wasn’t easy to discern which of the hard copies was the latest version, and the versions on the flashdrive were different too. In addition, the hard copy had coloured stickers, notes to self, notes from other readers, admonitions, reminders, instructions to return to a sectionanother time, sections scored through with frustrated pencil lines, and much else.

In other words, a somewhat typical stage in a writer’s journey. There was a present-day storyline, which was clearly thought out, but also a back story, which needed to intersect with the present day but missed it on several marks – a timeline that was complicated and a trajectory that was in danger of disappearing or turning back on itself and getting tangled in unpickable knots.

I sensed that this back story had been the more troubling challenge for Kraak, because it had not been fully reconciled or imagined; it was the story that elicited most of the ‘notes to self’. It began but it did not end. It meandered in the middle. The voice was tentative but it was potentially the underlying strength and the pivotal protest song in the novel. It was the parallel stories of exile, subterfuge, ideology and shared by separate lives of Matthew and Mandla that were the key, I believed, to unlocking and presenting a powerful and compelling narrative.

In the absence of Kraak himself to guide or admonish me, in the end I had to trust that I was able to hear his voice clearly, to interpret his intentions, and that in crafting it to the best of my ability I have been true to the spirit of the novel and have done the author justice.

I have done my best to inhabit his world and to reflect it back to his readers in the way he wanted it to be seen. If there are footprints to be discerned, I hope they are not mine. I hope they are Mandla’s, making his way home by starlight through the treacherous elephant grass across the Swaziland border, and Matthew finding his own way back to his homeland via the cobbled streets of Amsterdam in the chill of an early spring. – Alison Lowry, Johannesburg, January 2017

Book details

 
 
 

Ice in the Lungs


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Book launch – Spy: Uncovering Craig Williamson by Jonathan Ancer


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Join author Jonathan Ancer in conversation with author, journalist and tweet writer, Gus Silber discussing Craig Williamson, the apartheid ‘super-spy’ turned killer.

Event Details

  • Date: Wednesday, 26 April 2017
  • Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
  • Venue: Love Books, The Bamboo Lifestyle Centre, 53 Rustenburg Road, Melville, Johannesburg. | Map
  • RSVP: Savannah Lucas, Jacana Media, rsvp@jacana.co.za, 011 628 3200

Book Details


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