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The Great SA Lit Debate: Government Launches Publishing House for “True” South African Writing

Manyi

Alert! The onslaught from newly-appointed GCIS CEO and head government spokesperson, Jimmy Manyi, continues. In an announcement that will likely be as well received by South Africa’s publishing industry as the statement, issued earlier this week, that government will soon start its own newspaper was received by SA’s media, plans have been released for the establishment, by GCIS, of Amanzi Publishers, “to quench the national thirst for true African writing in South Africa.”

“Amanzi”, of course, means “water” in Xhosa and Zulu. It’s not clear whether GCIS’ move is in direct response to the debate around SA letters and criticism that has been raging (well, semi-raging) in various literary forums of late, but the initiative is doubtless meant to push a Manyi-inspired publishing agenda to the fore. “We call it Amanzi Publishers because South African writing since 1994 has been stuck in a dry, white season,” said Manyi’s spokesperson, Vusi Mona, in a GCIS press release (it’s spokespersons within spokespersons, Russian doll-like, over in Pretoria). “It’s time to water this land with a new creativity, for true South African writing talent to blossom.”

“Publishing houses are censoring a lot of our own writers,” Mona continues. “With Amanzi Publishers we are waking us up to do things ourselves. It will be bigger than all South African publishers put together”.

SA’s Presidency welcomed the development:

We salute the GCIS for its latest initiative and look forward to reading all the exciting books that it has planned. Viva Amanzi Publishers viva! Have your say on Facebook: http://bit.ly/ijBjrxless than a minute ago via web

As might be expected, the announcement is rather vague on what “true” South African writing looks like, exactly, but its rhetoric is in keeping with several other recent statements by Manyi, who is a passionate advocate of doing things the “African” way. Recently, for example, when called out by etv’s Deborah Patta for not apologising directly for his “Over-supply of Coloureds” gaffe, Manyi dismissed her complaint via a fairly classic cultural dodge. “What is she saying?” he said. “The African way of apologising is not acceptable? … When you have offended as an African, you send a delegation to apologise for you”.

If there’s one line in the Amanzi Publishers statement that BOOK SA can heartily concur with, it’s “We must not forget that publishing itself is service delivery”. If we all took that attitude – writers, editors, publishers and critics alike – just imagine how SA Lit would flourish!

No timelines have been given for the publication of Amanzi’s first titles, but BOOK SA wouldn’t be surprised if, to kickstart the project, the new publishing house teamed up with the Department of Arts and Culture and the National Library to promote the South African Classics series, whose public profile could do with a little boost.

The South African Publishers Association said it was putting together a statement in response to the news.

A quick survey of BOOK SA’s contacts within publishing saw reaction that ranged from outrage to mirth. “Rather than starting off on its own Quixotic quest to force so-called ‘true African literature’ down our throats, they should look to their educational publishing policies, especially on the procurement side, which is a complete shambles and directly threatens the literacy of future generations,” said one publisher. “We wish them the best of luck managing the slush pile that’s about to hit Pretoria like a tsunami,” said another. (Neither would, of course, be named.)

More on the story from BOOK SA as it develops!

Photo courtesy GCIS

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://fionasnyckers.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    Fiona
    April 1st, 2011 @09:19 #
     
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    Disgusting. We should all protest against this. It's the thin edge of the wedge - just a small step from creating a national publishing house to introducing legislation that bans all other publishing houses. This is Zimbabwe all over again, mark my words.

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  • <a href="http://www.moxyland.com" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    April 1st, 2011 @10:11 #
     
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    I'm thrilled to announce that I'm among the first crop of authors to be included in this exciting new venture. We're always bitching about lack of funding for literature and the arts - well now, government has stepped up and I'm proud to be involved, with, a powerful and provocative remix of Moxyland called Justfineland, due out this time next year.

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  • <a href="http://saradias.co.za/blog/" rel="nofollow">Sara P. Dias</a>
    Sara P. Dias
    April 1st, 2011 @10:21 #
     
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    This is an April Fool's Day joke, isn't it Ben?

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  • <a href="http://www.moxyland.com" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    April 1st, 2011 @10:24 #
     
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    I hope not! I was promised a massive advance.

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    April 1st, 2011 @10:24 #
     
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    I've seen Lauren's contract, susara. It's quite real. Didn't want to mention it because I wasn't sure whether she'd signed or not. Congrats, L!

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    April 1st, 2011 @10:28 #
     
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    Fiona, maybe we should give it a chance?

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  • <a href="http://www.moxyland.com" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    April 1st, 2011 @10:29 #
     
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    And a three book deal!

    Next up after Jusfineland, I've been contracted to write a non-fiction, Long Walk to Breitling: The Malema Story - a powerful and poignant (dare I say tender) biography about humility, self-sacrifice and nuanced debate.

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  • <a href="http://www.sapartridge.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sally</a>
    Sally
    April 1st, 2011 @10:31 #
     
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    LOL

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    April 1st, 2011 @10:44 #
     
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    Water is a metaphor that, universally, has a number of possible meanings. It may quench thirst. It may also be used in an attempt to put out fires. And it can drown the unwary.

    Isiziba sinzonzo, sizonzobele,
    Siminzis' umuntu eth' uyageza,
    Waze washona nangesicoco.
    (Izibongo zikaDingana).

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  • <a href="http://www.moxyland.com" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    April 1st, 2011 @10:49 #
     
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    Joey Hifi's pitching on the cover for Justfineland - has suggested a stuffed Manyi plush. Hope the publisher's go for it.

    And the excellent @2point8photo has announced that she's landed the lucrative contract for author dust-jacket photos (yep: all hardcover debuts). I've briefed her to make me look less colonial / bloody agenty.

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  • <a href="http://kathrynwhite.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kathryn</a>
    Kathryn
    April 1st, 2011 @10:53 #
     
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    Sorry to hijack but I wrote my post here - http://kathrynwhite.book.co.za/blog/2011/04/01/the-anc-opens-its-own-publishing-house-other-propaganda/ cos it's a bit off topic

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  • <a href="http://kathrynwhite.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kathryn</a>
    Kathryn
    April 1st, 2011 @11:00 #
     
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  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    April 1st, 2011 @11:30 #
     
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    I'm glad I got back online in time to chat about this. I heard about this venture some time ago, and submitted some work, which was rejected. The reader's report made a lot of good comments, and I rewrote the piece in line with Amanzi's vision statement and I'm very pleased to say that just this morning, I have received a two-book contract, with the possibility of extension. My first book will be called "The Judge, The Wall, The Truth", and will address social issues in a light and educational style. The publisher and I are hoping for a school sale, so it's being rushed into print now.

    As Lauren says, the advances are very impressive: at last South African writers are being paid for their skills, and have the chance to give something back to the general good. I'm very pleased that Amanzi gave me a second chance, and I look forward to a productive relationship with them.

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    April 1st, 2011 @11:51 #
     
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    There are some who would say that you've just become another beggarly signwriter for the government, Louis - but congratulations are nonetheless in order. Well done!

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  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    April 1st, 2011 @12:01 #
     
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    Aagh! Rick Astley!

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  • Mervyn
    Mervyn
    April 1st, 2011 @12:28 #
     
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    The Book Lounge has just signed an exclusive distribution deal for Amanzi Publishers. Fortunately they understood my point that a big mistake that most publishers have made is to make their books too widely available to the public by supplying them to as many bookshops as possible. As anyone with a smattering of consumer psychology knows, the way to greater sales is to increase demand and perceived scarcity of the product is a useful tool in this regard. As a result all books published by Amanzi will exclusively be sold at the Book Lounge. I'd like to take a moment to congratulate all at Amanzi for having the courage to think outside the box and combine the need to promote new local writers with innovative marketing strategies. Hoping to do a massive launch of the imprint at Open Book, otherwise it might have to wait till 1 April 2012.

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  • <a href="http://ingridandersen.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ingrid Andersen</a>
    Ingrid Andersen
    April 1st, 2011 @12:49 #
     
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    Just popped my head in the door to say that I heard there's another deal in the works - I believe it's called The Definitive Guide to the BEEutiful Home: how to achieve ultimate luxury in that tired state residence.

    And - @ Louis - did Kate rickroll you? Tsk. Most unsporting.

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  • <a href="http://ingridandersen.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ingrid Andersen</a>
    Ingrid Andersen
    April 1st, 2011 @12:52 #
     
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    Aargh. It was Ben-Ed. *glare*

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  • <a href="http://ingridandersen.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ingrid Andersen</a>
    Ingrid Andersen
    April 1st, 2011 @13:04 #
     
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    That was meme of you.

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    April 1st, 2011 @13:43 #
     
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    I protest! That was perfectly legitimate web conduct.

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  • <a href="http://fionasnyckers.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    Fiona
    April 1st, 2011 @14:06 #
     
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    I will NEVER allow Amanzi to use Trinity as the spokesperson for their new brand, however much they BEG me. Trinity will NOT have sushi eaten off her occasionally-less-than-taut abdomen. The rest of you are just sell-outs and lapdogs for the oppressive regime.

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  • <a href="http://www.moxyland.com" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    April 1st, 2011 @14:47 #
     
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    Trinity wouldn't be playing sushi-platter - the ruling party made it clear that they disapproved of that stuff.

    It would be Trinity - Gold Rush when she becomes the major BEE partner for a mining conglomerate. But she proves she's more than just a pretty figurehead when she busts a sexy but ultimately sinister investigative journalist trying to prove corruption and nepotism. Trinity saves the day - and the mine - and exposing the journalist's dodgy dealings helps cement the new media bill.

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  • <a href="http://www.darlingtonrichards.com/" rel="nofollow">moi</a>
    moi
    April 1st, 2011 @14:51 #
     
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    may we reviewers please be allowed to trade our undispensed stocks of carrots and sticks in on beetroots and shower heads..

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    April 1st, 2011 @15:02 #
     
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    Lauren, that's positively radioactive.

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    April 1st, 2011 @17:55 #
     
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    Why the fuss? This is necessary, given the historical conjuncture we are in. (cf. Prof Sycophant’s recent article in the journal WaBenzi (19, 9 2009): ‘The theory and praxis of Titanic-deckchair-shifting’). Moreover, while I don’t usually put poems in places where they are not expected, my personal conjuncture now requires it. Sorry. Therefore, in the spirit of reconciliation + a hope that I may, too, get considered for a contract, I would like to add the following:

    Battles against exploitation by capital
    (a place where all comrades should be)
    have all of a sudden been invaded
    by senile Stalinists from over the sea

    who’ve flocked back for government positions
    and - something that’s a trifle appalling -
    when it comes to the workers taking over,
    seem to have moved on from Stalin to stalling.

    With Union leaders who mount corporate ladders
    (why are so many so quickly rotund?)
    then start to vanish behind cigar smoke and cocktails,
    the few Party faithful seem moribund.

    To get anywhere, these days, in this new Nation,
    it’s prudent to stress skin colour or kiss arse;
    so, trampled in the race for Board memberships,
    voila! - a ruling Party without class.

    Father-like, they used to fill life with meaning,
    shake me awake every day sans to-do;
    look me kindly in the eyeball at breakfast,
    murmur: have you done Revolution Number Two?

    - but now, awaiting a next stage of revolution
    (how many Engels jive on the head of their pin?)
    the doctrinaire alone amass influence,
    while the voice of left principles grows thin.

    So? No more dangerous precedents! says Mantashe:
    or is it ‘dangerous presidents’ he alludes to?
    As we learn to back-stab our old comrades,
    in strict accordance with the spirit of ubuntu.

    Nzimande’s squeaky threatening? Slightly vexing!
    And as for that egg-dancer, Cronin,
    who shifts allegiance between Thabo and ZZ,
    it’s a wonder his head doesn’t spin.

    Though as for me, I haven’t drunk enough whisky
    to brighten my view of what’s to be,
    and I’ve lost faith in those comrades who simper
    ‘Patience! we’re stagist, not upstaged, don’t you see?’

    Perhaps I could learn to kill/die for J. Zuma,
    brandishing blackberry, mshini, cool shades;
    model for the Stage of The Interim Consumer
    (an impasse I hope lasts for decades)

    - which is not my fault - hey, that’s it! Finally,
    seeing there’s no place left to hide,
    I’m now set to eulogise this confusion,
    and fight the capitalist beast from inside.

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  • <a href="http://www.darlingtonrichards.com/" rel="nofollow">moi</a>
    moi
    April 1st, 2011 @18:17 #
     
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    LOL, I find myself impressed and unsure whether I'd be more or less so were I to know that it were threaded together for the moment or one of a stash that's long been waiting the moment ;-))

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  • <a href="http://fionasnyckers.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    Fiona
    April 1st, 2011 @22:32 #
     
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    Lauren, your cheque is in the post - and it's a whopper. You are hereby promoted to Minister of Plots and Stratagems.

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