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/ijBjrx
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