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Not welcome: Thabiso Mahlape and Lauren Beukes on Eugene de Kock’s presence at the Sunday Times Literary Awards shortlist event

Anemari Jansen, Eugene de Kock, Annie Olivier
Anemari Jansen, Eugene de Kock, Annie Olivier at the Franchhoek Literary Festival


Eugene de KockEugene de Kock


Lauren Beukes and Thabiso Mahlape spoke to Books LIVE about Eugene de Kock’s presence at the Franschhoek Literary Festival this weekend.

Eugene de Kock: Assassin for the State, a biography by Anemari Jansen written with the full co-operation and consent of the former Vlakplaas commander, was longlisted for the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award in April, and De Kock was in attendance at the shortlist announcement on Saturday night.

More about the book.

De Kock, who was known as “Prime Evil” for his apartheid-era crimes, was spotted by Books LIVE at the French Connection restaurant on Saturday afternoon and also attended a panel discussion on Friday, as tweeted by Cover2Cover Books managing director Palesa Morudu:

According to Sunday Times editor Bongani Siqoko, De Kock was at the Sunday Times Literary Award event as a guest of the publisher of Anemari Jansen’s biography, not as a guest of the Sunday Times. “De Kock was not acknowledged in any way,” Siqoko says. “We only acknowledge the sponsors, authors and publishers at the Sunday Times Literary Awards events.”

Author and journalist Jacques Steenkamp tweeted from the festival:

Internationally acclaimed author and former journalist Beukes, who asked De Kock to leave the shortlist event, says: “There were black writers and publishers who were visibly upset that he was there, some of whom were victims of his operation, who had lost family members. There was talk of staging a walk-out in protest and maybe we should have done that.

“But I was angry that the writers should have to leave an event celebrating them. I walked over to him standing by the stairs and asked if he was Eugene de Kock. I said, ‘It’s inappropriate that you are here. People are in tears that you are here and I think you should leave.’

“He said ‘Thank you for telling me’, and left.

“But this story is not about me. It’s about the black writers and publishers who were traumatised by having him there.

“Yes, we need forgiveness and yes, he’s served his time. We also need compassion and sensitivity about inviting him to a private party where there are people who have suffered terrible loss directly because of him.”

Beukes tweeted:

Mahlape, a publisher at Jacana Media and the head of its new division BlackBird Books, says she was shaken when she realised De Kock was present at the announcement.

“I stayed away from the news of Eugene asking to be let out and eventually being let out,” she says. “I never imagined I would ever run into the man. In my head he would go find a farm and live as far as possible from people.

“When I heard he was at the festival and had even cried at a session I was quite detached. My one question is, why does he think he can just socialise? And then I saw him. I was standing with [Modjaji Books publisher] Colleen Higgs and [author] Rehana Rossouw. I saw Rehana’s jaw drop, I turned around and there he was.”

Mahlape says seeing De Kock brought to mind a number of other racially charged events, specifically Pretoria High Court judge Mabel Jansen’s recent remarks on rape and black culture, published on Facebook to widespread condemnation.

“My immediate response was to get away, so I went upstairs. But when the energy in the room changed everything last week came back. The judge had called my people culturally rapists or sadists and when he came up the stairs that hit me. There, right in front of me, was the man who was responsible for the breaking of so many black men and as a result black families. I wept, I never expected that to happen; my own feelings overwhelmed me.

“I had also been in altercation during the day with another man, a festival goer, so I may have been tired. But I cried, and that’s when Lauren went over to him and asked him to leave. And he said ‘thank you’ and left.”

Mahlape’s BlackBird Books recently published the debut novels of Panashe Chigumadzi and Nakhane Touré. She is also the publisher of Thando Mgqolozana, who was responsible for the Franschhoek Literary Festival making international news last year, when he publicly condemned South Africa’s “white literary system” and announced that he would be boycotting such festivals in future.

In the Sunday Times it was erroneously stated that De Kock left before his exchange with Beukes.

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Main image: Esa Alexander


Recent comments:

  • diss-illusioned
    May 16th, 2016 @16:19 #

    Mrs Beukes - I find it strange that you would not extend the same courtesy to those who have been wronged by the same A.N.C Terrorist - (then, granted, now the Heroes) or at least make mention of that also - but then again , they would never pitch at your gathering of liberals - Touche'

    Also would you care to specifically mention the so-called victims that were directly affected by Mr De Kock's presence - meaning - any direct family of those that had lost their lives to the Death Squads that he headed up during the Apartheid Years? I for one am filled with the same disgust when in the presence of anyone with the surname Thambo for example - as he was one of the prime architects of the Church Street Bomb incident that also - had you forgotten - was an act of murder - commanded by Aboobaker Ismail. Such units had been authorized by Oliver Tambo, the ANC President, in 1979. At the time of the attack, they reported to Joe Slovo as chief of staff, and the Church Street attack was authorized by Oliver Tambo.

    I fully understand your begrudged status and that of your esteemed co-writers but alas what then to do if the object of your writings are to be present? Simply dismiss the Dalai Lama from a country as he does not agree with current government politics? Would you indeed go that far?

    It seems you have - you are quoted "During apartheid there was a lot of censorship, which is how an evil, dictatorial, racist regime maintains power—by keeping people in the dark as to what’s actually going on. They took it to crazy lengths. Sometimes defiant newspaper editors would put out a paper with a blank front page, or a front page covered with black censor bars to show how much they were being censored. The kind of footage that the rest of the world saw on TV, on the news, we weren’t exposed to. We weren’t seeing the same kind of violence, and the craziness in the townships, and the activists being killed. It was super restricted.

    This went to ridiculous lengths. The TV series V came on in the late ’80s, early ’90s, and it’s a mini-series. The first episode aired, and I was really excited because it was science fiction, and there were aliens, and it was really cool. The next thing I know, it’s being pushed to a late time slot. It was primetime, something like Fridays at 7 p.m. and suddenly it got moved to Wednesdays at 11:30, which meant that because I was a school kid I couldn’t stay up and watch it. I was lucky to grow up with liberal parents who didn’t believe in apartheid and when I asked them why, they explained it was because the show had freedom fighters—which was a word the government associated with the ANC.

    I only found out years later that the real reason it got pushed to such a late time slot when no one could see it was because the state president, P.W. Botha, whose nickname was the “Big Crocodile,” had freaked out completely, phoned the head of the South African Broadcasting Corporation immediately after the first episode had aired, and demanded that it be taken off air immediately because the aliens were reptiles. He was so vain that he thought this TV show was actually about him." You have actual proof of this? Please enlighten us by means of the actual call - not the usual - I am a Liberal and have black friends so when I say so it is gospel - nonsense , please. Produce some facts for a change - not the fiction you so love to write about. (Must admit - I would really like to see that piece of info cause if some-one really can prove it, I would agree it was nonsensical cause I really loved that V series and watched it skelm anyways!)

    The whole apartheid regime was terrible, and we’re going to be tripping up over its legacy for years and years and years to come. There’s no easy fix to what happened in this country. It was devastating. Agreed - but what about the murders the ANC committed - Oh wait the T.R.C absolved them - but wait! they would not have known about half of it had Mr De Kock not decided to help with it! Man - how perplexing is that! Damn! - And he has people writing about it - maybe upstaging your writings a bit, hey? (Could it be that them books were a bit better than your's, come now, just a bit of jealousy creeping in there?)

    People were killed, there were apartheid assassination squads, death camps, a chemical weapons program that was trying to make black people sterile. It was horrific. Every dictatorship also has its ridiculous eccentricities, and that was an example of one of them—this absolutely absurd moment amongst all the violence."
    Very true words - what about all the things that went on in the ANC Training camps - care to write a bit about those some , Hmmm? Also - our dear President - Every dictatorship also has its ridiculous eccentricities indeed?

    Indeed Mrs Beukes - indeed - I find it disturbing that your writings never contain the other side of the story - the murder of farmers, babies and children of those farmers and innocents on the "other side" - no because that would make you a White Sympathizer and not a "cool white liberal with black friends". Nothing wrong with that at all just have the balls to be a little bit more daring and base one of your fictions on the murder spree that the ANC and like minded parties embarked on and I will gladly buy that novel - just so we can say that you covered all those bases for a change - Liberally and unbiased - what say you? Up for it or will you try and ridicule all who oppose you - as Liberals are never wrong - ask any of them. I leave you with the following -
    Remember, remember!
    The fifth of November,
    The Gunpowder treason and plot;
    I know of no reason
    Why the Gunpowder treason
    Should ever be forgot!


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