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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Thinking Freedom in Africa “acutely in time” says Richard Pithouse at launch of Michael Neocosmos’s latest book

Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER) hosted the launch of author and academic Michael Neocosmos’s most recent book, Thinking Freedom in Africa on Wednesday the 15th of March.

Political theorist and public intellectual Achille Mbembe and academic Richard Pithouse joined Neocosmos in the discussion on Thinking Freedom in Africa, published by Wits University Press, and the recipient of the 2017 Frantz Fanon Outstanding Book Award.

Neocosmos’s book explores the politics of emancipation via the study of the global history of African peoples’ struggles for liberation; Neocosmos asserted that the “way to emancipation is not achievable via identity theories or the returning of state power.”

He added that it is inexcusable to treat humans as inhumane and that emancipation can only truly occur once we – as a people – recognise this and put it into practice.

“Big words like freedom, justice and equality are necessary when discussing emancipation,” Neocosmos stressed, adding that a capitalist society is to our detriment regarding the pursuit of emancipation, describing the wealth discrepancies in Africa as “obscene.”

Nearing the end of the discussion, Neocosmos echoed this conviction by asking whether it is possible for capitalism to exist within the absence of racism and injustice.

Pithouse commented that Thinking Freedom in Africa is “acutely in time”, as it is necessary to both think about emancipation and to bring struggle into theory. That Neocosmos is “trying to take the lived experiences of Africans seriously” adds to the timeliness of the book.

Mbembe pronounced Thinking Freedom in Africa as “probably the most important book to be published in South Africa over the past 10 years,” as it “forces us to think and to de-exceptionalise the South African experience.

“It stretches far beyond South Africa as such,” Mbembe deliberated.

In addition to this comment, Mbembe questioned the destruction of oppression, asking what we’re going to replace opposition with once we’ve destroyed it.

Mbembe stated that the ‘struggle’ for emancipation causes a conflation of knowledge and experience, asking whether “liberation consists of making my oppressor feel the way I do?”

Unity has not yet been achieved in politics and that unity cannot be achieved until we have asked – and answered – the question of who “we” are, Neocosmos concluded. How we construct and contain that “we” is fundamental in the pursuit of emancipation.

The discussion came to an end when a Wits academic received a note which he humourously proclaimed was “given to me by the politburo” announcing that “more drinks have arrived.”

The audience left in both a cheerful and contemplative mood…

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Book launch – Thinking Freedom in Africa: Toward a theory of emancipatory politics by Michael Neocosmos

Thinking Freedom in Africa : Toward a theory of emancipatory politicsJoin us for a discussion with author, Michael Neocosmos and respondents, Achille Mbembe and Richard Pithouse.

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Dinosaurs, Diamonds & Democracy: two billion years of South African history in 128 pages

Dinosaurs Diamonds and Democracy

An asteroid the size of Table Mountain crashed into what was to become South Africa over two billion years ago, marking the spot. The country’s history since then has always been robust and full of energy. This book takes you in record time from that moment, when the earth’s richest gold reefs were shaped, to the advent of democracy in 1994, another event that stunned the world, and beyond.

Along the way you will encounter some of the most ancient dinosaurs on record, the very first people on the planet, and the first cultures. You will see outsiders moving in to reshape history: hunters and gatherers, cultivators and herders, iron-workers from the north, and immigrants from Europe and Asia. They fought and made peace; they stumbled upon gold and diamonds; they rose to the heights of excellence and sank to the depths of oppression, until on one day they all queued as equals to elect a government.

That is the story marked by dinosaurs, diamonds and democracy.

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Martin Meredith’s Afrikaner Odyssey delves into the extraordinary life of Deneys Reitz

Afrikaner Odyssey

In the first half of the nineteenth century, southern Africa was a jumble of British colonies, Boer republics and African chiefdoms, a troublesome region of little interest to the outside world. Into this frontier world came the Reitz family, Afrikaner gentry from the Cape, who settled in Bloemfontein and played a key role in the building of the Orange Free State. Frank Reitz, successively chief justice and modernising president of the young republic, went on to serve as State Secretary of the Transvaal Republic. In 1899, he stood shoulder to shoulder with President Paul Kruger to resist Britain’s war of conquest in southern Africa. At the heart of this tale is the extraordinary life of Deneys Reitz, third son of Frank Reitz and Bianca Thesen.

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Afrikaner Odyssey available as eBook

In the first half of the nineteenth century, southern Africa was a jumble of British colonies, Boer republics and African chiefdoms, a troublesome region of little interest to the outside world. Into this frontier world came the Reitz family, Afrikaner gentry from the Cape, who settled in Bloemfontein and played a key role in the building of the Orange Free State. Frank Reitz, successively chief justice and modernising president of the young republic, went on to serve as State Secretary of the Transvaal Republic. In
1899, he stood shoulder to shoulder with President Paul Kruger to resist Britain’s war of conquest in southern Africa.

At the heart of this tale is the extraordinary life of Deneys Reitz, third son of Frank Reitz and Bianca Thesen. The young Reitz’s account of his adventures in the field during the Anglo-Boer War (1899–1902), published as Commando, became a classic of irregular warfare. After a period of exile in Madagascar, he went on become one of South Africa’s most distinguished lawyers, statesmen and soldiers. Martin Meredith interweaves Reitz’s experiences, taken from his unpublished notebooks, with the wider story of Britain’s brutal suppression of Boer resistance.

Concise and readable, Afrikaner Odyssey is a wide- ranging portrait of an aristocratic Afrikaner family whose achievements run like fine thread through these turbulent times, and whose presence is still marked on the South African landscape.

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Being Chris Hani’s Daughter: the intimate and brutally honest memoir of Lindiwe Hani

When Chris Hani, leader of the South African Communist Party and heir apparent to Nelson Mandela, was brutally slain in his driveway in April 1993, he left a shocked and grieving South Africa on the precipice of civil war.

But to 12-year-old Lindiwe, it was the love of her life, her daddy, who had been shockingly ripped from her life.

In this intimate and brutally honest memoir, 36-year-old Lindiwe remembers the years she shared with her loving father, and the toll that his untimely death took on the Hani family.

She lays family skeletons bare and brings to the fore her own downward spiral into cocaine and alcohol addiction, a desperate attempt to avoid the pain of his brutal parting.

While the nation continued to revere and honour her father’s legacy, for Lindiwe, being Chris Hani’s daughter became an increasingly heavy burden to bear.

“For as long as I can remember, I’d grown up feeling that I was the daughter of Chris Hani and that I was useless. My father was such a huge figure, such an icon to so many people, it felt like I could never be anything close to what he achieved – so why even try? Of course my addiction to booze and cocaine just made me feel my worthlessness even more.”

In a stunning turnaround, she faces her demons, not just those that haunted her through her addiction, but, with the courage that comes with sobriety, she comes face to face with
her father’s two killers – Janus Walus, still incarcerated, and Clive Derby Lewis, released in 2015 on medical parole. In a breathtaking twist of humanity, while searching for the truth behind her father’s assassination, Lindiwe Hani ultimately makes peace with herself and honours her father’s gigantic spirit.

Being Chris Hani's Daughter

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From Protest to Challenge: Vol VI commemorates 108 years of African activism

From Protest to Challenge profiles over 600 individual activists who played important political roles during the century before the abolition of apartheid in 1990. Among those included are John Dube, Clements Kadalie, Albert Luthuli, Steve Biko, Beyers Naudé and Joe Slovo, as well as Ellen Kuzwayo, Jay Naidoo, Robert McBride, P.K. Leballo and Patricia de Lille. This is the fourth volume in the From Protest to Challenge series.

From Protest to Challenge

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  • From Protest to Challenge: A Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa, 1882-1990 by Thomas G Karis, Gwendolen Carter
    EAN: 9781770098831
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Stephen Hawking has co-written a book on the universe – for children!

George's Secret Key to the Universe

George’s Secret Key to the Universe teaches children the basics of astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology and other principles that govern our universe. This book makes science interesting while it teaches children fun and interesting facts about astronomical objects. Stephen Hawking, author of the multi-million copy bestselling A Brief History of Time, and his daughter Lucy explain the universe to readers of all ages. George’s parents, who have always been wary of technology, warn him about their new neighbours: Eric is a scientist and his daughter, Annie, seems to be following in his footsteps. But when George befriends them and Cosmos, their super-computer, he finds himself on a wildly fun adventure, while learning about physics, time and the universe. With Cosmos’s help, he can travel to other planets and a black hole. But what would happen if the wrong people got their hands on Cosmos? George, Annie and Eric aren’t about to find out, and what ensues is a funny adventure that clearly explains the mysteries of science. Garry Parsons’ energetic illustrations add humour and interest, and his scientific drawings add clarity.

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Spy: Uncovering Craig Williamson – Jonathan Ancer’s account of ‘South Africa’s superspy who penetrated the KGB’

Spy

In 1972 Craig Williamson, a big, burly, bearded man, walked onto Wits University and registered as a student. He joined the National Union of South African Students (Nusas), and was on the frontline in the war against apartheid. At one march he was beaten up, arrested and spent a year on trial. Williamson rose up through the student movement’s ranks to become the Nusas vice president. After being harassed by security police and having his passport seized, he decided to flee the country to continue his activism with the International University Exchange Fund (IUEF), an anti-apartheid organisation in exile. He was eventually appointed the Fund’s deputy director. As the IUEF’s money man, Williamson had access to powerful ANC and Black Consciousness leaders. He joined the ANC and formed his own unit to carry out clandestine work to topple the National Party government. But Williamson was not the anti-apartheid activist his friends and comrades thought he was. In January 1980, Captain Williamson was unmasked as a South African spy. His handler, Colonel Johan Coetzee, the head of South Africa’s notorious security branch, flew to Switzerland to bring him and his wife back home. Williamson was described as South Africa’s superspy who penetrated the KGB. Williamson returned to South Africa and during the turbulent 1980s worked for the foreign section of the South African Police’s security branch. Two years after he left Switzerland he returned to Europe under a false name and with a crack squad of special force officers to blow up the ANC’s headquarters in London. He was also responsible for a parcel bomb that killed Ruth First in Mozambique and the bomb that killed Jeanette Schoon and her 6-year-old daughter Katryn in Angola. He left the security branch to join Military Intelligence and finally the State Security Council. Apartheid’s spies didn’t have to appear before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a lot of information about the spies has been buried, burnt or shredded. This episode of our country’s bitter past remains murky…

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Voices of Liberation: the legacy of Thomas Sankara continues

Sankara’s legacy, unclear as it may be, still lives and he remains immensely popular. If you travel through
Africa his image is unmistakable. His picture, with beret and broad grin, is pasted on run-down taxis and
is found on the walls of local bars. Internationally Sankara is often referred to as the ‘African Che
Guevara’ and, like his South American counterpart, it is his perseverance, dedication and incorruptibility
that appeal to the imagination.
Voices of Liberation: Thomas Sankara starts with a comprehensive timeline covering Thomas Sankara’s
life and major events in the history of the continent and region.
His Life section provides the most critical and fraternal assessment of the 1980s radical experiment
within the broader history of the country, the region and continent.
His Voice section succinctly provides a selection of Sankara’s speeches, broadcasts and interviews and
gives us insight to his outlook on the world.
His Legacy section combines an almost poetic tribute to the flawed through heroic period of Sankara’s
‘revolution’ with an incredibly relentless and honest analysis. This is done through the story of last
year’s uprising against Compaoré – with haunting lessons for South Africa.
The Postscript is an indispensable update to the extraordinary events in Burkina Faso during 2015,
chiefly the resistance to the coup in September. The authors look at Sankara’s influence on the popular
movements and its wider significance for Africa.

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