Published in the Sunday Times
Bending The Rules: From De Klerk to Mandela – Stories of a Pioneering Diplomat
Rafique Gangat (Kwela)
Bending the rules, challenging the system, finding common ground, making a difference – and sometimes paying the price for it – has been the story of my life. I have many stories to tell, and always wanted to share them, but I had no idea where to begin.
A few years back, it started as a selection of short stories that could have only happened in South Africa. I was South Africa’s first diplomat of colour – I worked for Foreign Affairs under the National Party and then for the ANC government, straddling the transition.
This book documents my battles against bigotry and prejudice, but also includes stories from my travels – which then gave it an entirely different complexion. Finally, they assumed a life of their own as they threaded themselves into a memoir of short stories.
The manuscript went into hibernation until a meeting with Professor Brian Polkinghorn of Salisbury University. He was teaching a course on conflict resolution and mitigation at Tel Aviv University and was accompanied by a group of his Israeli and Palestinian students. I met them to discuss the role I had played as a talkshow host on a radio station, facilitating dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. A project that was untimely curtailed.
I mentioned to Brian that I had written a collection of short stories. He expressed an interest and I e-mailed them. He responded: “What an interesting set of stories! I can’t help but think you are a ‘character’ that has made it through some incredibly tough and historic times due to the sheer intellectual prowess and guts one needs to pull off some of the things you have accomplished. I think these short stories act as bursts of insight on all matters social. Love, drugs, music, morals, immorality, oppression, racism, sports, pulling fast ones, working with historical figures, and, in all of that, seeing the irony, innocence and contradiction.” That encouraged me to seek a publisher.
Later, he even honoured me by inviting me to Salisbury to be their keynote speaker on their annual theme – ‘One person can make made a difference’. To the theme, I added, ‘By Bending the Rules’. That’s where the title of the book came from.
And then I met JM Coetzee at PALFEST, a festival of literature in Palestine, and I was bowled over by a note he sent: “This is just a note to thank you for Bending the Rules, which I read during the flight back to Australia and enjoyed very much.” – Rafique Gangat
- Bending the Rules by Rafique Gangat
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