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Archive for the ‘Pan Macmillan’ Category

Jürgen Schadeberg’s memoir gives us insights into his career as one of SA’s premiere photographers, writes Nadine Dreyer

Published in the Sunday Times

Dolly Rathebe posing on a mine dump. ©Jürgen Schadeberg
 

The Way I See ItThe Way I See It
****
Jürgen Schadeberg
Picador Africa, R310

Jürgen Schadeberg grew up in Berlin during World War 2. His mother had a rather elastic interpretation of parental responsibilities, to say the least. While the model-actress flitted from one romantic intrigue to the next, young Jurgen was left to navigate the horrors of war on his own. It’s tempting to conclude that the quick-witted instincts a youth requires to dodge fanatical Nazis, murderous Russians, terrifying bombings and looming starvation were excellent training for the cruel, dystopian world of apartheid South Africa.

Whatever the truth, the Drum photographer fell down the rabbit hole into an adventure that would see him document some of the most important moments in South Africa’s history and the characters that shaped it.

In his dry, understated style Schadeberg reveals the anecdotes behind some of his iconic photographs.

At Drum, Schadeberg worked closely with Henry Nxumalo, the pioneer of investigative journalism in South Africa. Their most famous exposé was the notorious potato farms in Bethal where workers were treated like slaves. The background to this assignment was the murder of a farm labourer in 1929. A farmer had been found guilty of hanging the man by his feet from a tree and flogging him to death. More than two decades later nothing had changed.

Nxumalo went undercover as a labourer and Schadeberg had to track him down (his German accent was a handy weapon against suspicious Afrikaners). Eventually he traced Nxumalo to the potato fields on Sonneblom farm in the Bethal district. There the “boss boy” was cracking his whip while weary workers stooped to gather the crop. Schadeberg surreptitiously snapped photographs with his telephoto lens until Nxumalo dropped his basket and ran to the car.

Schadeberg covered many political moments. At the ANC conference in 1951 he encountered Nelson Mandela, a young charismatic leader tipped for great things. He hired a small plane to cover the funeral of the victims of the Sharpeville massacre.

On a lighter note there’s the day he got arrested with Dolly Rathebe on a mine dump.

After looking for a Johannesburg backdrop that would resemble a beach, the bikini-clad bombshell posed for him on top of a dump. After finishing the shoot they were accosted by four cops accusing them of contravening the notorious Immorality Act.

Wat doen jy hier, seuntjie?” a sergeant demanded.

He then turned to Rathebe: “Ek wil jou broek sien!

After lifting her dress to show she was in fact wearing panties, Rathebe was thrown in the back of a pick-up van. (Schadeberg was pushed into a police car.)

At the police station a cop lectured him: “We don’t mix with these people. You should know, as a German, they are different.”

Drum proprietor Jim Bailey was pathologically loath to hand out money, despite being one of the wealthiest men on the continent. He’d leave his poorly paid subordinates to pick up the tab for a night’s binge drinking with township mafia bosses. Editor Anthony Sampson was a Jeykll and Hyde character – and his Mr Hyde side could be horribly creepy (read the book).

The Drum world was full of characters who still loom large today. Driving with the magazine’s music editor Todd Matshikiza was a terrifying experience because he was so short he almost disappeared behind the wheel of his Morris Minor. The two of them hung out with Kippie Moeketsi in an underworld where “gangsters danced with guns and knives and thought gambling, shooting and stabbing were normal”.

Abnormal times that produced both the best and the worst.

Book details


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Literary Crossroads: Tsitsi Dangarembga & Achmat Dangor (6 December)

Literary Crossroads is a series of talks where South African writers meet colleagues from all over the continent and from the African diaspora to discuss trends, topics and themes prevalent in their literatures today. The series is curated by Indra Wussow and Sine Buthelezi.

Writer, filmmaker, teacher and cultural activist, Tsitsi Dangarembga lives in Harare, Zimbabwe where she directs the Institute of Creative Arts for Progress in Africa Trust, an institution focusing on the role of all arts disciplines in development, which she founded in 2009. She is currently working on her 4th novel, dystopian young adult speculative fiction Sai-Sai, Watermatker.

She began writing plays at the University of Zimbabwe, where The Lost of the Soil (1983) and She No Longer Weeps (1984) were first staged. The first volume in the Tambudzai trilogy, Nervous Conditions, appeared to critical acclaim in 1988. Its sequel, The Book of Not was published in 2006. Her third novel This Mournable Body is forthcoming from Graywolf Press.

**

Achmat Dangor a writer by vocation, has also been a political activist from a young age. During the turbulent 1970s, he together with 13 other writers, founded a group call “Black Thoughts.” Its mission was overcome the rigid education system the Apartheid government had imposed on Black schools, forcing children to learn in Afrikaans, and severely restricting what they could read. “Black Thoughts” did readings in township schools and churches, introducing scholars and the public to the work of “3rd World” writers, included South African books that had been banned.

The “Black Thoughts” writers themselves were “banned” by the Apartheid government, which prohibited them from attending any gatherings. Achmat found employment under the Leon Sullivan code with the American company Revlon, where he was trained as packaging engineer. He subsequently entered the development sector where he was CEO of various organisations, including the Kagiso Trust, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and the Nelson Mandela Foundation. He was also Director of Advocacy at UNAIDS, and the Ford Foundation’s Southern Africa Representative. He continued writing throughout the years. Now retired, he is devoting himself to his writing.

He received the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award from the South African Literary Awards (SALA).
 

Event Details

  • Date: Wednesday, 06 December 2017
  • Time: 6:00 PM for 6:30 PM
  • Venue: Goethe-Institut South Africa, 119 Jan Smuts Ave, Parkwood, Parkwood, Johannesburg | Map
  • Speakers: Tsitsi Dangarembga, Achmat Dangor

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Book Bites: 19 November

Published in the Sunday Times

Tin Man
*****
Sarah Winman, Tinder Press, R275

This is one of those books that lures you in gently, and then grabs your heart and won’t let go. The book follows the intense friendship and love between two men, Ellis and Michael, from the age of 11 until one of their deaths. Set against the backdrop of Oxford and the gay scene in London in the ’90s, it is alternately idyllic and terrifying, as Aids takes so many young lives. It’s a heartbreaking, beautiful read, and one that will stay with me for a long time. – Bridget McNulty @bridgetmcnulty

The Fall of the ANC Continues: What next?
****
Prince Mashele & Mzukisi Qobo, Picador Africa, R175

Reading this book, one is left thinking that the struggle movement will be dead come the 2019 elections. The governing party has allowed and promoted greed, corruption and self-enrichment. According to the authors, as it falls the ANC will also take all of its wings down with it – the Women’s League, the Youth League and the tripartite alliance: Cosatu and the SACP. The authors say that if a survey were to be conducted on whether the ANC is corrupt, most honest citizens would probably answer yes. “This answer stems from what people see. Meetings of ANC structures increasingly look like luxury car shows. Those who live in the rural areas and who are bused to conferences must wonder which ANC they belong to that is so indifferent to their own conditions and yet so generous to the cadres who live in the cities.” – Khanyi Ndabeni

Secrets in Death
***
JD Robb, Little Brown, R275

When you get to book 45 in the series, you’d think it was time to pack up all those worn characters. Yet Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her mononymous hubby Roarke still have their loyal following. It’s not bad dipping into one again although some parts feel hackneyed. Ruthless gossip star Larinda Mars is murdered at a bar in New York. There’s a long list of suspects – all of whom were blackmailed by Mars. Eve finds it tough to narrow down the list but, thank goodness, Roarke once again has enough time to help her out. – Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

Book details


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Book Bites: 12 November

Published in the Sunday Times

Blackwing: The Raven’s Mark
***
ED McDonald, Gollancz, R310

Multi-volume fantasy series are generally soap operas, but every so often there is an excellent series with a rich, complex story that’s simply too long for a single volume. Blackwing may be one such, set in a world with three moons, where energy is spun from moonlight, magic has replaced science, and The Deep Kings (evil sorcerers) battle against The Nameless (non-evil magicians). Captain Ryhalt Galharrow works for Crowfoot, one of the Nameless; his workplace is the blasted wasteland of The Misery, frontier between The Republic and the Dhojara Empire of the Deep Kings. Galharrow and his cronies win this battle, but the war is still to come. Riveting. – Aubrey Paton

100: A Lovely Spirit Here
****
Cynthia Kros

Written to commemorate the centenary of Parkview junior and senior schools in Joburg, the book traces their evolution from one small school for whites to two multi-cultural, racially diverse schools open to all. Parkview Government School opened in 1917, a difficult time in both South African and world history. Kros has built a picture of what the school must have been like then, with the discovery of a fragile admissions register unearthed at Parkview Senior. Fast forward 100 years and you have a Model C school known for its academic excellence. This is not just a book about a school but one about the sorrows and triumphs of South Africa. – Bridget Hilton-Barber

Reading with Patrick
****
Michelle Kuo, Macmillan, R330

In her early 20s Michelle Kuo was determined to teach US history through black literature. Instead, the reality of rural poverty and institutionalised racism slapped her in the face. She persisted, making progress with her students before leaving for law school. A few years later, Patrick Browning, her most promising student, landed in jail for murder. Kuo returned to the Mississippi Delta to tutor him during his incarceration, feeding his love of words. The memoir goes beyond their story, providing insights into US racism. – Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

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Yewande Omotoso and Mohale Mashigo on International Dublin Literary Award 2018 Longlist

Via PEN SA

Yewande Omotoso and Mohale Mashigo

 

Yewande Omotoso and Mohale Mashigo have been longlisted for the €100,000 International Dublin Literary Award 2018!

Omotoso and Mashigo have been included on the list for their novels The Woman Next Door and The Yearning respectively.

The shortlist will be announced in April 2018 and the winner will be announced on 13 June 2018.

Seven Irish novels are among 150 titles that have been nominated by libraries worldwide for the €100,000 International DUBLIN Literary Award, the world’s most valuable annual literary prize for a single work of fiction published in English. Nominations include 48 novels in translation with works by authors from 40 countries in Africa, Europe, Asia, North America & Canada, South America and Australia & New Zealand.

Click here for the full longlist of 150 titles.

The Woman Next Door

Book details

 
 
The Yearning


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2017 South African Literary Awards winners announced!

This year’s winners of the South African Literary Awards (SALAs) were announced on Tuesday night, 07 November 2017 at UNISA, Pretoria Campus.

Authors, poets, writers other and literary practitioners whose works are continuously contributing to the enrichment of South Africa’s literary landscape were celebrated in an auspicious ceremony.

The SALA Awards have honoured over a hundred individuals in the past 12 years.

The 2017 South African Literary Awards (SALAs) winners are:

Category: First-time Published Author Award

Moses Shimo Seletisha, Tšhutšhumakgala (Sepedi)

Category: k.Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award

Nthikeng Mohlele, Pleasure (English)

Category: Poetry Award

Helen Moffett, Prunings (English)

Simphiwe Ali Nolutshungu, Iingcango Zentliziyo (isiXhosa)

Category: Creative Non-Fiction Award

Dikgang Moseneke, My Own Liberator (English)

Category: Literary Journalism Award

Don Makatile, Body of work (English)

Phakama Mbonambi, Body of work (English)

Category: Literary Translators Award

Bridget Theron-Bushell, The Thirstland Trek: 1874 – 1881 (Afrikaans to English)

Jeff Opland, Wandile Kuse and Pamela Maseko, William Wellington Gqoba: Isizwe Esinembali, Xhosa Histories And Poetry (1873 – 1888) (isiXhosa to English)

Jeff Opland and Pamela Maseko, DLP.Yali-Manisi: Iimbali Zamanyange, Historical Poems (isiXhosa to English)

Category: Nadine Gordimer Short Story Award

Roela Hattingh, Kamee (Afrikaans)

Category: Posthumous Literary Award

|A!kunta, Body of work (!Xam and !Kun)

!Kabbo, Body of work (!Xam and !Kun)

≠Kasin, Body of work (!Xam and !Kun)

Dia!kwain, Body of work (!Xam and !Kun)

|Han≠kass’o, Body of work (!Xam and !Kun)

Category: Lifetime Achievement Literary Award

Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa, Body of work (English)

Aletta Matshedisð Motimele, Body of work (Sepedi)

Etienne Van Heerden, Body of work (Afrikaans)

Category: Chairperson’s Award

Themba Christian Msimang, Body of work (isiZulu)

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“What did you edit out of The Cull?” “One sex scene” – a Q&A with Tony Park

Published in the Sunday Times

You’re hosting a literary dinner with three writers. Who’s invited?

Deon Meyer, the late John Gordon-Davis and Margie Orford.

What novel would you give a child to introduce them to literature?

Biggles of 266 Squadron. Jingoistic and un-PC these days, but my mum gave it to me when I was young and it got me into reading.

What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?

On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King, given to me by my mother-in-law – the best book written about how to write fiction. I re-read it every year before starting a new novel.

What is the last thing you read that made you laugh out loud?

Anything by travel writer Bill Bryson.

What are you most proud of writing?

A friend in Zimbabwe, who lost his farm during the land grabs, said to me: “Please write one of your novels about what’s going on here so the rest of the world knows what’s happening.” His request moved me to write African Dawn, which charts Zimbabwe’s turbulent history from 1959 to the present through the eyes of three families.

What keeps you awake at night?

I am living a life I could never have dreamt of, writing for a living and splitting my life between Australia and Africa. I still feel insecure every time I submit a new novel to my publishers – I don’t want to wake up from this dream.

Books on your bedside table?

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith/JK Rowling, The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson and The Pale Criminal by Philip Kerr (his series about PI Bernie Gunther in Nazi Germany is brilliant).

What is the strangest thing you’ve done when researching a book?

I learnt how to sabotage a fighter plane and hijack a ship carrying cars.

What book do you wish you’d written?

Hold My Hand I’m Dying by John Gordon-Davis, probably the best action/romance/thriller/tragedy/historical novel set in Africa.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Don’t listen to everyone who tells you you’re wasting your time. Be brave and quit your day job sooner.

What did you edit out of The Cull?

One sex scene.

How do you select the names of your characters?

I support charities promoting wildlife conservation, healthcare and aged care in various African countries so I offer the rights for people to have their name or that of a loved one assigned to a character. I get some brilliant names. I decide who they will be, although I did have one man, a policeman in real life, beg me to be an evil villain in my novel.

What words do you overuse?

Beginning sentences with “well” or “so”. It’s been pointed out to me that one too many of my heroines has “long tanned legs”.

The Cull

Book details


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Prince Albert Leesfees: 3 – 5 November

Book lovers it’s almost time to head for Prince Albert in the Karoo.

The town’s sixth Leesfees takes place over the first weekend of November, with a list of writers, books and performers in a programme that offers something for everyone.

The theme this year is ‘The Soul of the Karoo ~ In die Gees van die Karoo’, with writers, poets, artists, musicians, a comedian and films in the lineup. The talks, presentations and stage experiences include discussions with crime and suspense writers, Rudie van Rensburg (Kamikaze) and Mike Nicol (Agents of the State), debut writers Mohale Mashigo (The Yearning) and Sara-Jayne King (Killing Karoline), as well as academic and novelist, Cas Wepener (Johanna).

Matters legal and political are the subject of Glynnis Breytenbach’s memoir, Rule of Law; she will be in conversation with Tim Cohen.

Our visiting author from Europe this year is Bart de Graaff whose book on the KhoiKhoin: Ik Yzerbek/Ware Mense (translated by Daniel Hugo) traces the experience of the earliest peoples of our land.

Artist Elza Miles has made a major contribution to the art scene of SA, with her historical works on various visual artists, she will be in conversation with writer and journalist Johan Myburg who will also speak about his new poetry anthology Uittogboek.

Rapper, Hemelbesem, Simon Witbooi will discuss his autobiography, God praat Afrikaans with Anzil Kulsen.

Joyce Kotzè and her translator, Daniel Hugo speak about her Anglo-Boer War novel: The Runaway Horses/Wintersrust, fiction based upon fact. Joyce relates how her forebears fought on different sides during the War. They will be in conversation with Carel van der Merwe, author of Donker stroom.

Local ornithologist Dr Richard Dean will launch his book, Warriors, dilettantes and businessmen – Bird Collectors during the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries in South Africa.

Karel Schoeman’s contributions to South African literature will be the focus of a panel discussion with Nicol Stassen and Cas Wepener (author of van Die reis gaan inwaarts- die kuns van sterwe in die werke van Karel Schoeman) co-ordinated by Prof Bernard Odendaal.

New food celebrity Nick Charlie Key will reveal banting tips and how to enjoy a healthy lifestyle whilst indulging in decadent desserts, from his book Jump on the Bant Wagon with food-lover Russell Wasserfall.

Poets Gaireyah Fredericks, Daniel Hugo, Johan Myburg and local raconteur Hugh Forsyth will read some of their favourite poems in English and Afrikaans literature.

Two music and word highlights will be Tribal Echo with Huldeblyk aan Adam Small/Tribute to Adam Small and Afrika my verlange/Afrique mon désir: Laurinda Hofmeyr, Schalk Joubert, with six West African singers, in collaboration with the Cape Town Music Academy.

Our programme includes two films. Director and producer, Roberta Durrant, will attend the Karoo premiere of her award-winning film Krotoa. Eerstewater is a documentary film set in and around Prince Albert based on Hélène Smit’s book, Beneath.

We’ll look at the state of children’s book publishing in South Africa, enjoy an evening in the company of comedian Nik Rabinowitz, enjoy delicious meals at the on-site restaurant and generally savour the Soul of the Karoo.

The 2017 Leesfees is a festival you cannot miss. The full programme can be found on the festival website - www.princealbertleesfees.org – and the Facebook page www.facebook.com/princealbertleesfees – offers daily updates on the people, books, poetry and experiences which make up this great cultural event.

Tickets can be bought online at www.princealbertleesfees.org and at the Prince Albert Library, Church Street, Prince Albert. Tel: 023 5411 014. For information and enquiries: princealbertleesfees@mweb.co.za and WhatsApp: 073 213 3797.

Agents of the State

Book details

 
 

The Yearning

 
 
 
 

Killing Karoline

 
 
 
 

Rule of Law

 
 
 
 

Ware Mense

 
 
 
 

Uittogboek

 
 
 
 

God praat Afrikaans

 
 
 

Wintersrust

 

Die reis gaan inwaarts

 
 

Jump on the Bant Wagon


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The reluctant president: an extract from Mandla Langa’s Dare Not Linger

Published in the Sunday Times

Nelson Mandela never finished the sequel to Long Walk to Freedom. Using his draft, notes and a wealth of archival material, Mandla Langa has completed the chronicle of Mandela’s presidential years. This is an edited extract from Dare Not Linger.

The reluctant president

‘My installation as the first democratically elected president of the Republic of South Africa was imposed on me much against my advice’
- Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela spent the night of the inauguration at the State Guest House in Pretoria, which would be his temporary home for the next three months while FW de Klerk was moving out of Libertas, the presidential residence — Mandela later renamed it Mahlamba Ndlopfu (“The New Dawn” in Xitsonga, meaning literally “the washing of the elephants” due to the fact that elephants bathe in the morning).

At about 10am on May 11, the day after the inauguration, Mandela arrived at the back entrance of the west wing of the Union Buildings, accompanied by a security detail of the as-yet unintegrated units of the South African Police and MK. Two formidable women — Barbara Masekela and Jessie Duarte — who were at the heart of Mandela’s administration as ANC president, stepped along as smartly as they could, laden with paraphernalia for setting up office.

Forever in the shade, the temperature in the corridors was one or two degrees lower than outside, forcing a somewhat conservative dress code upon the staff and officials. Previously, when Mandela had met with De Klerk, the corridors had always smelled of coffee brewing somewhere. This morning there was no such smell and, except for the few people Mandela met at the entrance to the building, the place seemed deserted and forlorn, devoid of human warmth.

How Mandela charmed apartheid personnel

Executive Deputy President De Klerk had taken the whole of his private office with him, leaving only the functional and administrative staff.

But conviviality and sartorial elegance were the last things on the minds of Mandela’s staff, whose main business on May 11 was the finalisation of the cabinet of the Government of National Unity and the swearing-in of ministers. It was a small team, composed of hand-picked professionals, which had to deliver an urgent mandate.

As Duarte observed, Mandela was not passive in the selection of staff. When he sought to enlist Professor Jakes Gerwel as a possible director-general and cabinet secretary, she remembered that Mandela “wanted to know everything there was to know about Jakes. He asked Trevor [Manuel] … before he actually sat down with Jakes and said, ‘If we win, would you come to my office?’

“He also spoke to quite a number of activists [about] who this Gerwel chap was; who … would go into government with him.”

A competent cadre in the president’s office was needed to make up for the gap left by the withdrawal of the 60 people on De Klerk’s staff. At Thabo Mbeki’s prompting, a team headed by Department of Foreign Affairs official Dr Chris Streeter took on the role, with Streeter becoming Mandela’s “chief of staff” until the director-general was appointed.

Mandela was quick to dispel the illusion that he would be getting rid of the old personnel. He made a point of shaking hands with each member of staff. Fanie Pretorius, then-chief director in the office of the president, remembers the occasion: “He started from the left and he shook hands with every staff member, and about a quarter along the line he came to a lady who always had a stern face, though she was a friendly person. When he took her hand, he said in Afrikaans, ‘Is jy kwaad vir my?’ [‘Are you cross with me?’], and everybody laughed and the ice was broken.

He continued and gave the message to all the staff. There was nothing more and everybody was relieved. He was Nelson Mandela at that moment, with the warmth and the acceptance. Everybody would have eaten out of his hand — there was no negative feeling from anybody after that in the staff, at least that we were aware of.”

Mandela’s personal warmth towards people from all walks of life, from gardeners, cleaners, clerks and typists to those in the most senior roles, did not go unnoticed. Those who came across him in the course of their work described him as generous, self-effacing and easy-going; a man who knew “how to be an ordinary person”, with a sincerity demonstrated by his “greeting everybody in the same way whether there is a camera on him or not”; “there is never the feeling that he is up there and you’re down there”.

Mandela was respectful but not in awe of the world in which he found himself. Like all confident people who take their capability for granted, he was unhesitant about the road he needed to take to strengthen South Africa’s democracy.

Throughout his political life, he had never shirked responsibility, no matter how dangerous, as evidenced by his role as the volunteer-in-chief in the 1952 Defiance Campaign Against Unjust Laws — inspired by the sentiment contained in his favourite poem, Invictus, “the menace of the years” had found him “unafraid”.

One term only — that’s the deal

Imprisoned for more than a quarter of a century, Mandela had become the world’s most recognisable symbol against all forms of injustice. He was initially reluctant to become president, perhaps feeling that he had accomplished what he’d set out to do with his stewardship of the heady period from release to the elections.

“My installation as the first democratically elected president of the Republic of South Africa,” he writes, “was imposed on me much against my advice.

“As the date of the general elections approached, three senior ANC leaders informed me that they had consulted widely within the organisation, and that the unanimous decision was that I should stand as president if we won the election.

“I urged the three senior leaders that I would prefer to serve without holding any position in the organisation or government. One of them, however, put me flat on the carpet.

“He reminded me that I had always advocated the crucial importance of collective leadership, and that as long as we scrupulously observed that principle, we could never go wrong. He bluntly asked whether I was now rejecting what I had consistently preached down the years. Although that principle was never intended to exclude a strong defence of what one firmly believed in, I decided to accept their proposal.

“I, however, made it clear that I would serve for one term only.

“Although my statement seemed to have caught them unawares — they replied that I should leave the matter to the organisation — I did not want any uncertainty on this question. Shortly after I had become president, I publicly announced that I would serve one term only and would not seek re-election.

“At meetings of the ANC,” Mandela continues, “I often stressed that I did not want weak comrades or puppets who would swallow anything I said, simply because I was president of the organisation. I called for a healthy relationship in which we could address issues, not as master and servants, but as equals in which each comrade would express his or her views freely and frankly, and without fear of victimisation or marginalisation.”

The ANC — or, more precisely, President Mandela — needed to think clearly and plan well. Without this capability, it would be difficult to synthesise the old, security-oriented, bureaucratised civil service, a carry-over from the insular legacy of apartheid, and the new, somewhat inexperienced personnel, some of whom had recently graduated from overseas academies where they had received crash courses in administration and the rudiments of running a modern economy.

While De Klerk had a functioning administrative office staffed by people who had worked with him for years, Mandela and his deputy, Mbeki, had to start from scratch.

Gerwel was the first senior appointment, bringing gravitas to the presidential staff.

He also brought his extensive political background as a leader of the United Democratic Front and his engagement with the ANC in exile.

As vice-chancellor of the University of the Western Cape, a position from which he was about to retire, he had led the transformation of an apartheid university into an intellectual home of the left. Mandela’s endorsement of Professor Gerwel shows the high esteem in which he held him. It’s even more remarkable that Gerwel came from the black consciousness tradition and wasn’t a card-carrying member of the ANC.

At the time he appointed Gerwel, Mandela had formed a reasonable idea about how he wanted his office to look. Like all obsessively orderly people — at one point he wanted to make his own bed in a hotel — he couldn’t function without a solid base.

Having Gerwel at the helm served this purpose. He respected Gerwel and would take his advice. Masekela later commented on this aspect of Mandela’s character.

“I think it requires a certain amount of humility and self-interest to want the best advice and to take it. He was a little too much admiring of educated people, I would say. He really was seriously impressed by degrees, and so on, and if you expressed some scepticism about someone like that it would be very difficult to convince him.”

Joel Netshitenzhe was a member of the ANC’s national executive committee and national working committee with a strong background in communications and strategic analysis. Deceptively casual and with an aversion to formal dress, Netshitenzhe — working with media liaison officer Parks Mankahlana, who’d come from the youth league — operated a brief that went beyond writing Mandela’s speeches: he was also the unofficial link to the various ANC and government constituencies.

Trusted by the media, mainly because he exuded confidence and candour — and was known to have the ear of the president — he worked hard to simplify the more complex policy positions in various forums.

But Mandela needed more than the cold, crisp analyses of his advisers; he also drew on the counsel of others in the ANC.

Having started a practice of marking Mondays as “ANC day” in his diary, he would spend that day at the ANC head office with the top officials and others, also attending NWC meetings. He had no set timetable, however, when consulting other ANC leaders close to him, like Walter Sisulu.

“Me, in particular,” Sisulu said, uncomplainingly, in a 1994 interview, “he likes to ring. He wakes me up, one o’clock, two o’clock, doesn’t matter, he’ll wake me up. I realise after he has woken me up, this thing is not so important — well, we discuss it, but it didn’t really require that he wake me up at that time.”

Mandela’s involvement in cabinet, however, changed over time.

Early in his tenure, he was more hands-on, keeping himself informed on almost all aspects of policy in order to maintain the coherence of the ANC in the GNU, a measure demanded by the intricate process of transformation.

100 days of meetings

Manuel remembers how, on the eve of cabinet meetings, Mandela convened ANC ministers and their deputies in an ANC cabinet caucus at his Genadendal residence in Cape Town. This he did, Manuel says, “so that we could caucus positions that we wanted to take and be mutually supportive. It afforded comrades [an environment] to have a discussion that was quite free”.

In his first 100 days in government, Mandela held meetings to guide the ministers or get their support for positions he held. He maintained a continuous interest in matters concerning peace, violence and stability.

As Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma observed, “I think for me he was more engaged at the beginning, but maybe it was because I engaged him more at the beginning because I myself was not experienced.”

Although Mandela had intended to announce the appointments only after the inauguration, his hand was forced by the media, which had got wind of the debate around the position of the deputy president, with the announcement of the cabinet being made on May 6 1994. It was an incomplete list and some of the names and their corresponding portfolios would be changed.

Setting up the cabinet was not uncontentious, with De Klerk piqued at inadequate consultation in the allocation of some portfolios. However, Mandela’s personal touch was unmistakable. Some of the processes, appearing haphazard at their genesis, ended up bearing fruit. A few of the cogs in the wheel of the machine geared to advance Mandela’s dream were blithely unaware of their importance and how their own lives would change

Dare Not Linger

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Feuding Faiths: Elizabethan England provides the intrigue-filled setting for Ken Follett’s latest blockbuster, writes William Saunderson-Meyer

Published in the Sunday Times

Ken Follett and a sculpture of himself in the Plaza de la Burulleria in Vitoria-Gasteiz, northern Spain.
Picture: © Mikelcg Wikimedia

 

A Column of FireA Column of Fire
Ken Follett, Macmillan, R350
****

‘This struggle for religious tolerance is the foundation of the range of freedoms that we enjoy in many countries today.’

On the downside, Follett does take his own sweet time to deliver. On the upside, he is not one for half measures. For the fans of the enormously popular Kingsbridge series of historical fiction novels it has been a decade-long wait for the third volume, A Column of Fire. All 750 pages of it hit the market with the momentum of a brick going through a glass window.

There is nothing modest about the scope of Follett’s work. The first Kingsbridge novel, Pillars of the Earth, covers the lives of the inhabitants in the eponymous town during the 12th century, as they erect its iconic cathedral.

The second, World Without End, carries the tale into the 14th century. The latest novel revisits the townsfolk’s descendants after a 200-year gap, in tumultuous 16th-century England, with plots to dethrone or assassinate Elizabeth I, the plague of the Black Death, the Gunpowder Plot, and the threatened invasion of the Spanish armada.

It’s a rollicking saga of love and death, violence, intrigue and treachery, tracing the roller-coaster fortunes of two families, the Willards and the Fitzgeralds. The backdrop is the religious turmoil that followed the accession of the Protestant Elizabeth I to the throne and set all of Catholic Europe against England.

It was the battle between these two religions that made the period an attractive subject, says Follett. “The conflict between tolerance and fanaticism has echoes, has a resonance, in the extremism and religious warfare of today.”

Follett is sceptical, however, of the potential for learning lasting lessons from history or literature. “[But] we do get a wider perspective from history and historical novels. Once one knows about the past, has spent time imagining it, one really can’t come up with such simple views and simple solutions that one otherwise might be tempted to do.”

In A Column of Fire, it is when personal and political worlds intersect that the complexities become especially acute. Families and communities are torn asunder, as power seesaws between the contesting Protestants and Catholics.

While both the Willards and Fitzgeralds are prominent Catholic families in Kingsbridge, the latter are more doctrinaire and have great social ambitions for their daughter Margery. It makes the Fitzgerald clan determined to thwart the love between her and Ned Willard. This divide becomes a yawning gulf when Ned enters the service, while Margery is forced to marry a scion of the aristocracy. Over the next 50 years, while Ned and Margery cling to their individual beliefs, their love apparently doomed, England and the Continent are in a state of upheaval.

One of the determined young Queen Elizabeth’s earliest moves is to set up the country’s first secret service, to neutralise the plots of her many enemies. Young Ned becomes one of her spymasters.

For Follett, who made his name as a writer of espionage novels before making the historical genre his own, it’s something of a full circle to combine the two. “I like writing about spies,” he enthuses. “There are always two stories: the official version that governments tell us and the actual one, the truth behind it all. Spies are interesting, because they know the true story.”

Follett is proud of the historical veracity of his writing. While there are authors who twist history for dramatic effect, and Follett says he has no issue with such creative licence, it is not for him. “I will not violate history. It means sticking to the truth, as best we know it.”

In a narrative that encompasses four centuries of history, in thousands of pages, this is no easy task. Just his draft, outlining the plot and characters of the book, is as long as a shortish novel.

“It is easy, with a minor character, to forget small details, like whether they have blue or green eyes. Readers, unfortunately, don’t seem to have the same problem, and are quick to point out the errors.” He uses an Excel spreadsheet to keep track, so the character’s age will automatically be updated by the program as the story progresses through the various chapters.

Accuracy is paramount. The manuscript is submitted to three or four professional historians, whom Follett pays “very well” to scrutinise for anachronisms and dubious interpretations of events.

He works a conventional nine-to-five workday week and says he is not unusual in his approach. Even the “bad boys” of writing, with reputations for carousing, tend to have a disciplined, measured approach to their work.

“It’s a fascinating, challenging, completely absorbing task. There’s an enormous satisfaction taking every bit of knowledge, wisdom and skill that one has, and turning that into novels that millions of people enjoy.”

He has already embarked on the drafting of his next book, although he is cagey about what it is, “mainly because it is early days and I don’t yet know whether it is going to work out”. However, he leaves the door open for a continuation of the Kingsbridge series.

After all, “this struggle for religious tolerance that we see just starting in the 16th century is really the foundation of the wide range of freedoms that we enjoy in many countries today”.

“That’s because once you have the right to make up your own mind about your God, you can’t help but wonder why you shouldn’t make up your own mind about the king and the laws.” @TheJaundicedEye

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