Shafinaaz Hassim and Zukiswa Wanner will represent South Africa at Africa39 events at the Port Harcourt Book Festival, Nigeria, this weekend.
The Africa39 list, which was unveiled in April at the London Book Fair, names the most promising 39 authors under the age of 40 from Sub-Saharan Africa and the diaspora. Nthikeng Mohlele, Sifiso Mzobe, Mary Watson and Hassim made the final cut, as did Liberia-born Hawa Jande Golakai, Zambia-born Wanner and Zimbabwe-born Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, who have all published in South Africa.
Other notable names on the Africa39 list include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Tope Folarin, Dinaw Mengestu, Taiye Selasi and this year’s Caine Prize winner Okwiri Oduor.
The resultant anthology, Africa39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara, was launched last weekend, with Clifton Gachagua (Kenya), Stanley Onjezani Kenani (Malawi) and Nadifa Mohamed (Somalia).
International events celebrating Africa39
Port Harcourt Book Festival, Nigeria
21–25 October 2014
Royal Banquet Hall (Hotel Presidential), University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State University of Science and Technology and Ignatius Ajuru University of Education
Readings and conversations with Tope Folarin, Clifton Gachagua, Mehul Gohil, Shadreck Chikoti, Edwige Renee DRO, Ukamaka Olisakwe, Lola Shoneyin, Nana Brew-Hammond, Ondjaki, Okwiri Oduor, Glaydah Namukasa, Kioko Ndinda, Onjezani, Stanley Kenani, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Eileen Barbosa, Rotimi Babatunde, Imachibundu Onuzo, Linda Musita, Recaredo Boturu, Nii Parkes, Stanley Gazemba, Richard Alia Mutu, Shafinaaz Hassim, Chika Unigwe, Zukiswa Wanner, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, Ondjaki, Adrian Igoni Barrett and Hawa Jande Golakai. Chaired by Ella Allfrey.
The Africa39 project, which is run by Bloomsbury Publishing, the Hay Festival and the Rainbow Book Club, aims to “celebrate the most vibrant voices in literature” and “bring worldwide attention to some of the best new fiction from Africa south of the Sahara”. Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina compiled the longlist late last year, and the final 39 writers were chosen by judges Margaret Busby, Elechi Amadi and Osonye Tess Onwueme.
Busby wrote a short blog about the launch of Africa39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara:
Its cover art vibrant with yellow and green and red and blue, the anthology looks gorgeous, even before you open it to savour 350-plus pages of creativity by the talented 39, represented at the launch by Clifton Gachagua (Kenya), Stanley Onjezani Kenani (Malawi) and Nadifa Mohamed (Somalia). They read from their contributions – poignant and playful, thought-provoking and unexpected, and buzzing – and responded with insight to über interlocutor Ellah Allfrey’s questions. Fascinating to hear Stanley Kenani talk of how his writing recently converged with his “day job” as a chartered accountant when he faced the improbable challenge of writing a poem on accountancy.
Victor Kgomoeswana is a business expert who is well known for looking beyond the headlines about the business world in Africa. In Africa Is Open For Business, he has collected 50 stories about interesting businesses in Africa.
In the excerpt below, Kgomoeswana looks closely at the idea of South Africa being the gateway to Africa. He looks at the downsides and well as the upsides of the country, and links this to immigration and South Africa’s recent problems with xenophobia.
Read the excerpt:
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SOUTH AFRICA – THE GATEWAY TO AFRICA
I wrote this chapter under the influence. The day was Tuesday and Johannesburg was drenched in showers. A record 100-odd heads of state were congregated at the FNB Stadium to pay homage to the founding father of my country, fondly known as Madiba. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela had passed away five days before, and the world was united in remembering the multitude of virtues he symbolised.
I recall watching the broadcast, and hearing US President Barack Obama crediting his yearning to be a better man to Madiba. President Manmohan Singh and Ban Ki-Moon of the United Nations were but few of the many speakers who all shared their grief with South Africa, while celebrating the icon of justice, peace and reconciliation.
The magnitude of the event reminded me how significant South Africa had been, politically, in the build-up to independence in April 1994 and afterwards. I recalled how, as the first democratically elected president, Madiba became the epitome of African excellence and hope. For his ability to prevail over adversity with grace and resolve, he joined the elite league of revered African leaders like Julius Kambarage Nyerere of Tanzania, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. So, yes, I wrote this chapter under the influence of the grief that had gripped South Africa and the world in the second week of December 2013.
The BBC invited me for a radio interview to reflect on the economic legacy of Madiba on Friday – the day after his death. I found the very thought of inviting me to talk awkward, but the reflection profound and realistic in a useful way. What did Madiba bequeath to South Africa’s economy? As others were ululating and singing his praises, was the country’s economic trajectory doing justice to his legacy?
SOUTH AFRICA – THE DOWNSIDE
The education system was making headlines for slip-ups such as the failure to deliver textbooks in time for some schools in Limpopo province, where I come from. Although Limpopo is but one out of nine provinces in South Africa, it was indicative of the problems in the entire country’s education system. The country’s universities – for example, Fort Hare, Cape Town and Wits – used to be the preferred institutions of higher learning, attracting students from many African countries, but are likely to lose their appeal if this is not corrected soon.
In 2012, according to the United Nations, although South Africa was spending 18% of its total government expenditure on education, its literacy rate of 89% was lagging behind that of other developing countries, such as Indonesia and Chile. These two countries were spending the same proportion, with literacy rates of 92% and 98.6% respectively. The rate did not compare favourably with South Africa’s BRICS counterparts, whose literacy rate averaged 90% (Brazil), 93.7% (China) and 99.5% (Russia) after spending only 10%. Without education, no country can lift itself to the next level in terms of development.
Although many good government policies were in place, their implementation did not always match the intent. The Constitution of South Africa, particularly Chapter 2 (Bill of Rights), guarantees basic human rights. However, the rape of six-week old children without evidence of successful prosecutions, for example, does not give hope to citizens and the world. Corruption makes headlines far too often, and involves high-ranking government officials without commensurate follow-up and punishment.
At 41 in the 2014 World Bank Ease of Doing Business report, South Africa’s ranking remained unchanged from the previous year. But the country dropped eight places in sub-indicators such as ‘starting a business’, one place in ‘dealing with construction permits’ and four places for both ‘getting credit’ and ‘registering property’. These are not good areas in which to register deterioration in the eyes of investors.
Lastly, with the country’s economy growing at around 2% and without any marked rise in job creation, we could safely say that South Africa needs to up its game. There are many areas of the country that are worth celebrating, though. But before that, we need to tackle the other elephant in the room.
XENOPHOBIA – OR IS IT AFRO-PHOBIA?
Whenever violence flares up in some of South Africa’s poorer overcrowded settlements and reports of xenophobia blot our media, I hang my head in shame. This is more shameful when I travel to another African country wearing South African colours. I find myself fielding questions about how we could be so inhuman towards other Africans.
At the rate Africans from elsewhere on the continent migrate towards South Africa in search of opportunities, things are not looking up. I would also migrate to South Africa if I had been born in some parts of Africa. That is a natural human instinct – to search for better prospects if they are not available where one happens to be. I then put myself in the shoes of those South Africans without opportunities, for reasons such as education, or the country’s political history.
Personal economic depression does not make torching a fellow human being, let alone an African, inexcusable, but I often wonder where the solution lies. Immigration control is a problem all over the world. South Africa is not coping with its own socio-economic complications. Its economic growth is not creating enough jobs to support the many South Africans without marketable skills. With growing inequalities and no promise of a better tomorrow, those of us privileged South Africans should make the elimination of Afro-phobic attacks our priority. We should do this by taking individual responsibility to create a better life for those less fortunate than we are. We need to do this by using our social standing and better income to improve the quality of life for our families (especially extended families) and create a sustainable way of life for others.
The government is not going to be able to do it alone. Developed societies of the world are not better off because of governments. They are effective because they cherish active citizenship, including holding their governments accountable. Alongside that, however, are ordinary citizens who accept responsibility for making things happen. It is no different in South Africa.
SOUTH AFRICA – THE UPSIDE
Good news abounds in South Africa. First of all, the infrastructure is world class in certain areas. For example, the high-speed train connecting certain parts of the Gauteng province is as good as you can find anywhere in the world. Even if the service is not necessarily the most affordable, it is still one commendable piece of pioneering work for Africa and the world to emulate.
The roads, highways in particular, are the best in Africa. Innovative services such as the Bus Rapid Transit system in parts of the country’s major centres are indicative of how – compared to the rest of the continent – South Africa is streaks ahead. Getting around the country is relatively easier than in most African countries.
South African airports are outstanding. I do not particularly feel any different landing at OR Tambo International or Heathrow. Other than size, the level of sophistication, safety checks and general aviation ambiance are on par with the best in the world. This state of the aviation industry makes South Africa the logical and safe option for anyone coming to Africa for the first time; more so when South African Airways has been voted Africa’s best airline, in the customer survey by SKYTRAX – a global aviation research organisation – for ten years in a row, up to 2012.
The attractive tourism industry is booming (page 266). The long coastline, biodiversity, sunny climate and cultural variety are among the country’s major selling points. Hotels in the country are at the level one would expect in Africa’s leading economy. Compared to other emerging markets, the biggest test of South Africa’s tourism potential was the 2010 FIFA World Cup (page 263), but before that, there had been other events that cast this small African country in a very positive light. Take the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, for example; or the BRICS Summit in Durban ten years later. In between, there were also the All Africa Games, the African Cup of Nations twice – 1996 and 2012 – as well as the Rugby World Cup in 1995. Be it leisure, or business and conference tourism, every time South Africa has had a chance to host a major event it came up trumps.
Then there is the financial reporting excellence. The country is top in the world, and I have had the benefit of working for two of the Big Four audit firms. Even smaller firms such as Nkonki Inc. and SizweNtsalubaGobodo are highly competitive in their trade. Nkonki Inc., for instance, hosts the Annual Audit Committee Conference and recognises excellence in sustainability reporting. The CEO has published a great book (The ACE Model) on the effectiveness of audit committees in 2013.
Over and above that, the South African banking system sailed through the rough seas of the 2008/9 global financial crisis without any major incident, attesting to the financial stability of its banking system.
Top that up with South Africa’s reliable legal system backed by a good constitution. Most individuals and companies would prefer to litigate in South Africa than anywhere else on the continent. The constitution also opened the way for women to assume positions of leadership in both the public and private sectors, achieving the highest levels of representation in parliament – matched only by Rwanda.
The same can be said for the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, JSE, (page 51). Given a choice, most investors and entrepreneurs would rather list their company on the JSE than anywhere else on the continent. This should be expected, since the 2014 World Bank Ease of Doing Business report ranks the country at 10 out 189 for protecting investors.
South African companies like Shoprite, Tiger Brands, SAB, Standard Bank and MTN are among the trailblazers elsewhere on the continent, matching multinationals from other parts of the world on competitiveness and capitalising on their Africanness to drive Africa’s economic renaissance. State-owned development finance institutions, including the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) and the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) are also making investment inroads north of the South African border. My enduring disappointment – and that of most business leaders I meet on the continent – is why more South African enterprises aren’t taking advantage of what Africa has to offer in growth.
Post-1994, South Africa also played a crucial role in improving stability and democracy in other parts of the continent, including Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan (and South Sudan) and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Anyone who appreciates the significance of these countries to the general peace and stability of the continent will appreciate how vital South Africa’s interventions are to the long-term sustainability of democracy in Africa.
Former president, Thabo Mbeki, is a well-respected thinker on African matters. His presidency intensified South Africa’s seniority in advancing the cause of the African Union, as well as its predecessor the Organisation of African Unity. It is not surprising that he continues to take part in facilitating dialogue to bring about lasting African solutions to African problems.
Kalk Bay Books and Porcupine Press invite you to the launch of
A Bullet in the Back
by Nigel Fox
Nigel will be in conversation with Tim Butcher
Who killed Koos de la Rey and who captured Christiaan de Wet?
This novel is about ordinary men catapulted into uniform and driving
their own cars into battle against an Afrikaner hero described as the
world’s greatest guerrilla leader. The story is told from the points of
view of D H Saker, founder of Saker’s garage, and Harm Oost, founder of
Het Volk newspaper and head of De Wet’s bodyguard.
“Here is a fictional recreation of an episode in South African history now much
forgotten but greatly in need of resurrection. In the course of his
research Nigel Fox has unearthed a few surprises and, in the end, the
book is a timely reminder of the catastrophe and tragedy that is civil
war as something to be avoided at almost any cost.” Tim Couzens
WHEN: Thursday 23rd Oct at 6 for 6.30pm
WHERE: Kalk Bay Books, 124 Main Road, Kalk Bay
RSVP: Essential, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 021 788 2266
Wine for the evening is generously sponsored by Leopard’s Leap Wines.
Elsa Joubert is one of South Africa’s most prolific writers, having published her first book in 1957. Her latest novel, The Hunchback Missionary, brings history to life in an epic novel based on historical figures drawn from the Cape Town Church Archives.
Aart Anthonij van der Lingen – a sickly young hunchbacked clerk – is sent as a lay missionary to the Cape of Good Hope in 1800. Joubert’s novel follows him as he finds his own salvation in the continent he was sent to save.
In the excerpt below, read about the last stage of Van der Lingen’s journey back to the Cape after being on the mission field for two years. He sees Table Mountain from a new angle and exclaims that it is “as if my eyes had suddenly been opened”. He is reminded of De Camões’s Adamastor, but sees instead “a woman in prayer”, a vision which humbles him after his exhausting journey.
Read the excerpt:
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Return to the Cape
The last stage of the journey, down the Hottentots-Holland Mountains, was exhausting for the animals: the wagon-driver, the three traders, even the Hottentot women had to help, straining on the ropes that were tied to their wrists so that the wagons, emptied of their contents, would not tumble like toys helter-skelter down the slopes.
‘You stay on your horse, Missionary,’ called one of the brothers. ‘He’ll find his own footpath, there, over to the north side.’
But the thick mist over the mountain daunted me. I imagined it scared the horse too, and Iheld the animal on a lead rein, climbing from rock to rock, clinging to branches of shrubs, with the horse struggling along behind.
‘Let him go, Missionary.’
At a steep slope where he missed his footing, the horse pulled the rein out of my hands, and he pranced up and found a path. As we descended, the mist cleared and the Flats lay open before us. The sea in the distance was contained as if by some giant arm, the water nestled in the curve of the armpit where the mountain range stretched out further, deeper to the sea. The soft waves became clearer, the small white waves against the white beach in the sudden sunshine were so sensuous that I could feel their stroking movement against my skin.
In spite of my exhaustion, I experienced an excitement – almost an ecstasy – in descending from this mountainside to the lowlands, where the air was even softer and sweeter, the heavens bluer. And, for the first time, even the mountains – which had previously been an unknown, unassailable element, almost a terror – became enchanting.
When we were finally down the mountain – once again on level ground, with the campsite chosen, the harnesses removed, a fire burning – my feelings for the group so busily preparing for the night were of warm companionship. Tomorrow we would separate. The two older traders, the boy (rough, and not my sort at all), the Hottentot helpers, the two women – for a few weeks they had been woven willy-nilly into the fabric of my existence. I felt suddenly humbled before them. I wanted to thank them just because they had touched my life. In spite of my aloofness on the journey, I wanted to do something for them, wash their feet, in some way touch them and acknowledge them as companions.
But I remained silent. I walked away from the fire. There in the distance, off to the south- west, lay Table Mountain, now well known to me, but seen from a different angle. The sun was sinking. The mountain slopes down which we had come were still bathed in light, each boulder and bush sharply illuminated.
But, in the distance, Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak, the whole range, were etched in black against the glowing sky, silent, fossilised figures on the horizon. De Camões’s Adamastor, I thought. At sea, Anderson had told me about the Portuguese poet’s imagined giant monster guarding Africa.
And then, as if my eyes had suddenly been opened, I saw the figure of a woman outlined by the mountains. A woman, lying on her back. I saw the arms folded over her chest, I saw the narrow line of her hip. Her head was thrown back, as if the hair had been combed back and then tightly tied so that the head was pulled yet further back. The chin pointed upwards, the lips were slightly open, the small breasts slightly prominent. It was for just a moment, just the play of light, and I was reluctant to move my eyes, entranced by the vision on the horizon – not Adamastor the monster but a woman in prayer, given over to some transcendental
experience. And the words of Allegonda van Lier’s diary, forgotten since that day a few years since, but somehow lodged in my memory, came to my mind:
By late afternoon I was able to pray intensely, and experienced, during that time, the supreme love of my Heavenly Groom. He kissed me with the kisses of His mouth: I once again vowed homage to him, and heartily showed gratitude to all that was His, which was found to be most desirable.
Deeply stirred, I lowered my head, pressed my thumb and forefinger to my closed eyes to shut out everything else. I repeated the words silently, humbled.
When I opened my eyes again, the light had sunk away from behind the mountain, the rim was no longer so sharply drawn against the sky, and the shape of the human figure I had seen there had faded.
I walked slowly back to the camp. In the evening, in solitude, I went over the events of the journey, and felt remorse.
The flights of imagination over Miss Allegonda that had so racked me on the journey had been unworthy. I did not begrudge her to my worthy friend Kicherer. If destiny ever brought it about that anything should happen to Kicherer, I would look after the young woman as a friend. Nothing more.
By late morning, with the Hottentot women dancing little steps and making suggestive hip movements, with a drawn-out tune from the Jew’s harp between the teeth of the wagon- leader and, with the strumming of guitar strings by the Hottentot carpenter who had hitched along for the last little bit of the journey to the Cape, we reached the town at the foot of the mountain.
The traders had a good load for barter, and they were keen to get a place on the Boeren Square.
After an absence of two years the town looked enormous, even strange. There were changes. The Cape was again in Dutch hands. The Batavian flag was flying, colourful against the blue sky. The red coats of the English soldiers were nowhere to be seen. As I walked down the steep street to the old inn where I had stayed before, I saw Dutch ships in the bay. The innkeeper recognised me and I took a room. I had a few pieces of money that Van der Kemp had given me for my own use.
My chest was brought to my room and I unpacked. Once again, I poured the refreshing Cape water into the basin, stripped to the waist and washed, dipping my face repeatedly into the water. I waited until after the midday meal, then walked out into the streets. I was glad to be back and found myself longing with deep emotion to be with my colleagues again. And I knew I had to sort out my relationship with the Society immediately.
After consideration I decided to pay a visit to Mr Bruckner, at whose house on my first arrival in Cape Town my colleagues and I had been received. It was still bright midday when I climbed the steep stairs of the house on the Waterkant. It was dark when I returned to the inn, beaten and disillusioned.
I had interrupted a meeting of the Society. Interrupted? More like an apparition from the depths of the departed – I was stared at, embraced.
‘We hear nothing from you!’
The Directors confusedly pushed back their chairs, pushed aside the papers with which they had been busy, stood up and welcomed me with embraces. I was invited to sit at the table, and a slave was instructed to bring refreshments.
‘Drink. Eat something. We are hungry for news. There are serious misgivings about the
work of the Society.’