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“I Remember You from Our Days in Mozambique”: Jacob Zuma Responds to Mia Couto in an Open Letter bit.ly/1IQiaJl #Xenophobia

BIG NEWS FOR WRITERS AND SMALL PUBLISHERS

A partnership that could offer important new opportunities for writers, small publishers and book distributors has been launched by African Narratives (AFNA) and the Bookshop Association of South Africa (BASA).

A memorandum of understanding has now been thrashed out between the two organisations and will be signed in May 2015.

AFNA, organisers of the country’s first Indie Book Fair for independent publishers held in Johannesburg in March, is a not-for-profit entity committed to the development of a thriving local literature in SA. BASA is also a not-for-profit entity which already has 173 members including 120 black-owned SME bookshops across the country.

‘You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realise the potential of such a partnership,’ says AFNA board chairperson, Gail Robbins.

AFNA is developing a programme that will include membership-based lobbying power for independent writers, small publishers and distributors; NQF-rated training courses; subsidised publishing opportunities in exchange for author involvement in distribution, and a comprehensive national distribution network for small publishers and independent authors.

BASA is seeking a greater share of the book and stationery supply to schools. This will bring greater financial stability to BASA bookshops, thereby generating a retail network in previously under-resourced urban and rural communities that will be of huge value to South Africa’s pursuit of a culture of reading and lifelong learning. It will also greatly improve on current supply systems which are susceptible to abuse and inefficiency

Says Simon Mataboge, spokesperson for BASA and himself a bookshop owner: ‘This partnership is what we have been waiting for. It will greatly strengthen our efforts to place our bookshops at the service of the many communities that have so far been excluded from the massive rewards that books and reading can bring to individual lives.’

Co-operation between the two organisations will take the form of joint proposals to relevant government agencies and a programme aimed at transforming BASA bookshops into exciting cultural centres that will feed into South Africa’s nascent culture of reading and life-long learning.

Samsung S5 - April 2015 1012 small AS

It’s a partnership! Simon mataboge of basa shakes hands with clare-rose julius of afna.

Others in the picture (from left) are Bulelwa (basa), David, (afna), Thulani (basa) and Gail (afna).

Soar of the Sea Hawks

JUSTIN Swart makes his living from the sea, as did his father and grandfather before him.

It’s a tough life: he sets out most days in a small wooden boat before sunrise, sometimes returning only after dark. The boat is open, its crew exposed to the rain and the wind.

Sometimes, he says, the waves are so high, he loses sight of the other boats. It is a job that requires courage, physical strength and an appetite for risk.

All these qualities come in handy in the winter when he switches his focus to his other passion, rugby. Colder water means fewer fish so the boats go out less often, which means more time to devote to his team, the Arniston Sea Hawks.

Arniston is a charming seaside village on the southern Cape coast, about a three-hour drive from Cape Town. It is split roughly in two, with the Arniston Hotel in the centre.

On the left are the largely white-owned holiday houses and on the right, the 200-year-old fishing village of Kassiesbaai. Just below the hotel is the small harbour with its flotilla of brightly coloured fishing boats.

At the entrance to Kassiesbaai is the Sea Hawks Rugby Football Club. The grounds are well-maintained and lined by floodlights. The land was donated to the club by Denel, the state arms manufacturer, which has a test range up the road.

The Sea Hawks are one of the 225 clubs which make up the Boland Rugby Union and they play in the Boland-organised Overberg First League. The Sea Hawks lost their first game, against Caledon, and last Saturday they were due to take on Grabouw’s Spring Roses.

I watched them train one evening last week: the players arrived one by one, each unpacking their boots from a plastic shopping bag. After some limbering up, much of the training centred on passing, deft and quick.

Around the edges of the field, about 15 small boys kicked balls and crashed into tackle bags.

The Sea Hawks is run by a committee with a chair, vice-chair, secretary, treasurer as well as three additional members. Most were at the training session despite a chilly wind, and relative darkness, thanks to load shedding.

The secretary of the Sea Hawks is also a member of the all-powerful fishermen’s union. Kassiesbaai is one big erf, controlled by the union, which allocates ground for the building of houses — the only criterion being that the applicant, or his/her mother or father, must have been born in Kassiesbaai.

There are about 150 houses, all of which conform to the traditional style: either white-washed or clad in local stone.

There is a primary school, a library, a clinic and about 1,000 people live here.

Fishing and rugby are the primary activities.

Walk around Kassiesbaai and you will see groups of boys of all ages throwing balls to each other.

The Sea Hawks field two teams in the league and have a squad of 50 players, aged from 18 to the late 30s. Almost all are fishermen. But, mostly, fishing is about subsistence. About 80% of the players are officially unemployed.

Jobs are scarce. The hotel employs a few people from Kassiesbaai, including Justin’s mother, Kathleen.

A few women clean the holiday houses on the ether side of town. Denel mops up a few more.

In an area of such high unemployment, one might expect more delinquency but, apart from a couple of troublesome families, Kassiesbaai is largely drug and gang free. The Sea Hawks play a valuable role, soaking up the energies of underemployed young men and giving them discipline and purpose.

Boland Rugby Union organises the league and provides courses in coaching, administration and refereeing but they do not provide any financial help.

This is a source of frustration to the Sea Hawks.

This financially straitened community must raise R2,700 just to register for the league. On top of that comes the cost of equipment, jerseys, boots, balls and travel for away games. Because there is so little commercial activity in the area, they struggle to find sponsors. Yet they somehow manage to make it work.

About 250 people attend home games on average and they pay an entrance fee: R10 for adults and R5 for kids. Extra money is raised from the sale of cooldrinks and boerewors rolls.

Plastered around the village last week were posters advertising transport to Grabouw for Saturday’s game.

Spectators are invited to join the team bus in order to help pay for it: R50 for adults and R25 for children. The players have to fork out too: R25 each. This is the only way they can afford to travel.

There are similar clubs all over the Boland region, many in poorer and more dysfunctional communities.

As in Kassiesbaai, rugby plays a useful role in strengthening social cohesion, providing boys with good role models and keeping them off the streets.

I hope that the Boland Union reconsiders their priorities. Instead of spending their money on fielding professional teams in the Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup, it seems to me it would be far better spent on their constituent clubs. This is where nation-building begins.

Swart is now 34. In a couple of years’ time, he will hang up his boots and go on one of the coaching courses provided by Boland Rugby Union so that he can help nurture the next generation of Sea Hawks.

 *This column first appeared in Business Day

"I Remember You from Our Days in Mozambique": President Jacob Zuma Responds to Mia Couto in an Open Letter

President Jacob Zuma has responded to an open letter addressed to him by award-winning Mozambican author Mia Couto earlier this week on the subject of the recent xenophobic violence in South Africa.

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A River Called TimeThe Tuner of SilencesUnder the FrangipaniVoices Made NightSleepwalking Land

Read Zuma’s response:

My Dear Brother

I was very happy to hear from you after a long time. It is a pity that we are reconnecting under sad and painful circumstances which have prompted you to write an open letter to me.

I remember you from our days in Mozambique, when you worked at the Mozambique Information Agency and when you were editor of Tempo magazine and later of Noticias.

I cannot forget the friendship that Mozambique accorded my comrades and to me personally. In fact Mozambique became my second home and it remains my home.

You are in pain as your letter indicates, because of the deaths of Mozambicans and the general attacks on foreign nationals in parts of our country. South Africans are also in pain because of the tragic and senseless killings of all seven persons in the past weeks. These are three South Africans and four foreign nationals. May their souls rest in peace and may their tragic deaths unite us all in the quest for peace and an end to violence.

The reports we have received indicate that the attacks last week in Durban were sparked off by the conduct of an employer who fired South African workers who had gone on strike and employed workers from outside the country. Even in the South African context, the employment of scab labour usually triggers an angry reaction from workers who are on strike. We join the country’s trade unions in appealing to employers to avoid such behaviour of pitting workers against one another. The Soweto attacks in January were triggered by the fatal shooting of a young man by a non-South African shopkeeper.

This is a difficult period for our country and its people. Millions of peace loving South Africans are in pain because they are being accused of being xenophobic which is not true. South Africans are definitely not xenophobic. The actions of a small minority should not be used to wrongfully label and stereotype more than 50 million people.

Since 1994, we have worked tirelessly to rebuild our country and to reverse the legacy of apartheid colonialism. We have made progress in building a society that is based on the respect for the right to life, human rights, equality and human dignity. We continue to build a society free of any form of discrimination. We are doing so because we know the pain of being discriminated against because of your skin colour, language or nationality.

You reminded me of the hospitality and generosity that was accorded to me by Mozambicans during my stay in your beautiful country in exile. We agree that we benefited immensely from international solidarity and friendship during our struggle against apartheid. Our brothers and sisters in the African continent in particular shared their meagre resources with us. Many were killed for supporting our struggle for freedom. The Matola raid in your beautiful country is an example. It is for this reason that we embrace our African brothers and sisters who migrate to South Africa legally. In fact our migration policy is advanced because we integrate refugees and asylum seekers within our communities. They live among our citizens, they are part of us. We are one people as President Samora Machel said after the tragic Matola raid in which many Mozambicans were killed by apartheid security forces.

Mozambicans and South Africans, and also FRELIMO and the ANC, enjoy deep bonds that go far back into our history. These are bonds created by our living together, our working together, and of our fighting together against colonialism and apartheid. In spite of Mozambique’s vulnerability to attacks from apartheid forces, you demonstrated an unwavering willingness to “turn a blind eye” to MK and ANC combatants so that they could pass through Mozambique and enter South Africa clandestinely to engage apartheid forces.

We built our movements together in the early years of the anticolonial struggle. We shared camps in Tanzania. Umkhonto Wesizwe (MK) cadres fought side by side with the Angolan MPLA and the Cubans to defend Angola’s independence.

South Africa has not changed and has not forgotten such comradeship and solidarity. But like most countries that have emerged from conflict, we have deep-seated challenges.

We appreciate the contribution of foreign nationals in South Africa. They contribute to our economic development by investing in the economy, bringing critical skills and through adding to the diversity that we pride ourselves in. But there are also some complaints or problems that citizens have raised which need to be addressed. These include the increasing number of illegal and undocumented immigrants in the country, the displacement of many local small traders by foreign nationals and that some of the migrant traders operate illegally. There are also accusations that foreign nationals commit crimes such as drug peddling and human trafficking, that they take the jobs of locals as employers prefer them as they are prepared to take lower wages and also complaints about free government housing that is secured by foreign nationals. We have emphasised that none of these grievances justify any form of violence against foreign nationals and that it will never be tolerated by government. We are also pointing out that not all migrants are in the country illegally and not all are involved in criminal activities.

The grievances of the South African population have to be balanced with the plight of many refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants from the continent and beyond. We therefore have a lot of work to do to find long-term solutions. We are already looking beyond the incidents of the past weeks. I have appointed an Inter-Ministerial Committee of 14 Ministers to look into the broader management of migration. Drawing support from all sectors of society, they will help us address the underlying socio-economic causes of the tensions between citizens and brothers and sisters from the continent and from countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh to prevent another flare up of violence. We have already had consultations with all sectors in our country from business, labour, sports, religious leaders, youth, women, children’s sectors and many others. I am also consulting organisations representing foreign nationals resident in the country in the process of seeking solutions. Ministers, Premiers, Deputy Ministers and other government leaders are all over the country speaking to the South African population as well as part of the consultations.

In the short-term we will also improve the implementation of the existing migration policy including tightening controls at the ports of entry and borders and also ensuring adherence to the laws of the country, while protecting migrants and the local population from criminal elements who are taking advantage of the tensions caused by socio-economic challenges. Work has also begun to review the country’s migration policy based on the current and recent experiences.

Our government will rely on the cooperation of sister countries in the continent from where most of the migrants come, as we search for solutions.

We truly appreciate the encouraging messages from the African Union, the United Nations and other regions.

What also gives us strength as government, is that we are working with the full support of our peace-loving population. The peace and friendship marches that are being held throughout the country embody the South Africa we know and the South Africa we are proud of. That is the South Africa which condemns hatred, violence, racism, xenophobia and all other related intolerances.

I invite you to join us my dear brother, as we move beyond the anger and pain, and promote sustainable and inclusive development as well as peace and friendship all over Africa.

Sincerely yours,
President Jacob Zuma
Tshwane, South Africa

Source: South African Government

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Images courtesy of Times LIVE and Neustadt Prize

Ben Okri to Feature as African Representative at 2015 Sydney Writers' Festival

 
The Sydney Writers’ Festival (SWF) – set to take place from 18 to 24 May 2015 – will feature Ben Okri as one of the international highlights on the programme. He will be the only representative from the African continent.

Ben Okri at the Festival of Ideas
The Age Of MagicIncidents at the ShrineTales of FreedomSongs of EnchantmentStarbookWild
Astonishing the GodsStars of the New CurfewDangerous LoveA Time for New DreamsInfinite RichesThe Famished Road

 
Okri has published nine novels, including The Age of Magic and the Booker Prize-winning The Famished Road, as well as collections of poetry, short stories and essays. His work has been translated into more than 26 languages. Okri is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, has been awarded an OBE and has won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Africa, the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction and the Chianti Rufino-Antico Fattore International Literary Prize. He was born in Nigeria and lives in London.

He will be speaking at four events:

 
SWF features an incredible line-up of international literary stars, including Mohsin Hamid, Helen Macdonald, David Walliams and Alan Cumming, Richard Flanagan, James Petterson, David Mitchell, Michael Connelly and Anthony Horowitz among others.
 
Details:

  • Dates: Monday, 18 May to Sunday, 24 May 2015
  • Venues: Sydney Writers’ Festival’s main precinct is at Walsh Bay. This comprises venues at Pier 4/5, Pier 2/3 and Sydney Theatre at Walsh Bay. Events are also held at venues throughout the city, and in suburban Sydney and regional NSW. Detailed information on how to get to venues is available from individual event pages.
  • Ticket cost: Free to $25
  • More information: SWF
  • Follow: Twitter / Facebook

 
For more information on the festival visit the SWF website, or read the press release sent out by the SWF organisers:

2015 Sydney Writers Fesival Press Release

 
Links related to Ben Okri:

 

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Ainehi Edoro Reviews Terra Incognita by Nerine Dorman

Terra IncognitaVerdict: carrot

The idea was to explore African life beyond the realism of the everyday. And the outcome is a mouth-watering collection of titles featuring “vampires, tokoloshi, ghosts, unnatural obsessions and the unspeakable things that lurk beneath land and in the water.”

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Don't Miss the Live Video Conference at Goethe-Institut on Urban Places - Public Spaces

What does the ideal city look like? The Goethe-Institut invites you to a live video conference between three world-class cities to discuss culture and public space in South Africa, the Netherlands and Germany.

The conference, entitled “Urban Places – Public Spaces“, will take place on Sunday, 26 April, from 11 AM to 1 PM.

Come and listen to the global debate on life in the city between speakers from Munich, Rotterdam and Johannesburg. Architect and academic Lesley Lokko and Associate Professor at the University of Cape Town Jay Pather will represent South Africa, while Rike Sitas, the co-founder and co-director of the NPO dala, will moderate their discussion.

To find out more about Africa’s changing urban landscape, have a look at the variety of titles below:

Africa's Urban RevolutionUrban Governance in Post-apartheid CitiesAfrica on the MoveChanging Space, Changing City: Johannesburg after ApartheidImagining the Edgy City
Migrant Women of JohannesburgWalking Cape TownRogue Urbanism

 
Entrance to the conference is free and everyone is welcome. Don’t miss it!

Event Details

 

Book Details

  • Africa on the Move: African Migration and Urbanisation in Comparative Perspective edited by Eleanor Preston-Whyte, Marta Tienda, Sally E Findley and Stephen Tollman
    Book homepage
    EAN: 9781868144327
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