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An Unnatural History: Hedley Twidle Reviews Henrietta Rose-Innes' Green Lion

Deeply Unpopular Road Tax in the City of Gold: Charles van Onselen Looks at E-toll's Historical Precedent

Showdown at the Red LionThis week a new e-toll deal was announced. Since its inception the issues around e-tolls have caused social and political dissension.

The new deal addresses some of the important grievances with respect to the tolling system by reducing the tariffs and lowering the monthly tariff caps.

Camilla Bath has written an article about changes to the e-toll tariff structure. Read more about the concessions of the arrangement:

If a motorist is an infrequent user and goes under fewer than 30 gantries a year, there will be no charge.

Public transport vehicles (buses and taxis) that have valid permits will remain exempted.

Motorists no longer need to purchase e-tags in order to benefit from the lower tariffs. Everyone gets the same deal regardless of whether they have an e-tag or not.

All motorists will get a 60% discount if outstanding e-toll bills are settled within the next six months.

Contemporary residents of Johannesburg might be surprised to learn that the dissent and anger about who pays what for driving where predates those odious gantries. Tolling strife goes all the way back to the days Afrikaner Republic, who saw the English city of Johannesburg as “more of a cash cow than a city entitled to independent management”.

There are, perhaps, some uncanny parallels to be drawn between then and now.

Van Onselen wrote an article about early tolling in Johannesburg for Business Day:

Lacking the administrative competence or expertise to run the system, the state looked instead to the market and private enterprise to manage the tolls. The right to collect tolls at stipulated points was put out to tender, with winning bidders being left to manage the risk of making a profit or sustaining a loss. Despite it being a hazardous business, scores of tenders were awarded and toll collectors appointed. The tolls, for some time, produced a handsome return. In just four months in 1894, for example, the state benefited to the tune of more than £9000 – the equivalent of between £4m and £5m (R46m-R58m) a year in current terms.

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Black Student Union at UC Berkeley Demands that Building be Named after Assata Shakur

AssataThe #RhodesMustFall movement that started at the University of Cape Town in March this year has given rise to a nation-wide debate on transformation at institutions of higher learning.

This debate is not unique to South Africa. Student representatives of the Black Student Union and other Black student organisations at the University of California, Berkeley recently submitted a list of 10 demands to university officials to address the needs of black students.

One of these demands is to rename Barrows Hall after the FBI’s most wanted woman, Joanne Chesimard, also known as Assata Shakur. The founding member of the Black Liberation Army, former Black Panther and godmother of Tupac, Shakur recently wrote an open letter to students at UCT in which she said: “Pull down the statue.”

Read the article for the Black Student Union’s 10 demands:

Hire two Black psychologists who understand “the racially hostile campus climate at this university.”

Hire two Black development advisers to mentor and provide academic guidance for Black athletes.

Double the budget for the “Getting into Graduate School” mentorship program.

Immediately create a committee to recommend, by April 8, ways to aggressively recruit and retain Black staff and faculty.

Rename Barrows Hall “Assata Shakur Hall.”

Related stories:

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The Best Thing You Can Do with Freedom of Speech is Shut Up and Listen - Alexandra Fuller (Podcast)

Leaving Before The Rains ComeAlexandra Fuller, author of Leaving Before The Rains Come, recently spoke at an event at the Seattle Public Library.

In the podcast, Fuller says this book, her fourth, is the most scary to speak about because it is about her. In her first two books, Fuller wrote about her mother. Throwing her mother’s character under the bus in public was much more gratifying than being honest about her own flaws.

Fuller also speaks about her experience of growing up in Southern Africa, with all the undeserved privilege being white brought. She says she realised her privilege when she landed in America, and what it was like to discover freedom of expression in there. She says that one of the best things you can do with freedom of speech is “shut up and listen.”

Listen to the podcast:


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All the Events to Look Forward to at the 2015 Kingsmead Book Fair in Johannesburg

Are you ready for the 2015 Kingsmead Book Fair? The excitement is in the air as the fourth annual festival prepares to kick off on Saturday, 23 May, at Kingsmead College in Melrose, Johannesburg.

From politics to poetry, lifestyle and memoir, the 2015 Kingsmead Book Fair has something for everyone. Throw in a few critically acclaimed international authors and we can’t think of a better way to spend your Saturday. Remember that entrance is R30 per person and each sessions costs R50. Book your tickets now on Webtickets to avoid disappointment.

Here are a few of the highlights to look forward to this year:

2015 Kingsmead Book Fair



To Catch A CopBest White and Other Anxious DelusionsOne Midlife Crisis and a SpeedoTo Quote MyselfThe Texture of ShadowsTriumphs and HeartachesThe New Radicals

11:15 AM to 12 PM: “The Opinionistas” – Marianne Thamm (To Catch A Cop) shouts the odds with fellow columnists Darrel Bristow-Bovey (One Midlife Crisis and a Speedo), Khaya Dlanga (To Quote Myself) and Rebecca Davis (Best White and Other Anxious Delusions) about the job of the commentator.

“Telling War Stories” – Mosibudi Mangena (Triumphs and Heartaches: A Courageous Journey by SA Patriots), Mandla Langa (The Texture of Shadows) and Glenn Moss (The New Radicals: A Generational Memoir of the 1970s) revisit the end years of apartheid with journalist David O’Sullivan, who covered some of the worst of the madness.


A Life DigestedHunger for FreedomThe Search for the Rarest Bird in the WorldImtiaz Sooliman and the Gift of the GiversColour Blind FaithDon't Film Yourself Having SexThis One Time

11:15 to 12 PM: “A Hunger for Life” – MasterChef judge and one of South Africa’s favourite celebrity chefs, Pete Goffe-Wood (A Life Digested) reminisces about his entertaining culinary adventures through the years with Anna Trapido (Hunger for Freedom).

3 to 3:45: “Paying it Forward” – Journalist and broadcaster Bruce Dennill introduces Shafiq Morton (Gift of the Givers) and David Gemmell (Colour Blind Faith: The Life of Father Stan Brennan) and asks what place mercy and compassion can play in society today.

“Digital Overload?” – Digital doyen Ben Williams discusses the pros and cons of technology with Emma Sadleir and Tamsyn de Beer (Don’t Film Yourself Having Sex), techno guru Toby Shapshak and Alex van Tonder (This One Time).

4:15 to 5 PM: Vernon RL Head (The Search for the Rarest Bird in the World) and Prof John Ledger (editor of Environment Magazine) share their fervour for bird watching with fellow enthusiast and author Hamilton Wende.


Weeping WatersEsther's HouseBlacklandsPower Play

1:45 to 2:30 PM: “Gained in Translation” – Carol Campbell (Esther’s House), Jaco van Schalkwyk (The Alibi Club) and Karin Brynard (Weeping Waters) discuss the publication of their Afrikaans books in English, and the light a different language throws on their stories. Chaired by Lood du Plessis.

4:15 to 5 PM: “The Gory Details” – Belinda Bauer (Blacklands), Mike Nicol (Power Play) and Karin Brynard (Weeping Waters) discuss their research and the importance of forensic accuracy in their crime novels.

History and Place

Inside OutThe Joburg BookValleys of SilenceImperfect SoloWorld War One and the People of South Africa
JimfishA Man of Good HopeRhumba

10 to 10:45 AM: “Drilling into Jozi” – Tanya Zack (Wake Up, this is Joburg) and Nechama Brodie (The Joburg Book) excavate a city that’s rarely seen. Chaired by author Hamilton Wende (Valleys of Silence).

“Tails and Trails Through South Africa” – Author Steven Boykey Sidley (Imperfect Solo) sifts the sands of history with Hazel Crampton (The Side of the Sun at Noon), and eminent historian and raconteur Bill Nasson (World War One and the People of South Africa).

1:45 to 2:30 PM: “A Long Way From Home” – Christopher Hope (Jimfish), Jonny Steinberg (A Man of Good Hope) and Elaine Proctor (Rhumba) consider the agony of exiles and émigrés, and of writing away from their homeland.


A History of LonelinessThe Last Road TripBodyguard: AmbushThe Paying GuestsThe Dream HouseThe Boy in the Striped Pajamas

10 to 10:45 AM: “A Song for the Dispossessed” – Loss takes many forms in the moving novels of John Boyne (A History of Loneliness), Gareth Crocker (The Last Road Trip) and Carol Campbell (Esther’s House).

12 to 1 PM: Bodyguard: Ambush – Chris Bradford offers the audience a taste of the Young Samurai series as well some of the skills he’s learnt in this area.
Interactive, entertaining and full of action.

12:30 to 1:15 PM: “Sense and Sensibility”- Sarah Waters (The Paying Guests) and Craig Higginson (The Dream House) consider how a sense of place shapes a story.

3 to 3:45: “Faith, Hope & Hell” – Acclaimed Irish author John Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, A History of Loneliness) appraises the major themes of his broad body of work and shares his life as a writer with Michele Magwood.
Special Performance

Here I Am

6 to 7:15 PM: PJ Powers (Here I Am) – “You have made a tremendous impact both on and off the stage, and you are one of those young people on whom the country pins so much hope.” – Nelson Mandela to PJ Powers, 1989

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Which events are you going to attend? Tell us in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter.


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Picture: The first Times Talks event of 2015 with Jodi Picoult at Kingsmead College

Diane de Beer Reviews A Fountain in France by Marita van der Vyver

A Fountain in FranceVerdict: carrot

A Fountain in France is about moving house and putting down roots – the move is from the family’s village home to a house deeper in the countryside. For the author it is also about accepting that her beloved motherland is no longer home and that her children are French – albeit with a dash of Afrikaans.

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Rehana Rossouw Reviews Black Brain, White Brain: Is Intelligence Skin Deep? by Gavin Evans

Black Brain, White Brain: Is Intelligence Skin Deep?Verdict: carrot

Evans studied economic history and law, has a PhD in politics and has worked as a journalist for 25 years. He has read widely on evolutionary biology, palaeontology, biological anthropology, archaeology, neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. He needed all this for his latest book, Black Brain White Brain. It plunges deep into the world of racist science and demolishes its myths quickly and smartly.

Evans grew up in SA, at a time when children were taught that each race had its own mentality and potential, and its “own stage of development”. He left SA and found such thinking existed elsewhere — and is disseminated among many in the scientific community.

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