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Philani Dladla – The Pavement Bookworm (@BookVsDruggs) – Shares His Story with @TEDxJoburg:

New Pocket Biographies: Chris Hani, Thomas Sankara, Patrice Lumumba and Haile Selassie

The Jacana Pocket Series is is meant for those who are looking for a brief but lively introduction to a wide range of topics on African history, politics and biography. Written by some of the leading experts in their fields, the individual volumes are informative and accessible, inexpensive yet well produced, and slim enough to put in your pocket and carry with you.

Four new Jacana Pocket Biographies are now available:

A Jacana Pocket Biography: Chris Hani by Hugh Macmillan

A Jacana Pocket Biography: Chris HaniChris Hani is one of the most iconic black leaders in South Africa’s recent history. He was the leader of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and chief of staff of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the armed wing of the ANC.

His assassination on 10 April 1993 by far-right wingers threatened to upset the negotiations process. Serious tensions followed, with fears that the country would erupt in violence. Mandela address the nation calling for calm, to avert further violence, stating: “Tonight I am reaching out to every single South African, black and white, from the very depths of my being. A white man, full of prejudice and hate, came to our country and committed a deed so foul that our whole nation now teeters on the brink of disaster. A white woman, of Afrikaner origin, risked her life so that we may know, and bring to justice, this assassin. The cold-blooded murder of Chris Hani has sent shockwaves throughout the country and the world … now is the time for all South Africans to stand together against those who, from any quarter, wish to destroy what Chris Hani gave his life for – the freedom of all of us.”

This short biography brings out Hani’s role in MK and in the politics of the early 1990s, and is written by a distinguished historian who met Hani in exile in Lusaka.

“A valuable addition to the history of our time, reflecting the stupendous research of a writer whose considered sifting of the material has produced a narrative that is credible, compelling and important. One is left with a mounting sense of the significance of the ANC’s exile experience in Africa in shaping or presaging or influencing the post-1994 dynamics and conduct of the ANC in government. It is the extraordinary story of an episode poorly understood by most … thoughtful and judicious … an important addition to the literature on the ANC.” – Colin Bundy, former Principal of Green Templeton College, Oxford

About the author

Hugh Macmillan is a historian who has taught at universities in Swaziland, Zambia and South Africa. He is currently a research associate at the African Studies Centre, Oxford University. His books include The Lusaka Years: The ANC in Exile (Jacana, 2013), An African Trading Empire (IB Tauris, 2005) and Zion in Africa (IB Tauris, 1999, with Frank Shapiro). He has published widely on a variety of southern African topics, including the history of the ANC.

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A Jacana Pocket Biography: Thomas Sankara: An African Revolutionary by Ernest Harsch

A Jacana Pocket Biography: Thomas SankaraThomas Sankara, often called the African Che Guevara, was president of Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in Africa, until his assassination during the military coup that brought down his government. Although his tenure in office was relatively short, Sankara left an indelible mark on his country’s history and development. An avowed Marxist, he outspokenly asserted his country’s independence from France and other Western powers while at the same time seeking to build a genuine pan-African unity. He is held in high esteem by Julius Malema and the Economic Freedom Fighters.

Ernest Harsch traces Sankara’s life from his student days to his recruitment into the military, early political awakening, and increasing dismay with his country’s extreme poverty and political corruption. As he rose to higher leadership positions, he used those offices to mobilise people for change and to counter the influence of the old, corrupt elites. Sankara and his colleagues initiated economic and social policies that shifted away from dependence on foreign aid and toward a greater use of the country’s own resources to build schools, health clinics, and public works. Although Sankara’s sweeping vision and practical reforms won him admirers both in Burkina Faso and across Africa, a combination of domestic opposition groups and factions within his own government and the army finally led to his assassination in 1987.

This is the first English-language book to tell the story of Sankara’s life and struggles, drawing on the author’s extensive first-hand research and reporting on Burkina Faso, including interviews with the late leader. Decades after his death, Sankara remains an inspiration to young people throughout Africa for his integrity, idealism, and dedication to independence and self-determination.

“Thomas Sankara: An African Revolutionary will serve as an excellent introduction to Sankara and the revolution in Burkina Faso and explain why Sankara continues to be so widely admired throughout Africa and beyond.” – Christopher Wise, author of Derrida, Africa, and the Middle East

About the author

Ernest Harsch is a research scholar at the Institute of African Studies at Columbia University. He worked on African issues at the United Nations for more than 20 years and is the author of South Africa: White Rule, Black Revolt.

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A Jacana Pocket Biography: Patrice Lumumba by Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja

A Jacana Pocket Biography: Patrice LumumbaPatrice Lumumba was a leader of the independence struggle in what is today the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as the country’s first democratically elected prime minister. After a meteoric rise in the colonial civil service and the African political elite, he became a major figure in the decolonisation movement of the 1950s. Lumumba’s short tenure as prime minister (1960–1) was marked by an uncompromising defence of Congolese national interests against pressure from international mining companies and the Western governments that orchestrated his eventual demise.

Cold War geopolitical manoeuvring and well-coordinated efforts by Lumumba’s domestic adversaries culminated in his assassination at the age of thirty-five, with the support or at least the tacit complicity of the US and Belgian governments, the CIA, and the UN Secretariat. Even decades after Lumumba’s death, his personal integrity and unyielding dedication to the ideals of self-determination, self-reliance, and pan-African solidarity assure him a prominent place among the heroes of the 20th-century African independence movement and the worldwide African diaspora.

Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja’s short and concise book provides a contemporary analysis of Lumumba’s life and work, examining both his strengths and his weaknesses as a political leader. It also surveys the national, continental, and international contexts of Lumumba’s political ascent and his swift elimination by the interests threatened by his ideas and practical reforms.

“Lumumba … was a pivotal player in the history of African nationalism, in the same league as Mandela in terms of his influence. Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja provides an excellent short introduction to Lumumba’s life and historical significance.” – David N Gibbs, professor of history, University of Arizona

About the author

Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja is a professor of African, African American, and diaspora studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and professor emeritus of African studies at Howard University. He is a past president of the African Studies Association and the author of The Congo from Leopold to Kabila: A People’s History.

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A Jacana Pocket Biography: Emperor Haile Selassie by Bereket Habte Selassie

A Jacana Pocket Biography:Emperor Haile Selassie was an iconic figure of the twentieth century, a progressive monarch who ruled Ethiopia from 1916 to 1974. This book, written by a former state official who served in a number of important positions in Selassie’s government, tells both the story of the emperor’s life and the story of modern Ethiopia.

After a struggle for the throne in 1916, the young Selassie emerged first as regent and then as supreme leader of Ethiopia. Over the course of his nearly six-decade rule, the emperor abolished slavery, introduced constitutional reform, and expanded educational opportunity. The Italian invasion of Ethiopia in the 1930s led to a five-year exile in England, from which he returned in time to lead his country through World War II. Selassie was also instrumental in the founding of the Organisation of African Unity in 1963, but he fell short of the ultimate goal of a promised democracy in Ethiopia. The corruption that grew under his absolute rule, as well as his seeming indifference to the famine that gripped Ethiopia in the 1970s, led finally to his overthrow by the armed forces that he had created.

Haile Selassie was an enlightened monarch in many ways, but also a man with flaws like any other. This short biography is a sensitive portrayal of Selassie as both emperor and man, by one who knew him well.

“Emperor Haile Selassie is a readable, well-organised book that accurately portrays the life of the Ethiopian King of Kings and, through him, the history of the nation. The author is at his best in relating his personal experience and ties to the Emperor – original material that I found fascinating.” – Theodore M Vestal, author of The Lion of Judah in the New World: Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and the Shaping of Americans’ Attitudes toward Africa.

About the author

Bereket Habte Selassie is William E Leuchtenburg Professor of African Studies and Law, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and former attorney general of Ethiopia as well as associate justice of the Supreme Court of Ethiopia.

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Bongani Madondo on Trying to Interview Brenda Fassie: "She was a Tough Cookie" (Podcast)

I'm Not Your Weekend SpecialSAfm Literature’s Nancy Richards spoke to Bongani Madondo about his book, I’m Not Your Weekend Special: Portraits on the Life + Style and Politics of Brenda Fassie.

During the interview Madondo says putting a book on Brenda Fassie together felt like a “lifelong journey”. “It’s almost like a star crush, like having a crush on your favourite rock star and you put a picture of her on your wall,” he says.

The author first saw Brenda at a concert in his hometown, Hammanskraal, in 1983, but he only met her around 1995 when he was a journalist and working on a magazine supplement for the Sunday Independent called Sunday Life. Madondo was tasked to “get a beautiful portrait of Brenda Fassie”. It was only later when he worked for City Press that he finally connected with her, but she was not interested in speaking to him.

Madondo tells the harrowing story of struggling to get his hero to grant him an interview. “She was a tough cookie, she was already in the drug game and everything. She didn’t care for my sensitivities. I’m a young boy from Hammanskraal, you know, who am I?” he says.

Listen to the podcast, the conversation starts at 20:30:

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Special Offer: Listening to Distant Thunder: The Art of Peter Clarke by Elizabeth Rankin and Philippa Hobbs

Listening to Distant ThunderWith Listening to Distant Thunder: The Art of Peter Clarke Elizabeth Rankin and Philippa Hobbs recounts the life of one of the most prominent South African artists yet.

Illustrated with more than 200 images showing his work, this book offers readers and art collectors a glimpse into Clarke’s remarkable career of over 70 years.

Penguin Random House is offering you the special opportunity to purchase this beautiful collector’s book at the incredible price of R350, including delivery. To take them up on their offer visit the Random Struik website:

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Excerpt from Reeva: A Mother's Story: June Steenkamp Remembers the Worst Day of Her Life

Reeva: A Mother's StoryRand Daily Mail has shared an excerpt from Reeva: A Mother’s Story, June Steenkamp’s personal account of the life of her daughter, Reeva Steenkamp, who was shot and killed by Oscar Pistorius.

Throughout the sensational Pistorius trial, which set precedents in term of media coverage, June Steenkamp kept her composure, locked in poised silence. In Reeva: A Mother’s Story she opens up for the first time about her emotions and turmoil after that fateful day.

Read the excerpt, in which she relives the moment she heard the news that her daughter was killed, a day she remembers as the worst of her life:

I’m preoccupied with thoughts about the day ahead, about supervising progress at the Barking Spider, a pub we’re building at the Greenbushes Hotel on the Old Cape Road, when my mobile phone rings.
Really? At this time of the morning?
A voice introduces himself as detective Hilton Botha. “Hello, is that June Steenkamp?”
“Do you have a daughter, Reeva?”
“There has been a terrible accident.”
“What kind of accident?”
“Your daughter has been shot.”

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Impimpi is Not a Timeless Term: Jacob Dlamini Challenges Apartheid Nostalgia in Askari (Excerpt)

AskariJacana Media has shared an excerpt from Askari: A story of collaboration and betrayal in the anti-apartheid struggle by Jacob Dlamini.

In the excerpt, taken from the introduction, Dlamini shares two incidents from his childhood in which he became, in a small way, a collaborator or “sell-out” in the eyes of his schoolmates, saying that these incidences highlight the need to “think critically about collaboration” in South Africa. According to Dlamini, local political conflict throughout history has been “racially promiscuous”. He points out that “double agent”, “impimpi” and “sell-out” are loaded terms whose meaning is reliant on historical context.

Read the excerpt:

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           It is 1986 and I am a Standard Six pupil at Ponego Secondary School in Katlehong. Schooling in state institutions has been disrupted more or less since the 1976 Soweto rebellion. By the 1980s, there are constant class boycotts and township schools are under military occupation. Four white military conscripts are stationed at Ponego, which has been surrounded by barbed wire. All entrances to the school are closed except one, manned by soldiers, who patrol the school grounds in pairs. Students must produce IDs to enter. The Congress of South African Students (Cosas) has called for a semi-permanent class boycott. The majority of the students heed the call and do not come to school. But I don’t believe in class boycotts. I defy the call, as do a handful of other students. The teachers, being government employees, have no choice but to show up for work. This is not to say they are conscientious about their jobs. A good number, poorly qualified as they are, can hardly be bothered to teach the few of us who turn up. But others try.

           Many of the students who come to school in defiance of the class boycott wear ordinary clothes, not the grey-and-white uniform that would mark them out on the streets. I wear my uniform. My mother insists on it. Occasionally, the school is pelted with rocks while we are in class, so we sit away from the windows during lessons. Once, during a lunch break, rocks rain down on the roof of the school. I am standing outside with some of my classmates. I cannot see who threw the rocks but I know the direction from which they were hurled. Two soldiers rush towards us. Their rifles cocked and raised, they ask where the rocks came from. ‘That way,’ I say, pointing at a row of houses to the south of the school. The soldiers walk towards the houses. But whoever threw the rocks is long gone. The soldiers know this, hence their half-hearted walk in the direction of the stone-throwers. They resume their patrol around the schoolyard. It occurs to me later that ‘helping’ the soldiers might not have been such a smart idea. I rush home at the end of the school day. I am afraid the rock-throwers might have seen me pointing in their direction. Thankfully, nothing happens to me. But were these the actions of a collaborator? Why did I answer the soldiers’ question? Had I been overcome by what Jean-Paul Sartre called an instinctive ‘humanitarian helpfulness’, referring to the random help that Parisians would give their German occupiers during the Second World War?

           The year is 1987 and I am a Standard Seven pupil at Ponego. I am taking a dull class called Biblical Studies, which requires little study. All you have to do is memorise words like ‘apocrypha’, which are written up on the board. But it is a popular subject, especially with a group of student activists who like to sit at the back of the room. A great many young people are fighting apartheid at this time – in ways both large and small. Readers will understand when I say that such activism in general was not necessarily represented by these activists in particular. For these classmates, school starts on Tuesday and ends on Thursday. This is not to say they do not come to school on Mondays and Fridays. They come late on Mondays and spend the day basking in the sun, nursing their hangovers; they always leave before school ends on Fridays so they can start partying early. Their other favourite day is Wednesday, sports day, which means that classes continue only until lunchtime. That’s just the way they roll. These ‘activists’ are much older than the rest of us; some are about the same age as our teachers. They tease the young teachers constantly, especially the women. But the latter give as good as they get and tease these students about being dom – stupid.

           One day, the Biblical Studies teacher announces that we are going to have an exam. She tells us the date and the work to be covered. On the appointed day she comes to class early and asks us to remove everything from our desks except our pens and writing pads. She is about to write the questions on the blackboard when she is interrupted by a baritone from the back of the room. ‘Why?’ he asks. ‘Because you are about to write your test,’ she says. ‘No,’ says the student, ‘we cannot write the test. You did not tell us we would have a test today.’ His friends pipe in: ‘It’s unfair, Mistress, to expect us to write a test we did not prepare for.’ ‘But I told you,’ the teacher says. ‘No, you did not,’ the baritones reply. The teacher looks around the room for support. ‘Class, did I not tell you last week that you would be writing a test today?’ No answer. Finally, I raise my hand. ‘Yes, Dlamini,’ prompts the teacher. ‘You told us,’ I say in Zulu. She asks me to repeat what I just said. ‘Usitshelile,’ I reply. ‘Shut up, wena,’ the big boys call out. The teacher asks if anyone else remembers her telling us about the test. No one remembers, not even my deskmate and friend Elias. The teacher says she is giving the test whether the class likes it or not. She tells me to follow her to the staffroom. As I gather my books, the big boys at the back whisper, ‘Sell-out’. Some make catcalls. ‘U-Dlamini uyasithengisa.’ (Dlamini is selling us out.) ‘Sizomlungisa,’ they shout. (We are going to sort him out.) I am scared. But I cannot turn back now. I write the test and return to the classroom. It is tense. No one will talk to me.

           Do these episodes make me a collaborator? It is possible that some readers might find here proof of my own taint. ‘How could it not be?’ asks the narrator in Gillian Slovo’s novel Red Dust. ‘South Africa has always been about sides.’

           In my defence, let me say that I was not collaborating with the soldiers who occupied my school. I knew what those young white men in their brown fatigues and with their R5 files were: occupiers and representatives of an illegitimate government. I knew what a disruptive force they were; how they would conduct random searches in our classrooms or gawk through the windows at one of our teachers, an albino, during lessons, all the while making snide comments in Afrikaans about his skin colour. And I was certainly not taking sides by writing that Biblical Studies exam. I simply believed it was the right thing to do.

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           I relate these experiences because, in a modest way, they suggest a need to think critically about collaboration and complicity in South African history. Despite its fixation on racial purity, apartheid generated an ‘unwanted intimacy’ between people that built an insidious complicity into daily life. The complexity of apartheid as a form of government and a system of social control was such that one could not simply exist in innocent opposition to it. Everyone was ‘implicated willy-nilly in its thinking and practices and shaped their responsibility accordingly’. This is not to say every South African collaborated with apartheid, or that the mere fact of being a South African made one complicit with a criminal system. There was a world of difference between the askari who is the subject of this book and the tens of thousands of activists who fought against it. There is a yawning gap separating the collaborators who staffed apartheid’s bureaucracies of repression and the millions of South Africans who had no choice but to live with its police, its soldiers and its functionaries.

           To talk about collaboration under apartheid is to probe the nature of the post-apartheid political settlement. It is to ask why, beyond the fact that South Africa had a negotiated transition, the country did not have the type of reckoning with the past, apart from the TRC of course, that could have led to the purification of the public sphere and the purging from public office of those tainted by collaboration with our authoritarian past. Why did South Africa not have what some countries in Eastern Europe, notably the former Czechoslovakia, called lustration, where those who had collaborated with the repressive regimes that collapsed at the end of the Cold War were excluded from public life, or their participation curbed by some degree of exposure or confession? Why is it that, whereas the figure of the informer – however complex and ambiguous the circumstances of each case – came to stand for the depravity of the police states in the former Eastern bloc, South Africans have no comparable symbol for the criminality of apartheid, which was served by a vast network of collaborators?

           To be sure, South Africa had Dirk Coetzee, Eugene de Kock and Almond Nofomela – policemen right ‘in the heart of the whore’, to use Coetzee’s own description of apartheid’s most lethal death squad. But even these self-confessed killers and convicted murderers (in the case of De Kock and Nofomela) have been treated by apartheid apologists like the proverbial bad apples of any war and not as the ‘public servants’, however bizarre that sounds, that these men were.

           To write about collaboration in South Africa means challenging a certain nostalgia that would have us believe that apartheid was essentially a well-meaning modernisation project with what Hermann Giliomee called a ‘comparatively impressive’ economic performance over its 46-year lifespan. It means calling into question Giliomee’s grotesque understatement that apartheid showed a ‘gross disrespect’ for human rights. It is telling that in his explanation of apartheid, Giliomee has nothing more to say about death squads than that ‘some operatives on the lower level of the security forces took the law in their own hands’. It is equally telling that his account of apartheid leaves no (political) room for the thousands of black policemen and soldiers who fought for apartheid. ‘Many white soldiers and policemen were ready to fight in what they assumed to be a showdown over which racial group would rule South Africa, confident that the white public backed them,’ he writes. In Giliomee’s account, the political conflict in South Africa was essentially a racial one.

           In truth, political conflict in South Africa has always been a racially promiscuous affair. For a country with a reputation for a Manichaean view of politics, South Africa has produced a wide range of collaborators, double agents, izimpimpi (Nguni for spies or traitors) and turncoats throughout its history. From amaMbuka (Zulu for traitors) of the earliest clashes between African peoples and European settlers, and the verraaiers and ‘Judas Boers’ of the South African War of 1899–1902, to the struggle against apartheid, political wars in South Africa have always been intimate affairs. This does not mean that there was a moral equivalence between those who, for example, fought to preserve apartheid and those who struggled against what the United Nations correctly denounced as a crime against humanity. Nor is it to suggest that words such as ‘collaborator’, ‘double agent’, ‘informer’, ‘impimpi’, ‘sell-out’ and ‘turncoat’ are timeless terms whose meaning travels unchanged through history. They are loaded words and their meanings are always context-specific, politically constructed, contested and subject to change. Collaboration is marked by ambiguity and, as Raymond Suttner says, ‘simple labels cannot explain a very complex phenomenon’.

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Video: Bitter Dawn Author Dan Newling Questions the Credibility of the Evidence in the Shrien Dewani Case

Bitter DawnBritish journalist Dan Newling spoke to Jennifer Sanasie on News24 about his book on the Shrien Dewani murder trial, Bitter Dawn: A search for the truth about the murder of Anni Dewani.

“Proper journalism is rooting out facts and finding the truth,” Newling says. “Often that truth is something that people don’t want to hear.”

Sanasie asks Newling about the credibility of the evidence that has emerged during the trial. “I think a key thing to understand, and this is coming out in the trial now, is that we have three criminals, self-confessed criminals, who are involved in the thing,” he explains. “I think one can reasonably ask, what was in it for them?”

Watch the video:

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