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"These riots, when it came down to it, were all about one thing. Land." Read an excerpt from Mphuthumi Ntabeni's debut novel, The Broken River Tent

The Broken River Tent is a novel that marries imagination with history.

It is about the life and times of Maqoma, the Xhosa chief who was at the forefront of fighting British colonialism in the Eastern Cape during the nineteenth century. The story is told through the eyes of a young South African, Phila, who suffers from what he calls triple ‘N’ condition – neurasthenia, narcolepsy and cultural ne plus ultra. T

his makes him feel far removed from events happening around him but gives him access to the analeptic memory of his people. After being under immense mental pressure, he crosses the mental divide between the living and the dead and is visited by Maqoma. They engage in different conversations about cultural history, literature, religion, the past and contemporary South African life.

Read an excerpt:

The Gravediggers

The entrance to the Hangberg Multipurpose Sport Centre was unusually busy for a non-social grant payment day. Media cameras were everywhere. Their little village town had caught the attention of the nation, Phila thought, if not exactly the world.


The main speaker for the evening had entered the hall. While other speakers assembled on the podium Phila took a seat near the back. Although he regarded himself as part of this community, he felt somewhat out of place, as if he was faking his solidarity to leech onto the people’s pain.

It was soon evident that the community meeting had been hijacked by politicians and Phila had difficulty holding his concentration. A guy from something to do with Social Justice was saying something about the government marginalising and criminalising the poor. “The lies of the city and provincial officials who call us drug lords when we demand our constitutional rights shall be exposed!” he cried, becoming very animated.

He spoke for quite a long time, mixing English in Afrikaans. People clapped violently. Next a Rastafarian took the microphone, first hailing Haile Selassie and Jah and then dissing the “Babylonian governments and their system of oppression. Dem tell us to reconcile, meantime dem serve us snake for fish, and rocks for bread. Mandela se kak!” The crowd went wild. “Ons KhoiKhoi mense! We demand our land back …” There was something impressively radically anarchist about the Rasta.

As the meeting finally looked as if it was drawing to an end, after almost two hours, and the cameramen were packing up their equipment, Phila went outside to get some air and have a cigarette. He found himself reflecting on the reason for this meeting, the events of the past week which had culminated in what the media, with their flair for dramatic nostalgia, had called Black Tuesday. The police had come, around 2am, in what one of the speakers had termed ‘apartheid style’, to evict people who had illegally invaded land on the slopes of Hangberg. Phila wasn’t totally clear about the details but the violence had started when residents resisted the police. On his walk back home earlier, after having fish and chips at Fish-On-The-Rocks as the sun went down, his route took him close to where the events of Black Tuesday had unfolded. The place had looked like an abandoned movie set for the apartheid era. On his way he had stooped to pick up a used teargas canister shell, obviously from a police shotgun, and he’d slipped it into his pocket without thinking.

That speaker was right. The events of the previous week had introduced a reminiscent order of apartheid days in the streets of their village town. Phila himself had been there, doing what he could to help. When a TV newsman at the riot scene had asked him to give his opinion, on camera, he had wanted to sound revolutionary, to send a clear message that the impoverished should not be pushed around and criminalised for being poor. Instead, dogged by his middle-class timidity, he’d come up with a cautious statement about “the irony of the fact that when developers for the rich want to push mountain firebreaks it is done at the stroke of a pen, but now that the poor have run out of living space they are treated like brigands who are illegally occupying land.”

It irritated him that he was always so cautious, reasonable and unspontaneous. His mind was neither quick nor nimble; he lacked the gift of spontaneity, which was why he found it hard to improvise on the spot. At best he had keen powers of observation and some originality when given a moment to apply his mind, but his kind always got swallowed by the revolution.

He thought about how, a decade and a half ago, during the so-called rainbow era of Mandela, the country was full of hope and assertive belief in the renewal of its humanity. Now he saw the return of cynicism, suspicion, despair, and police terror, the suppression of freedom, with all the accompanying horrors. Community meetings with fired-up rhetoric. Loud-hailers on the streets, calling citizens to action – like the one on the red bakkie that had gone past his window and alerted him to this meeting tonight, urging residents to “do a postmodern on the BRUTALITY of the police last Tuesday, when they invaded our community APARTHEID style. Injury one! Injury all! The BOEREBOND is on the rise again!”

Outside he was joined by a podgy fellow who had been at the podium table and whom Phila was sure he’d seen somewhere else. Initially he couldn’t place him but then he realised: he was the security guard at the local supermarket, who usually greeted him when he went there for supplies, who sometimes helped him with the groceries, very politely, to the car. Phila always made sure to tip.

“Nice of you to join us, sir,” the fellow said with his usual politeness. Phila was glad to recognise a face in that sea of strangers. The fellow swapped his cigarette to his left hand before extending his right, and they ended up shaking hands for a little too long and more vigorously than was necessary.

“I never figured you as the revolutionary type,” Phila said, regretting the statement the moment it went out of his mouth. It turned out the fellow was a community leader of some kind. Inside, when people had kept referring to community leaders and shouting socialist slogans, they had been referring to him. An ironic twist surely – socialists guarding the doors of capitalism? Talk about capitalism producing its own gravediggers, thought Phila.

He was still turning fiery phrases over in his mind, of the type he could have used in front of the TV camera when he’d had the chance. The government is wiping our turned-up noses with the sword; our liberators have turned into our oppressors. A luta continua! Deep down he knew there was no way he could have said all of that. Even in his head it all sounded fake. He was no revolutionary; neither did he want to be one. He believed more in the evolution of the mind, the gradual progress etcetera.

The usual crap of weak characters who never want to be involved in the real struggles under the guise of being civilised. The irony was that he spent almost all his life trying to civilise his mind; now he was doing everything possible to escape the fate of Prufrock, the ineffectual, wellbred man during times of rising tensions and turbulences.

Irony struck him again as he said goodnight to the community leader and set off home. These riots, when it came down to it, were all about one thing. Land. The irony, in the twenty-first century, was that the players were still the same as before. You had the KhoiKhoi people on the slopes of Hangberg, and the Xhosas – mostly from the Eastern Cape, where their forefathers had fought the British colonial powers – on the slopes of Karbonkelberg where Imizamo Yethu informal settlement was situated. And then in the affluent valley down below were mostly the white people, progeny of the settlers from the 1800s.

Phila walked home under a maturing sheet of darkness. Moonlight cracked the sky with pale fissures of light.

Book details

Fiksie Vrydag: lees ’n uittreksel van André P Brink se Die rooikop en die redakteur en ander stories

Dekades voor hy beroemdheid verwerf het as internasionaal bekroonde skrywer van meer as 25 romans, het André P Brink gedurende die vyftigerjare sy brood en botter verdien met die skryf van stories vir gesinstydskrifte. In dié bloemlesing verskyn daar vir die eerste keer ooit ’n keur van die liefdesverhale wat hy as student in die destydse Die Brandwag en ook Die Huisgenoot gepubliseer het.

In dié dosyn verhale oor eertydse jintelmans en koppige heldinne wat nie huiwer om hul sê te sê nie, word dit gou duidelik hoe die vroeë Brink sy skrywerstem geslyp het, en andersyds kan ’n mens onmiddellik ’n kern van sy latere, volwasse skrywerstem bespeur. Die landskap van Parys, ’n boekeredakteurskantoor, die onmoontlikheid om tussen twee liefdes te moet kies: Leitmotifs wat jare later, hoewel meer vervorm, steeds sou weerklank vind in Brink se werk.

Die rooikop en die redakteur en ander stories kombineer Brink se eiesoortige humor met ’n tikkie nostalgie – perfek vir ’n ouer én nuwe geslag lesers. Dit is saamgestel deur Cecilia van Zyl, voormalige verhaleredakteur van Huisgenoot.

Die rooikop en die redakteur

’n Kortverhaalredakteur is ook maar ’n mens, en toe Jan Wentzel die vyfde agtereenvolgende verhaal in die mandjie met ’n dik blou kruis op die titelblad moet merk, is sy geduld gedaan. Dit is tyd dat hulle uitvind dat Die Voorpunt nie met enige snert gediend is nie. Gedorie! ’n Mens het darem beter dinge om te doen as om sulke kinderagtige brousels te lees.

Hy trek sy tikmasjien nader en skuif sy bril reg. (Dis nie dat sy oë juis veel makeer nie, maar die bril is die enigste manier om sy agt-en-twintig jaar ouer en waardiger te maak.)

Die skrywer? Hy soek die naam en adres met sy potlood. O, dis ’n vrou. Kon dit ook verwag het. Klein . . . – hy soek ’n woord – klein ditsedat! Marié Hurter; mooi naam, maar daaraan kan hy hom nie nou steur nie. Tien teen een is dit ’n oujongnooi wat haar eie stokkerige frustrasies op hierdie manier in ’n suikermengsel op papier uitstort. Sy vingers kletter oor die toetse.

die tydskrif aan die spits in Suid-Afrika
Tel. 31-4151 Posbus 351 Johannesburg

Mej. M. Hurter
Posbus 2345
Geagte mej. Hurter
Ek stuur u verhaal, “Blou maanskyn”, hiermee terug. Dit spyt my om te sê dat dit my nie spyt om hom af te keur nie. U behoort uit ons gepubliseerde verhale af te lei dat ons tydskrif lankal sy adolessente jeans afgeskud het. Die redaksie het baie werk en kan nie bekostig om hul kosbare tyd te verkwis met die lees van minderwaardige verhale soos hierdie nie.
U het dit seker goed bedoel, maar u kan dit gerus oorweeg om u goeie bedoelings op ’n minder onskadelike manier te uit as om die skryfkuns daaronder te versmoor.
Die uwe
Jan Wentzel

“Sóó!” Jan draai die vel uit die masjien en sit dit in ’n koevert. “Dit sal die ellendeling leer!”

Hy dink ’n bietjie skuldig aan die vorige redaksievergadering toe die hoofredakteur hulle dit so op die hart gedruk het: “Mense, kyk, Die Voorpunt staan op die voorpunt. Maar moet nooit ’n medewerker afskrik nie. Aanmoediging en aandag kan dalk talent aan die lig bring wat anders vir die mensdom verlore sou gewees het.”

Hy troos hom daaraan dat meneer Keyter al verby vyftig trek en nie meer weet wat dit is om elke dag stringe snertverhale te keur en die paar korreltjies van die kaf te skei nie. Buitendien, as hy dié juffrou Hurter nie nou skrikmaak nie, gaan sy vir hulle dalk nog wie weet hoeveel ellende met haar simpel stories veroorsaak. Voorkoming is beter as genesing.

“Meneer Wentzel,” kom die sekretaresse kort voor halfeen die volgende dag by Jan se kantoor in, “daar’s ’n dame wat u wil spreek.”

Hy loer na sy horlosie. “Ons loop oor ’n kwartier. Ek is in die middel van ’n verhaal. Kan sy nie vanmiddag kom nie?”

Die sekretaresse skud haar kop. “Sy’s haastig.” Sy aarsel. “En as ek u raad verskuldig is, laat haar maar kom, anders is sy kapabel en rand een van ons aan.”

Hy haal sy bril af en beskou haar. “Juffrou Neethling?”

“En sy’s haastig ook,” sê die sekretaresse. “Sy wil nog ’n draai hier onder by die vroueredaktrise maak en dan moet sy jaag vir ’n afspraak of iets.”

“Toe, toe!” keer hy. Juffrou Neethling, pligsgetroue mens, probeer alle besonderhede gewoonlik so volledig as moontlik en in so ’n kort tydjie as moontlik verskaf.

“En sy staan op ’n verbode parkeerplek ook. ’n Klein groen motortjie.”

“Mylafstand?” hou hy hom ernstig.

Juffrou Neethling glimlag verleë. “Nee, dis ernstig, meneer. Sy het rooi hare.”

Hy haal sy skouers op. “Nou goed.”

Maar voor juffrou Neethling na haar eie kantoor kan teruggaan, spring die deur oop en sý kom in: die pragtigste elfmensie wat jy jou kan voorstel.

“Is jy Jan Wentzel?” vra sy. En Jan besef sonder meer dat sy veel meer vonk het as wat dit op die oog af mag lyk.

Hy staan op en beduie die sekretaresse om te verdwyn. “Tot u diens, juffrou.”

“Tot u diens se voet!”

Sy kom met driftige treë nader en haar groen oë blits.

“Het jy dié ding geskryf?” Sy sjoerr ’n vel papier op sy lessenaar neer.

Hy vat-vat dit ’n slag mis en lees dit onderstebo: “Geagte mejuffrou Hurter. Ek stuur u verhaal . . .”

“Het jy dit geskryf?” vra sy.

“Juffrou?” Hy sit sy bril op. “Juffrou, ek . . .”

“Moenie staan en juffrou nie!” Sy vat die brief by hom. “Het jy of het jy nie?”

“Sit ’n oomblik, juffrou Hurter. Ek sal die saak mooi uiteensit.”

“Ek staan lekker, dankie.” Sy vroetel-vroetel in haar handsak en haal ’n manuskrip uit. “En hier’s my storie, ‘Blou maanskyn’. Sê my nou baie mooi hoekom jy hom teruggestuur het. En ek wag nie lank nie.”

Jan vee oor sy voorkop. “Moenie so kwaad wees nie, juffrou.”

Dit lyk of sy hom gaan spoeg en hy skuif sy stoel ’n entjie agteruit.

“Kyk, meneer Jan Wentzel,” sê sy stadig en baie nadruklik. “Verstaan jy Afrikaans? Jy het my storie teruggestuur en jy het vir my ’n baie onbeskofte brief geskryf. Hoekom? Ek gee jou vyf minute om te antwoord.”

Moord in die redaksiekantoor, dink hy. Maar hy is nog gans te verward om iets te sê. Al wat hy weet is dat hy die pragtigste meisie in jare der jare hier voor hom het en dat sy hom wil verniel as sy hom net kan bykom. Hoe maak mens nou as dit so gaan, h’m?

“Toe, ek wil hoor hoekom –”

Hy vervies hom skielik. “Jy het dit nou al ’n paar maal gesê, juffrou. Ek is nie doof nie.”

Sy knip haar oë en skrik ’n bietjie. “Maar . . .” sê sy. “Maar . . . Dit was ’n mooi storie, ek weet. Hennie het ook so gesê.”

Sy moed sak. Hennie. Mag ’n ongedierte die man vang!

“Juffrou,” sê hy sukkel-sukkel. “Kyk, ek was gister ’n siek man. Amper dood ook. Dis ’n genade dat jy my nog hier sien staan. En toe lees ek vyf simp- . . . vyf swak stories in ’n ry. Dis meer as wat vlees en bloed kan dra. Dis nie dat jou storie buite hoop is nie, sien. Ons is net bietjie vol op die oomblik . . .”

“Vol se dinges!” wip sy die brief onder sy neus in. “Is dit hoe mens skryf as jou tydskrif te vol is? ‘. . . u goeie bedoelings op ’n minder onskadelike manier te uit as om die skryfkuns daaronder te versmoor.’ Verbeel jou. Verbéél jou! Jou onbeskofte, ellendige mansmens!” Sy wip om en loop deur toe. “Dink julle kan enige ding aanvang net omdat julle met ’n onskadelike, weerlose ou meisietjie te doen het!” Die deur ghwarrr agter haar toe.

Onskadelike, weerlose ou meisietjie, dink hy. Maar die eintlike probleem wat hom beethet, is dit: hoe gaan hy ooit, ooit daarin slaag om haar in die hande te kry? Want dit, en niks minder as dit nie, is wat hy besluit het toe sy vaneffe hier ingeborrel het. Dis presies wat mens nodig het op ’n koue wintersaand: so ’n stukkie lewe in die huis. Maar filosofeer gaan nie help nie. Hoe gaan hy haar ná dese tot enigiets oorreed? ’n Meisie kry nie gou ’n sagte plekkie in die hart vir die man wat sy as ’n boef en onbeskofte vent uitgeskel het nie.

Maar Jan Wentzel is darem ook nie verniet kortverhaalredakteur nie. Hy kan ’n moeilike situasie hanteer as dit moet. En as dit nog nooit gemoet het nie, dan moet dit nou.

Hy skarrel rond tussen die goed wat juffrou Neethling vertel het: die meisie – Marié Hurter (mooi naam) – moet nog by die vroueredaktrise ’n draai maak, dan jaag vir ’n afspraak (Hennie Blikslaer!). En die motor staan onwettig geparkeer. Groen goggamobiel. Hy is nog besig om te dink toe die gehoorbuis al teen sy oor lê.

“Juffrou Neethling? Skakel my deur na Hendrik Buys heel onder. En opskud!”

Hy hoor die telefoon onder brr-brr en dan kliek.



“Broer, nael met daardie lang bene van jou uit in die straat. Daar staan ’n groen goggamobiel êrens waar hy nie moet staan nie. Stel hom buite aksie. Diskonnekteer hom, betjoins hom – moet net nie skade aanrig nie – blaas ’n wiel af, enigiets. En as jy ’n rooikopmeisie met ’n groen rok sien aankom, maak dat jy wegkom en koes vir die klippe.”


"One of my mother's biggest regrets was that she never got to see my father's body." Read an excerpt from Lukhanyo & Abigail Calata's My Father Died for This

When the Cradock Four’s Fort Calata was murdered by agents of the apartheid state in 1985, his son Lukhanyo was only three years old.

Thirty-one years later Lukhanyo, now a journalist, becomes one of the SABC Eight when he defies Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s reign of censorship at the public broadcaster by writing an open letter that declares: my father didn’t die for this.

Now, with his wife Abigail, Lukhanyo brings to life the father he never knew and investigates the mystery that surrounds his death despite two high-profile inquests.

Join them in a poignant and inspiring journey into the history of a remarkable family that traces the struggle against apartheid beginning with Fort’s grandfather, Rivonia trialist and ANC Secretary-General Rev James Calata.

Lukhanyo Calata is a television journalist, who worked for eNCA before joining the SABC’s parliamentary office. He lives in Cape Town.

Abigail Calata is a journalist who has worked for Beeld as a political reporter and parliamentary correspondent, Die Burger and the University of Cape Town’s Law Faculty. She lives in Cape Town.

Read an excerpt from the Calata’s powerful book, as published in the Daily Maverick:

My mother remembered a heavy fatigue descending on her as day broke on 20 July. “On the day of the funeral, I was tired,” she said. “I was so very tired. And I was not myself. I was just surrounded by darkness.”

That morning, she would defiantly wear a dress in the black, green, and gold colours of the ANC.

The remains arrived in Cradock quite early that Saturday morning. My father’s coffin was brought and placed on the stoep of Tatou’s home, almost on the exact spot where his grandfather’s coffin had stood just two years previously. The remains of the other three men were taken to their respective homes.

Paul Verryn would insist that the coffin with my father’s remains not be opened, in a bid to shield my mother from the trauma of seeing her husband’s badly mutilated body.

On my father’s death certificate, the cause of death is ascribed to “stab wounds to the heart and the consequences thereof”. What it neglects to mention is the number of times he was stabbed – at least 25 times. It also doesn’t mention that his tongue and several fingers on his left hand were cut off. His body, and in particular his face, was then doused with petrol and set alight – to make identification difficult.

Despite this, one of my mother’s biggest regrets was that she never got to see my father’s body.

Continue reading here.

Book details

"Does the pirate already know who his pursuer is?" Read an exhilarating excerpt from Catching the Thunder

A story of courage and perseverance.

Wanted by Interpol, infamous poaching ship Thunder evaded justice for over 10 years. Illegally making millions a year, its crew hunted endangered species and destroyed ocean habitats. In Dec. 2014, Captain Hammarstedt of the Bob Barker and his crew began a relentless pursuit of the Thunder – a hazardous race across three oceans, the longest chase in maritime history.

The authors follow this incredible expedition, encountering criminal kingpins, rampant corruption, slavery and an international community content to turn a blind eye. Catching the Thunder becomes a symbolic race to save the planet.

Eskil Engdal and Kjetil Sæter were the first to tell the story of the hunt for Thunder in a series of newspaper articles. Both are award-winning investigative journalists in their own rights, between them winning the SKUP journalism award, the International Reporter’s Journalism Award and the Golden Pen, among others.

Read an extract!

The Southern Ocean,
December 2014

Everything is in motion.

The albatrosses, suspended effortlessly on the air current with their three-metre-long wings, now cross upward against the wind. Then they set out in a broad-reaching, leeward arc, plummet towards the surface of the ocean and turn back into the wind to ascend once more.

In the south, out of the Prydz Bay, an eternal, invisibly flowing stream transports ice from inner Antarctica to the coast. The winds rush out from the hinterland. Shaped by dense, cold air from the Antarctic continent, they sweep down the uncompromising polar plateau and inward across the coast.

The wind is blowing from the southwest at four knots; the ocean is flowing silently and calmly around the two ships and the waves swelling to heights of barely more than a metre. The Thunder is headed west. Does the pirate already know who his pursuer is? Is that why the mate on the Thunder is sailing in the opposite direction of the Bob Barker’s home port in Tasmania? Perhaps he wants to test how far Captain Peter Hammarstedt is willing to pursue them?

Suddenly, the Thunder changes course, heading in the direction of a belt of pack ice. The mate reduces the speed to two knots, heads northwest and around a square ice sheet. The two ships sail along the northern edge of the drift ice for a long while. When they enter a wide gulf with ice on all sides, the Thunder stops. It is as if for a moment the ship becomes aware of the danger that lies ahead.

“There’s a lot of pack ice. Let’s see what these guys do. They may turn, they might go in,” first mate Adam Meyerson says. “It is a waste of their time and ours. They may be testing us. We are faster than they are, so they cannot outrun us. Trying to wear down our jaw. I’m sure they are desperate. They have no other options,” he says.

“They are just going to see what we will do, I think. Let’s get in right on their stern,” Hammarstedt says.

During the brief lull, the Bob Barker’s photographer runs up on deck to take photographs of the draft marks, which indicate how high the Thunder is sitting in the water. This can give them an idea of the amount of supplies and fuel on board.

Then the Thunder doggedly directs its bow towards the pack ice, at first carefully and tentatively, as if the shipmaster wants to test how contact with the ice will affect the ship.

Suddenly, it speeds up and the propeller churns open an ice-free channel which allows the Bob Barker to follow without having to do any icebreaking of its own. Hammarstedt cannot follow more than 700–800 metres behind the Thunder, or the channel that has been cleared ahead of them will close up.

“Who knows what the game is?” asks Simon Ager, the Sea Shepherd’s Canadian photographer.

“They may be testing if we will go into the ice. They may try to see if they can go through the ice faster than us,” Meyerson says, holding one hand beneath his chin and observing the manoeuvre taking place in front of him with an incredulous gaze.

For a moment, Captain Hammarstedt considers calling up the captain of the Thunder and asking if he thinks the manoeuvre into the ice is advisable, but he decides against it. He does not want to reveal his own nervousness.

Hammarstedt’s foremost concern is that the ice will oblige him to stop. Then it will close up behind the Bob Barker and can force its way in between the hull and the rudder, putting the most exposed part of the ship out of commission. That is a nightmare when you are located two weeks from the closest port and the only ship in the vicinity is fighting to get rid of you. The most dangerous of all is navigating between the ice and the Antarctic continent if the wind should suddenly change direction, sending the ice masses towards the ship while the wind laboriously packs the ice around the hull, shutting it in. Then the steel will begin to give way, the pressure from the ice threatening to tear it open. In such a case, getting into the life boats serves no purpose.

“Right now the Thunder is acting erratically. Trying to find something that sticks. We have never been up against these guys before. We are going to wear them down. I don’t think they will last that long,” Meyerson says on the bridge.

The sound of the ice scraping along the hull is like stone against a grinding wheel. The noise grates its way into the cabins, from time to time an explosion can be heard from the treacherous floes of drift ice. These are “bergy bits”: on the surface they are no more than 2–3 metres across, but nothing on the ocean surface reveals the actual depths to which they extend. When they break free from a drifting ice berg and reach the ocean, they roll over, washing off the surface snow and remain floating there with a clear surface of glassy ice that makes them difficult to read on the radar. Weighing up to 500 tons, they can easily sink a ship.

Around the Thunder and the Bob Barker the ice grows thicker and thicker. First it closes in around the Thunder, subsequently the Bob Barker. The ships are surrounded by ice and they plough slowly forward. Soon Adam Meyerson can make out a clear blue strip of open sea. The Thunder moves out of the ice first, increases its speed and sets its course north, away from the ice.
From the bridge they watch as the Thunder grows smaller and smaller against the horizon, but they know they will manage to catch up with her as soon as they have broken through the last of the ice floes.

A half hour after midnight, both of the ships are out on open water.

“Come on, guys, let’s go to Fremantle and I’ll buy you a beer. And then I take you to jail,” Adam Meyerson laughs.

Book details

Dig a compost pit, build a green urinal and six other tips on waterproofing your home and garden à la Helen Moffett's 101 Water Wise Ways

Three provinces in South Africa have been declared national disaster zones because of drought.

The way we think about water needs to change, and fast. This is especially true for those of us who have running water and flush sanitation piped into our homes. For millions of South Africans, water is already a precious resource that costs toil to collect and fuel to heat.

Our middle-class expectations that water will gush steaming from our dozens of indoor taps 24/7 are going to look as bizarre to future generations as the spectacle of Cleopatra bathing in asses’ milk. Our Roman-orgy relationship with water is over. This book will hopefully help to alleviate water panic and distress.

A “can-do” compendium, it’s meant to be a guide, not prescriptive – not all solutions or tips are one-size-fits-all. Think of it as an ally in your fight to save water and part of your survival kit, along with the firstaid box; Valium for water-worriers.
Helen Moffett is a poet, editor, feminist activist and academic, her publications include university textbooks, an anthology of landscape writings, a cricket book (with the late Bob Woolmer and Tim Noakes), an animal charity anthology (Stray, with Diane Awerbuck) and the Girl Walks In erotica series (with Sarah Lotz and Paige Nick under the nom de plume Helena S. Paige). She has also published two poetry collections – Strange Fruit (Modjaji Books) and Prunings (uHlanga Press), which won the 2017 SALA prize. Recent projects include the Short Story Day Africa anthology, Migrations, and a memoir of Rape Crisis. She lives in Noordhoek, Cape Town.


If you have a garden, consider yourself lucky. This is going to be a great ally in your water-wise mission. Any kind of outdoor space will help, especially if it has a washing line and place to store containers.

TIP 25
Dig a compost pit. It may sound off-track, but this will save you water. There are many composting systems, some involving earthworms, special containers (these are good for tiny gardens with little accessible soil), rotating drums and more. I simply dig a hole about a metre deep and a metre across, and dump everything biodegradable in it. Why? There are a thousand excellent reasons to keep garbage out of landfills and to feed organic matter back into the soil, but for now: it will save washing up. If you are shaken by the notion of licking your plate, or getting the family dog to do so (see Tip 64), then scraping your plate into the kitchen compost bucket after meals is the next best thing.

I compost fish bones and skin – tomato plants love these – and also chicken bones, but I can get away with this because it’s a rare occurrence. Generally, meat bones should be kept out of compost heaps unless you want visits from neighbouring dogs; bread might likewise attract rats. Consider thrifty ways to use leftovers – chicken carcasses for stock, and so on (see Tip 61) – or resort to the dustbin.

A compost pit is also a suitably earthy place to dispose of blood (from a mooncup, for instance, or biodegradable sanitary pads) or vomit. Sprinkle a good layer of soil or mulch over afterwards. Note that urine is good for compost heaps, but for reasons too complicated to go into here, this is not a safe place to dump your dump.

TIP 26
Dig a small, deep fire pit in which to burn certain kinds of refuse: food-soiled paper and cardboard (napkins, pizza and cake boxes), “pee” paper, used wet wipes and so on. Don’t burn any form of plastic or polystyrene. Obviously, proceed with extreme caution when lighting any fires: you don’t want to burn down your house or the neighbourhood.

TIP 27
Construct a home-made grey/black water filter if you have a veggie garden or plants you want to keep alive: Google will give instructions, but I made a small brick enclosure in my garden and layered stones, broken bricks and chunks of wood into it, then topped it with gravel, sand and mulch. This can receive your black water (see Tip 15). Note that some plants will thrive on this, others will hate it; this kept my spinach and chard going right through the drought, but the tomatoes turned up their toes.

TIP 28
Build a green urinal in your garden if you have the space. This is a tip from the National Trust in Britain, which has millions of visitors to its properties, and came up with this plan to stop half of them from flushing. All that’s needed is a bale of straw and a modesty screen. Set the straw down in a sheltered part of the garden away from any water sources. Ask feed stores or nurseries if they have any straw spoiled by mould or weeds – they may give it to you for free – or make your own bale. I compacted dead grass into a rectangle about one foot high and three feet long. Set up a waist-high screen of sticks around the straw – you can construct your own (I used discarded bamboo) or buy from a garden centre. The straw or grass deodorises the urine, the urine helps decompose the straw, and after several months, you can use it as mulch in the garden, and start again with a fresh bale.

TIP 29
You might already own equipment that could help in the quest to save and harvest water. Check your garage, attic or storage space for useful camping and gardening gear: camping showers, stoves and washers, garden sprayers, jerrycans, foot pumps, trailers, wheelbarrows or trolleys for moving containers of water around – all these are gold. You might have dustbins, tarpaulins, canvas tents, wheeled suitcases, cooler boxes, funnels and much more that could come in handy. And you can’t have too many buckets. There should be one in every shower and next to every toilet.

Bonus tip: visit camping stores to get ideas, and draw up a wish list (see p. 102) of equipment, along with a price list, so you can plan your water budget to fit your needs and pocket. Be aware that some “dream machines” are not as ideal as they sound: air-to-water machines, for instance, are expensive, noisy, gobble up electricity and need high levels of humidity to be effective.

TIP 30
If you have a pool, turn it from a liability into an asset: it can become a valuable water-storing facility. Set up a system that enables as much rainwater as possible to flow into it, cover it, and use this as back-up for flushing.

Bonus tip for the future: consult an expert about turning your pool into an eco-pond that requires no chemicals to maintain. This could become a beautiful garden feature with aquatic plants and friendly frogs to catch flies and mosquitoes. Keep an area clear so the family can dip in and cool off or do a spot of water aerobics. If you want to swim lengths, plan on doing so at the gym or public pool.

WARNING! All the usual warnings about pool safety apply even more in drought conditions: thirsty animals and curious children will be more than usually attracted to water. Be 100% vigilant and make sure that your safety features are in apple-pie order.

TIP 31
Get inventive. Tie a funnel to the “elbow” of your satellite dish and run a pipe down from it into a container. Harvest the water from your office air-conditioner. Set up your planters to act as mini water tanks. Save catering-size containers and paint-tins.

TIP 32
Stock up on the following toiletries: antiperspirant (Mitchum is the one exception to my no-brandrecommendation – worth every penny), dry shampoo, leave-in hair conditioner, disinfectant, hand sanitiser, hand lotion, talc (not just for Grandma: good for no-shower days), wet wipes.

Bonus tip: on the topic of wet wipes, remember that you shouldn’t flush these – NOT EVEN WHEN IT SAYS YOU CAN ON THE PACKET. Try to get biodegradable ones and put these in the compost, or make your own (there’s a great recipe under Resources). Note that “biodegradable” and “compostable” do NOT mean flushable.

Book details

"His thinking was far from linear or singular." Read an excerpt from the introduction to Frantz Fanon, Psychiatry and Politics

The revolutionary and psychiatrist Frantz Fanon was a foundational figure in postcolonial and decolonial thought and practice, yet his psychiatric work still has only been studied peripherally. That is in part because most of his psychiatric writings have remained untranslated.

With a focus on Fanon’s key psychiatry texts, Frantz Fanon, Psychiatry and Politics considers Fanon’s psychiatric writings as materials anticipating as well as accompanying Fanon’s better known works, written between 1952 and 1961 (Black Skin, White Masks; A Dying Colonialism, Toward the African Revolution, The Wretched of the Earth).

Both clinical and political, they draw on another notion of psychiatry that intersects history, ethnology, philosophy, and psychoanalysis. The authors argue that Fanon’s work inaugurates a critical ethnopsychiatry based on a new concept of culture (anchored to historical events, particular situations, and lived experience) and on the relationship between the psychological and the cultural. Thus, Gibson and Beneduce contend that Fanon’s psychiatric writings also express Fanon’s wish, as he puts it in The Wretched of the Earth, to “develop a new way of thinking, not only for us but for humanity.”

Nigel C. Gibson is Associate Professor of Postcolonial Studies at Emerson College. He is author of Fanon: The Postcolonial Imagination (2003) and Fanonian Practices in South Africa (2014), and the editor of Rethinking Fanon (1999) and Living Fanon (2011). He is the editor of the Journal of Asian and African Studies.

Roberto Beneduce is Professor of Medical Anthropology at the University of Turin. He is the founding director of the Frantz Fanon Center in Turin. His recent publications include a collection of Fanon’s psychiatric writings in Italian, Decolonizzare la follia, Scritti sulla psichiatria coloniale (2011), and L’histoire au corps (Embodying History) (2016).

Read an excerpt from the introduction to Gibson and Beneduce’s astute book, as published in The Con Magazine, here:

1952 to 1961: in the space of less than ten years, Frantz Fanon defended his medical thesis in France, took up his post as a psychiatrist at Blida-Joinville Hospital in Algeria, wrote three books, and produced articles for Esprit, Consciences Maghribines, L’information psychiatrique, La Tunisie Médicale, Maroc Médicale, and El Moudjahid (the organ of the National Liberation Front).

In this incredibly short period of time the accelerating pace of events seems to have imposed on his writing its own unique, peremptory rhythm — almost as if the author was somehow unconsciously aware of his own impending death, at only thirty-six years of age.

Fanon wrote his first book, Peau noire, masques blancs (Black Skin, White Masks) (1952) and his last book, Les damnés de la terre (The Wretched of the Earth) (1961) within the same timeframe.

And while there is no epistemological break between these two works, no simple correlation can be drawn between them either.

We confront in Fanon’s writing, both the openness of his thought and the specificity of its contexts. Between Black Skin, White Masks and The Wretched, we can situate Fanon’s work as a psychiatrist committed to a broad criticism of colonial epistemology.

Like the political articles he wrote for El Moudjahid, many of his psychiatric articles are specific, situational, and concrete. In this sense, they are less developed theoretically than his major works, and many are viewed as peripheral to Fanon’s three books and the collection of his political writings that has been available to English readers since the mid-1960s.

In what sense, then, can we consider Fanon’s psychiatric writings part of his oeuvre?

Continue reading here.

Book details