Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Nomavenda Mathiane explains the genesis of her book, Eyes in the Night: An Untold Zulu Story

Eyes in the NightBookstorm has shared an excerpt from Eyes in the Night: An Untold Zulu Story by Nomavenda Mathiane.

In the book Mathiane tells the story of her grandmother, who lived through the gruelling events of the Battle of Isandlwana and through the 1879 Anglo-Zulu War as a young girl.

Her grandmother lived an extraordinary life, but her daughter – Mathiane’s mother – never spoke about it.

In this excerpt, Mathiane begins to explain why her mother kept silence, and how the idea for the book began to germinate in her mind.

 
 
Read the extract:

Prologue

Six months before my mother died, she gave me her mother’s reference book and asked me to get professionals to reconstruct the photograph in the book. She pleaded with me to take good care of it because it was the only photograph she had of her mother. I thought it odd that she should entrust me with the task because she usually assigned important duties to Mzilikazi, my older brother. I took the book from her and chucked it in one of the boxes where I keep important documents and soon forgot all about it.

My mother died in July 2003 in Qunwane, an old rural settlement in the district of Hlabisa in KwaZulu-Natal. Qunwane is a village, like many in that region, populated by people who are steeped in their traditional culture and ways; where generation after generation has been led by the Hlabisa clan and has lived in harmony for years; where a death in one family is mourned by the entire community. One of the traditions strictly observed by this community dictates that as soon as it is known that a member of the community has died, men, women and youngsters busy in their fields will stop work immediately. They will be seen on the road heading back home, carrying their hoes, picks and scythes. Nobody will work in the fields until the deceased has been buried. This practice is to honour the departed and show respect for the ground where the body is to be laid to rest.

The Sunday after Mother’s funeral, when neighbours and acquaintances had left our homestead, the only people who had stayed behind apart from us, her children, were close relatives. They were there to help us with the cleaning of her house and to sort out her personal belongings.

It was a warm winter’s day and we were lazing around eating the food left over from the funeral as well as conducting a post-mortem of the funeral proceedings. My brothers and sisters – there are nine of us, six girls and three boys – were sitting in my mother’s dining room talking about what the speakers at the funeral had said about her. Some of the stories were hilarious while others were downright embarrassing. One speaker told the mourners that Mother boasted about her children and the way they looked after her, that she would say she was not a chimpanzee sitting under a tree wailing. She would tell locals that she had so much money that if she laid the notes on the ground she could walk on them from her house to Nongoma, which is a stretch of about thirty kilometres. Another speaker agreed with the previous speaker, saying she had once casually asked Mother where her son Mzilikazi was teaching and her answer had been: ‘Oh, that one is tired of teaching black children. He is now teaching white kids at the university.’ I mean, how politically incorrect could one be? These were some of the stories with which people at her funeral service had regaled the mourners. Mother was a colourful person, full of love, song and jokes. She was ninety-seven when she died and her send-off was more of a celebration of her life than a funeral.

I was sitting next to my oldest sister Ahh this Sunday morning. Ahh is short for Albertinah. She is my mother’s first-born child. Of all my mother’s children, Sis Ahh is extremely laid back, soft spoken and one of the most gentle people I have ever known.

I turned to her and said: ‘There is something I’ve never understood about Sister J.’ (We called our mother Sister J, her name being Joana.) ‘Do you know why she rarely spoke about her mother? For someone who used to entertain us with stories of OkaBhudu (our paternal granny, her mother-in-law), there was very little she shared with us about her mom. Do you know why?’

I don’t know whether or not I expected an answer. I was partly talking to myself and I was also half listening to the conversation that was taking place around the table.

‘It’s because her mother’s story was filled with too much drama, regret, guilt and, finally, triumph. That is why she did not speak about her mom,’ answered Sis Ahh.

Getting a reply from Sis Ahh surprised me. Her answer came out glibly and matter-of-factly. I paid little attention to it. And yet somehow it lingered in my mind.

Book details

'The world may be wide, but our lives are less so' - Read an excerpt from The Relatively Public Life Of Jules Browde

Stories of a very great grandad: Kate Sidley talks to Daniel Browde about his book The Relatively Public Life of Jules Browde

 
The Relatively Public Life Of Jules BrowdeJonathan Ball Publishers have shared an excerpt from The Relatively Public Life Of Jules Browde by Daniel Browde.

About the book

When Daniel is tasked with writing the biography of his grandfather, Jules Browde – one of South Africa’s most celebrated advocates – he sharpens his pencil and gets to work. But the task that at first seems so simple comes to overwhelm him. As the book begins to recede – month after month, year after year – he must face the possibility of disappointing his grandfather, whose legacy now rests uncomfortably in his hands.

The troubled progress of Daniel’s book stands in sharp contrast to the clear-edged tales his grandfather tells him. Spanning almost a century, these gripping stories compellingly conjure other worlds: the streets of 1920s Yeoville, the battlefields of the Second World War, the courtrooms of apartheid South Africa.

The Relatively Public Life of Jules Browde turns the conventions of a biography inside out. It is more than the portrait of an unusual South African life, it is the moving tale of a complex and tender relationship between grandfather and grandson, and an exploration of how we are made and unmade in the stories we tell about our lives.

About the author

Daniel Browde was born in 1976 in Israel, but has lived most of his life in South Africa. After completing a BA at Wits University he worked variously as a researcher, actor and film editor. In 2001 he was nominated for a Vita Award for best supporting actor for his part in the play Proof. Browde lives with his partner, artist Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi, in Johannesburg.

 

* * * * *

 

Read an excerpt from Chapter 10 of the book:

In the stories from this period, I found a beguiling argument: that a person can be understood as the end result of a chain of events. The idea that, if we look closely, we can see the seminal moment, the where-it-all-began. So Bruce Wayne puts on a mask and hunts criminals because two of them murdered his parents one night in Gotham, and so on, one thing leading to another according to an ultimately decipherable logic. In this way, we give coherence to the blind swarm of the past.

Even when I was a little kid, I knew what my grandpa’s superpower was – what he was the best at. It was called cross-examination. This, he would often tell me, did not mean ‘examining crossly’. It was more difficult than that, more artful. It was a way of asking questions so that the weaknesses of a story would reveal themselves. It took special skills of listening and memory. ‘Just a minute, sir, didn’t you say earlier that …’ was what I imagined him saying to a lying witness, having fed him enough rope and now watching him tie himself in a knot.

My father told me how law students would skip their lectures to go and listen to my grandfather cross-examine witnesses, that was how good he was – and I was always proud of him for it. But back then I just assumed that it was his natural superpower: as a bee knew how to make honey, so he knew how to get you to say what he wanted. But now I listened with increasing excitement as the flow of his narrative suggested that he was leading me to the font of this talent. Here it was, if I wanted it: the origin story.

‘My mother,’ he said, ‘had not a great income, and therefore I had to work. And I decided that any job I could get I would take, in order to try to make some contribution to the household.’

Ultimately (his word), he found work as a judge’s clerk, assisting two judges in the Witwatersrand Local Division. One was a man by the name of Leslie Blackwell, and the other was Harold Ramsbottom. Most of the time he worked for Blackwell, but when Blackwell went to hear cases on the circuit in Pretoria, he stayed in Johannesburg and worked for Ramsbottom. In the mornings he clerked for one of these two in the High Court on Pritchard Street, and in the afternoons he attended classes at the university in Braamfontein.

The tale was cleverly cast: Blackwell, an Australian by birth, had ‘a gnarled face with a big bulbous nose and hooded eyes. He was a very rough character indeed,’ while Ramsbottom, ‘or Rammy, as we called him, was a gentleman to his fingertips. To me he was the soul of courtesy …’

Rammy, my grandfather explained, had been an officer in the artillery in the First World War, and took a special interest in the progress of this young artillery veteran. ‘Every afternoon after work, he would drop me at the library. When Blackwell was here, I used to go by bus. But Rammy insisted on taking me in his car. On the way, he spoke to me about my studies and any difficulties I was having, and when I had problems I would talk to him about them. He really was a most gracious employer.’

So Blackwell and Rammy, the shadow and the light, provided the vibrant chiaroscuro that animated the background of the period.

Sitting in court, clerking for either one or the other, the young law student ‘was privileged not only to learn the requirements of judgeship, but also had the opportunity of listening to and watching the giants of the Bar at that time carrying out their duties in court and conducting themselves in the best tradition of the profession of advocacy.’

He mentioned two giants in particular. The first was Harry Morris, who had become famous for his work on the Lord Erroll murder trial in Kenya, a case that caught the world’s attention and would later become immortalised in the book White Mischief. ‘Morris was an absolutely brilliant cross-examiner,’ my grandfather said. ‘He had a real flair for it. And I learned a great deal from him, just sitting and listening to him question witnesses.’

The other was Harold Hanson, who was only fifteen years older than my grandfather and so still a relatively young man when my grandfather first saw him in action. Hanson would go on to become one of South Africa’s most well-known advocates, representing FH Alexander (of the Alexander Technique) and Bram Fischer, whose words he would famously read out on the last day of the Rivonia Trial. I read up a little about him and discovered that other lawyers spoke of ‘Hansonian eloquence’.

‘This led,’ my grandfather said, ‘to a determination on my part to follow in this tradition. In particular, I was attracted to the art of cross-examination, and its application in trials, whether civil or criminal, in eliciting from hostile witnesses evidence that would be of benefit to my clients.’
 
 
 

Students of myth call it The Road of Trials, when the hero is frustrated at the critical moment by forces beyond his control.

Blackwell, with his reptilian eyes, asks my grandfather-to-be to type out the handwritten pages of his autobiography after hours. Thinking he might make some extra money, our young hero takes on the job. So now, not only is he clerking for half the day and attending lectures for the rest, but there he sits, night after night in his bedroom, typing out with two fingers his hard-hearted employer’s life story. (‘I was virtually hamstrung …’)

And it is exactly then, suitably hindered, that he meets the Girl, a medical student from Cape Town who has come up to Johannesburg for a few days to attend a student conference.

Of course, this story I’d heard before – a few times – from both of my grandparents. I’d always enjoyed hearing it, had enjoyed identifying the slight variances in their accounts. Something I had not thought about before, though, was how near the physical coordinates of that intersection were to where they, and I, lived now – sixty years in the future. The block of flats where they met was less than ten minutes’ walk from where he sat telling me the story one more time, the dictaphone turning between us.

Going home that day, I took a route that was slightly longer than the one I usually used. I turned left on Osborne Road instead of right, and went the other way around the golf course, so I would pass the block of flats from the story.

Peering up through the windscreen as I drove slowly past the building, I thought about how the world may be wide, but our lives are less so. Most of us spend our days in one place. This was his place, here: these roads, pavements, houses and hidden gardens. And so far, at least, it had been mine too.

 
Related stories:

Book details

Hedley Twidle interviews Rustum Kozain for Wasafiri 86 - Unsettled Poetics: Contemporary Australian and South African Poetry

Hedley Twidle interviews Rustum Kozain for Wasafiri 86 – Unsettled Poetics: Contemporary Australian and South African Poetry
This Carting LifeGroundwork

 

The publishers of Wasafiri magazine have kindly shared an excerpt from issue 86: a conversation between Hedley Twidle and Rustum Kozain.

This special issue of WasafiriUnsettled Poetics: Contemporary Australian and South African Poetry – features poetry by Kozain, Harry Garuba, Ingrid de Kok, Antjie Krog, Mxolisi Nyezwa and Karen Press – among others – articles by Kelwyn Sole and Finuala Dowling, as well as reviews, interviews and art. Guest editor Ben Etherington calls it “a significant undertaking, with 24 contributors, new works from 13 poets, essays and interviews”.

Wasafiri 86 - Unsettled Poetics: Contemporary Australian and South African Poetry“It is the first issue of Wasafiri focused on either Australian or South African poetry,” he adds.
 
If you are interested in purchasing Wasafiri’s Special Issue Unsettled Poetics: Contemporary Australian and South African Poetry (no. 86 Summer 2016) please email wasafiri@open.ac.uk
 
Below is an excerpt from Twidle’s contribution: “An Interview with Rustum Kozain”, in which the two discuss the decline of literary criticism, the perils of nostalgia, and the exhaustion of imagination in the current South African moment, as well as the influences and aesthetics of Kozain’s poetry.

We would recommend you order the magazine so that you can enjoy the interview in its entirety.

Twidle is a senior lecturer in the English Department at the University of Cape Town, who writes regularly for the New Statesman, Financial Times and Mail & Guardian.

Kozain is the author of two award-winning books of poetry, The Carting Life and Groundwork, and the only person to win the Olive Schreiner Prize twice in the same genre.

* * * * *

An Interview with Rustum Kozain

By Hedley Twidle

Rustum Kozain was born in 1966 in Paarl, South Africa. He studied for several years at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and spent ten months (1994-1995) in the United States of America on a Fulbright Scholarship. He returned to South Africa and lectured in the Department of English at UCT from 1998 to 2004, teaching in the fields of literature, film and popular culture. Kozain has published his poetry in local and international journals; his debut volume, This Carting Life, was published in 2005 by Kwela/Snailpress.

Kozain’s numerous awards include: being joint winner of the 1989 Nelson Mandela Poetry Prize administered by the University of Cape Town; the 1997 Philip Stein Poetry Award for a poem published in 1996 in New Contrast; the 2003 Thomas Pringle Award from the English Academy of Southern Africa for individual poems published in journals in South Africa; the 2006 Ingrid Jonker Prize for This Carting Life (awarded for debut work); and the 2007 Olive Schreiner Prize for This Carting Life (awarded by the English Academy of Southern Africa for debut work).

The following conversation took place on 31 July 2015 at Rustum Kozain’s flat in Tamboerskloof, Cape Town. Prior to my arrival, Rustum had prepared a chicken balti with cabbage according to a recipe from Birmingham, and also a dry cauliflower and potato curry. During our discussion (lasting one and a half hours, condensed and lightly edited here) he occasionally got up to check on the dishes – which we ate afterwards with freshly prepared sambals.

Hedley Twidle  Rustum, you wrote an article for Wasafiri twenty-one years ago (issue 19, Summer 1994) in which you discuss the reception of Mzwakhe Mbuli’s poetry. There you were sceptical of South African critics who were lauding his work and its techniques of oral performance as if these things had never happened before. You suggested that if one looks at Linton Kwesi Johnson (LKJ), there is an equally established and perhaps more skilful tradition of this in another part of the world. My response after reading the article – because you take issue with several critics of poetry – my response was: ‘Well, at least people were discussing South African poetry.’ I can’t think of a similarly invested debate around the craft of poetry going on now. Or am I not seeing it?

Rustum Kozain  That’s an interesting question, especially as so many people now seem to consider poetry as this casual activity, which is dispiriting. There isn’t a discussion of, to use the basic terms, whether a poem is a good poem or whether it is a terrible poem. My sense is that we talk about poetry, and literature more generally, simply in terms of its content or its thematic concerns. Some of the controversy around the Franschhoek Literary Festival – or one of the points raised by younger black writers – was that they (the writers) are treated as anthropological informants. They link it specifically to a history of apartheid and racism in South Africa where the black author is there to answer questions about what life is like for a black person, to a mainly white audience. But I think it goes beyond race. In general, literary criticism has kind of regressed into simply summarising a content that is readily available. Part of the reason I think poetry disappeared off syllabuses in South Africa towards the late 1980s and early 1990s is that fewer and fewer teachers at university were prepared for or knew how to engage with teaching poetry beyond analysing its contents.

I had been listening to Linton Kwesi Johnson since I was a teenager, so when Mzwakhe Mbuli exploded onto the scene in South Africa and people were hailing him as someone who had revolutionised English poetics, I thought: ‘These people must be talking crap; have they not heard Linton Kwesi Johnson who was doing it ten years before and in a much better way?’ So my argument was partly about how people are evaluating literature and it was clear that Mzwakhe Mbuli was hailed also because his politics were seemingly progressive and he was on the side of the anti-apartheid struggle. That wasn’t enough for me to want to listen or read his poetry again and again – one wanted to talk about the aesthetics of his poetry.

HT  I suppose we’re getting closer now to the thematic of the issue which is about poetic craft at a time of cultural contestation. You’ve mentioned Linton Kwesi Johnson and you’re often referring to musicians in your poetry; obviously you are drawing a great deal from an auditory response or imagination, but your poetry is not like LKJ’s at all. In fact, I read it as quite a written form of poetry; I think Kelwyn Sole had a nice phrase for it. He said it has a ‘deliberative sonority’ – which I like because even that phrase sort of slows you down and I find that your poetry slows a reader down. I wonder if you could speak a bit about the fact that you’re in some senses devoted to the sonic, auditory, to sound, to jazz. I think Charles Mingus was playing when I arrived – you’ve written poems about him – and yet there’s quite a disciplined – I want to say almost modernist – restraint to a lot of your poetry.

RK  I think a large part, if not the largest part, of my influences would be modernist and what comes after modernism. I studied at university in the 1980s when modernism was still a significant part of the English literary syllabus at the University of Cape Town, so that is a part of me. But even before I enrolled for English, an older friend introduced me to ‘Prufrock’ [by TS Eliot]. And I thought this poem was remarkable because it was something completely different from what we were used to at school, which were typically a few Shakespeare sonnets, some Victorian poetry, I don’t think any of the Romantics.

The idea of sonority – I have to agree with you. I do have a thing for the sound of words. So the sound of a word often plays a large part in its choice in a line or a poem. Why don’t I sound like Linton Kwesi Johnson? That’s one of my greatest frustrations in life [laughs] – that I can’t write like Linton Kwesi Johnson in any believable way. Part of that is because I don’t have a Caribbean background. A large part of Linton Kwesi Johnson’s charm has got to do with the language he is using, which is tied so closely to drum rhythms in the Caribbean. He has a gift but he also has that legacy or that inheritance that he can work with. I’ve tried writing parodic poems in [my reggae-sourced] Jamaican Creole, but it’s rubbish. I’ve tried writing hip hop as well, but there is a particular skill in composing for oral performance that I don’t have.

HT  I was raising the question of slowness, but certainly not as a lack. Because, in a sense, what I find when reading poetry nowadays is the need to remind myself to slow down. I think we’re all programmed to read so fast now – online and on screens – to read instrumentally and for content. So I sense the kind of syntactical mechanisms you put in place to ensure a certain productive slowness.

RK  There are two things that definitely lie behind the slowness in much of my poetry. The one thing is that I feel myself to be a frustrated filmmaker, so my poems are often visual and it’s often as if a camera were panning across a scene. The other thing that lies behind this kind of slowness was something Kelwyn Sole said – or someone said in a blurb on one of his books – it has to do with his poetry looking at the quiet or the silent moments and trying to unpick what goes on in those moments; to think about what happens on the edges of normal events.

HT  At the end of your essay ‘Dagga’ you talk about the question of nostalgia, around which there have been a lot of debates recently, especially following from Jacob Dlamini’s Native Nostalgia in which he reminisces about growing up in Katlehong outside Johannesburg. He begins the work with quite a complex rhetorical position, he asks: ‘What does it mean to remember elements of a childhood under apartheid with fondness?’ It’s a question that was often taken up by reviewers (some of whom refused to read the book at all) as evidence that his book should be filed in the ‘apartheid wasn’t that bad’ genre, that he was pining for bad old days. I don’t think you’ve ever been accused of that in any way; but I wonder if you can talk a bit about the perils of nostalgia in our cultural moment, in which certain forms of subjectivity and expression are being policed in some ways?

RK  It is an interesting and, for me, a very central question. At times I get despondent about what I’m doing because I think that it could just be dismissed as exercises in nostalgia. I think we tend towards nostalgia as we grow older. Whether nostalgia in general is a pathology or whether it’s something positive, I don’t know. For me the moment we are living in in South Africa is a nightmare moment. So part of my looking back is also to try and deal with this weird and perverse relationship we have between the present – which is a nightmare – and the past – which was a nightmare, but during which we had this hope or this dream of an escape from a nightmare. The thing we looked forward to, that added something to our lives. But that added value is nowhere to be found in the present moment. When I write in ‘Dagga’ about growing up in Paarl, yes it is partly the nostalgia of a man turning fifty and it’s a nostalgia for a place partly because of biographical migrations away from that place and away from the social relations of that place as well. So those are two properly nostalgic impulses. Part of this – and I’ve come across this idea in many writers, most prominently in Mandelstam – is the desire to freeze time. For me that’s what I try almost every time I write a poem, to freeze time in the non-fiction, in the prose – to freeze time at that time when there was still hope, in a way, that’s part of it.

HT  So why is the present a nightmare?

RK  Do you have to ask? I never studied politics or sociology or political economy so I’m very reticent to talk politics as such. That’s probably why I write poetry, because in poetry you can get away with associative meanings. You don’t have to be completely rational, analytic, precise, so you can make political statements under the cover of the associative meanings that poetry allows you. I’m happy to expose myself in my poetry because, I think, there I can say things – maybe it’s a lack of courage, but there I can say things that people can’t challenge me with, with the whole locomotive and carriages of expert knowledge. So I’m reticent to talk about politics straight up, but South Africa is not the place that we imagined in the seventies and eighties that we were going to create. On the one hand conservatives and reactionaries can laugh at us and say ‘Well, what did you expect? What did you expect from a liberation movement that was communist inspired?’ and all that nonsense. But at the same time we had a dream and we lost a dream. What do we do now?

HT  A poem that really struck me when reading across your work was ‘February Moon’, Cape Town, 1993. I was quite taken aback when I saw the date because at the time it must have seemed pessimistic. But now this kind of discourse and this kind of dissatisfaction is gaining ground; in a sense it has become our daily bread. So my question then is about rhetorical exhaustion. Because how can you, on the one hand, ‘make it new’ in the Poundian sense; but, on the other hand, how do you (any ‘you’ that is politically aware) keep saying the same thing for years and years and years? There’s a line from Arundhati Roy that I often think of at the end of her essay ‘The End of Imagination’ – which is about India and its nuclear programme. She says

Let’s pick our parts, put on these discarded costumes and speak our second-hand lines in this sad second-hand play. But let’s not forget that the stakes we’re playing for are huge. Our fatigue and our shame could mean the end of us. (Roy 122)

How does one deal with or ward off a kind of exhaustion about having to say the same things which, in a sense, is what politically astute people have had to do for over two decades now?

RK  If you find yourself repeating yourself, what do you do? For me there is an exhaustion, but not of the imagination. Much of my poetry is not written from the imagination – I don’t imagine scenarios and portray characters in a particular scenario or events. My poetry is directly about a certain reality, my reality or something I see out there, but I understand what Roy means by an exhaustion of imagination and I think our state, our government, our civil servants, the service industry, the way people interact with each other, the advertising industry, representations of South Africa in the media, by our own media, how we see ourselves and how we understand our relationship with each other – there’s no imagination, there’s no vision, there’s no forethought. So my surroundings, my context, my circumstances exhaust me. Especially if they cohere around certain ideas of the nation and what has happened politically in South Africa – that I would have touched on in previous poetry. So you just sit there and you go: ‘Why does no one read my poetry?’ [laughs] It is not just me. This has been one of Kelwyn’s hobby horses; that when you read South African poetry, there has been a constant and continuous fatigue since the early nineties about the new South Africa running through our poetry. But since no one reads poetry, no one’s hearing the poets and no one’s listening to the poets.

At the moment I’m in a kind of trough where it concerns my own writing because a lot of my poetry now has a wider focus; it’s not only about South Africa, it’s about other things as well. And they’re difficult subjects, it’s difficult to treat these subjects with the kind of gravitas that they require and to resolve that treatment in the poetry. And it is not only South Africa; the rest of the world seems to have lost that foresight, vision, imagination in the way global politics and economics are run. My exhaustion is globally inspired, though it may only have a local impact [laughs].

For the full interview, purchase Wasafiri’s Special Issue Unsettled Poetics: Contemporary Australian and South African Poetry (no. 86 Summer 2016) by emailing wasafiri@open.ac.uk

Book details

Bad things happen on beautiful days: Introducing Sunshine Noir - crime writing from hot countries

Bad things happen on beautiful days: Introducing Sunshine Noir – crime writing from hot countries
nullA Carrion DeathDeath of the MantisA Deadly TradeDeadly HarvestA Death in the Family

 
This Fiction Friday, read a new short story by award-winning crime-writing duo Michael Stanley from the anthology Sunshine Noir.

Michael Stanley is the pen name of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both Sears and Trollip were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. They are the authors of the famous Detective Kubu series, the most recent being A Death in the Family.

To find out more about the idea behind the anthology, read the editors’ note:

Why Sunshine Noir?

“Nordic Noir stories,” we hear their proponents say, “are a cut above ordinary crime fiction because the landscape and weather of the northern countries intensify the darkness of the crime and deepen the psychological complexity of the characters.”

We writers of crime in hot countries beg to differ. Knowing full well that shadows are darkest where the sun is brightest and understanding, as we do, how heat can be more psychologically debilitating than cold, we decided to throw down the gauntlet to the Nordic noirists. We are here to challenge the dominance of dark-climate fiction; to show that stories set in sunny climes can be just as grim, more varied in plot and characters, and richer in entertainment value than those of the dark, grey, bone-chilling north.

To make our case, we’ve recruited crime-fiction writers from around the world. The authors in this volume will convince you with complex, beautifully written stories that span the hot places of the planet. Read these stories. You will agree.

The writers bring a variety of writing styles, which we have maintained to highlight their wonderful diversity.

Finally, we thank all the authors in the anthology for their enthusiasm and support. For their kind words, we also extend our gratitude both to Peter James, best-selling author and winner of the 2015 WH Smith Best Crime Author of all Time Award, and to Tim Hallinan, award-winning author of the Poke Rafferty series, set in Bangkok, and the Los Angeles-based Junior Bender mysteries.

You can follow us on Facebook and at Twitter @Sunshine_Noir.

Annamaria Alfieri and Michael Stanley

International bestselling author Peter James said of the anthology:

“… a whole new movement, spearheaded by Sunshine Noir”

There is a very haunting line at the beginning of a Nicci French novel I read years ago that has always stayed with me: Bad things happen on beautiful days.

For some years many of the most successful books storming the international crime scene have been under a dark, gloomy, wintry, brooding cloud, and have become known by the soubriquet of Scandi Noir. The long dark winters, freezing, hostile climate and the dour, grimly philosophical nature of some of that region’s inhabitants have created a certain style of crime and thriller writing that has proved enormously successful, in part because of the freshness it brought to this genre we love so much.

Many years ago I met very warm and friendly Maxine Sanders, widow of Alexander who is often credited as being the founder of modern satanism in the UK. She told me, “The light can only shine in darkness.” But now I sense with the publication of this gem of an anthology – hand in hand with some of the best crime writing in the world today – that there could be a whole new movement, spearheaded by Sunshine Noir! Where the darkness can only shine in the searing heat of the midday sun …

 
 

The editors have kindly shared an excerpt from “Spirits” by Michael Stanley:
 

It had been another scorching day in New Xade, with the temperature passing 100 degrees and not a trace of moisture. Usually things cooled off at night in the Kalahari, as the sand threw the heat back at the sky, but for weeks it had been stifling at night as well. Constable Ixau lay naked on his bed, trying to catch the breeze from an old desk fan on the table opposite him. Being a Bushman, heat and dryness didn’t usually bother him, but the persistent drought was upsetting. It’s a bad time, he thought. People are worried; people get angry. There will be trouble.
        Just then there was a hammering on the door and a woman’s voice calling him.
        “I’m coming!” he yelled, turning on the light. He pulled on a T-shirt and shorts and jerked open the door.
        “Q’ema! What is it? What’s the matter?” He’d recognised her at once. How not? She was the most attractive girl in the village, and all the young men sought her attention. Ixau had a secret longing for her, but he was much too shy to do anything about it. But tonight she wasn’t pretty. She looked as though she’d been crying.
        “What’s the matter?” he repeated.
        “It’s my father! He’s … you have to help me. Please. I’m so worried and scared. Can you come at once?”
        Ixau wanted to tell her it was all right, that he’d take care of the issue. But he was flustered, and he just stood in the doorway and looked at her.
        “He’s … I don’t know. He’s on the ground. Writhing. Saying mad things.” She hesitated. “There’s blood running from his nose.”
        Ixau felt icy fingers touch his spine. Everyone knew this was a sign that a man had entered the spirit world, the sign of the shaman. Indeed, Q’ema’s father, Gebo, fancied himself as just that, but people laughed at him behind his back and gave him no respect—particularly after he’d promised to bring rain, with no result. Still, these were not matters to be taken lightly. If Gebo had gone to the spirit world, perhaps he couldn’t get back? These things were known. Ixau felt the icy fingers again.
        “I think a spirit has him! An evil spirit,” Q’ema said, as though reading his thoughts. “Will you come? You must come!”
        Ixau pulled himself together. “Have you been to the clinic?” When she shook her head, he added, “We must get the nurse. She won’t be at the clinic now, but you know where she lives. Go and fetch her. Maybe your father is sick. I’ll go to him right now. Don’t worry, it will be okay.”
        She gave him a grateful look and turned to go, but he called after her. “Perhaps you should call N’Kaka too. After you call the nurse.” She nodded and disappeared into the night. There was no real Bushman shaman in New Xade, but N’Kaka was old and respected and knew things. If there was indeed a spirit, he might know what to do.

***

 
Ixau walked quickly to the house where Gebo lived with his daughter. He found the man on the floor with his back propped against a table that had been knocked onto its side. He was breathing fast and, as Q’ema had said, there was blood on his face. When he turned to Ixau, the constable saw a glassiness in his eyes that reminded him of the trances he’d seen brought on by drugs. Maybe Gebo had been trying to communicate with the spirit world and had taken too much? Perhaps that was it.
        “Gebo, it’s me, Constable Ixau. Are you all right?”
        The older man stared at him blankly.
        “Where is Q’ema?” Gebo said at last. “I heard her calling in the other world, but she wasn’t there.”
        “She’s coming with the nurse. And N’Kaka.”
        “That old fool? What does he want?” He tried to stand, but couldn’t manage. He held out his hand to Ixau, who pulled him to his feet. He staggered, and Ixau had to steady him. Then he grabbed Ixau and shouted, “They’re coming for Yuseb! You have to stop them! Yuseb …” His eyes rolled back and he collapsed, and Ixau had to drag him to a chair, where he slumped, unconscious.
        Ixau felt panic. Was the man dying? Should he give CPR? He remembered the brief course he’d done in the police college, but hated the idea of putting his mouth to Gebo’s bloody face. He checked his wrist and could feel an erratic pulse. Relieved, he decided to do nothing and wait for the nurse.
        Suddenly the small room was full as Q’ema, N’Kaka, and the nurse burst in. The nurse pushed Ixau aside and started examining the unconscious man. N’Kaka tried to peer over her shoulder, but she pushed him away too. Q’ema started to cry.
        “I helped him up, and he seemed okay,” Ixau told Q’ema, “but then he started shouting something and passed out. I carried him to the chair.”
        “What?” N’Kaka growled.
        “He passed out and I—”
        “No!” N’Kaka interrupted. “What did he say?”
        What had Gebo said? Ixau wondered. A good policeman would remember. Something about Yuseb? Something about someone coming for him. He told N’Kaka as closely as he could recall.
        N’Kaka liked neither Gebo nor Yuseb, who didn’t show him the respect he felt he deserved. “It’s the spirits who speak through Gebo,” he said. “They’re angry with Yuseb because he doesn’t show them respect. He’s in grave danger.” He nodded with satisfaction.
        Q’ema had stopped crying. “What about my father? Is he all right?”
        N’Kaka shrugged. “They are finished with him now.”
        The nurse looked up from her patient. “Yes,” she said to Q’ema. “Once the drugs wear off. What did he take?”
        Q’ema looked at the floor. “What he takes to visit the spirit world. He was going to beg for rain, I think. He said they could help if they wanted to.”
        There was a groan, and Gebo eyes fluttered.
        N’Kaka snorted. “He’s a fool. They won’t listen to him. He has no power. They took him and chewed him and spat him back to us.” He turned away and left without another glance at Gebo.
        “Help me get him to his bed,” the nurse said. “I’ll bring him something. He’ll be fine in the morning.”
        “Yuseb,” Gebo muttered. “They are coming …” He groaned again.
        Ixau knew his duty. Although he was scared, he knew he must check on Yuseb. He would first fetch his knobkerrie even though it wouldn’t help him against powerful spirits.

***

 

 
Related stories:


Book details

Africa needs 'genuinely new ideas' from its elite - before it's too late: Read an excerpt from Thomas Sankara Speaks

Africa needs ‘genuinely new ideas’ from its elite – before it’s too late: Read an excerpt from Thomas Sankara Speaks

 

Thomas Sankara’s assertion that ‘a soldier without any political training is a potential criminal’ is the basis upon which we wage the struggle for economic emancipation. The book is an important contribution.

- Floyd Shivambu

Thomas Sankara SpeaksKwela Books has shared an excerpt from its new publication Thomas Sankara Speaks – plus stand the chance to win one of three copies of the book!

“We must dare to invent the future. Everything man is capable of imagining, he can create.”

When Thomas Sankara gained power in Burkina Faso in 1983, he saw his first task as expunging the effects of colonialism. A dedicated pan-Africanist, he believed that Africa could sustain itself. He rejected all foreign aid and nationalised land and mineral wealth.

This book brings us Sankara in his own words, with a selection from his writings and interviews from 1983 until his tragic and untimely assassination in 1987.

An African leader and intellectual in many ways ahead of his time, Sankara’s ideas are as current today as when first formulated.

Sankara was a military captain, Marxist revolutionary, pan-Africanist theorist, feminist, and President of Burkina Faso (1983-1987). Viewed as an iconic figure of revolution, he is commonly referred to as “Africa’s Che Guevara”. However, his policies alienated an array of groups. As a result, he was assassinated on 15 October 1987.

 
 

Read an excerpt from the book:

Freedom must be conquered

An excerpt from Thomas Sankara Speaks (Kwela, 2016)

I make no claim to lay out any doctrines here. I am neither a messiah nor a prophet. I possess no truths. My only aspiration is twofold: first, to be able to speak on behalf of my people, the people of Burkina Faso, in simple words, words that are clear and factual. And second, in my own way to also speak on behalf of the “great disinherited people of the world”, those who belong to the world so ironically christened the Third World. And to state, though I may not succeed in making them understood, the reasons for our revolt.

All this indicates our interest in the United Nations. We understand that demanding our rights requires from us a vigorous and rigorous awareness of our duties.

No one will be surprised to see us associate the former Upper Volta, today Burkina Faso, with that hodgepodge held in such contempt – the Third World – invented by the other worlds as many countries became formally independent in order to better ensure our intellectual, cultural, economic, and political alienation.

We want to place ourselves within this world, without lending any credence to that gigantic fraud of history, and certainly without accepting the status of “hinterland of a satiated West”. Rather, we want to assert our awareness of belonging to a tricontinental whole and, with the force of deeply felt convictions, acknowledge, as a Nonaligned country, that there is a special relationship of solidarity uniting the three continents of Asia, Latin America, and Africa in a single struggle against the same political traffickers, the same economic exploiters.

Therefore, recognising that we are part of the Third World means, to paraphrase José Martí, “asserting that our cheek feels the blow struck against any man in the world”. Up to now we have turned the other cheek. The blows increased. But the wicked-hearted were not moved. They trampled the truth of the righteous. The word of Christ was betrayed. His cross was transformed into a club. And after they put on his robe, they slashed our bodies and souls. They obscured his message. They Westernised it, whereas we had understood it as one of universal liberation. Then our eyes opened to the class struggle. There will be no more blows.

It must be proclaimed that there can be no salvation for our peoples unless we decisively turn our backs on all the models that all the charlatans, cut from the same cloth, have tried to sell us for the past twenty years. There can be no salvation without saying no to that. No development without breaking with that.

Moreover, all the new “intellectual leaders” emerging from their slumber, awakened by the dizzying rise of billions of men in rags, aghast at the threat that this famished multitude presents to their digestion, are beginning to revamp their speeches. In an anxious quest, they are looking in our direction once again, for miracle concepts and new forms of development for our countries. It’s enough to read the numerous proceedings of innumerable symposiums and seminars to be convinced of this.

Far be it from me to ridicule the patient efforts of those honest intellectuals who, because they have eyes to see, are discovering the terrible consequences of the devastation imposed by the so-called specialists in Third World development. The fear haunting me is that the fruit of so much effort may be commandeered by Prosperos of all kinds to make a magic wand, designed to return us to a world of slavery redone in the fashion of the day.

This fear is even more justified by the fact that the educated petty bourgeoisie of Africa – if not the Third World – is not prepared to give up its privileges, either due to intellectual laziness or simply because it has tasted the Western way of life. So it forgets that any genuine political struggle requires rigorous, theoretical debate, and it refuses to make the effort to think out and invent new concepts equal to the murderous fight awaiting us. A passive and pathetic consumer, the petty bourgeoisie abounds in terminology fetishised by the West, just as it abounds in Western whiskey and champagne, enjoyed in lounges of dubious taste.

We would search in vain for genuinely new ideas that have emanated from the minds of our “great” intellectuals since the emergence of the now-dated concepts of Negritude and African Personality. The vocabulary and ideas come to us from elsewhere. Our professors, engineers, and economists content themselves with simply adding colour – because often the only things they’ve brought back from the European universities of which they are the products are their degrees and their velvety adjectives and superlatives!

It is both necessary and urgent that our trained personnel and scribes learn that there is no such thing as unbiased writing. In these stormy times we cannot leave our enemies of yesterday and today with an exclusive monopoly over thought, imagination, and creativity.

Before it’s too late – because it’s already late – these elites, these men of Africa and the Third World, must come back to who they are – that is, to their societies and to the misery we have inherited. They must understand that the battle for a system of thought at the service of the disinherited masses is not in vain. They must understand too that they can only become credible on an international level by being genuinely inventive, that is, by painting a faithful picture of their people. This picture must allow the people to achieve fundamental changes in the political and social situation, changes that allow us to break from the foreign domination and exploitation that leave our states no perspective other than bankruptcy.

This is what we glimpsed – we, the Burkinabè people – during the evening of 4 August 1983, when the first stars began to sparkle in the skies of our homeland. We had to take the leadership of the peasant revolts, signs of which were visible in a countryside that is panic-stricken by the advancing desert, exhausted by hunger and thirst, and abandoned. We had to give meaning to the brewing revolt of the idle urban masses, frustrated and weary of seeing limousines driving the elites around, elites that were out of touch, succeeding one another at the helm of state while offering the urban masses nothing but false solutions elaborated and conceived by the minds of others. We had to give an ideological soul to the just struggles of our popular masses as they mobilised against the monster of imperialism. The passing revolt, the simple brushfire, had to be replaced forever with the revolution, the permanent struggle against all forms of domination.

Book details

The sinister implications of private security forces: Read an excerpt from Ishtiyaq Shukri's novel I See You

null
The Silent MinaretI See You

 
Jacana Media has shared an excerpt from Ishtiyaq Shukri’s 2014 novel I See You, which ties in with his open letter to Wits University Vice-Chancellor Adam Habib and the members of the Senior Executive Team.

Shukri’s letter, published on Books LIVE this morning, addresses the university’s deployment of private security on campus during the current fees protests.

 

In the excerpt, Leila Mashal, one of the book’s main characters, makes a speech in the Wits Great Hall announcing her decision to run for political office, seven months after the sinister abduction of her husband.

Mashal denounces the rise of the private security industry and the worrying influence of multinational conglomerates on the South African government.

“South Africa is being held ransom by covert undemocratic and unelected forces,” she says.

The excerpt is prescient. Read on:

ANA: Breaking news

Thank you.

When I was a student at this university, I was anxious about having to present my thesis to the panel of experts who would examine me, and worried about not knowing the answers to all the questions they might ask. My supervisor’s advice was simple: ‘State what you know simply and sincerely. Nobody expects you to know everything. If you don’t know an answer, state that simply too. Communicate that the question has opened a door, and demonstrate how you might use your skills to find a responsible answer. And don’t elevate the experts too much. Remember that they were once students too.’

I am mindful of her advice as I speak to you here at my old school tonight. It feels good to be back after all these years, this time with a very different kind of thesis. Before I lay it out, let me say that I don’t have all the answers, so if you’re moved by what I have to say and would like to help, perhaps you might consider joining my small team of volunteers. Before I start, I’d like to thank them.

*

I have not come here tonight with a long list of promises, few of which I would be able to honour, most of which I would almost certainly not. I don’t have a slick manifesto, written by a team of highly paid consultants in such bland and neutral language as to mean almost anything in almost any context.

I am not here as the candidate of a large political party, which makes decisions high up and far away from the people most affected by them.

I am not here to denigrate the other candidates in this electoral contest.

I am not here tonight to ask for your vote or persuade you of my suitability or assure you of my victory.

These are not my starting points.

I am Leila Mashal and I am here to start a conversation about what I feel to be the most serious threat to our constitutional democracy – such as it is. I am taking the opportunity presented by these elections to start the conversation. I have come to put what I have learned on the agenda for your consideration as you ponder where to place your vote.

I have just one issue for us to consider. You might find it peculiar, my single topic. There are many who would have us view it as ‘accomplished’. I believed them too. But that was until seven months ago.

There are many who are surprised at my decision to seek public office, when I seem to be best known as a ‘quiet wife’. So am I. Seven months ago I would not have envisaged giving up a career I love – the only job I have ever wanted to do – and certainly not for politics. I would not have foreseen standing here as an independent candidate seeking political office, against a party I have always supported.

But seven months ago, as you already know, I was at one end of a lobby in a Johannesburg hotel while at the other end of that same lobby my husband, Tariq Hassan, was being abducted. In the immediate aftermath of the abduction, the point of impact was personal and therefore private. But during the intervening months, it has become apparent that powerful clandestine and democratically unaccountable forces were involved, which, to my mind, in a transparent and accountable democracy, now makes the issue public.

Since 1994, free and fair elections have apparently become the means by which we determine our political process and the running of this country. But are real power and decision-making necessarily in the hands of the officials we elect? These last seven months I have come to realise that while South Africans hold the vote, they don’t hold the power. Our constitutional structures are being hollowed out, withholding power from the electorate and their elected officials and concentrating it in the grip of a secret and unaccountable cabal of oligarchs whose names and faces the electorate will never know. They have a secret ballot all of their own, which is called in a sphere galaxies removed from the reach of the ordinary voter.

Before I even speak the word that was our rallying cry for decades, let us note how unremarkable it has become. How cheap and hollowed-out by spin and slogans. How we have been force-fed the illusion of it by the deeply powerful, to the point of intoxication and trance so that it no longer strikes a chord.

But when the shock wave that took Tariq had retreated, leaving me standing with the realisation that my life had been levelled, that word struck me again – freedom – because ‘freedom’ always comes first.

‘Freedom’ receives priority treatment in our most binding documents. Article 1 of the Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights both enshrine freedom first.

And for whom?

In the prior, ‘All South Africans are born free and equal’. All South Africans, not only the wealthy.

And in the latter, ‘All human beings are born free and equal’. All human beings, not only the powerful.

Freedom first.

For all.

But documents don’t ensure in reality the ideas they enshrine in theory. Because even as ‘freedom’ stands there on paper, foremost amongst the issues we hold most dear, is ‘freedom’ ever ‘done’, ever ‘achieved’, ever ‘accomplished’? In South Africa, while ‘freedom’ was a battle fought, has it ever really been a victory won? How free do you feel?

*

The operation was swift. Within a matter of minutes, Tariq was gone before most people in the room even knew what had happened. By the following morning, CCTV footage from the hotel surveillance system had vanished, so that the only records of the event are the blurred and shaky images filmed on cellphones and the conflicting statements of ‘witnesses’ at the scene, all of whom have since disappeared, none of whom the police have been able to trace for clarification or corroboration.

In the seven months since Tariq’s abduction, despite a high-profile police investigation and an ongoing media campaign launched fearlessly and selflessly and tirelessly by his colleagues and associates both here in South Africa and around the world, nobody has come any closer to determining either where Tariq is or what has happened to him. During these seven months, I have cooperated fully with the official police investigation, refraining from speculation in public, declining media interviews, withholding any comments that might either compromise the investigation or aggravate Tariq’s position. With the exception of endorsing the campaign spearheaded by his colleagues and associates, my silence has, as advised, been total.

*

On the morning after Tariq’s abduction, I did not feel free. During the seven months of his captivity, I have not felt free. I have started to wonder whether I ever was free or whether I ever will be. That is an astonishing reversal because, since 1994, I have gone to bed assuming – if I ever even thought about it – that we had arrived at that place called ‘freedom’. On the morning after Tariq’s abduction, I woke to the realisation that ‘freedom’ is not a destination at which one arrives to put up one’s feet.

‘Freedom’ is a journey, a very particular kind of journey. It isn’t a drive in a luxury car or a flight on a private jet. It isn’t a big house in a plush suburb. It isn’t private schools and shopping malls. It is an ongoing pursuit, an endeavour, a long and difficult walk.

So what am I to do now? Carry on the zombie talk and walk of the ‘peaceful transition’ when in fact there has been no transition at all, least of all a peaceful one? Continue to wave flags for the myth of the ‘rainbow nation’ when in reality we live in the most unequal country on earth, but actually I’m quite well off, thank you very much, so why should I care?

They say that the longest journey starts with the first step, so let me take that first step now, in front of you, and in so doing let me be clear: what happened to Tariq could happen to anybody. There are forces of deep power now at work in this country, manipulating its institutions, its systems and its structures. We are not ruled by a government. We are overseen by a cabal of deeply powerful conglomerates and our elected leaders are merely their enforcers. What happened to Tariq arose out of that cabal, with its tentacles tightly wound around every aspect of life in this country, including and especially our political processes. That invisible cabal of deep power has no truck with constitutions or manifestos or binding documents enshrining civil rights and liberties. Its only concern is the protection of its own interests, whatever the cost.

Such indiscriminate power does not affect Tariq alone.

It also affects you.

And so, in reality, this is not an issue only about Tariq, and I am very aware that his fate has made the news. That is something. And if he is never found …

And if he is never found, it will be a long time before he is forgotten. That is something too. But the shameful plight of most South Africans happens off the radar and far away from the cameras. They are the anonymous and the nameless, whose suffering we have come to hold in contempt and whose grinding poverty and insecurity we dismiss when it does make the news. The humiliation they suffered during the apartheid era, under a government they did not elect, is the same humiliation they suffer in the post-apartheid era, under a government they did. That makes it an especially bitter pill to swallow.

This is not only a story about Tariq. The default response of the ‘legacy of apartheid’ to explain away the suffering of most South Africans when this country’s largest post-apartheid expenditure has been not on housing, or education, or health, or development, or any of those safe electioneering issues you will soon hear bandied about, but on the illegal and corrupt purchase of weapons – which conservative estimates place at R30 billion within the first five years of the post-apartheid era. Then came the 2010 FIFA World Cup – from which street vendors were kept away by ‘exclusion zones’ and the homeless banished to ‘temporary relocation areas’ – now estimated to have cost more than R27 billion. That’s at least R57 billion not spent on housing or education or health, but on guns and football.

When did we forget that ‘people are the real wealth of a nation’, not markets or minerals or investor confidence? No, this is not a story only about Tariq. To make it so would be diminishment. It is a story about everybody, including you.

Let me tell you why.

In the months since the abduction, I have complied fully with the advice given to me by those conducting the official police investigation, which was to maintain public silence. I have, however, written privately and personally to the local member of parliament deployed to my area, to my premier, to the commissioner of police, to the minister of home affairs and to the presidency with information which suggests that:

  • the abduction was meticulously planned;
  • it was specifically planned inside the Republic;
  • it was executed by professionals;
  • crucial evidence was ‘lost’;
  • key ‘witnesses’ were staged;
  • in the absence of a ransom request, this was not a kidnapping for quick financial gain;
  • the level of expertise involved would have been expensive;
  • given Tariq’s total disappearance, in all probability to somewhere outside of the Republic, his abduction will have entailed third party knowledge, involvement and support, probably at the level of state or states; and
  • excluding agents of the state, in South Africa only a relatively small number of specially trained private military operatives would have the ability, resources and expertise to execute such a complex abduction so efficiently, thereby narrowing down considerably the list of potential perpetrators.

Do you feel free? How free should I feel?

*

As we approach this election, consider this. In South Africa today, the state no longer has exclusive rights to the use of force against its citizens. In fact, force has also become the prerogative of giant national and multinational corporations of privatised military and security expertise, which now exceeds that of the state by five to one. According to the Minister of Safety and Security, Charles Nqakula, ‘The entire complement of people who are under arms in the private security industry is larger than the number of people in the armed forces.’

How free do you feel?

Consider that in South Africa today, for each state agent there are five private agents whose access to force is outside the control of the state. Neither you nor the democratic systems of the state – such as they are – govern those five agents. Instead, while they have the capacity to deploy levels of force that surpass those of the state, they have no democratic accountability to you or the state.

While state agents are accountable, should be accountable, to you, the electorate, private agents are accountable only to shareholders, shareholders for whom force is profit.

But why should this matter? Because if you are poor and faced with a daily barrage of urban violence and crime, what comfort do you take in the fact that your government, having transformed state responsibilities into market opportunities from which only a small elite profits, has privatised nearly every basic state responsibility, including its responsibility to protect you? Instead, if you are poor in South Africa today, you can’t expect to feel free, because you can’t afford to pay for the privilege.

And if you are wealthy, how free should you feel knowing that this private protection, which you have acquired by virtue of your resources, is not accountable to you? Private force is accountable only to private profit.

*

Such an arsenal of private force has the capacity to undermine and threaten the democratic procedures of the state. I say ‘democratic procedures’ because in transparent and accountable democracies, force should be public, the state strictly sanctioned in its use. I say ‘democratic procedures’ because in democracies, elected officials should be the guardians of force. Instead, in South Africa today, elected officials are the enforcers of multinational conglomerates whose neocolonial agenda for a new world order controls all the major institutions of this country. I say ‘democratic procedures’ because in democracies, agents of force should be accountable and constitutionally governed, the various arms of the state governing deployment, the state ultimately governed by you, the electorate. I say ‘ultimately governed by you’ because rich or poor, the deployment of force ultimately affects you because deployment ultimately affects your freedom.

In South Africa, where force should be under the scrutiny of civilian leadership, it is instead civilians who are increasingly under the scrutiny of private, unaccountable and unconstitutional force. When did this silent inversion in the balance of surveillance take place? Was it while I was in the cinema? Was it while I was visiting the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown? Was it when I was out shopping in the mall? Was it while I was on a family vacation in Plettenberg Bay? Was it when I was in a restaurant sharing a meal with friends? Was it that weekend I went to Oppikoppi? At which point in my life as a ‘free’ citizen did the balance of power over me shift from the people I elected to unaccountable forces whose faces I don’t know? Was it while we were out celebrating our freedom when really all we had been given was the illusion thereof?

When Tariq was abducted, I received messages of support from diplomats and ambassadors, celebrities and civilians, poets and preachers from around the world, but from my elected officials, nothing. The questions I ask are: Why the silence? Why my silence? Why the silence of my elected officials? In 1970 Ruth First wrote that ‘power lies in the hands of those who control the means of violence’. Who controls the means of violence in South Africa today?

*

These past seven months have led me to the following conclusion. In truth, when it comes to profit, our government is no nobler than governments the world over who have been left paralysed by the power of profit and held to ransom by the profit of privatisation. In the last decade, South Africans have witnessed the privatisation, or the attempt at privatisation, the marketeering, of nearly every primary state responsibility, including water, electricity, health care, housing, transport, communications and arms, the buying and selling of their core concerns. What we are beginning to witness in South Africa today are the workings of the deep force behind the ‘elected’ force, the deep power behind the ‘elected’ power. In the seven months since Tariq’s abduction, it has become clear that his capture was at the hands of that deep force now so woven into the fabric of our system as to have access to the highest offices in the land, where it can place unelected fingers on elected lips and ensure they remain silent.

*

My detractors argue that I have no chance of winning a safe municipal ward. Perhaps. But at this early stage, it’s not about winning. It’s about starting the conversation. My elected officials would not heed my correspondence. Perhaps they’ll listen to me now.

And so I wish to send a clear message to my government tonight. While it deals in silence, I do not. While it has been silenced, I have not. Instead, I will apply all my energy and resources towards injecting this issue into the public domain and onto the political agenda because South Africa is being held ransom by covert undemocratic and unelected forces.

Freedom?
Tariq is not free.
I am not free.
There is no freedom.
There is only the fight for freedom.

Book details