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Archive for the ‘Book Excerpts’ Category

How much does it cost to bribe a cop? Read an excerpt from The Street: Exposing a World of Cops, Bribes and Drug Dealers

The StreetThe Street: Exposing a World of Cops, Bribes and Drug Dealers, by award-winning journalist Paul McNally, was recently released by Pan Macmillan.

The book documents the relationship between the police, drug dealers and shop owners on a stretch of Ontdekkers Road in Sophiatown, Johannesburg.

There are no villains. McNally finds corrupt cops, drug dealers, vigilante residents, addicts, torturers, murders and cops partnered to drug dealers. But no villains.

The book was launched at Love Books in Melville recently, where Anton Harber, ENCA Editor-in-Chief and Caxton Professor of Journalism, called it: “A remarkable piece of writing.”

Read an excerpt:

The shop on Ontdekkers Road is empty besides Raymond and his son, who is sitting about two metres away from his father in the corner, listening to music through his headphones. Raymond reaches for a scratched, rectangular metal box of Johnnie Walker Red and pops the top. He moves his keyboard – which is still wrapped in its original protective plastic – to the side to clear some desk space. He shakes the Johnnie Walker container and empties its contents – fuses, bolts and other collected junk – onto his newspaper and begins to sift through them. He’s hunting for a rare transistor that a customer needs for his car’s sound system. Raymond pokes at the mess he’s made on his newspaper and coughs to jiggle the phlegm in his throat. The transistor he needs isn’t among the odds and ends he’s spread out on the newspaper. Raymond sticks his neck out, the slight flab under his chin stretching taut, peering closely, picking pieces up and putting them down again. He sighs heavily and glances over at his son.

Through the tinted window Raymond can see the van, but the cops who are in it can’t see him.

‘Here’s one. Here’s one,’ Raymond says to his son, scooping the bits of plastic and metal back into the tin and pulling his newspaper closed. His son ambles over to get a better view. The cop van is parked in front of the orange security gate. It is in the exact spot where a white man in a Mercedes bought cat 20 minutes earlier and where a fidgety black couple in a silver BMW had called on their cellphones and bought an hour before that. For every dozen, maybe two dozen, users who drive up to be seen by a dealer Raymond will be rewarded with the sight of an official, marked police van. Raymond doesn’t describe a person according to their clothes, job or race. He talks in cars as identifiers – ‘Blue Tazz comes every Friday’; ‘Here’s Red Polo again’. Red Polo is the private car of a constable stationed at Brixton police station. He is a cop and an addict. Sometimes Red Polo swings past several times a week.

A dealer in a white T-shirt opens the security gate and walks towards the cop van. It is April in Johannesburg and the tar on Ontdekkers is bright, but no longer burning. The dealer stands by the cop van’s passenger side and performs the manoeuvre described by local shop owners and sources within the police with uncanny dexterity. You could miss it happening if you were a casual observer, but once it has been pointed out to you it is embarrassingly obvious. The dealer leans on the open window so that his hands are inside the car and then he drops the money on the floor. He never hands the cash directly over.

The rates for bribes are surprisingly small: R150 if there are two cops in the car and R200 if there are three or four cops in the car. Whenever they need a little money for some bread they’ll cruise by the dealers for a top-up.

The amounts might be small, but Raymond reckons ten bribes are dished out to various cop cars from three or four of the surrounding police stations every day. That’s 300 separate bribes per month. The dealers don’t ever want to refuse a cop, so the rates are kept small to ensure that cops can pull in and get a nibble whenever the impulse takes them. The dealers have schemed that if they refuse a cop he becomes an enemy, but if they reduce the amount he will continue to feed lightly and be placated. They are dealers, after all; they grasp addiction. Maybe the cop will pop by again, but his frequency will be restricted by how often he can be absent from his duties.

Before the cop has finished his transaction with the dealer Raymond is out from behind his desk and on his feet looking down Ontdekkers Road through the tinted glass.

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Excerpt from The Dream House by Craig Higginson, in celebration of the updated 2016 edition

The Dream HouseThe paperback edition of Craig Higginson’s The Dream House hit the shelves recently, and in celebration of this joyous occasion Pan Macmillan has shared an excerpt from the book.

This updated 2016 edition contains new content, with Higginson exploring the background to The Dream House, his varied experiences in a farmhouse in KwaZulu-Natal and the subsequent and poignant motivations for this moving novel.

The Dream House, published in 2015, was one of the novels shortlisted for the 2016 Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize.

Read the excerpt, in which the author tells the story behind the inspiration for his novel:

* * * * *


The First Dream House

There are many houses we pass through during our lives. Maybe it’s true that they also pass through us. Some of them remain with us, and we are able to return to them long after they are gone. One such house was a farmhouse in KwaZulu-Natal, just over the hill of the boarding school I attended between the ages of ten and fourteen. This hill stood above our school like the promise of another world. It provided the title for a novel of mine – simply called The Hill – and it now lies buried under a pine plantation. Where the air was once filled with the song of stonechats, longclaws and sunbirds, there is now only silence.

     I came to know this house over the hill because on that farm were horses and my family was involved with horses. I forget the details, but I think my mother wanted to buy a horse from them – a Welsh pony, in fact – and we met them just as I was about to start at boarding school. We spent the night in that house and the next day I put on the strange new clothes for my school – a grey blazer and shorts, a black-and-white striped tie, a cap with the school logo sewn onto it and military tan shoes.

     The farmer was a man from Yorkshire originally. He had a strong impenetrable accent, pale blue eyes and was always making jokes that insinuated themselves just around the borders of my comprehension. He was forever hinting at something sexual, it seemed to me, and I tended to smile at him whenever he looked in my direction – hoping to reassure him that I was quite fine as I was and that he needn’t bother himself with me further.

     It was the farmer’s wife we were more concerned with – on that first meeting and afterwards. Even then she was a very large woman. She had a mop of frizzy greying hair, yellow teeth like bits of sweetcorn and laughing halfhidden eyes. She was also always making jokes, usually teasing me and my sister for being spoiled city kids. Actually, we lived in a very modest suburb in a very modest house, but to her we were shy, obscurely fastidious, possibly fussy children. We liked horses and dogs – and on that farm there were plenty of each – but we had never been in such a house, where the corners of every room hadn’t been entered into in decades, and where everything smelt of old leather and wet wood and leaking gas.

     I am not sure that the house made much impression on me at first as there was so much going on inside it and I must have been worried about going to a new school, but the farmer’s wife said I should come and visit them on my first Sunday out. I could come for lunch and learn how to catch a fish. I dreaded the thought of this, but no one was going to take no for an answer and my mother was probably grateful there would be someone to pick me up – on a day when many of the other boys were being picked up by muddy bakkies from the neighbouring farms where they had grown up.

     On the day in question, the farmer’s wife was there to meet me outside the school library. She was in a large cream Mercedes and even then the car was being driven by a driver – Bheki – who wore neat blue overalls and never said a word. I sat in the back between two Alsatians. She sat in the passenger seat with at least three Chihuahuas on her lap. She chattered all the way through the woods and the dark thin road that led out the school, and didn’t stop until we’d reached a dingy little shop run by an Indian man by the railway, where she gave me a few coins to go inside and buy myself some sweets. I did so, while they all waited in the car, and came back outside with my strange selection of toffees and ‘nigger balls’ and other little fruity sweets in a brown paper packet, immediately feeling that the day wouldn’t be wholly bad after all.

     I was in a daze for much of the time in those days and was probably far off and polite and eager to get my answers right. I was taken down the long dirt road that led to the farm, got out – large dogs sniffing my crotch, licking my hands, pawing at me with their mud – and joined her for tea and cake on the stoep. This ran along the front of the house, which had a shallow corrugated iron roof and resembled Karen Blixen’s house in the film version of Out of Africa, in spite of being more modest and shabbier and perhaps not quite as old. That day I went fishing with Bheki and he hooked the fish and I ran with it up the bank – exactly as it was described in this book. The only difference is that the fish was a bass, not a rainbow trout, and we did indeed kill it. There is a photograph of me wearing the clothes of some other boy who once visited their house: a red T-shirt and tight blue shorts, holding up what was in effect another man’s fish. My hair is brushed and I am standing upright, as if proud, although what I really felt at that moment is lost to me. I tend to look sceptical in photographs.

     That was the first of many such visits. In time, I would come in the afternoons – usually with a friend or two – and we would drink Coke and eat some chocolate cake and get back to school just in time for showers. The house was a secret, a bolt hole that no teacher at the school knew about.

     It was my home away from home and I loved every bit of it and the farm around it. On my weekends out, I would often spend the night – staring at the high ceiling of the spare room while outside dogs barked and eagle-owls hooted and the rain smacked against the window. I continued to fish with mixed success and started to explore the surrounding hills – where I found a cave by a stream, a waterfall and the nests of malachite sunbirds, cape eagleowls and crowned eagles. I could be happy for the day simply because I had spotted a rare kingfisher.

     I think my imagination found a home during those years. When I started writing for the first time, it was in that spare room at a little desk, lit by a hurricane lamp. When I was working as the assistant to the theatre director Barney Simon, he encouraged me to start writing a play and the play took place in that house. This would eventually become my first original play, Dream of the Dog – later revisited and extensively developed as The Dream House.

     I have farmers in my family but grew up in a bland little suburb in Johannesburg – so this place provided me with magic, with a more abundant life.

     In those days, I wanted to be a vet. I would read books about horse ailments, I would watch cows and sheep and horses coupling and giving birth. I knew the house as a cool cave on hot summer days, as a rattling tin drum during thunderstorms, as a place of damp linen and crackling fireplaces when the mist filled the valley and seemed to invade every cupboard of the house. My time there opened my heart to such writers as William Wordsworth and Ted Hughes – so that when I arrived at their great poems I knew exactly what they were talking about.

     I think the people who invited me into their home would be faintly
horrified by what I’ve made of them. The farmer’s wife would be amazed that Janet Suzman played her on London’s West End. They had no idea there was anything artistic about me. If they had known, they would have laughed at it. They have long ago passed into the darkness we have all come from – and these days it sometimes feels as if I simply imagined them. They were people of their time, increasingly uneasy in a world that was rapidly outstripping them. But they were kind to me. Most of all, they left me alone.

     They provided a starting place for my imagination – as modest and meek as it might have been – to produce a little root, take hold and quietly nose its way towards the light.

1. A version of this piece first appeared in the October–November 2015 edition of Visi, the architecture magazine.
2. I recently came across the couples’ graves in a small churchyard near Nottingham Road. The teacher who inspired Mr Ford was also buried there. It was very strange to see the people who inspired three of my characters lying together there. I had made them love each other and hate each other in a way they never had in real life.
Their real lives were already far off – and wholly unreachable.

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Jub Jub, Oscar Pistorius – that could have been me: Read an excerpt from Kabelo Mabalane’s book I Ran For My Life

I Ran For My LifePan Macmillan has shared an excerpt from I Ran For My Life: My Story by Kabelo Mabalane.

In I Ran For My Life, Mabalane shares his extraordinary life journey, from being a multi-platinum-selling musician with TKZee, through the highs and lows of drug addiction, to finding hope again through running – eight Comrades Marathons and counting.

In this excerpt, Mabalane reflects on how he close he became to becoming just like Jub Jub, or even Oscar Pistorius. He also describes his experience of rehab, where he was no longer surrounded by “yes people”, but by people who would not tolerate his arrogance.
Read the excerpt:

I am the Monster

Maybe I am contributing to that myth of famous people who always get away with crap. When the Jub Jub thing came out I was very slow to point fingers, because I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that it could have been me. Even Oscar Pistorius – every time I watched that case, my heart broke. That could also have been me, on so many levels. My temper, mixed with the drugs I was taking. Uncalculating, but angry. I hit a woman once. It was when I was stone-cold sober, had been off drugs for a couple of months. It was the most frustrated I had ever been. I don’t know if, even now, I am ready to talk about this. These men we see as monsters, it’s also something that can be closer than you know. You can be the monster. You just got lucky that you didn’t get caught.

The first step of the Twelve-step programme is to admit that you are powerless over your addiction, and that your life has become unmanageable. Before then, my life was unmanageable. I could not manage my life. If I could, I wouldn’t have been there, in that place. And it was flipping hard work. It hurt. It required real bravery to go through that process. I actually understand why a lot of people stay the way they are.

I went into rehab, as planned, on 1 November, and I came out on 13 December. Two days after that I had a gig – it was something that had been planned a lot earlier, before I even went into rehab. I remember getting on stage and the crowd going berserk. I was really appreciative of getting a second chance. I felt like I had got my selfrespect back. That people would start respecting me for being honest about what I was going through. I had been like this villain, and all of a sudden I was made to feel like I was a hero.

But there were people who weren’t happy with my sobriety. It said more about where they were at. I was accused of doing it as a publicity stunt, of being a media whore. Often by people who were in active addiction. For the first second, when you find out, it hurts deeply. But I had to rise above it. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I can’t force someone to think about me in a certain way. If an orange tree says it’s an orange tree, then you’ve got to give it time to bear some oranges. If harvest time comes and it bears apples, you will know who the imposter is. You will know me by my fruit.

My mother came to visit me at the rehab centre every weekend. She was always there for me. She didn’t have to say anything; she was known by her actions. The addict goes in, but, parallel to that, the family goes through their own counselling. When I saw my mom give herself over to that, try to understand me, I knew that she was really there for me.

One of the things you have to do as part of a Twelve-step programme is write your own life story. See what kind of a prick you actually were. You have to travel down that road, start writing down all this stuff. For me, that is part of what spurs an addict on to sobriety: jeez, I did that? I didn’t sign up to be this person. Then, of course, after a few weeks you have to read your story out loud, to your group. When you learn about other people’s crap, you hear their stories week after week, it slowly becomes a safe environment for you to share yours. When you see someone else become transparent, it encourages you to become transparent.

When I finally read out my story, there were proud moments – because of the good stuff I had achieved – but also embarrassing moments, humbling moments. If anything, rehab humbled me. It made me realise that the sun didn’t shine out of my bum, and that when I drive around at night the moon is not following me. So there was pride, and there was regret. Regret because … if I had paid more attention and not missed so many things, I would be much further in life. As much as you pat yourself on the back after rehab, because you came out clean, you did it, part of that process is also realising how many opportunities you missed because of your addiction.

The first day I arrived at Houghton House, I was shown around, told where to go, and then thrown straight into ‘group’. There were plastic chairs placed in a circle. I sat down with this kind of ‘Do you know who I am?’ attitude. I folded my arms – I was completely arrogant, even though by that time I was already clean; or maybe it was because of that – and I just sat and looked at these people, pretended to listen to them. Maybe I was hearing what they said, but I wasn’t really listening. This one girl was sharing her story with the group. Like I said, you share where you have been so that people can identify with you and find strength in where you have been. It’s kind of a sacred space. It requires a huge amount of trust.

So, she was sharing her stuff. And I decided to just chip in. I gave her advice: I think you should do this, and you should do that. This is so embarrassing when I think of it now – not just me thinking that I obviously knew better than everyone else, but just the complete disrespect, like I was stomping all over the stuff she was sharing. I think everyone in the group was completely horrified at my behaviour. Worse, still, I carried on acting like that for another week or so. That story about me made the rounds. And my mistake ultimately wound up being the beginning of my healing process, and me understanding what I was there to do.

A week later, when the group met and got to confront each other, or confront another addict for their conduct, or applaud someone – it didn’t have to be negative – I remember basically the whole room just gunning for me. ‘We don’t know who you think you are. This is not the music industry. You are so arrogant …’ They really let me have it.

I had always had ‘yes people’ surrounding me – there were very few people who challenged who I was, or what I did. For the first time in my life that I could remember, there were all these people in this room, and they were all telling me where to get off. It was the first time that the penny dropped: that I had come there to change.

They didn’t just tell me what they thought about my behaviour. People told me how I made them feel. Nobody with a conscience would want to give off what I was giving off. And that’s when I started putting in the work. At the end of five weeks, the reports about me had changed. People thanked me for taking to heart what they had said about me. But it wasn’t just what they’d said about me that caused that change. My headspace started to shift when I started hearing their stories, really hearing them. When you hear someone else’s life story, it gives you the ability to put everything in a different context. You start to understand people more, you’re able to empathise with them. The fact that some people made my mountains look like molehills … it made me want to understand people more.

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How the Hell Do All These White Students Have Cars? – Excerpt from What If There Were No Whites In South Africa?

When black fury meets white denial, you have the combustible and fundamentally changed race relations we live in today.

- Ferial Haffajee, What If There Were No Whites In South Africa?

Ferial HaffajeeWhat If There Were No Whites In South Africa?Pan Macmillan has shared an excerpt from Ferial Haffajee’s new book, What If There Were No Whites In South Africa?

In the extract, Haffajee recalls how she first truly became aware of unearned privilege at university, when all the white students around her seemed to have cars at the age of just 18.

Haffajee says these rituals of privilege “and are still unrecognised as factors of catapulting privilege in how we understand South Africa”.

Haffajee is the editor-in-chief of the City Press and sits on the boards of the International Women’s Media Foundation, the World Editors Forum, the International Press Institute and the Inter Press Service. What If There Were No Whites In South Africa?, her first book, examines our history and our present. It yields some thought-provoking and topical analysis.

Read the excerpt:

* * * * *

There is an entire world of white privilege that was invisible to me and that was made visible only once I integrated into it – my first collision was at university. With a generation of young black people, this is happening much sooner at school now. At Wits, I was perplexed that all the white students had cars. How the hell was that possible, I remember 18-year-old me, belched from a yucky Putco bus in Braamfontein, asking myself.

Cars. When you get them and how you learn to drive them could be a whole book on their own. My dad learnt to drive because his factory-owner employer needed someone to lock up the factory. And, so, by default, we had a small delivery car. I grew up with having a car parked at the open parking underneath our block of flats, but the cars were always headaches. Often they were second hand. They were always in the backyard of a neighbourhood mechanic and barely got my mom and dad to work.

My first car came when I got a job at a university library. It cost me R5 000 paid in instalments; and R25 000 in repairs until a kind boyfriend said, ‘Give it up, Fer.’ I recognised my luck later when among the intake of Weekly Mail trainees I was the only one with that car, which took us about when it wasn’t stuck. And I guess it’s because I grew up coloured and my father’s pitiful wages were more than the average black worker.

So, how 18-year-olds could afford brand-new cars was an absolute mystery to me until I learnt of the privileged rituals of many of my white compatriots’ lives, which were unbelievable and are still unrecognised as factors of catapulting privilege in how we understand South Africa.

They got dropped and fetched at school. They got braces to fix dental imperfections (this was a real learning curve for me as the only time I got taken to someone I still consider a horse dentist was when things were really sore). They had extra tuition if needed. University was not the hit and miss of my generation (very few of us at my secondary school made it to university) but a thing of certainty. They went on overseas holidays. Every year. Their families had second homes. This one really hit me in the gut as a kid whose parents didn’t own a home until 1987 when my brother could pitch in. Two houses!

After university, you could take a gap year. The only thing I would have got is a gap tooth if my plans were not to find work immediately after university. Truth be told, I had to work all the way through university as everything from shop assistant to a butcher to pay my own way. So, a gap year? No such.

When you marry, you get a deposit on a home. There is often a trust fund and bequeathals to grandchildren. This passage of wealth through the generations is a massive failsafe in an uncertain world. The networks of privilege enable easy access into the private sector or the world of the entrepreneur. They continue to smooth lives and careers, creating access and opportunity.

When I finally earned enough to make a will, the consultant asked me about a trust fund? I stared blankly and only after she explained did I learn what all the estate planning I read about in personal finance pages was about. Again, it was a rude wake-up call to the lingering impacts of racial capital in South Africa and to all I did not take for granted. All of this natural white privilege is almost completely foreign to black people coming into a white world – save for a small and happily growing part of upper middle-class black South Africans.

* * * * *

If my response was that of disbelief and a tinge of envy, if I am to be honest, for a new generation of young black people who collide with all they don’t have much sooner than my generation did, the response is furious.

When black fury meets white denial, you have the combustible and fundamentally changed race relations we live in today.

#OpenStellenbosch is a students’ movement to alter power relations at Stellenbosch University. It exploded into national consciousness through a documentary called Luister launched on YouTube.

It was an excoriating account of the experiences of black students both on campus and off. A powerful documentary, it was followed by a week of enhanced activism as the nation sat up and listened to deeply worrying accounts of students’ pain at a language policy that continued to favour Afrikaans speakers although the academy is officially bilingual, with English as the second language.

Off campus, students said they faced overt racism in social and commercial relationships: who you can dance with; where you can eat; and how many black people are allowed into spaces.

It feels as if the harsh reality a young Tiyani encountered has not shifted in 12 years. The harsher reality is the documentary was made 21 years after apartheid ended. Ended. Now there’s a complex concept, because did it? Really?

Because pretty and quaint Stellenbosch, with its linked histories of elite Afrikaners and French Huguenot lineage, is possibly one of the most popular tourist spots in South Africa, the story went global. Finally, the black experience was being heard.

To which some white Maties (Stellenbosch students) responded with #WhereIsTheLove, based on the song. Asked to explain, a student who had started the hashtag contra-protest and march said it was all being blown out of proportion and that race didn’t matter. He was all long haired, very bru and faux hippy, talking Woodstock and the Beatles but without any sense of history or the present. I wanted to cuff him through the TV screen – and could only imagine his denialist impact on a movement finding its voice.

The clash between #OpenStellenbosch and #WhereIsTheLove is a microcosm: people lost in translation to each other with one crew failing to hear properly what the other is trying to tell them.

Tiyani’s earlier words come to mind again: ‘[If there were no whites] … we wouldn’t be playing this catch-up game …’

* * * * *

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White Privilege 101: An Excerpt from Ferial Haffajee’s What If There Were No Whites In South Africa?

What If There Were No Whites In South Africa?Women24 has shared an excerpt from Ferial Haffajee’s new book, What If There Were No Whites In South Africa?

In the excerpt Haffajee, who is now the editor-in-chief of City Press, describes her experience of working at the Financial Mail in the late 1990s, explains what “white privilege” is, and examines the statistics from the Reconciliation Barometer of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation that reveals South Africans to be mixing less.

“‘White privilege’ refers to a set of behaviours that underlie conduct that inflames South Africa’s sometimes awful race relations – it is often unconscious, the mark of a former ruling class,” she says.

Read the excerpt:

Why are we like this? Why are we unable to see meaningful transformation or unwilling to see it? For most of my writing life, I have tracked the changes. They started years ago.

I arrive at the Financial Mail in 1999. It is an august and elegant newsroom and I am very excited to be there. I get an office with my name on the door.

The FM allows me autonomy and space and I get invitations to lunch. For a girl from Bosmont who grew up on chip rolls on pavements as lunch, I love it.

And I hate it.

The FM is also stuffily traditional and deeply unreconstructed.

The FM, as it was at the time, was rich and sure of its place in the world. Its pages were the authoritative guide to corporate South Africa. And the picture was odd. It was as if political power had changed but not corporate power, and neither had the magazine caught up with what change means.

Although this was 1999, all the columnists were white and most of them were white men.

There was a Tuesday conference where, I observe for months, nobody says anything about what increasingly feels like a media injustice to me.

So, one day, I pipe up: ‘When will we have some black columnists? I count seven written by white men. One by a white woman.’

You can hear the pin drop. The shift of discomfort is palpable.

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“Non-racialism is Dead”: Read an Excerpt from What If There Were No Whites In South Africa? by Ferial Haffajee

What If There Were No Whites In South Africa?The Star has shared an extract from Ferial Haffajee’s latest book, What If There Were No Whites In South Africa?, which provides thought-provoking analysis of our country.

In the excerpt, Haffajee unpacks the #RhodesMustFall movement and the removal of the Cecil John Rhodes statue at the University of Cape Town, which marks the “generational shift in how transformation is understood”.

The reflection also turns inwards, as the respected political commentator and editor-in-chief of City Press writes about her relationship with her freedom and shares her own doubts and fears about writing this book.

Haffajee writes: “For me the political is intensely personal – freedom has been good for me and to me. I know it’s not the same for many, many South Africans, but there are enough of us who have benefited from freedom to build on it.”

Read the extract:

This is a generational shift, and a seismic one at that, in how South Africa’s transition is understood. It’s interesting to me that while Frank Chikane – liberation theologian, politician and democratic South Africa’s second director general of the Presidency – is a father of democracy, it is his son, Kgotsi Chikane, who is leading the #RhodesMustFall movement, a second transition.

In former EFF MP Andile Mngxitama’s words: “It was always about preserving white civilisation, ultimately. Because if this liberation movement was devoid of white anxiety (or anxiety about whites), it would have spoken in a different language.”

So, as I pursue my quest of understanding why I feel almost completely out of step with a generation I venerate, I realise that what we are living through is a generational shift. Those of us who admire South Africa’s transition and have studied the masterclass in pragmatism that underlined the painstaking negotiations for freedom are regarded as outmoded by a young, new establishment. We are regarded as compradors for striving for diversity and non-racialism. Non-racialism is, to all intents and purposes, dead.

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Sarah Wild Tells the Story of the CoroCAM, an Innovation that Saves Power Utilities Millions

InnovationInnovasieIn Innovation: Shaping South Africa through Science Sarah Wild investigates and celebrates science and innovation happening in South Africa right now.

pArticipate has featured an excerpt from the book, in which Wild tells the story of the development of the CoroCAM, a device that detects electrical current leaks in the transmission lines that traverse South Africa.

The device was developed by Roel Stolper at the CSIR after he was contacted by Wallace Vosloo from Eskom. He devised a way to make the ultraviolet light visible so that defective insulators can be fixed.

Read the excerpt:

Finding Fault

It all started with a phone call that was forwarded through to Roel Stolper by chance. It was 1992, an that conversation – between Stolper, a researcher at the CSIR, and Eskom’s Wallace Vosloo – and their subsequent research collaboration have saved the power utility millions of rands and created a multimillion-rand business.

Vosloo had a problem: he was completing his docyorate in the use of different insulators on transmission lines – they sometimes look like a collection of stacked side plate or an upside-down bell that connect the powerline to the pole or pylon – but he could not see the effects of the insulator, whether the current was leaking out, or determine how it was ageing.

Which is why Vosloo phoned the CSIR and was put through to Stolper.

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Read All About Nnedi Okorafor’s Recently Published Binti (With Excerpt and Interview) Publishing has just published Nigerian-American fantasy and science fiction author Nnedi Okorafor’s Afrofuturist novella Binti.

Binti – Okorafor first book set in outer space – is now available in ebook, print on demand and audiobook editions. Publishing is distributed locally by Pan Macmillan.

Binti tells the story of a 16-year-old girl from Namibia who is leaving home to take advantage of an opportunity to study at the prestigious Oomza University. The story is rooted simultaneously in the current reality of Africa and an speculative universe of the future, which makes it socially relevant in a number of different ways.

Read a review of the novella by Mahvesh Murad:

What is most important about Okorafor’s work is that she sees diverse races and cultures as being just as much of the future as they are of the present—something mainstream SF doesn’t always do. Not just does she put Africans from all over the continent in the futures she creates with great clarity and purpose, she makes certain that their various cultures travel forward with them, informing these futures, maintaining unique customs. Okorafor’s stories are where the ancient cultures of Africa meet the future, where what we have been and what makes us human meets what we can be and what we may be in the future. announced the publication of Binti earlier this year, and Carl Engle-Laird reported that the publisher was “thrilled to have her onboard”. Okorafor is equally happy about it:

“I’m really pleased and excited to be a part of’s new novella program. My novella Binti is the first story I’ve ever written that is set in outer space.’s novella program is daring, progressive and pioneering in ways that remind me of my main character Binti, so I think this is a perfect fit.”

Read an interview with the author on, in which she shares a bit about what inspires her writing:

Name your favorite monster from fiction, film, TV, or any other pop culture source.

Godzilla. And not the heroic Godzilla, the one that comes and destroys sh*t for no reason.

Would you rather discover the fountain of youth or proof of life on Mars?

Life on Mars, definitely! Youth is highly overrated, Martians aren’t. has also shared an excerpt from the novella. In the excerpt, Binti sneaks away from her family home and set out on a space journey to university:

I powered up the transporter and said a silent prayer. I had no idea what I was going to do if it didn’t work. My transporter was cheap, so even a droplet of moisture, or more likely, a grain of sand, would cause it to short. It was faulty and most of the time I had to restart it over and over before it worked. Please not now, please not now, I thought.

The transporter shivered in the sand and I held my breath. Tiny, flat, and black as a prayer stone, it buzzed softly and then slowly rose from the sand. Finally, it produced the baggage-lifting force. I grinned. Now I could make it to the shuttle. I swiped otjize from my forehead with my index finger and knelt down. Then I touched the finger to the sand, grounding the sweet smelling red clay into it. “Thank you,” I whispered. It was a half-mile walk along the dark desert road. With the transporter working, I would make it there on time.

Press Release Publishing, an imprint dedicated to novellas and short novels, launched this September with Kai Ashante Wilson’s critically acclaimed fantasy The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps. has long published award-winning short genre fiction, and our new line provides a home for emerging and established writers to tell focused, engaging stories in exactly the number of words they choose.

From Afrofuturist science fiction to darkly imagined fairy tales, Publishing offers a diversity of genre titles for a wide variety of readers. Our current books include:

Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell: The villagers in the sleepy hamlet of Lychford are divided. A supermarket wants to build a major branch on their border. Only Judith Mawson (local crank) knows that Lychford lies on the boundary between two worlds, and that the destruction of the border will open wide the gateways to malevolent beings beyond imagination. But if she is to have her voice heard, she’s going to need the assistance of some unlikely allies…

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor: Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach. If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.

Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace: In New York, eating out can be hell. Everyone loves a well-catered event, and the supernatural community is no different, but where do demons go to satisfy their culinary cravings? Welcome to Sin du Jour—where devils on horseback are the clients, not the dish.

You can find out more about our current titles, including Sunset Mantle by Alter S. Reiss, Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter, and K.J. Parker’s The Last Witness, here.

All of our titles are available globally in print, DRM-free ebook, and audiobook format. Starting next year, a select number of our titles, including Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (April 2016) and Infomocracy by Malka Older (June 2016), will also receive traditional print runs in partnership with Tor Books.


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“You Can Never Relax in This Country, This South Africa” – Wise Words from Legendary Activist Emma Mashinini

"You Can Never Relax in This Country, This South Africa" - Wise Words from Legendary Activist Emma Mashinini

Strikes Have Followed Me All My LifeStrikes Have Followed Me All My Life is the compelling account of the life of Emma Mashinini, one of South Africa’s leading trade union organisers and gender-rights activists.

In the book, Mashinini describes her childhood in Sophiatown, her lasting contributions to labour organisation in South Africa, and the dark days she spent in detention under apartheid.

Mashinini’s activism began when she was working in a clothing factory. She was the first General Secretary of the Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers’ Union of South Africa (CCAWUSA), and was also involved in the formation of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). In 1981 she was arrested under the Terrorism Act and held in solitary confinement for six months. Strikes Have Followed Me All My Life was first published in 1989, and republished by Picador Africa in 2012.

Ma Emma’s overall experience and her drive to make a difference and fight for human dignity no matter the personal cost is what makes her autobiography so memorable.

In his introduction to the new edition, Jay Naidoo writes: “This book is more relevant today than ever. It is yet another indication of the heavy price paid for freedom so that we and those who come after us live in a society free from oppression and hate, a society that respects the right to life and dignity and a society where the only limitations placed on us is our own imagination.”

In the context of the current fees protests at universities around the country, Mashinini’s words hold some valuable advice.

6 quotes from Strikes Have Followed Me All My Life relevant to #FeesMustFall:

You are never an island in your problem … We unite, and we especially unite in our crisis times.

It was vital that we should be recognised for who we were, and that we should fight for our identity and respect as human beings. That was the battle we had to fight then. And human dignity is the battle we must still fight.

I am deeply concerned about what is happening, especially in terms of education, health and the negligence of the elderly … It is important that we continue to give back, and that we do not get too obsessed with the shine. We have to remember our past, and how far we’ve come together as a nation.

The money is important, and we should never forget that, much as we might be fighting injustices and claiming human rights for each and every black person, the money must always be seen as part of that injustice, and that right. Equality is important, and the money stands for that.

Lastly, I would like to encourage our teachers, who may influence and encourage an appreciation of literature. I must highlight the importance of reading and writing, and I would like to encourage other women to write and tell their stories, as we can learn a great deal from them.

You can never relax in this country, this South Africa. With each step forward comes a step backwards.

Read an excerpt from Jay Naidoo’s Introduction to the new edition of Strikes Have Followed Me All My Life:

[Mashinini's] story is an important part of the story for freedom in South Africa and it contains vital lessons for our democracy. One thing, at least, that I have learned from Ma Emma, is that the struggle for democracy and accountability has to be fought day by day. Many of the challenges we face today, including joblessness, poverty and social inequality, remain as deep-seated and structural as they were in our apartheid past. As a predatory elite today works to undermine the fabric of our society by corrupting state officials, stealing tenders and robbing the poorest of the poor of resources meant for reconstruction and development, we need to be reminded by the example of leaders like Ma Emma of why we fought for freedom. We need a return to the values that put service to our people above the vested interests of the individual. That was our contract with the people in 1994 – the commitment to deliver a better life to all.

There is a growing concern shared by many that the democratic and political space that we won is shrinking, and that a veil of secrecy
is being drawn over our country by fearful leaders. We must resist this with all the conviction we had in the past. Our struggle against apartheid was a struggle for voice. As Ma Emma insists: When we elect leaders to be public representatives, we do not mean that they have divine rights to rule us. They are servants of the people and must accept that we have a right to criticise them. That’s what we learnt from the trenches of the labour struggle that dealt a death blow to apartheid.

The struggle to make ends meet also continues today across the country. The homes of domestic workers, gardeners and factory workers still take the form of tin shacks strewn across townships in different parts of South Africa. Poverty and immense wealth lie side by side. Eighteen years into our democracy and it’s clear that the struggle for a better life for all continues. Emma’s compelling story remains relevant in a society where labour laws are often flouted and in some cases even the minimum wage is not adhered to. And so the strikes and the struggles continue …

In the education sector, in our rural and township schools, Emma speaks strongly against worker leaders who do not accept that the rights we have won come with the responsibilities of being in the classrooms and teaching: ‘Discipline won us our freedom. It seems today we have the freedom to do what we want without thinking about the interests of our children.’

Watching the breakdown of basic services in many of our township schools and clinics and the arrogance of many of those in power,
I agree that we have mislaid the values of humility, compassion and service to our people, which were the bedrock of our fight for social justice and human dignity.

And while Emma Thandi Mashinini, the Tiny Giant, prepares to celebrate her 83rd birthday, eighteen years of democracy and the 100th anniversary of Africa’s oldest liberation organisation, I celebrate her life of dedicated service: a life of immense suffering, but mostly a life of remarkable achievement. She defied the limitations of her gender at a time when apartheid denied people justice, freedom and equal rights for all. Instead, she fought selflessly for a cause so powerful that it almost ruined her own life. This book is more relevant today than ever. It is another indication of the heavy price paid for freedom, so that we and those who come after us can live in a society free from oppression and hate, a society that respects the right to life and dignity and one where the only limitation placed on us is our own imagination. Let us practise the values of Emma Mashinini every day that we live.

Jay Naidoo

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Read an Excerpt from Cat Hellisen’s Beastkeeper, a Thrilling Retelling of Beauty and the Beast

BeastkeeperBeastkeeper by Cat Hellisen, which is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, is the story of a girl called Sarah whose family is cursed by a strange old magic.

Dave de Burgh has shared an excerpt from the book, in which Sarah’s mother deserts her family because she cannot bear living with the curse any longer. For Sarah, the event is shocking and unexpected, but also the start of the journey of discovering her family’s history and how to escape it.

Read the excerpt:

The air was full of ice the night that Sarah’s mother packed all her bags and walked out. That was the thing Sarah remembered most. How it was so cold that the weather-men had said it might snow. She lay awake, listening for snow hushing against the roof—and instead she heard her parents arguing.

“I can’t do this,” her mother said. She was whispering so as not to wake her daughter. She never seemed to realize that Sarah was almost always awake. The smallest sounds could keep her from sleeping.

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