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Archive for the ‘Non-fiction’ Category

‘I grew up a slave’ – Justice Dikgang Moseneke inspires with his life story at the launch of My Own Liberator

‘I grew up a slave.’ – Justice Dikgang Moseneke inspires with his life story at the launch of My Own Liberator

 
Former Deputy Chief Justice of South Africa Dikgang Moseneke was recently at Atteridgeville Community Hall in Pretoria to launch his new memoir: My Own Liberator.

I grew up a slave. I grew up oppressed.

This was the main reason he wrote the book, Moseneke told the audience, which included a few prominent politicians such as former President Thabo Mbeki and newly appointed mayors of Pretoria and Johannesburg, respectively, Solly Msimanga and Herman Mashaba.

My Own LiberatorMoseneke was arrested and sent to Robben Island at the age of 15 for activities against apartheid, and he brushed off the suggestion that he was young or immature at that age. In response, he said it was often the young who saw the cracks in an unjust system.

“At 15, I didn’t think I was young. I thought I was equal to the task,” he said.

Moseneke said his generation and comrades took the side of people who said “inkululeko ngexesha lethu – freedom in our lifetime”.

Moseneke spoke of his childhood friends and recounted the bullying he faced as a child. To win over the bullies, he sometimes shared fishcakes and cheesecakes his grandfather, a self-taught chef, brought home from work. When Moseneke had become successful, with a safe career and a comfortable life, he often wondered what his friends and erstwhile bullies had become in terms of their careers.

Moseneke relived the harsh, cruel experiences of prisoners at Robben Island – prisoners being chained in pairs and sometimes taking a fall when the other prisoner fell. But instead of being broken by these experiences, Moseneke used the time to study and better his life.

When an audience member asked the former chief justice to speak on the contentious land issue dominating headlines in South Africa at the moment, Moseneke said “restitution has been slow”. He believes that if everyone had land, there would be nobody living in shacks. For the land issue to be solved, however, he said the government itself may have to consider giving away land it occupied yet didn’t own.

‘I grew up a slave.’ – Justice Dikgang Moseneke inspires with his life story at the launch of My Own Liberator

 
Mbeki, who wrote the book’s foreword and the one to appoint Moseneke as Deputy Chief Justice during his tenure as president, said My Own liberator was the kind of story that “needed to be told in these directionless times”.

‘I grew up a slave.’ – Justice Dikgang Moseneke inspires with his life story at the launch of My Own Liberator

 
When the country needed skilled judges for the transformation of the judiciary, people like Moseneke had been more than willing to put their hands up, Mbeki said. Mbeki also took the opportunity to thank Moseneke for the service he had rendered to the country as a judge.

‘I grew up a slave.’ – Justice Dikgang Moseneke inspires with his life story at the launch of My Own Liberator‘I grew up a slave.’ – Justice Dikgang Moseneke inspires with his life story at the launch of My Own Liberator

 
Lungile Sojini (@success_mail) tweeted live from the event:

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New book by Ahmed Kathrada announced: Conversations with a Gentle Soul

Conversations with a Gentle SoulConversations with a Gentle Soul by Ahmed Kathrada, with Sahm Venter, will be published by Picador Africa in February 2017:

Without much fanfare Ahmed Kathrada worked alongside Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and other giants in the struggle to end racial discrimination in South Africa. He faced house arrest and many court trials related to his activism until, finally, a trial for sabotage saw him sentenced to life imprisonment alongside Mandela and six others.

Conversations with a Gentle Soul has its origins in a series of discussions between Kathrada and Sahm Venter about his opinions, encounters and experiences. Throughout his life, Kathrada has refused to hang on to negative emotions such as hatred and bitterness. Instead, he radiates contentment and the openness of a man at peace with himself. His wisdom is packaged within layers of optimism, mischievousness and humour, and he provides insights that are of value to all South Africans.

About the authors

Ahmed Mohamed “Kathy” Kathrada was born on 21 August 1929 in Schweizer-Reneke. He entered politics at the age of 12 when he joined a non-racial youth club in Johannesburg that was run by the Young Communist League.

Kathrada was jailed for the first time at the age of 17 in the Passive Resistance Campaign, for defying a law that discriminated against Indians. In 1952, along with Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and 17 others, Kathrada was sentenced to nine months in prison with hard labour, suspended for two years, for their involvement in the Defiance Campaign. He received his first banning orders in 1954 and was arrested several times for breaking them.

On 11 July 1963 he was arrested in a police raid on Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia. This led to the Rivonia Trial for sabotage, which resulted in life sentences imposed on Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Kathrada, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Denis Goldberg, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni. Kathrada was in prison for 26 years and three months, 18 years of which were on Robben Island. A few months after his release on 15 October 1989, the African National Congress was unbanned.

Kathrada served as Mandela’s parliamentary counsellor from 1994 to 1999 and for one term as the chairperson of the Robben Island Museum Council. In 2008, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation was established, with the aim of deepening non-racialism. Kathrada lives in retirement in Johannesburg and Cape Town with his wife, Barbara Hogan. This is his seventh book.

Sahm Venter was born in Johannesburg and worked as a journalist for more than 20 years, mainly for the foreign media and the international news agency The Associated Press. The majority of her journalism career was focused on covering the anti-apartheid struggle and South Africa’s transition to democracy.

Venter was a member of the editorial team for Nelson Mandela’s bestselling book Conversations with Myself. She edited A Free Mind and has co-edited several books, including: Nelson Mandela By Himself: The Authorised Book of Quotations, with Sello Hatang; 491 Days: Prisoner Number 1323/69 by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, with Swati Dlamini; and Something to Write Home About: Reflections from the Heart of History, with Claude Colart. Venter has also authored a series of books called Exploring Our National Days. She is currently the senior researcher at the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

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Don’t miss Paul McNally reading from The Street at Bridge Books

Invitation to a reading of The Street

 
The Street: Exposing a World of Cops, Bribes and Drug DealersPan Macmillan and Bridge Books invite you to join them for Paul McNally reading from his new book The Street: Exposing a World of Cops, Bribes and Drug Dealers.

The event takes place this evening at Bridge Books on Commissioner Street in Joburg.

Anton Harber called The Street: “an important piece of journalism that gives rare insight into Joburg’s rotten underbelly and the criminals, cops and citizens who co-exist there.”

Don’t miss it!

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Centre for Conflict Resolution public dialogue to launch Andrew Harding’s The Mayor of Mogadishu

The Mayor of Mogadishu: A Story of Chaos and Redemption in the Ruins of SomaliaThe Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR), Cape Town, is holding a public dialogue to launch The Mayor of Mogadishu: A Story of Chaos and Redemption in the Ruins of Somalia by Andrew Harding.

The meeting will be held on Wednesday, 19 October, at 6 Spin Street, from 5:30 to 7 PM.

Harding, one of the BBC’s most experienced foreign correspondents, will address the meeting. Abdikadir Khalif Mohamed, Western Cape Director of the Somali Association of South Africa (SASA), will act as discussant. Professor Shamil Jeppie, Director and Associate Professor of History, Institute for Humanities in Africa (HUMA), University of Cape Town, will chair the meeting.

In The Mayor of Mogadishu, Harding reveals the tumultuous life of Mohamud “Tarzan” Nur, an impoverished nomad who was abandoned in a state orphanage in newly independent Somalia and became a street brawler and activist. When the country collapsed into civil war and anarchy, Tarzan and his young family became part of an exodus, eventually spending 20 years in north London. In 2010 Tarzan returned, as mayor, to the unrecognisable ruins of a city now almost entirely controlled by the Islamist militants of Al Shabab. For some in Mogadishu, he was a divisive thug who sank beneath the corruption and clan rivalries that continue to threaten the country’s revival. But for others, both locally and in the diaspora, Tarzan became a galvanising symbol of courage and hope for Somalia. The Mayor of Mogadishu is a rare insider’s account of Somalia’s unravelling and an intimate portrayal of one family’s extraordinary journey.

Event Details

  • Date: Wednesday, 19 October 2016
  • Time: 5:30 to 7:00 PM
  • Venue: 6 Spin Street
    Church Square
    Cape Town | Map
  • Chair: Professor Shamil Jeppie
  • Discussant: Abdikadir Khalif Mohamed
  • RSVP: Nombulelo Mthimkhulu, CCR, nmthimkhulu@ccr.org.za

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Sent to Robben Island at 15, now a top legal mind: Dikgang Moseneke’s extraordinary memoir My Own Liberator

My Own LiberatorPan Macmillan is proud to present My Own Liberator: A Memoir by Dikgang Moseneke:

My Own Liberator, Dikgang Moseneke pays homage to the many people and places that have helped to define and shape him. In tracing his ancestry, the influence on both his maternal and paternal sides is evident in the values they imbued in their children – the importance of family, the value of hard work and education, an uncompromising moral code, compassion for those less fortunate and unflinching refusal to accept an unjust political regime or acknowledge its oppressive laws.

As a young activist in the Pan-Africanist Congress, at the tender age of 15, Moseneke was arrested, detained and, in 1963, sentenced to 10 years on Robben Island for participating in anti-apartheid activities. Physical incarceration, harsh conditions and inhumane treatment could not imprison the political prisoners’ minds, however, and for many the Island became a school not only in politics but an opportunity for dedicated study, formal and informal. It set the young Moseneke on a path towards a law degree that would provide the bedrock for a long and fruitful legal career and see him serve his country in the highest court.

My Own Liberator charts Moseneke’s rise as one of the country’s top legal minds, who not only helped to draft the interim constitution, but for 15 years acted as a guardian of that constitution for all South Africans, helping to make it a living document for the country and its people.

With a Foreword by Thabo Mbeki

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Dikgang Moseneke was born in Pretoria in December 1947. While imprisoned on Robben Island, he obtained a Bachelor of Arts in English and political science and a B Juris degree, and would later complete a Bachelor of Laws, from the University of South Africa. Moseneke started his professional career as an attorney’s clerk in 1976. He was admitted as an attorney in 1978 and practised for five years at Maluleke, Seriti and Moseneke. In 1983 he was called to the Pretoria Bar and he was awarded senior counsel status 10 years later. Moseneke worked underground for the PAC during the 1980s and became its deputy president when it was unbanned in 1990. Moseneke also served on the technical committee that drafted the interim constitution of 1993. In 1994 he was appointed deputy chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission, which conducted the first democratic elections in South Africa.

Between 1995 and 2001, Moseneke left the Bar to pursue a full-time corporate career, but in November 2001, he came back to law when he was appointed to the High Court in Pretoria by then-President Thabo Mbeki. A year later Moseneke was made a judge in the Constitutional Court and, in June 2005, he became Deputy Chief Justice, a position from which he retired in May 2016.

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The Mayor of Mogadishu: What you get when African cliche is dropped

Keith Somerville, University of Kent

The Mayor of Mogadishu

News reporting is always shaped by a considerable amount of tension. How do you strike the balance between hooking the audience with the sensational while supplying sufficient detail and context for an informed understanding of the events being reported?

This tension is most apparent when dealing with complex issues set in environments geographically distant from your audience. Reporting Africa to the world has been shaped by this tension. It has also been shaped by frames that can replicate colonial prejudices, Cold War stereotypes or project images of “otherness”.

This is captured in Africa’s Media Image in the 21st Century: From Heart of Darkness to Africa Rising, a new volume by Mel Bunce, Suzanne Franks and Chris Paterson.

In their fascinating and informative new study of Africa’s media image, the trio relate how journalists have to fight to get stories from Nigeria and other key states into the news as areas worthy of reporting in their own right and not just when there was “trouble” there.

They quote the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who says that if …

all I knew about Africa were from popular images, I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals, and incomprehensible people, fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreigner.

Somalia is Black Hawk Down

If there is one country that could sum up this, it is Somalia. Decades of war, civil dislocation, poverty, hunger and disease have been the stock-in-trade of Western reporting. Given the country’s history this is not altogether surprising. It has been almost constantly at war since the uprisings in the late 1980s that overthrew the dictator Siad Barre.

The dictator’s departure led to the fragmentation of a highly centralised system of government, the growth of clan-based militias and the rise of Islamist movements. This in turn drew the hostility of neighbours and the US.

For many in the West reliant on sporadic but sensationalist media coverage, Somalia is Black Hawk Down. Added to that is a dash of piracy, stick-thin children starved by rapacious warlords and saved only by Western aid or intervention. Until, of course, that intervention went horribly wrong.

Harding’s grasp for the detail

There are elements of these themes but, fortunately, a lot more to be found in the intriguing new work, The Mayor of Mogadishu by Andrew Harding. There is detail, nuance, context and first-hand experience in this account by the well-travelled BBC foreign correspondent.

At times, it reads like a series of dispatches. While this may make it a little disjointed, it imbues the story with the sense of being there and knowing what is important to report or describe.

Harding is very well aware of the danger of stereotypes. He warns at the start that the name Mogadishu seems “forbidding” and has in the media

become a bloated cliché, not just of war but of famine and piracy, terrorism, warlords, anarchy, exodus … All the worst headlines of our time invoked by one lilting, gently poetic, four-syllable word.

Harding peoples the city and brings it alive as a place where lives are lived, ambitions followed, family dramas played out and stories told. As he points out, some stories are exaggerated for effect or to inflate the egos of the tellers or flatter their subjects. The central character is Mohamud “Tarzan” Nur – the Mayor of Mogadishu.

There are many and often conflicting stories of a man whose image to fellow Somalis is equally complex. He is hated or despised by some, loved and admired by others. Among his stories is the one about escaping a school dormitory to hang from the branches of a tree, earning himself the nickname Tarzan.

Mohamud Nur is a man of passion, of drive, of ruthlessness. His language is colourful and, in a passage where Harding comes perilously close to Somali stereotyping, can sound “like a gunfight in a sandstorm”.

Siad Barre gets off lightly

The author is surprisingly forgiving of the Somali dictator Siad Barre. He says that history has not been kind to him. Should it have been? A man who overthrew an elected government and switched sides in the Cold War to maximise his accumulation of weaponry. These weapons were used to pursue violent irredentist campaigns and to suppress brutally any vestige of opposition. On the pretext of ending clan conflict, this man used force and coercion against clans and their leaders. All these while single-mindedly pursuing advantage for his own Marehan clan, which is part of the wider Darod clan system.

The Marehan dominance eventually, as Harding does go on to describe, led to revolt and a high degree of polarisation back into clans by the majority that were excluded from power and influence.

Later in the book, clear analysis and context are more assured with the description of the US’s “coldly logical” but totally misinformed conclusions about the situation in Somalia. This led to US funding for warlords out of a 9/11 generated fear of the Somali Islamic Courts Union, which was succeeding in ending conflict and bringing stability to Mogadishu.

Washington encouraged Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia and destruction of the Islamic Courts Union. This led to its militia, the Al Shabaab, becoming the dominant and destructive Islamist force it remains today.

The contemporary part of the story and continuing vicissitudes are again viewed through the eyes of Nur, his wife and friends. This gives a personal and very human touch to the whole narrative while not losing sight of complex national and international dimensions.

This ability to both tell stories with impact and grasp the impact of a multiplicity of factors emerges from the Bunce, Franks and Paterson volume as the key factor in getting the media to portray more accurate, informed and less stereotypical accounts of events in African states.

The Conversation

Keith Somerville, Visiting Professor, University of Kent

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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An insider’s account of Somalia’s unravelling: The Mayor of Mogadishu by Andrew Harding

The Mayor of MogadishuPan Macmillan is proud to present The Mayor of Mogadishu: A Story of Chaos and Redemption in the Ruins of Somalia by Andrew Harding – an epic, uplifting story of one family’s journey through the violent unravelling of Somalia, and a timely exploration of what it means to lose your country and then to reclaim it:

In The Mayor of Mogadishu, Harding, one of the BBC’s most experienced foreign correspondents, reveals the tumultuous life of Mohamud “Tarzan” Nur – an impoverished nomad who was abandoned in a state orphanage in newly independent Somalia and became a street brawler and activist. When the country collapsed into civil war and anarchy, Tarzan and his young family became part of an exodus, eventually spending 20 years in north London.

In 2010 Tarzan returned, as mayor, to the unrecognisable ruins of a city now almost entirely controlled by the Islamist militants of Al Shabab. For some in Mogadishu, he was a divisive thug who sank beneath the corruption and clan rivalries that continue to threaten the country’s revival. But for others, both locally and in the diaspora, Tarzan became a galvanising symbol of courage and hope for Somalia.

The Mayor of Mogadishu is a rare an insider’s account of Somalia’s unravelling and an intimate portrayal of one family’s extraordinary journey.

It is easy to gawk at the tragedy of Somalia; assuming an attitude of sensationalised disbelief. Andrew Harding refuses to do this. Instead he offers a wry, sceptical story. Part fable, part journalistic account, Harding’s tale brims with sympathy and admiration for the human capacity for survival. The Mayor of Mogadishu is a great big gorgeous read.

- Sisonke Msimang, columnist and writer

One of Africa’s most experienced correspondents zeroes in on one of the most intriguing characters in the extraordinary post-apocalyptic world of modern Mogadishu. Like the city and its mayor, Harding brings depth, clarity, nuance and occasional poetry to his story. Rich, epic and important.

- Alex Perry, author of The Rift: A New Africa Breaks Free

Andrew Harding’s elegantly written account is much more than a portrait of the Mayor of Mogadishu. In bold, vivid brush-strokes it captures all the charm, colour, contradiction and menace of contemporary Somalia.

- Michela Wrong, author of Borderlines

Africa can be explained in dry prose, in figures, in newspaper reports; or it can be explained, as Andrew Harding does in this book, through an astonishing personal story, vivid and utterly memorable.

- Alexander McCall Smith

About the author

Andrew Harding has been living and working abroad, as a foreign correspondent, for the past 25 years, in Russia, the Caucasus, Asia and Africa. He has been visiting Somalia since 2000. His television and radio reports for BBC News have won him international recognition, including an Emmy, an award from Britain’s Foreign Press Association, and other awards in France, the United States and Hong Kong. He currently lives in Johannesburg with his family.

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From servant to legend: AB de Villiers chats about his cricket career at the launch of his autobiography

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Image: Danielle de Villiers on Instagram

 
AB: The AutobiographyProteas star batsmen and captain AB de Villiers was at the Wanderers Stadium recently to launch his new book, AB: The Autobiography.

De Villiers scored the fastest century ever in one day international history at The Wanderers, so it was a fitting venue to launch his autobiography. He regaled the audience with tales of his boyhood and the different stages of his cricket career before his rise to stardom and prominence with the Proteas.

There were times De Villiers didn’t know if his career would pan out, he said at the night.

“I always believed that I was destined for something great,” he said, but admitted doubts arose from him playing in the second team. Speaking of the transition from school to international cricket, De Villiers said: “When I left school it was all very confusing.”

So confusing that De Villiers, who for a while studied Sport Science, spoke of the “drop zone” – a zone where there was “lots of beer … friends” and him driving in his mother’s blue Jetta, thinking he was “the coolest guy in the world”.

Before he knew it, “six months were gone”, with De Villiers not knowing what he was doing with his life.

At this stage De Villiers was still playing cricket for the second team. However, by taking his chances and utilising the opportunities he got, it wasn’t long he was playing for the first team.

 

These are some of the stages De Villiers documents in his book. Ex-cricketer and now commentator Mpumelelo Mbangwa, who was in conversation with the star batsman, asked De Villiers about his state of mind ahead of his international debut for the Proteas in a Test match in 2004.

“It was a bit crazy, playing with legends of the game like Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher,” De Villiers said, adding that life in the national team was always a challenge.

Having played just a few first-class games, playing for the national team was a mental test, and it was a lean period for De Villiers, with runs hard to come by. The batsman said he felt lucky to be playing in the first team considering his poor record at the time.

De Villiers also spoke of the senior players who sternly advised him to step up his batting performance. “I was almost a servant, in my first year. I didn’t feel like I belonged performance-wise,” he said.

De Villiers has gone on to play 98 consecutive Tests for the Proteas since his debut – a feat no other Test cricketer has achieved ever.

Speaking of his strategy, De Villiers said: “I go with my instincts at times. I do gamble at times, like most of other captains.” He added that a team of analysts and other professionals were always at hand to assist.

Fear of failure makes him nervous, he said. But he has managed to turn that handicap into an advantage, saying: “The more nervous I am, the better I play.”

The next major tournament top on De Villiers’s mind is the 2019 Cricket World Cup. He hopes to lift the trophy with the Proteas.

Lungile Sojini (@success_mail) tweeted live from the launch:

 
The event was photographed by Nicolise Harding – Photography & Design:

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How to have sympathy for the cops AND the drug dealers: The Street by Paul McNally launched at Love Books

The StreetThe Street: Exposing a World of Cops, Bribes and Drug Dealers by Paul McNally was launched at Love Books in Melville recently, in the company of Anton Harber, ENCA Editor-in-Chief and Caxton Professor of Journalism, and Carolyn Raphaely, senior journalist at Wits Justice Project.

McNally is an award-winning journalist and the Director of Citizen Justice Network. The event at Love Books was packed.

Harber called the book: “A remarkable piece of writing.”

“Seldom these days we see books in journalism based on patient, detailed reporting by someone who is prepared to spend days, weeks and months observing, interviewing and doing the hard work of basic journalism,” he said.

The book follows the corrupt relationship between the police and the drug dealers in Johannesburg.

“Paul has given us insights into crime and the fight against it from ground level. The kind of grainy detail that you can only get from that combination of patience and commitment,” he said.

“What I found most fascinating about his book is that it’s not about crime, it’s not about good and bad, villains and victims. What he shows us that is it often very difficult to tell the difference between them,” Harber continued.

“So it’s an important book but most of all it’s a rarely found enthralling read. I would go so far as to say that you will have difficulty understanding crime and the fight against it in this country unless you have read this book. It’s a must-read for anyone trying to understand this issue, this city and this country,” Harber said.

The Street follows the stories of three characters. The first is Raymond, a shop owner on Ontdekkers Road who takes a baseball bat to the dealers when they break his rules. But he is also against the corruption: he systematically records in his notebook when the police officers come to collect their bribe money from the dealers. And he plans all manner of schemes from his shop on how to disrupt the system.

The second character is a police officer called Khaba who wants a quiet life but whose demons will not leave him in peace. He is trying to regain his trust in what he once regarded as an honourable profession.

The third character (who came to the launch to receive her signed copy) is Wendy, a petite, ageing police reservist who can handle an R5 rifle with confidence.

The story of The Street developed as a project based at Wits Justice Project around the Sophiatown police station.

And ultimately the author became entrenched in the world on Ontdekkers in west Johannesburg. He spent two years investigating how the drug dealers and cops interact without any sign of accountability. This resulted in the author being in a general state of fear while working on the book.

But with time, McNally said that sympathy for the drug dealers and the police developed.

With the release of the recent crime stats the boom in books around the police has been evident. What is also necessary is the need for narrative, reporter-based journalism to bring together the comprehensive picture on the state of crime and the police in the country.

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Visit www.thestreetbook.co.za for details on where to order the book.

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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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