South Africa’s copyright bill is good for digital archives. Here’s why



Digital archives.
Shutterstock

Denise Rosemary Nicholson, University of the Witwatersrand

To fulfil their mission in the 21st century, libraries, archives, museums and galleries must engage in a wide variety of new activities.

Libraries, for example, house collections of printed works but must now also provide access to online journals, e-books, multimedia, Africana and archival treasures, images, government publications and legal material, posters and artworks. Collection, development, cataloguing, lending, preservation and replacement must take place online as well as in hard copy.

Academic libraries – and even some school ones – are now embedded in core teaching programmes. They support education and innovation and provide services for people with disabilities. Library services include teaching, literacy programmes, research support, data management, and copyright and plagiarism awareness training.

As knowledge hubs, libraries must meet the various information needs of a country’s citizens. In addition, they promote authors and publishers by purchasing, collecting and preserving their works for perpetuity.

Without access to library and archival collections, creativity and innovation would be almost impossible.

But South Africa’s current copyright law dates back to 1978, and is completely inadequate, outdated and irrelevant in a digital world. It has been a barrier to access to information for far too long.

South Africa’s Copyright Amendment Bill is waiting for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s signature. The bill has been strongly contested. Academic Sanya Samtani, for example, supports the bill with an argument based on her PhD research. For its part, the Coalition for Effective Copyright strongly opposes it.

There is merit in all these arguments. But my view is that there is positive news in the Bill’s provisions for libraries, archives, museums and galleries. For example, it will ensure that valuable documentary records and cultural heritage can be preserved for future generations.

What has been missing

The current Copyright Act has no provisions for libraries, archives, galleries and museums. As an afterthought, limited provisions were included in Section 13 regulations for libraries and archives.

Digitisation is the main form of preserving material in the 21st century. Yet the country’s copyright law doesn’t permit it. This causes serious problems for libraries, archives, museums and galleries. They are currently unable to digitise any of their works without first having to get copyright permission, and to pay high copyright fees.

Such entities have large collections of fragile material which can no longer be handled. The only way to preserve this material – and to make it accessible – is to digitise the content. For example, there are media libraries full of Beta and VHS video tapes, film reels and other material that can no longer be accessed as the technologies are obsolete.

To convert these works to current technologies, libraries and related entities must first get copyright permission. In many instances, rights-holders ignore the requests, or are impossible to trace (making them orphan works). In some cases permission is denied. Collections end up with gaps in them.

These issues affect access to archives, which are used for research, teaching and learning, creating and innovating and sharing information. They get in the way of the civic right to access information provided in the South African Constitution.

Lack of adequate and appropriate copyright limitations and exceptions for libraries, archives, museums and galleries have inhibited or prevented them from carrying out their statutory mandates. They have large collections of valuable documents, posters, artworks, artefacts, newspapers, recordings, and images that cannot be reproduced or even accessed. Often this is because the rights-holders cannot be traced, and there are no provisions for orphan works in the current law.

On top of this, restrictive licences and contracts often prevent libraries and similar entities from carrying out their duties. Cross-border exchanges aren’t permitted. Interlibrary loans are permitted in the current law, but this does not extend to digital sharing.

Positive news

The new Copyright Amendment Bill takes cognisance of existing international conventions and treaties, treaty proposals and foreign laws. It also draws on the country’s Constitution and the excellent EIFL Model Copyright law, drafted by information specialists in various countries, including South Africa. This document is a practical guide to assist librarians, as well as their legal advisors and policy-makers, when national laws are being updated. It is designed to support access to knowledge and the public interest mission of libraries.

The Bill also implements the principles of the 2015 Cape Town Declaration, signed by South Africa and 12 other African countries. This includes the commitment

to encourage the implementation of fair and balanced copyright laws to facilitate access to information for all.

The Bill doesn’t use the word “digitisation” specifically. But it will allow libraries, archives, museums and galleries to engage in preservation, digital curation and format-shifting. This will ensure their collections are preserved and made accessible for future generations.

They will be able to share information and replace lost or stolen works. They will also be able to provide information, images, recordings or other media for historical events, exhibitions and educational purposes.

Legal deposit libraries will also finally be able to carry out their statutory mandates. These include that they collect, preserve and make accessible the country’s cultural heritage and historical documentary records in the digital space.

The Bill has been given the thumbs up by the International Federation of Library and Institutions – the leading international body representing the interests of library and information services and their users. It represents over 2.3 million libraries worldwide, serving over a billion users. It has labelled the Bill both progressive and practical. The International Council of Archives, the umbrella organisation that promotes international cooperation for archives and archivists, has also formally supported the Bill.

This suggests that South Africa is about to have a copyright law that could serve as a precedent for other countries.The Conversation

Denise Rosemary Nicholson, Scholarly Communications Librarian, University of the Witwatersrand

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How Toni Morrison’s legacy plays out in South Africa’s universities



Toni Morrison’s legacy echoes across the world.
EPA-EFE/Arturo Peña-Romano

Aretha Phiri, Rhodes University

I first encountered Toni Morrison during my undergraduate years at Rhodes University in South Africa where her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Beloved (1987), was taught as part of an American Literature course.

It moved me in ways that no other academic account of transatlantic, African American slavery had. Beloved is set in the 19th century. It tells the story of a runaway slave who commits infanticide rather than seeing her child returned to slavery. As with Morrison’s entire fictional oeuvre, the novel profoundly embodies and humanises black life.

Part of what motivated Morrison – who has died at the age of 88 – was impatience at how black literature was typically taught as sociology but was considered intellectually and artistically bereft.

In her Tanner lecture series delivered at the University of Michigan in 1988, she defiantly stated, in defence of a generically marginalised African American presence:

We have always been imagining ourselves … subjects of our own narrative, witnesses to and participants in our own experience … We are not, in fact, ‘other’. We are choices.

The inspiration provided by her fictional writing and critical scholarship around the ideological, artistic and scholarly place of black literature helped carve out an imaginative and actual space for the likes of me – a black African female – within a predominantly white and male, largely Eurocentric literary and intellectual establishment.

Today, I teach at the same university where I first read Beloved and discovered this remarkably talented, intellectually formidable African-American woman novelist. And her work continues to echo. Not just for me, but for the new generation of literature students who cross my path each year.

A complicated place in the canon

In some ways, perhaps Morrison is even more relevant in South African universities today than she’s ever been. Race is a topic that’s simultaneously sanitised and amplified in the country’s everyday discourse. Morrison’s determined refusal to shy away from race reverberates across the Atlantic, resonating with students who still live the enduring political and economic legacies of racial colonialism and apartheid.

On the face of it, the country’s demands for social redress would seem to align with Morrison’s thinking. But a closer reading shows how her fiction strains against the confines of parochial societal interpretations and exercises. It makes the demand for more than superficial change implemented along purely racial lines. It insists on an interrogation and re-imagining of the entire architecture and workings of race.

This reveals how Morrison’s place in both the African-American and global literary canon is quite complicated. It also makes clear why it is that she appeals to so many of my students, across the (proverbial) divide. Each year I watch students from varied racial, social, cultural, economic and gender (or gendered) backgrounds engage with her novels in my classroom. Their readings are intuitive and discerning. This yields often interesting and vigorous discussions, and even heated debates, that reflect the complexity and applicability of her experiences and intellect – and theirs.

Take her debut novel, The Bluest Eye (1970). It provides a delineation of racial self-hatred, incest and familial violence that critiques the deleterious effects of white hegemony. But it also controversially explores and confronts the internalised delimiting contours of black counter-narratives.

The book’s feminist focus on the sexual abuse of women speaks to the damaging effects of patriarchal ideologies and practices within black communities. It resonates with all people in South Africa – a country with incredibly high rates of gender violence.

Jazz (1992) is another Morrison novel whose complex existential narratives require equally complex interpretations. Structurally, it mimics the musical genre’s polyvocal, sometimes cacophonous, intonations to trace the lives of African Americans across time and space. It’s a tough read for two reasons.

First, it requires that students have an appreciation of the technical workings of the artistic cultural form that is jazz. Second, the novel demands from them a critical inquiry into and participatory reading of the experiences of “a people”; of histories that are both outside of and intersect with their own.

This is particularly important at a time when calls are rampant in South African higher education circles for the “Africanisation” of curricula. These calls appeal to contemporary nationalist demands and are in direct contrast to Morrison’s stated intolerance of “lazy, easy, brand-name applications”. Instead, she and her work insisted on the painstakingly “hard work” of non-prescriptive and interrogative, “border-crossing” analysis.

The measure of a life

In her 1993 Nobel Prize speech, Morrison stated:

We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.

And that is the measure of Toni Morrison’s life. Her dense, demanding prose reflects our continued need – in post-apartheid South Africa’s university classrooms, and elsewhere – to meditate critically and consciously upon our own fragile and imperfect existences. Her narratives put forward morally responsive and socially transformative ways of being in the world. Morrison’s legacy, then, is not just to literature: it is to the imperatives of social justice and to the ideals of humanity not yet realised.The Conversation

Aretha Phiri, Senior lecturer, Department of Literary Studies in English, Rhodes University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why nonfiction books dominate bestseller lists in South Africa



File 20190423 175510 1w4md7.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s “Gangster State” is one of South Africa’s top sellers.
Charles Leonard

Beth le Roux, University of Pretoria

Books in South Africa don’t often make headline news. But a controversial subject, protests and disruptions at a book launch, and threats of book burning are sufficient to get South Africans talking about the place of books in society once again.

This is exactly what has happened with investigative journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s latest book “Gangster State”.

“Gangster State” is an exposé of current African National Congress (ANC) Secretary General Ace Magashule’s alleged murky dealings as premier of the Free State province, and his rise to one of the governing party’s most influential positions. The book has stirred up passionate reactions, both for and against its contents.

This last happened in late 2017 when another investigative reporter Jacques Pauw published a similar book, “The President’s Keepers”. That book dealt with South Africa’s previous head of state, Jacob Zuma, who’s been closely linked to massive corruption. Zuma denies the allegations.




Read more:
Two books that tell the unsettling tale of South Africa’s descent


Clearly, this kind of book touches a certain chord in South African society. A quick glance through the top-selling books in the past few years shows that non-fiction, and particularly political non-fiction dealing with very topical events, is the most popular genre.

The trend can be traced back through a number of years, with nonfiction consistently dominating the Nielsen’s BookScan sales charts – the most comprehensive figures collected on book sales through commercial booksellers. This raises the question: why do political books do so well in South Africa?

Celebrities

This isn’t a uniquely South Africa phenomenon. Nonfiction is popular around the world. Celebrities’ memoirs or biographies, as well as history titles, are more likely to become bestsellers than any other kinds of nonfiction. Indeed, Michelle Obama’s memoir “Becoming” caused a paper shortage in the US towards the end of 2018, as it was reprinted in such large quantities and at short notice to keep up with audience demand. This title has now sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.

Where South Africa differs is in the balance of sales between nonfiction and fiction. In most of the largest publishing markets, fiction is bought at much higher rates than nonfiction. In the US, for instance, average sales for fiction titles are between 4 000 and 8 000 copies, while the nonfiction average is lower, at 2 000 to 6 000 copies.

In South Africa, it’s the reverse. Nonfiction outsells fiction. This is not a new trend, either: political books found a ready audience throughout the apartheid period.

There are a few categories of nonfiction that do particularly well: political nonfiction, South African history (especially political history), religious books – and the ubiquitous cookbooks. The authors that have the edge tend to be journalists rather than academics, probably because their writing is so much more accessible.

Statistically, too, men write more nonfiction than women in South Africa, and so are more likely to produce top-selling titles, as was found by one of my post-graduate students, Kelly Ansara, in her Master’s study of the gender balance in SA publishing.

South African trends

In analysing the publishing lists and sales figures of the local nonfiction publishers – Pan Macmillan, Jonathan Ball, Penguin SA, Tafelberg and Jacana, on the whole – another difference becomes apparent. Books by and about celebrities are not as popular in South Africa as in the US and UK. Their sales are thus less predictable.

For instance, while former Springbok rugby coach Jake White’s “In Black and White” sold more than 60 000 copies in a week in 2008, star rugby player Joost van der Westhuizen’s “Man in the Mirror” was less successful. Comedian Trevor Noah’s memoir, “Born a Crime”, has been extremely successful, but titles by local musicians and actors such as Bonang Matheba and Somizi Mhlongo have sold comparatively few copies.

The raft of competing titles that hit the shelves after the murder conviction of former Paralympian athlete Oscar Pistorius did not take off as well as expected. Excellent titles on topics as diverse as climate change and South African art sell a respectable number, but don’t make the bestseller list.

Many of the country’s nonfiction titles sell several thousand copies very quickly, but few of them have staying power. Current interest is intense in topics like state capture and corruption scandals. But it fades quickly, leading to a short shelf-life for a number of political books. Only a few gain the perennial interest and staying power of a title like “I Write What I Like” by Steve Biko or Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom”.

Making sense

Many commentators suggest that the interest in political and current affairs titles reflects a nation trying to make sense of its tumultuous political environment. The huge political and social shifts of the past 20 to 30 years are still influencing South Africans’ daily lives. With one corruption scandal following another, trust in the authorities is low. But citizens still seek authoritative overviews and answers – in the nonfiction titles that line our shelves.

There is little reason to predict that the trend will change. However, if the threats mount, then we may see authors and publishers shifting to less controversial topics. For now, it’s great to see books in the news again.The Conversation

Beth le Roux, Associate Professor, Publishing, University of Pretoria

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Hugh Lewin: South African journalist, author, militant and prisoner


File 20190118 100261 1k7xtdw.png?ixlib=rb 1.1
Hugh Lewin served on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Institute for the Advancement of Journalism

Franz Krüger, University of the Witwatersrand

Hugh Lewin, who provided a unique voice on the South African story over many decades as militant, prisoner, journalist, author and much else, has died in Johannesburg at the age of 79.

Lewin is perhaps best known for two books that arose from his early involvement in the anti-apartheid underground. Bandiet, Seven years in a South African Prison, which has been described as a remarkable piece of prison literature, and Stones against the Mirror, published decades later, in which he describes grappling with the betrayal of the man whose testimony sent him to jail.

But his poetry, his children’s books and his work in publishing and the training of journalists and refugees leave as big a legacy. An outpouring of tributes has greeted news of his death. He has been called “an incredible writer and courageous soldier” by President Cyril Ramaphosa. and “a courageous stalwart” by Lord Peter Hain.

I first encountered him when he ran the small publishing house Baobab Books in Zimbabwe. Later I worked with him at the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism in Johannesburg, and will mainly remember his gentle humour, a sharp intellect that was never cutting, his ability to listen and his concern for others. It made him a great friend and outstanding teacher and mentor to many.

I will also remember the quiet dignity with which he dealt with his gradually failing health over the past decade, cared for by his partner Fiona Lloyd. His wit was still on clear display when I saw him just about a week before his death, despite frailty and struggling with the words that were his life – “I keep bumping against empty sentences,” he had previously said.

Radical politics

Lewin was born in the small town of Lydenburg in 1939 into an Anglican missionary family. He studied at Rhodes University before entering journalism at the Natal Witness in Pietermaritzburg.

He was quickly drawn into anti-apartheid politics of an increasingly radical kind, and got involved in the National Committee of Liberation, later renamed as the African Resistance Movement. This group of activists grew out of the Liberal Party and embarked on a campaign of sabotage of infrastructure targets, which it carried out between 1961 and 1964.

In July 1964, Lewin, then 24, was sentenced to jail for seven years for sabotage. He served this time in Pretoria Central prison, where he kept notes of his experiences in his Bible. After his release, he left the country on a “permanent departure permit”, to begin life as an exile in London.

Bandiet was published during this time. It manages both to provide harrowing detail of life in an apartheid jail and to use prison as a metaphor for the system as a whole. Reviewer Daniel Roux described the book as deserving, “its place in the global canon of prison writing”. Roux called it an,

understated, elegant and honest memoir that resists self-pity and self-glamorisation, and shows in careful detail what it feels like to drop out of one reality and to enter a completely different world.

Long banned in South Africa, the book was republished in 2002 as Bandiet – out of jail, including additional later material.

Anti-apartheid causes

His family remember an additional result of the prison years: his skill at sewing, from sewing mailbags in jail. His stitching was apparently large but very neat.

During 10 years in London, he worked as a journalist and for the International Defence and Aid Fund, a support organisation for anti-apartheid causes.

Another 10 years of exile followed, this time in Zimbabwe, where he worked as publisher and wrote a series of children’s stories, the Jafta series, whose simple narratives spoke to the ordinary reality of Southern African children.
Hugh returned to South Africa in 1992 and began work at the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism, the institution founded by Allister Sparks to train journalists for the new democracy.

He served on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission before returning to the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism in 1998 as its executive director. It was during this time that he was involved in the early initiatives that led to the establishment of the journalism programme at Wits University.

But processing of the traumatic events of his youth was clearly not complete, and after retiring from the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism, he worked on the memoir that became Stones against the Mirror. Published in 2011, the book deals with a friendship that ended in betrayal. Adrian Leftwich was the man who gave his name to the security police and testified against him in court, and the book describes Lewin’s 40-year search for some kind of resolution.

South African author Nadine Gordimer wrote about the book:

There have been many accounts of life in the active struggle against the apartheid regime but this one is a fearless exploration into the deepest ground – the personal moral ambiguity of betrayal under brutal interrogation.

It won the Alan Paton Award in 2012 – one of many honours he has received.

During these later years, Lewin also continued his involvement in training, travelling to the Myanmar border to work with refugees with his partner Fiona Lloyd. However, failing health made this more and more difficult.

Lewin leaves his partner, two daughters from an earlier marriage and three grandchildren.The Conversation

Franz Krüger, Adjunct Professor of Journalism and Director of the Wits Radio Academy, University of the Witwatersrand

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The story of an alliance between two poets — one Cuban, one South African



File 20190131 109820 z11yq3.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Keorapetse Kgositsile.
Oupa Nkosi/Mail & Guardian

Cynthia Gabbay, Freie Universität Berlin and Karin Berkman, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

It’s a little more than a year since the death of Keorapetse Kgositsile, South Africa’s first post-apartheid poet laureate. Kgositsile, born in Johannesburg in 1938, became a prominent and vocal activist for the African National Congress (ANC). In 1961, at the behest of the ANC, he went into exile, initially to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, and subsequently to the US where he became involved in the Black Arts Movement.

In 1990 he returned to South Africa and in 2006 was appointed Poet Laureate. In the many volumes published during his exile and after his return, Kgositsile repeatedly and fearlessly addressed the crimes both of apartheid and of global racism, advocating a revolutionary politics of resistance.

Kgositsile’s death in January 2018 was mourned across South Africa and indeed across the globe.




Read more:
A tribute to Keorapetse Kgositsile, South Africa’s poet laureate


In a moving tribute in the introduction to Kgositsile’s final volume Homesoil in My Blood the poet, novelist and activist, renowned South African writer Mandla Langa draws attention to Kgositsile’s poetic skill and to his unwavering conviction,

“that art to mean anything must be involved in social activism.”

In a short aside Langa notes Kgositsile’s fertile association with prominent activists and writers across the globe like Pablo Neruda from Chile, and Cubans Nicolás Guillén and Nancy Morejón. The brief mention of Morejón belies the importance of the relationship between two activist poets, one which has rarely been addressed.

A consideration of Morejón’s engagement with Kgositsile as a fellow poet – and her visit to South Africa – shed new light on her poetic practice. It allows too, a reaffirmation of Kgositsile’s uniquely South African voice and to highlight the reach and impact of his transnational status.

Revolutionary writers

Nancy Morejón.
Potosino/WikiMedia

Morejón, born in 1944, is, with Guillén, among Cuba’s most important revolutionary writers: internationally renowned for her work as a poet, critic and essayist, she has been widely translated. In 2001, Morejón was awarded Cuba’s National Prize in literature. Issues of race and gender are central to her oeuvre. Through her poetry she acknowledges the centrality and complexity of her Afro-Cuban identity from both pan-Caribbean and pan-African perspectives.

Morejón addresses the origins of her relationship with Kgositsile in a telling anecdote in her essay, “Viaje a Suráfrica” (Voyage to South Africa). In 1987 she attended the International Conference of Writers held in Congo, together with the Cuban poet and translator of African poetry, Rogelio Martínez Furé. She wrote:

We went to drink coffee with one of the writers who had intervened very boldly. He was a small, petite man, with broad and thick lips, with a physical fragility that contrasted with the strength of his word and his overwhelming sympathy.

Furé … decided to ply this new friend with questions. The last question was filled with anguish since we both expected a tragic response: ‘Do you know the whereabouts of the poet Keorapetse Kgositsile from Johannesburg? The only thing we know is that he is one of the poets who has been the longest time in exile and we have not heard from him for so long … Many fear for his life…’

With a smile full of mischief, our interlocutor, impassively, replied: ‘Keorapetse Kgositsile… that is me.’ At that moment my personal history with South Africa was born.

(Translation: Cynthia Gabbay)

The anecdote conveys Kgositsile’s frequently noted playfulness and the affection he commanded. It equally suggests the high regard in which he was held amongst the global community of writer–activists.

The importance of Africa, and of South Africa in particular, as a focus of Morejón’s poetics of resistance, and the extent of her identification with the struggle is evident in her 1989 volume, Baladas para un sueño (Ballads for a dream). In the poem “Silent Lullaby for South African Children” , Morejón addresses the iniquities of South Africa’s pass laws:

Mommy had no pass

and there was no bread.

Daddy had no pass

and he was punished.

Mommy had no pass

and there was no bread.

Daddy had no pass

and he died, slaughtered.

Mommy had no pass

and there was no bread.

(Translation: Cynthia Gabbay and Karin Berkman)

The poem makes clear the impossibility of any peaceful sleep for the child who voices the lament. Its evocation of the simple vocabulary of a child and its spare, plaintive refrains serve to accentuate its concern with the poverty and violence that are the legacies of apartheid.

Travelling across South Africa

In June 1992, in the dying throes of the apartheid regime, Morejón was invited to deliver the keynote address at the annual conference of the Congress of South African Writers. After the conference she travelled across South Africa, giving workshops and lectures. She was accompanied throughout by Kgositsile, whom she terms her “cicerone” (guide).

In her essay on this journey, Morejón expresses her wonder at the beauty of the South African landscape, and her pleasure at the fraternity she develops with the poet and with her new South African friends. At the same time, her confrontation with the terrifying realities of apartheid induce in her a profound, almost unbearable sense of estrangement. With Kgositsile as her guide, she visited Crossroads, the shantytown near Cape Town.

She describes an intense loss of bearings, a “sensation of living in Hitler’s dream”: the public toilets at the edge of the camp are indefinable, part sarcophagi, part public amenities. The location loses its specificity, at once a dumping ground and a cemetery, the evidence of apartheid as “a diabolical aberration”.

Morejón closes her essay with a tribute to the people she encounters:

South Africa pulses in my memory for the same story that runs through my own veins, for its art and literature, for the friends of the Congress of South African Writers, for the travelling musicians, the muleteers, the stevedores, the sangomas, the maids who told me their griefs experienced under apartheid, their hopes of making it disappear even after its theoretical death.

(Translation: Cynthia Gabbay)The Conversation

Cynthia Gabbay, Alexander von Humboldt Fellow and former Research Associate at ERC Project “Apartheid Stops” (at Hebrew University), Freie Universität Berlin and Karin Berkman, Post-doctoral researcher, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Books paint contrasting pictures of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela



File 20190115 152995 2n81iy.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
South African liberation struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
EPA-EFE/Jon Hrusha

Keith Gottschalk, University of the Western Cape

Writings on South African liberation struggle icon Winnie Mandela almost all fall into one of two categories – either hagiography or demonology. These two books – Truth, Lies and Alibis. A Winnie Mandela Story, by Fred Bridgland and Sisonke Msimang’s The Resurrection of Winnie Mandela. A Biography of Survival, try to be more nuanced.

Bridgland was a correspondent for Britain’s leading right-wing newspaper, the Daily Telegraph. For years, he dispatched empathetic reports on an anti-communist hero of the cold war, Jonas Savimbi and his UNITA movement, which were at war with Angola’s ruling MPLA – an ally of the ANC.

Readers might take it for granted that anything he writes would be hostile to the ANC. So Bridgland makes a point of prefacing his book on Winnie Mandela by first placing on record that Savimbi became paranoiac, and committed massacres of entire families of his leading officials. Bridgland is currently writing up these atrocities; in effect he attempts to so show his even-handedness.

Sisonke Msimang, author of Always Another Country: A Memoir of Exile and Home, has also written articles for the New York Times, the Guardian, and Al Jazeera. She writes near the start of her biography: “I will not pretend otherwise: I am interested in redeeming Ma Winnie”.

But towards the end, she writes: “It is deeply uncomfortable to acknowledge Winnie’s involvement in Stompie’s death, and in the disappearances of Lolo Sono and Sibuniso Tshabalala, while also holding her up as a hero.

She qualifies her views further:

In a perfect world, her place is not on a pedestal… I am prepared to raise her up in the hopes that, one day, South Africans might ethically and in good conscience take her down.(p.157)

Msimang also writes in her conclusion that she’s even prepared to say give up her admiration for the complicated Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. “I cannot do so, however, without a few conditions … The past must be opened up not just to grief, but to the structural nature of racism.” She means the class exploitation coloured by colonialism and finally apartheid.

This review needs to start with three disclosures. This reviewer is a member of the African National Congress. He is also a friend of the Horst Kleinschmidt mentioned in Bridgland’s book. And he has, in the company of others, briefly met Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Zindi Mandela, and Nelson Mandela.

Double standards

The issues these two biographies raise, of liberators’ wartime actions, are not unique to South Africa. For example, post-WW2 readers, with their knowledge of the holocaust of six million Jews and three million Christian Poles, also have to debate Bomber Harris’ saturation bombing of German residential downtown areas and suburbs.

In chapter two Bridgland summarises the South African police’s Special Branch’s persecution of her. The remaining 27 chapters and epilogue summarise Madikizela-Mandela’s persecution of others. The overwhelming majority of facts in his book were published two decades ago – and never refuted.

His book also flags the issue of those who lobbied the then Chief Justice Corbett about Winnie’s pending trial. This included the then Minister of Justice, Kobie Coetsee, the then head of the National Intelligence Service Neil Barnard, and the then British ambassador Robin Renwick. He evidently didn’t rebuke any of them.

Msimang’s most persuasive arguments are when she points out the sexist double-standards in much of the condemnation of Zanyiwe Madikizela, better known as Winnie Mandela. She emphasises that it’s strange to perceive Winnie’s actions as motivated by psychiatric reasons rather than political.

She highlights that Winnie was not a radical outlier, but that during 1985-86 many ANC leaders and Radio Freedom, the then banned ANC’s underground radio station, made similar statements about insurrection, killing informers, and necklaces:

Winnie was not the only ANC leader who traded in recklessness and fiery rhetoric. But she was the only woman who was visibly doing so. (p.13)

Msimang also points out that Harry Gwala and other ANC warlords were committing in substance the same actions as Winnie Mandela, but with far less condemnation.

The same double-standards also apply to men and women political leaders having adulterous affairs:

If the roles had been reversed and you had been imprisoned, things would have been very different. Nelson would have remarried and you would have languished forgotten on the island, and it would have been no reflection on him. Men have needs. Women sacrifice.

Unsurprisingly, two such contrasting biographies also differ over the facts. Bridgland writes that the two hit men who assassinated Dr. Abu-Baker Asvat – the Black consciousness exponent and doctor who tended to Stompie after his brutally assault to which Madikizela-Mandela was part – gave statements that Winnie Mandela had offered them R20 000 to kill him. Msimang writes that these were merely “rumours” and “No link has ever been established between Dr. Asvat’s death and Winnie Mandela.”

As this review goes to press, the ANC has posthumously awarded Winnie Mandela its highest honour, the Isithwalandwe.

The controversy continues in death as in life.The Conversation

Keith Gottschalk, Political Scientist, University of the Western Cape

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Hugh Lewin: South African journalist, author, militant and prisoner


File 20190118 100261 1k7xtdw.png?ixlib=rb 1.1
Hugh Lewin served on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Institute for the Advancement of Journalism

Franz Krüger, University of the Witwatersrand

Hugh Lewin, who provided a unique voice on the South African story over many decades as militant, prisoner, journalist, author and much else, has died in Johannesburg at the age of 79.

Lewin is perhaps best known for two books that arose from his early involvement in the anti-apartheid underground. Bandiet, Seven years in a South African Prison, which has been described as a remarkable piece of prison literature, and Stones against the Mirror, published decades later, in which he describes grappling with the betrayal of the man whose testimony sent him to jail.

But his poetry, his children’s books and his work in publishing and the training of journalists and refugees leave as big a legacy. An outpouring of tributes has greeted news of his death. He has been called “an incredible writer and courageous soldier” by President Cyril Ramaphosa. and “a courageous stalwart” by Lord Peter Hain.

I first encountered him when he ran the small publishing house Baobab Books in Zimbabwe. Later I worked with him at the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism in Johannesburg, and will mainly remember his gentle humour, a sharp intellect that was never cutting, his ability to listen and his concern for others. It made him a great friend and outstanding teacher and mentor to many.

I will also remember the quiet dignity with which he dealt with his gradually failing health over the past decade, cared for by his partner Fiona Lloyd. His wit was still on clear display when I saw him just about a week before his death, despite frailty and struggling with the words that were his life – “I keep bumping against empty sentences,” he had previously said.

Radical politics

Lewin was born in the small town of Lydenburg in 1939 into an Anglican missionary family. He studied at Rhodes University before entering journalism at the Natal Witness in Pietermaritzburg.

He was quickly drawn into anti-apartheid politics of an increasingly radical kind, and got involved in the National Committee of Liberation, later renamed as the African Resistance Movement. This group of activists grew out of the Liberal Party and embarked on a campaign of sabotage of infrastructure targets, which it carried out between 1961 and 1964.

In July 1964, Lewin, then 24, was sentenced to jail for seven years for sabotage. He served this time in Pretoria Central prison, where he kept notes of his experiences in his Bible. After his release, he left the country on a “permanent departure permit”, to begin life as an exile in London.

Bandiet was published during this time. It manages both to provide harrowing detail of life in an apartheid jail and to use prison as a metaphor for the system as a whole. Reviewer Daniel Roux described the book as deserving, “its place in the global canon of prison writing”. Roux called it an,

understated, elegant and honest memoir that resists self-pity and self-glamorisation, and shows in careful detail what it feels like to drop out of one reality and to enter a completely different world.

Long banned in South Africa, the book was republished in 2002 as Bandiet – out of jail, including additional later material.

Anti-apartheid causes

His family remember an additional result of the prison years: his skill at sewing, from sewing mailbags in jail. His stitching was apparently large but very neat.

During 10 years in London, he worked as a journalist and for the International Defence and Aid Fund, a support organisation for anti-apartheid causes.

Another 10 years of exile followed, this time in Zimbabwe, where he worked as publisher and wrote a series of children’s stories, the Jafta series, whose simple narratives spoke to the ordinary reality of Southern African children.
Hugh returned to South Africa in 1992 and began work at the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism, the institution founded by Allister Sparks to train journalists for the new democracy.

He served on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission before returning to the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism in 1998 as its executive director. It was during this time that he was involved in the early initiatives that led to the establishment of the journalism programme at Wits University.

But processing of the traumatic events of his youth was clearly not complete, and after retiring from the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism, he worked on the memoir that became Stones against the Mirror. Published in 2011, the book deals with a friendship that ended in betrayal. Adrian Leftwich was the man who gave his name to the security police and testified against him in court, and the book describes Lewin’s 40-year search for some kind of resolution.

South African author Nadine Gordimer wrote about the book:

There have been many accounts of life in the active struggle against the apartheid regime but this one is a fearless exploration into the deepest ground – the personal moral ambiguity of betrayal under brutal interrogation.

It won the Alan Paton Award in 2012 – one of many honours he has received.

During these later years, Lewin also continued his involvement in training, travelling to the Myanmar border to work with refugees with his partner Fiona Lloyd. However, failing health made this more and more difficult.

Lewin leaves his partner, two daughters from an earlier marriage and three grandchildren.The Conversation

Franz Krüger, Adjunct Professor of Journalism and Director of the Wits Radio Academy, University of the Witwatersrand

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A view of Johannesburg through lenses from a different era



File 20181102 83632 1eg4s21.png?ixlib=rb 1.1
Carmel Building in Diagonal Street, Johannesburg.
Museum Africa (left) Yeshiel Panchia (right)

Kathy Munro, University of the Witwatersrand

Johannesburg was always a much photographed place from its earliest days. It was a city that grew up with photographers and their cameras. As a town of migrants and immigrants, people wanted to send postcards and photographic souvenirs back home.

Some proof is in a new book, Johannesburg Then and Now, by history blogger, Marc Latilla. It is a series of photographic juxtapositions of early photographs of the city – dating from the 1880s to the 1940s – with contemporary images of the same street scene or building by photographer Yeshiel Panchia.

The book is descriptive rather than analytical, with the emphasis on Johannesburg buildings, places and streets and not its people. Latilla’s love and passion for his city comes through in his descriptions.

Young city

At a mere 132 years Johannesburg is a young city compared with cities of the world. London and Rome go back over 2000 years.

It started as a mining camp with a gold bonanza once George Harrison had found gold on the Main Reef in 1886. The new mining settlement was named Johannesburg – the origins of the name and who precisely was the “Johannes” of Johannesburg is still in dispute. The camp grew over time to a city. Today it is a metropolis that dominates the province of Gauteng, both as the provincial capital and the financial heartland of South Africa.

Johannesburg is a fractured city, divided in all sorts of ways. Geographically it’s split by the mines of the Witwatersrand – one can still see their remains south of the city while the north has a very different landscape.

Another divide was created by the railway which cut the town in half with the most affluent suburbs to the north and the less affluent to the south.

The city’s economic divide was also evident in the architectural styles of the residential areas which reflected status: from the working class, to the lower and upper middle class, and then at the very top end the grand estates on the northern ridges for the Randlords and newly enriched capitalist class.

The town was also divided by race from its earliest days. While there was always economic integration, segregated residential areas for different racial groups were the norm. The township of Soweto was created in the 1930s when the white government started separating black people from white people.

This policy of racial and class separation was perpetuated further when apartheid became official policy in 1948. It also led to forced removals of black people to townships outside the “white” city.

Growing in circles

Johannesburg has always grown in concentric circles. Municipal boundaries were periodically extended, mapped and basic services of water, sewerage, lighting, tramways financed by an increasing number of ratepayers brought into the net to support the city. Soweto, once the internationally recognised site of the 1976 youth uprising, is now part of the city, but so is the glitzy new glass and concrete post-modern city of Sandton.

The Johannesburg that has been captured in this book though is the old Johannesburg; what was called the Central Business District and its surrounding suburbs. This is Johannesburg from 1886 to a date more or less 50 years later when the city celebrated its jubilee with the Great Empire exhibition at Milner Park in 1936.

I should declare an interest – I was first asked by Penguin Books if they could use an image of an old early title deed that I had written about and then to give the book a preliminary early opinion. As historian I found myself drawn in to assist in some fact checking and comments to help the author. Of course the selection of photographs and his commentary remain his entirely.

The old photographs were taken by countless unknown and mainly anonymous photographers. They are remarkable in their own right. It was so much more difficult to take and make a photograph in 1900 than in our digital age. Those old photos in black and white are works of art as much as are the perfect colour and light reflected images of today. The sources of the old photographs are primarily from collections held by the University of the Witwatersrand, Museum Africa and the Transnet Heritage library. The early photographs are tend to be undated, so that the “then” can be any time from circa 1890 to the 1930s and even later, while the now photographs are all in colour and clearly belong to the last few years.

Superb find

My favourite photo is the old aerial view of the Harrow Road redevelopment when the first Johannesburg freeway was engineered (Harrow has since been renamed after a famous Johannesburger, the liberation struggle stalwart Joe Slovo). The photo allows us to see precisely how Harrow Road was widened and changed direction in the fifties. This single photo is a superb find.

A book such as this makes a contribution to heritage because it captures, assembles and documents the old and now the new. Where old photographs have been found recording what a particular building looked like and the building is still there, such photographic documentation strengthens the heritage preservation case.

However, none of the grit, crime, grime, litter or lack of maintenance we battle against today is visible in the modern photographs. This is the Johannesburg we don’t see: the crisis of homelessness and densification of dwellings. Who, for example, would know in the photo of Plein Street park that it is actually now a dormitory area for dozens of homeless people without jobs? Is it the city or history or harsh economic realities that has failed them? Of course one can argue that modernization and urbanization always left victims and the city of gold did not bring fabled wealth to all .

Johannesburg Then and Now is a fascinating book. It’s important for cities to preserve their pasts , because “Roots” matter as much as “shoots”. This book can perhaps start a discussion about what ought to be appreciated and “saved”. The book will remind city planners to include heritage in their planning for a 21st century city.

Johannnesburg Then and Now is published by Penguin.The Conversation

Kathy Munro, Honorary professor in the School of Architecture and Planning, University of the Witwatersrand

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How the apartheid regime burnt books — in their tens of thousands



File 20181018 67179 1l3q6ep.png?ixlib=rb 1.1
The Railway Depot furnace at Kaserne, Johannesburg in 1971. Banned and confiscated books and magazines were burnt weekly.
Wits Student

Archie Dick, University of Pretoria

On the advice of the State Librarian one fine day in the 1970s, a truck transported thousands of books and magazines from Pretoria’s Central Police Station to a dark hall at the Iscor state steel company, just outside the South African capital. A large mechanical shovel scooped up and dropped them into a 20 metre high oven, causing it to spew flames and smoke. This was another truckload of material that had been banned for political reasons and was routinely burned in furnaces across South Africa from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Historical examples show that books are banned and destroyed because they offend the politics, morals, or religion of the day. Information science academic Rebecca Knuth, wrote in Burning Books and Leveling Libraries that if a regime is racist, it destroys the books of groups deemed inferior; if nationalistic, the books of competing nations and cultures; and if religiously extremist, all texts contradicting sacred doctrines.

Sometimes these forces combine. Recent examples include the destruction of Muslim books and libraries in Bosnia in the 1990s by
Serbian nationalist forces. In 2013 there was the burning by Islamist insurgents of the Timbuktu library and the next year the same happened in Lebanon to Tripoli’s historic Al Sa’eh Library.

The apartheid era – from the middle of the 20th century – had its own variation on the theme. Thousands of books were banned, ranging from Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Insulted and Humiliated to popular Westerns writer Louis L’Amour’s Hopalong Cassidy series.

The fact that books were burnt underscored the state’s desire to make sure the printed word was utterly destroyed. The practice also revealed a darker side of the library profession which connived in the book burning. Between 1955 and 1971 most librarians didn’t protest when thousands of books and other reading material were taken from libraries, and burned at municipal incinerators and furnaces. Some even joined in.

The rise of authoritarianism

State sanctioned book burnings were common as authoritarianism accompanied a growing Afrikanerisation of South African society as the dominant, ruling Afrikaner elite started to impose its culture on all spheres of society. Members of the elite did this first by unifying Afrikaner cultural and church organisations. This took the form of a declaration on behalf of “Volksorganisasies” (Afrikaner people’s organisations) that was signed in 1941 and pledged support for conservative Christian national ideology.

This sometimes involved the burning of books as a symbol of purification. One of the more worrying aspects was the solid support from ordinary South African librarians for these treacherous acts.

Even when books were burned by public libraries, the profession meekly accepted the situation. This signified support and agreement with what was happening, and reflected the dominant authoritarian mood and spirit in South Africa and the library community at that time.

In October 1955, the city librarian of Johannesburg, exclaimed:

All copies are brought in to me and I destroy them personally.

In the same month, a Cape Town newspaper reported that a couple of hundred books had been burned. Two years later, the deputy city librarian of Cape Town announced the fate of banned books returned from branch libraries to his Central Library:

We will have a big bonfire and burn them.

All-out attack on free speech

What started as the burning largely of imported pornographic books, became an all-out attack on free speech after the findings of a commission of inquiry into “undesirable publications” were made public in October 1957. The inquiry gave the Nationalist government the excuse to destroy books and pamphlets critical of its policies, and of dramatic developments in the country.

Each new issue of the Government Gazette included the latest additions to the list of banned books. Books on communism and those that criticised apartheid dogma were targeted. In 1954 banned titles included the Pravda and Daily Worker newspapers, and Vladimir Lenin’s Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution. Books on innocuous topics about communist countries, like China’s “Railways and Labour Insurance Regulations of the People’s Republic of China”, were also deemed subversive and added to the list.

Even Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 (which, ironically, is the temperature at which book paper starts burning) was burned. From the town of Brakpan in the North to Durban in the East and Cape Town in the South, several thousands of books were removed from library shelves and burned. In July 1964 Cape Town City library services announced that more than 800 books had been burned.

By this time the list of banned publications had swelled to a total of 12 000 titles. In June 1968, a newspaper reported that 5 375 books of the Natal Provincial libraries had been withdrawn from circulation and burned. By April 1971 books were still steadily being burned in Cape Town – at the rate of two per day.

It was only in the late 1980s that successful appeals from a few brave librarians to the state censors saw restricted books unbanned, and saved from apartheid’s furnaces.

In the early-1990s as South Africa moved towards becoming a democracy hundreds of archival documents and public records were shredded and burned by the apartheid state’s security establishment – once again in the furnaces of Iscor.

Could book burning happen again in contemporary South Africa? Given a similar set of circumstances, there is every reason to believe that it can. South Africans should remain diligent and alert to threats to freedom of expression.
The ashes of burnt books tell of the barbarism to which a society can descend.The Conversation

Archie Dick, Head of Department and Professor of Information Science, University of Pretoria

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A tribute to Winston Ntshona: a pioneer of storytelling and activism in South Africa



File 20180806 191013 1yhn3wf.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Winston Ntshona in ‘Sizwe Banzi is dead’.
Supplied by Baxter Theatre

Sarah Roberts, University of the Witwatersrand

A slim, well-thumbed paperback volume occupies a special place on my bookshelf. Its spine is torn and barely legible, but such is its familiarity that I can dispense with such necessities. I can find “Statements: Three Plays” instantly. The plays were Sizwe Bansi is Dead, The Island, and Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act.

Today, I turn to the volume seeking guidance and as a means of paying homage to a remarkable man, Winston Ntshona, who passed away on 2 August 2018. Not a man that I knew personally, but one whose impact resonates in so many in different ways. This publication in itself – an Oxford University Press edition – preserves much of what Ntshona represents in the legacy of theatre-making and theatre-going in South Africa and the world.

A black and white photograph from the Royal Court Theatre production (1974) dominates the front cover. It shows two men and a camera on a tripod in the foreground. The image captures a vital ephemeral moment which has become as iconic as the three names superimposed above: Athol Fugard, John Kani, Winston Ntshona.

These names pronounce a genesis of South African theatre-making founded on creative partnership and collaborative authorship. Together and individually, they represent a paradigm for collective action that fuses storytelling with political activism.

Alphabetical ordering might account for the sequence of surnames, but the image composition contradicts Ntshona’s being named last of the trio. His prominence is asserted through sheer physical presence and position. It is he who is seated in the foreground in a relaxed, expansive pose, elbow resting on the table in the role of the eponymous Sizwe Banzi.

Behind the table, the beam of Kani’s gleaming smile is as arresting as his appearance in dapper bow-tie and crisp white dust coat. Ntshona’s role was invariably to be the foil to Kani’s more urbane, eloquent and flamboyant personae.

The two bodies declare what words cannot capture: an extraordinary complementary relationship between two very different individual performers and storytellers. They share an outward orientation of their bodies and gestures in a reciprocal acknowledgement of each other and simultaneously offer this interaction to an audience.

Ntshona leans into a chair with the dignified air of assurance and a right to occupy his seat: a man who is at one with an identity he is forging. His head is tilted upwards in an expression that suggests a man with a vision or a dream of prosperity.

Theatre paradigm

In the early 1970s I was an undergraduate at what was then named the University of Natal (Durban) studying Speech and Drama.

The performance of “Sizwe Banzi is Dead”, a play about the struggle for human dignity in apartheid-era South Africa, was to take place in the Student Union Building. I recall (with absolute clarity) my doubts that two actors could project a presence that would fill that enormous space. The multipurpose assembly hall accommodated sporting and recreational events and its multi-volume high glass windows tempted the eye to the intense blue of sky and ocean behind and beyond a rudimentary temporary stage.

I sat in what must have been – from the perspective of the two performers – a relatively homogeneous sea of animated young middle-class white faces. We waited, slightly apprehensively, seated uniformly on blue plastic chairs (as we might for an eventual graduation ceremony) ill-equipped, unprepared even, for a seminal experience of theatre as “a great reckoning in a little room”.

Some 35 years later, I vividly recall the impact of Ntshona’s voice – deep, rich and resonant – along with his vibrant presence. Even more memorable was his slow, smile spreading across his face. That silent spellbinding action conveyed the resilience of the spirit, the conviction of simple dignity more than words could express.

Nothing But the Truth

Decades later I met Ntshona (4 July 2002). Kani’s solo authored play “Nothing But the Truth” had just received a tumultuous standing ovation at its Grahamstown Festival premiere. In the somewhat overwhelming aftermath of the performance and its reception, Ntshona was the first person to be admitted to Kani’s dressing room. They had taken different routes on the journey from what might be called protest idiom to what author Zakes Mda has called “a theatre of reconciliation” in which Kani has figured so authoritatively. Respectful of the longstanding brotherhood, no one wished to intrude on what these two legends might wish to say to one another.

I was surprised to be called to the dressing room and introduced. Ntshona had one question for me. He wanted to know how it was that I knew the inside of the New Brighton township home in which Kani had grown as featured in the play.

As production designer I hadn’t been inside the house nor had I had access to photographs. Instead, the stage design was based on the sketch layout that Kani had talked me through: condensing, abstracting and selecting details. It tended towards an expressionist rather than realist rendering.

I could only marvel at the generosity of a consummate artist, profoundly familiar with the world of a New Brighton home and his pleasure at having his memory of a particular place being triggered by the creative efforts of another.

His joy at the reception of Kani’s play and performance remains inspirational. The capacity to acknowledge and value participatory collaboration has emerged as a core strength of emergent South African theatre at its most vigorous and committed. Ntshona embodied those attributes.

In an age that venerates celebrities, public achievement as a marker of status and self-promotion in the arts and culture sector, Ntshona remains a role model of a modesty of being and accomplishment. The personae that Ntshona created epitomise moral and ethical integrity conjoined with steadfast purpose. “The Island” (1973) ends with Winston, in the role of Antigone saying:

I honoured those things to which honour belongs.

The words seem fit as an epitaph to him, his work, artistry and achievements.

<!– Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. –>
The Conversation

Winston Ntshona, actor, born 6 October 1941; died 2 August 2018.

Sarah Roberts, Associate Professor of Dramatic Art, University of the Witwatersrand

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