The 2013 Franschhoek Literary Festival takes place from 17 to 19 May. Zebra Press authors to look forward to at the festival include Christi van der Westhuizen, Rajend Mesthrie, Richard Calland, Ivo Vegter, Julian Rademeyer and Jacques Pauw.
> Friday 17 May
Trial by Twitter
2:30 PM – 3:30 PM (Church Hall)
Tweets are an instantaneous news medium with growing influence on public opinion. Fiona Snyckers quizzes Julian Rademeyer, Sam Wilson and non-tweeting journalist Ann Crotty about the pros and cons.
> Saturday 18 May
1 PM – 2 PM (Council Chamber) UCT linguists Rajend Mesthrie and Tessa Dowling rap about South Africa’s rich compost of languages, including township slang.
What’s going on in the ANC?
10 AM – 11 AM (School Hall)
Wouldn’t we all like to know? Moeletsi Mbeki and journalist Carol Paton take us behind the scenes, chaired by UCT’s Richard Calland.
To frack or not to frack
2:30 PM – 3:30 PM (School Hall)
Former Business Day editor and Karoo resident Tim Cohen undertakes what is bound to be a fracktious debate between Ivo Vegter (Extreme Environment), environmental lawyer Cormac Cullinan and Jonathan Deal of the Treasure Karoo Action Group.
Digging for the truth
11:30 AM – 12:30 PM (Congregational Church)
Investigative journalism under the spotlight with Jenny Crwys-Williams talking to Jacques Pauw, Julian Rademeyer and Antony Altbeker (Fruit of a Poisoned Tree).
Vegter introduced himself by saying that he writes about a lot of things that seem obvious to him, like the virtues of minibus taxis, the evils of charity and the health benefits of MSG. He spoke about being approached to write the book and explained that he chose the title because he’s “a sucker for alliteration” but said that it could just as easily have been called Be Skeptical of Everyone:
South Africa has played in six Cricket World Cups since 1991 but has been knocked out in all of them. The Art of Losing by Luke Alfred addresses the painful topic of why the Proteas have never won a single knockout match at a World Cup. It asks if our cricketers are unable to think on their feet, whether it’s fair to call them “chokers” and what can be done to win at last.
Alfred chose the Johannesburg Cricket Club as the venue for the book’s launch on Tuesday evening, a beautiful club situated in Hope Village in Bertrams. The Chairman of the club, Indarin Govender, explained that the area has experienced a measure of urban decay and social ills and is in dire need of positive activity, which is where cricket can help. The Club works with primary and high schools in the area, which previously offered no cricket in their sporting curricula.
Alfred, previously a sports journalist for 18 years, working as sports editor and senior cricket writer at the Sunday Times in Johannesburg, is now a media consultant at Cricket South Africa (CSA).
He told the launch audience that the creative seed for this book was planted in a dingy hotel bedroom in Dhaka, Bangladesh during the 2011 Cricket World Cup. “There were paramilitary personnel in the lobby with automatic weapons and a very limited menu,” said Alfred. The hotel, ironically, was called The Grand.
He said that the Protea’s loss that year induced a profound sense of déjà vu. The team scored 220 runs and all seemed to be going well, but in the end they lost due to a series of schoolboy-type errors. Half of Alfred’s mind was in Colombo already, where he was to meet his wife and go on to the final in India, but this was not to be.
He came home and started thinking about this book and why South Africa has not won a World Cup knockout game. He got a publisher, Zebra Press, interested in the idea. Shortly after, he was offered a job at CSA and this book has in fact landed him in hot water with his current employer. They have not given the book their official backing and Boeta Dippenaar was actively discouraged from speaking at the launch.
However, Alfred is proud of the book and feels that it needed to be written. Pointedly, the book queries whether the problem lies with the coaching, communication issues or a lack of independent thinking among the players, the SA schooling system or a pampered professional environment.
“SA has failed to win games that matter and we seem to be our own worst enemies. The team misread the Duckworth Lewis rules in some games and have been the victims of slow overs and runouts”, said Alfred. He maintains that the book is not meant to be vindictive or nasty in any way. Failure may be an unpopular topic that people don’t want to hear about, but hopefully it will spark mature debate and thought. “There is a need for a conversation about the fine line between success and failure,” he stressed.
The book draws on interviews with the major roleplayers and behind-the-scenes officials and recreates the drama of these matches. Interestingly, Alfred said that no one who was approached refused to be interviewed for the book and many of the players expressed relief at being able to express their feelings on the issue.
The courtyard outside Exclusive Books Hyde Park was filled with supporters of the fight against rhino poaching on Wednesday night as Julian Rademeyer’s Killing for Profit: Exposing the Illegal Rhino Horn Trade was launched. Over 200 guest had come to listen to Rademeyer discuss the book with radio presenter John Robbie. The book had nearly sold out before the discussion and when a second batch of books were ordered, they also flew off the shelves within minutes of being unpacked.
The fight against the illegal rhino horn trade has become a popular cause for support in South Africa and this book, written and researched by this intrepid and brave investigative journalist, reveals truths about the individuals, organisations, syndicates and governments that support this massacre of our endangered species. Writing this exposé possibly even endangered himself and his family.
Apparently rhino horn fetches a higher price on the black market than cocaine or heroin and Rademeyer reiterated that the illegal trade has to be seen not merely as a conservation issue but as a very serious crime with a socio-economic impact. As the conversation with Robbie revealed some of the main players and their other illegal business interests, it became clear that this lucrative industry has some very dangerous and powerful people involved, whose only concern is self-enrichment.
Robbie opened speaking about RAGE (Rhino Action Group Effort) and saying that he had hoped for a book that would go into every aspect of the rhino horn trade, when along came Rademeyer’s Killing for Profit, which is based on two years of intense investigation.
Robbie said, “It is an incredible work: factual research that has been referenced to a level that is rare in South African books. If you are interested in rhino poaching, this is the one book you have to read in order to be able to speak with authority about so many aspects of it.”
The idea for the book was initiated by a small “throw away” story in a newspaper about a South African farmer who had been arrested poaching rhinos in Zimbabwe. Rademeyer said, “It intrigued me and it led to a far bigger all-encompassing investigation, which ended up with evidence emerging of rifles being stolen in farm attacks, being fitted with silencers, smuggled across the border into Zimbabwe and being used by gangs of poachers there. There was information about a group we call the Musina Mafia who were smuggling rhino horn back over the border and distributing it from there. They were sending these poachers out.”
He traced the theft of one the rifles back to a farm attack where an elderly couple in Musina had been brutalised and terrorised for several hours and he wanted to find out who the people behind it were. Robbie said, “I thought this is almost like a series of short stories, all fascinating, gripping and it is almost at the end that the whole thing pulls together.”
Rademeyer said that he also wanted to look at the historical background of the illegal rhino trade and one of the incidents that he spent some time investigating is the South African Defence Force’s involvement in smuggling rhino horn and ivory in the 1970’s and 1980’s. He said, “This was essentially a military intelligence front that was being used to smuggle rhino horn out of Angola and into Mozambique and that was used to fund Unita and it also made Johannesburg in many ways the heart of rhino trafficking.” Much of this came out in the hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission but it was something that Jan Breytenbach, poet Breyten Breytenbach’s brother, spent many years trying to unravel and uncover.
Robbie asked about an American who considered himself a great white hunter, who had military contacts and also fitted into this complex web. Rademeyer said that he was John Luckman and part of what was termed Operation Wiseguy, named after the 1980’s TV series popular at the same time. There were rumours that he might have worked for the CIA, which they denied. He was involved in a bizarre scheme along with a South African Army Major based in South West Africa to smuggle not only rhino horn to the US but also weapons and AK47’s. He also smuggled a leopard skin that had been owned by Ian Smith, president of Rhodesia. He got the information from the US by accessing the Freedom of Information act.
Robbie said, “Every chapter is referenced and the level of detail is amazing and the strands come together and it takes you on an adventure, but the one strand that really blew my mind was called Operation Lock, named after a man who was somewhat of a playboy, where you have royalty from Europe, you have Anton Rupert, the SAS, The British Secret Services all involved in a bizarre scheme
that went wrong.” Rademeyer elaborated, explaining that these people had joined forces to set up a conservation initiative to try and infiltrate gangs of rhino poachers. There were even ideas to assassinate rhino horn poachers.
Robbie identified Vietnam and Laos (even more perhaps than China) as trading hotspots and said that the book unequivocally states that there is a major dealer from Laos. Rademeyer said that his name is Vixay Keosavang. He owns a company called Xaysavang Trading Export and Import, which is involved in wildlife trading and is incredibly well protected. He said, “He rose up through the military. He works in State run industries. He has travelled to Vietnam with the Laotian Prime Minister and he is at the heart of wildlife trafficking.”
Apparently Keosavang was part of a syndicate that recruited young Thai women from strip clubs and massage parlours in Johannesburg to pose as hunters. A hunter is allowed to shoot one rhino in South Africa a year and they would apply for hunting permits and pose for the photograph next to the trophy that would ultimately end up on the black market. South Africa and Swaziland are the only countries in the world that allow rhino hunting at all.
Rademeyer says that there are figures in Laos and Vietnam that are “untouchable” they are so well protected that there is no way of getting to them. He recounted a story about a Vietnamese banker who reported the theft of a stuffed rhino that he had in his house – the Vietnamese police are investigating the theft but not the fact that possession of the rhino is completely illegal in the first place!
Zebra Press invites you to the launch of Rat Roads by Jacques Pauw with Kennedy Gihana.
In this extraordinary book, celebrated journalist Jacques Pauw gives a human face to some of the most tumultuous events in recent African history.
Rat Roads chronicles the remarkable journey of Kennedy Gihana, a young Tutsi man who fought against the genocidaires in Rwanada, but was part of an army that committed horrifying atrocities in Africa’s bloodiest conflict.
The launch will take place at Love Books on Wednesday 28 November at 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM.
See you there!
Date: Wednesday, 28 November 2012
Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
Venue: Love Books,
The Bamboo Centre,
53 Rustenburg Road,
Johannesburg | Map
Since South Africa’s readmission to world cricket in 1991, the Proteas have played in six World Cups (and four World T20 tournamants) and have never won a single knockout match. The Art of Losing will ruffle feathers but will also attempt to explain the ‘chocker’ tag that has become so widespread.
The launch will take place at 6:00 PM on Tuesday 27 November at the Joburg Cricket Club. The author will be in conversation with Boeta Dippenaar.
Kalk Bay Books was tightly packed on Friday evening. The crowd had come to listen to Max du Preez chair a discussion with Jacques Pauw and Kennedy Gihana about the biography, Rat Roads. In this book Jacques Pauw has successfully and authentically documented the story of Rwandan-born Gihana who walked thousands of kilometres to South Africa to escape the conflict in his home country and pursue education here.
Ann Donald introduced Pauw and Du Preez as both “pivotal speakers in terms of journalism during the apartheid years”. They spoke with Gihana about the value of the book, the challenges of biography writing and Pauw and Kennedy’s process of documenting this unique story
“To share your story with the entire world was a very brave and important thing,” said Du Preez and added that it “gives us an insight into humanity and into our own lives that we otherwise would not have had”.
Du Preez first asked Pauw what his fascination with Rwanda was. As a journalist, Pauw said he had to take note when he realised that “10 000 people died a day, for 100 days in a country smaller than the Free State”, and that the international community was not aware of the full extent of the events unfolding. Pauw had, “always been looking for a story about Rwanda” then at the beginning of last year Gihana came into his life. This was the story he wanted to write about Rwanda but it was more than that, “it was a story about humanity’s survival”.
Du Preez questioned Gihana about the reasons for the genocide: “Was it history, was it prejudice, or was it something we all have in us?” Gihana found this a very tough question and said that it was a combination of factors including “history and natural evil”, however he felt that the conflict could not be attributed to one side.
The book traces his journey starting from his childhood but talks specifically about what happened in 1994. Gihana was once a member of “a rebel army that committed horrific atrocities” said Pauw but then he managed to literally walk away from Rwanda, walking away “from where he was, who he was and what he did” with only a matric certificate, eventually arriving in Hillbrow. The book is an exploration of survival and, as Du Preez said, “it does give a proper picture of the role that President Paul Kagame played” after the Rwandan genocide.
While Gihana fled a very dangerous position, he is not completely secure at the moment. Gihana is the Rwanda National Congress secretary general on the African continent, and apparently on a hit list, which made it very difficult for Pauw while writing.
Pauw’s main concern was “to portray Kennedy as he is”. According to Pauw , his biggest challenge was to do justice, “to what this man had seen and experienced”. As Du Preez said, the important thing is that when you finish the book “you realise this is the entire story, not the sugar-coated version”.