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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Township Violence and the End of Apartheid studies the conflicts between the ANC and the IFP that took place in SA’s industrial heartland surrounding Johannesburg

A powerful re-reading of modern South African history following apartheid that examines the violent transformation during the transition era and how this was enacted in the African townships of the Witwatersrand.
— Roger Southall, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

In 1993 South Africa state president F.W. de Klerk and African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize ‘for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime’.

Yet, while both deserved the plaudits they received for entering the negotiations that led to the end of apartheid, the four years of negotiations preceding the April 1994 elections, known as the transition era, were not ‘peaceful’: they were the bloodiest of the entire apartheid era, with an estimated 14,000 deaths attributed to politically related violence.

This book studies, for the first time, the conflicts between the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party that took place in South Africa’s industrial heartland surrounding Johannesburg. Exploring these events through the perceptions and memories of combatants and non-combatants from war-torn areas, along with security force members, politicians and violence monitors, offers new possibilities for understanding South Africa’s turbulent transition.

Challenging the prevailing narrative which attributes the bulk of the violence to a joint state security force and IFP assault against ANC supporters, the author argues for a more expansive approach that incorporates the aggression of ANC militants, the intersection between criminal and political violence, and especially clashes between groups aligned with the ANC.

Gary Kynoch is Associate Professor of History at Dalhousie University. He has also written We are Fighting the World: A History of the Marashea Gangs in South Africa, 1947-1999 (2005).

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Launch: Writing the Ancestral River by Jacklyn Cock (8 May)

Jacklyn Cock has penned a love letter that is as hopeful as it is elegiac. Drawing on family connections to the Kowie that go back to the 1820 settlers, Cock asks big questions about the relationship between nature and culture, between humans and other forms of life, and about the place of rivers in human history. It is only by rethinking our relationship to nature that we can save ourselves.
JACOB DLAMINI, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY

Jacklyn Cock has made the story of a small and fairly insignificant river into a metonym of the biological glories of South Africa and the ecological devastation they have endured, and continue to endure. The result is at once lyrical and trenchant. As a history rooted in the landscape of South Africa, it has few peers, and no superiors.
ROBERT ROSS, PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF AFRICAN STUDIES, LEIDEN UNIVERSITY

Writing the Ancestral River is an illuminating biography of the Kowie River in the Eastern Cape. This tidal river runs through a formative meeting ground of peoples who have shaped South Africa’s history: Khoikhoi herders, Xhosa pastoralists, Dutch trekboers and British settlers. Their direct descendants in the area still interact in ways that have been decisively shaped by their shared history.

This is also a natural history of the river and its catchment area, where dinosaurs once roamed and cycads still grow. The natural world of the Kowie has felt the effects of human settlement, most strikingly through the development of a harbour at the mouth of the river in the 19th century and a marina in the late 20th century, which have had a decisive and deleterious impact on the Kowie.

People are increasingly reconnecting with nature and justice through rivers. Acknowledging the past, and the inter-generational, racialised privileges, damages and denials it established and perpetuates, is necessary for any shared future. By focusing on this ‘little’ river, the book raises larger questions about colonialism, capitalism, ‘development’ and ecology, and asks us to consider the connections between social and environmental injustice.

Jacklyn Cock is a professor emeritus in the Sociology department at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. She has written extensively on environment, gender and militarisation issues and is best known for Maids and Madams: A Study in the Politics of Exploitation (1980).
 

Event Details

  • Date: Tuesday, 08 May 2018
  • Time: 6:00 PM for 6:30 PM
  • Venue: Love Books, The Bamboo Lifestyle Centre, 53 Rustenburg Rd, Melville, Johannesburg | Map
  • Guest Speaker: Oupa Lehulere
  • RSVP: info.witspress@wits.ac.za
     

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Jon Soske’s Internal Frontiers places India and the Indian diaspora at the center of the ANC’s development of an inclusive philosophy of nationalism

“This paradigm-shifting book locates a radical strain of South African nationalism in the political firmament of postwar Durban. Deeply researched and beautifully written, Internal Frontiers reveals how insurgent intellectuals such as Anton Lembede and Albert Luthuli, influenced by India’s independence movement and the challenges of building solidarity with Natal’s Indian diaspora, conceived a vision of the nation ‘from below’ that affirmed African agency while also embracing a diverse, multi-ethnic political community.”
- Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

In this ambitious new history of the antiapartheid struggle, Jon Soske places India and the Indian diaspora at the center of the African National Congress’s development of an inclusive philosophy of nationalism.

Even as Indian independence provided black South African intellectuals with new models of conceptualizing sovereignty, debates over the place of the Indian diaspora in Africa forced a reconsideration of South Africa’s internal and external boundaries, not least by the ANC thinkers – led by Albert Luthuli – centered in Durban.

There, they developed a new philosophy of nationhood that affirmed South Africa’s simultaneously heterogeneous and fundamentally African character.

In describing this process, Soske makes a major contribution to postcolonial and Indian Ocean studies and charts new ways of writing about African nationalism.
 
 
 
 
Jon Soske is an associate professor of history at McGill University and research associate at the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa, University of the Witwatersrand. He has coedited three books, One Hundred Years of the ANC: Debating Liberation Histories Today, Apartheid Israel: The Politics of an Analogy, and Ties That Bind: Race and the Politics of Friendship in South Africa.

Book details

  • Internal Frontiers: African Nationalism and the Indian Diaspora in Twentieth-Century South Africa by Jon Soske
    EAN: 978-1-77614-210-1
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Raphaël Botiveau provides a compelling narrative of NUM’s powerful history and the legacy of its leadership in Organise or Die?

This is a vivid, lively account … focusing on the agency of real human actors and the events impacting on the South African labour landscape post Marikana. It will both deepen scholarship and provoke much debate.
- Andries Bezuidenhout, associate professor, Department of Sociology, University of Pretoria

A splendid effort, Organise or Die? is a path-breaking new account of the history of NUM. No-one will be able to write about unionisation in South Africa, especially in the mining sector, without engaging with Botiveau’s thoughtful insights and provocative argument.
- T. Dunbar Moodie, author of Going for Gold: Men, Mines and Migration

Organise or Die? Democracy and Leadership in South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers is the first in-depth study of one of the leading trade unions in the country. Founded in 1982, the trade union played a key role in the struggle against white minority rule, before turning into a central protagonist of the ruling Tripartite Alliance after apartheid. Deftly navigating through workerist, social movement and political terrains that shape the South African labour landscape, this book sheds light on the path that led to the unprecedented 2012 Marikana massacre, the dissolution of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) federation and to fractures within the African National Congress (ANC) itself.

Working with the notions of organisational agency and strategic bureaucratisation, Raphaël Botiveau shows how the founding leadership of NUM built their union’s structures with a view to mirror those of the multinational mining companies NUM faced. Good leadership proved key to the union’s success in recruiting and uniting mineworkers and NUM became an impressive school for union and political cadres, producing a number of South Africa’s top post-apartheid leaders. An incisive analysis of leadership styles and strategies shows how the fragile balance between an increasingly distant leadership and an increasingly militant membership gradually broke down.

Botiveau provides a compelling narrative of NUM’s powerful history and the legacy of its leadership. It will appeal to a broad readership – including journalists, students and social sciences scholars – interested in South Africa’s contemporary politics and labour history.

Author bio

Trained in the social sciences (political sociology, African and postcolonial studies) in four countries (France, South Africa, the United States and Italy), Botiveau first worked as a journalist before devoting himself to research and teaching. He received his PhD from the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (France) and La Sapienza Università di Roma (Italy) focusing on trade unionism and negotiation in South Africa’s post-apartheid gold and platinum mining industries.

Book details

  • Organise or Die? Democracy and Leadership in South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers by Raphaël Botiveau
    EAN: 9781776142040
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Linda Chisholm’s Between Worlds shows that the transition from mission to Bantu Education was far from seamless

Between Worlds
In Between Worlds Linda Chisholm meticulously and with great sensitivity dissects how one mission society, the German Hermannsburg Mission Society, parleyed its decision to remain within the state system in the shift from mission to Bantu Education, in creative and important ways. The book is a detailed portrait of the Hermannsburg Mission’s education work, but also a critical and insightful commentary on a set of broader questions, reflecting off the current political moment in South Africa.
- Professor Natasha Erlank, Historical Studies, University of Johannesburg

Linda Chisholm’s account of German Lutheran missionaries’ school and teacher education work in South Africa disrupts conventional understandings of the role of missionaries in the development of South Africa’s education system. Drawing on extensive archival research in South Africa and Germany, the history of the largely ignored Hermannsburg Mission reveals the ambiguities and contradictions which marked their complex relationships with local communities and the colonial and apartheid state.
- Volker Wedekind, University of Nottingham

The transition from apartheid to the post-apartheid era has highlighted questions about the past and the persistence of its influence in present-day South Africa. This is particularly so in education, where the past continues to play a decisive role in relation to inequality. Between Worlds: German Missionaries and the Transition from Mission to Bantu Education in South Africa scrutinises the experience of a hitherto unexplored German mission society, probing the complexities and paradoxes of social change in education. It raises challenging questions about the nature of mission education legacies.

Linda Chisholm shows that the transition from mission to Bantu Education was far from seamless. Instead, past and present interpenetrated one another, with resistance and compliance cohabiting in a complex new social order. At the same time as missionaries complied with the new Bantu Education dictates, they sought to secure a role for themselves in the face of demands of local communities for secular statecontrolled education. When the latter was implemented in a perverted form from the mid-1950s, one of its tools was textbooks in local languages developed by mission societies as part of a transnational project, with African participation. Introduced under the guise of expunging European control, Bantu Education merely served to reinforce such control.

The response of local communities was an attempt to domesticate – and master – the ‘foreign’ body of the mission so as to create access to a larger world. This book focuses on the ensuing struggle, fought on many fronts, including medium of instruction and textbook content, with concomitant sub-texts relating to gender roles and sexuality.

South Africa’s educational history is to this day informed by networks of people and ideas crossing geographic and racial boundaries. The colonial legacy has inevitably involved cultural mixing and hybridisation – with, paradoxically, parallel pleas for purity. Chisholm explores how these ideas found expression in colliding and coalescing worlds, one African, the other European, caught between mission and apartheid education.

Book details

  • Between Worlds: German Missionaries and the Transition from Mission to Bantu Education in South Africa by Linda Chisholm
    EAN: 978-1-77614-174-6
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Watch: Edward Webster discusses the The Unresolved National Question

The Unresolved National Question in South Africa is an extremely valuable contribution to the decades-long debate on South African nationhood. Its striking feature is its highly professional and balanced approach to the various narratives and traditions that address the National Question.
— Vladimir Shubin, Russian Academy of Sciences

The re-emergence of debates on the decolonisation of knowledge has revived interest in the National Question, which began over a century ago and remains unresolved. Tensions that were suppressed and hidden in the past are now being openly debated. Despite this, the goal of one united nation living prosperously under a constitutional democracy remains elusive.

This edited volume examines the way in which various strands of left thought have addressed the National Question, especially during the apartheid years, and goes on to discuss its relevance for South Africa today and in the future. Instead of imposing a particular understanding of the National Question, the editors identified a number of political traditions and allowed contributors the freedom to define the question as they believed appropriate – in other words, to explain what they thought was the Unresolved National Question. This has resulted in a rich tapestry of interweaving perceptions.

The volume is structured in two parts. The first examines four foundational traditions – Marxism-Leninism (the Colonialism of a Special Type thesis); the Congress tradition; the Trotskyist tradition; and Africanism. The second part explores the various shifts in the debate from the 1960s onwards, and includes chapters on Afrikaner nationalism, ethnic issues, Black Consciousness, feminism, workerism and constitutionalism.

The editors hope that by revisiting the debates not popularly known among the scholarly mainstream, this volume will become a catalyst for an enriched debate on our identity and our future.

Here, co-editor Edward Webster, Professor Emeritus in the Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP) at Wits University, discusses the debate surrounding race, gender and class – the unresolved questions our nation is grappling with – on SABC News:

The Unresolved National Question

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Watch: Andrew Mlangeni on Morning Live

Backroom Boy is a riveting account of a long life in the struggle for freedom both before and after the attainment of democracy in 1994. It is a living account of the many turns and twists in the life of a cadre in the centre, but backstage of the struggle for freedom in South Africa.
— Siphamandla Zondi, professor and head of the school of Political Science at University of Pretoria

This book is a valuable and dependable source book to ANC and MK (uMkhonto we Sizwe ) history with a lot of factual information that would not be known to the general reader.
— Albie Sachs, retired Constitutional Court judge and author of We, the People: Insights of an activist judge

“It probably took a fraction of a second from the knock – a single bang – to the opening of the door and the entry of an unexpected visitor into the room. They had just finished their lunch. The unannounced visitor … simply pretended that everything was normal. There he stood – unfazed and somehow gigantic in his presence. The room had suddenly been invaded by a man who was to be a landmark in the lives of the trainees …”

The Backroom Boy opens dramatically in China, 1962. Andrew Mlangeni is one of a small select group undergoing military training there. The unannounced visitor is Mao Tse-Tung or Chairman Mao as he was known, Chairman of the Communist Party of China.

Mlangeni was selected as one of the first-ever six members who received military training in China before the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe. He seems to have been chosen because he was a dedicated, intelligent and dependable operative, rather than a leader. Even after his release after 25 years on Robben Island, Mlangeni was not given a senior position in the post-apartheid democratic government. ‘I was always the backroom boy,’ says Andrew Mlangeni about himself.

Andrew Mlangeni, is a struggle stalwart, Rivonia Trialist, and Robben Island prisoner 467/64 who was next door inmate to Nelson Mandela’s acclaimed 466/64 prison number. Released after 26 years of incarceration, he served as Member of Parliament, and is Chairman of the ANC’s Integrity Commission and Founder of the June and Andrew Mlangeni Foundation. With the passing of Ahmed Kathrada (March 2017), Mlangeni (91) is one of only two Rivonia Trialist still alive with Denis Goldberg.

While still at school, Andrew Mlangeni joined the Communist Party of South Africa and also the ANC Youth League. These were the organisations that shaped his values. Decades of resourceful activism were to lead to his arrest and life sentence in the Rivonia trial. Mlangeni’s lifelong commitment to the struggle for liberation reverberates with other biographies and memoirs of leading figures, such as Rusty Bernstein’s Memory Against Forgetting and Albie Sachs’ We, the People: Insights of an Activist Judge. This story of an ANC elder is a well-researched historical record overlaid with intensely personal reflections which intersect with the political narrative. Above all, it is one man’s story, set in the maelstrom of the liberation struggle.

This biographical project has been developed for, and published in conjunction with, the June and Andrew Mlangeni Foundation.

Here Mlangeni discusses the book, his critique of the current government, and lack of unity in South Africa on Morning Live with Leanne Manas.


 
 

The Backroom Boy

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Remains of the Social explores the post-apartheid condition

Remains of the Social is an interdisciplinary volume of essays that engages with what ‘the social’ might mean after apartheid; a condition referred to as ‘the post-apartheid social’.

The volume grapples with apartheid as a global phenomenon that extends beyond the borders of South Africa between 1948 and 1994 and foregrounds the tension between the weight of lived experience that was and is apartheid, the structures that condition that experience, and a desire for a ‘post-apartheid social’ (think unity through difference).

Collectively, the contributors argue for a recognition of the ‘the post-apartheid’ as a condition that names the labour of coming to terms with the ordering principles that apartheid both set in place and foreclosed.

The volume seeks to provide a sense of the terrain on which ‘the post-apartheid’ – as a desire for a difference that is not apartheid’s difference – unfolds, falters and is worked through.

Remains of the Social is nothing less than a kaleidoscopic critical philosophy of postapartheid as it took shape in South Africa and as it reverberated across the globe. The collection features a splendid ensemble of thinkers drawing upon a brilliant intellectual palate, including continental philosophy, psychoanalysis, contemporary critical theory, literary theory and poetics. This is political theory for the 21st century — crossing hemispheres with ease, promiscuous in its scholarly touchstones, yet disciplined and pedagogical.
– Wendy Brown, University of California, Berkeley

Gayatri Spivak, University Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University on Remains of the Social:

To translate apartheid into globality shares the problem of all translation: it is necessary yet impossible. Remains of the Social inhabits this problem brilliantly, moving from high theory to punk in Afrikaans, from the grand staging of the Moses of Michelangelo to the Moses Twebe Great Hall in subaltern Dimbaza. Again and again, I was transported into ‘a memory of the future’. In this brief comment I will mention three: the careful unpeeling of ‘empathy’, a word that plagues top-down philanthropy; the anguish of the last letters from Dimbaza to the International Defense and Aid Fund; and the murder of education as ‘the desire to learn’ recounted in the very last chapter. A witnessing book, moving and instructive.

Book details

  • Remains of the Social: Desiring the Post-Apartheid edited by Gary Minkley, Maurits van Bever Donker, Premesh Lamu, Ross Truscott
    EAN: 9781776140305
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Nigel Gibson on Lenin, Workers’ Day and national liberation

In the light of Workers’ Day, Nigel Gibson, the author of Fanonian Practices in South Africa: From Steve Biko to Abahlali baseMjondolo, wrote an opinion piece on communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin for online publication, The Con Mag.

An extract from Gibson’s article reads:

The centenary of the Russian Revolution of 1917 is being marked in the dark days of a seemingly global counter-revolution. In the time of Recep Erdoğan, Theresa May, Narendra Modi, Vladimir Putin, Michel Temer, Donald Trump, Jacob Zuma, and all the rest, communist confidence in the future often appears as a form of faith unhinged from reality.

The philosophical foundations of that confidence lie in a reading of Hegelian dialectics considered as a triadic system of thesis-antithesis-synthesis moving toward a definite end. Marxism, it is often said, repeats the logic of this abstract system in the material realm with each epoch of production understood to be laying the basis for its negation on the march to communism.

But if there is a general sense of movement in 2017 it is in a very different direction. Amid the gloom of the present it is perhaps a propos to return to the bleak period when Lenin faced the holocaust of the First World War, and the betrayal of European social democracy. In 1914, after the Marxist parties across Europe voted in support of the imperialist war, Vladmir Lenin spent a year reading Hegel in the public library in Bern.

He discovered a critical conception of dialectic that had appealed to Marx. Rather than a synthesis of opposites, Lenin now underscored the transformation into opposite as a moving principle. He emphasized that dualities within every social formation were not only products of external pressures but also, and more importantly, internal contradictions.

Lenin wanted to understand how radical political movements and parties transform into their opposites and become chauvinist, conservative and authoritarian. The Russian revolution is not the only moment of rupture with oppression that transformed into a totalitarian society. On the contrary counter-revolution from within the revolution has been so commonplace that it almost seems like an iron law of history.

Yet we are shocked every time.

Critique is often little more than new cycles of denunciation of ‘the treason’ of new parties of liberation. There is an urgent imperative to move beyond this moralism and develop a properly philosophical-political critique of why revolution after revolution has come to mirror much of what it initially set out to oppose.

April Days

On 3 April 1917, Lenin stepped off a train, sealed by the Germans who did not want him fermenting revolution on the way, and gave a speech at the Finland Station in St Petersburg. Standing on top of an armoured car, and illuminated by a searchlight, Lenin greeted the revolutionary Russian proletariat, and the revolutionary Russian army, commending them on starting a social revolution.

He added that the proletariat of the whole world needed to turn the imperialist war into civil war.

The next day he presented what came to be called the April Theses at two meetings of the All-Russia Conference of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. Some members of his party thought he had become an anarchist. Apparently his wife thought he had succumbed to madness. But he continued to dismiss the mentality of the ‘old Bolsheviks’ and to upset vanguardist assumptions and dogmatic concepts. Lenin underscored the revolutionary role of the peasantry.

He insisted that the workers and peasants were vastly more revolutionary than the Marxists in the party. This was, in Marcel Liebman’s arresting phrase, the time of ‘libertarian Leninism’. Lenin insisted that the revolution could only be the product of mass insurrection and certainly not the work of a self-appointed vanguard: “we don’t want the masses to take our word for it,” Lenin argued, “we want the masses to overcome their mistakes through experience.

Continue reading ‘The Libertarian Lenin’ 100 Years On: A May Day Reflection here.

Gibson’s latest book, Fanon: Psychiatry and Politics, co-authored with Roberto Beneduce, will be published by Wits University Press later this year.


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Wits University Press pays tribute to Martin Legassick

Hamba Kahle Martin Legassick (1940 – 2016)

It is never pleasant to receive news of an author’s passing; the fact that his book is still in its final stages of completion makes it even less so. Hidden Histories of Gordonia: Land dispossession and resistance in the Northern Cape, 1800 – 1990 is without a doubt Martin Legassick’s “magnum opus”, to borrow the description used by historians Neil Parsons and Robert Ross.

The book will be published in May 2016. It is a great sadness that Martin will not get to hold a physical copy in his hands. He worked on it, between all the other writing, peer reviewing, activism and lectures, for close on 25 years, and we hope it’s a book he would have been proud of.

Martin had a remarkable gift for storytelling and in this final work he brings to life the craggy, desert-like landscape of the Northern Cape and its histories of the “black” and “brown” people, who are often rendered mute or to mere footnotes in mainstream narratives. It is a fascinating and deeply moving work with a historian’s eye for detail and the long view.

While working with Wits University Press on this manuscript, he did not mention his illness. He cooperated with Karen Press on getting the manuscript polished and ready for publication. He remained committed throughout the process to ensure a work of profound quality, even when some of our queries tested his patience!

When we shared the book cover with him, his spirits lifted. He wrote: “It is fantastic, much superior to anything I could have expected”.

Covers always test the author/publisher relationship and his approval and delight are even more poignant in this moment. At least he could imagine the book as a tangible object and we’d like to think it brought him joy during a time of physical pain.

Martin contributed chapters to many Wits Press publications and peer reviewed a number of manuscripts. He was a tough but fair reviewer – much like he was in life. The scholarly community has lost a gem.

It is a great pity that he missed seeing the publication by two short months, but we believe it will stand as a testimony to the intellectual legacy he has left behind.

Rest in peace, Martin Legassick.

Hidden HistoriesHidden Histories of Gordonia: Land dispossession and resistance in the Northern Cape, 1800 – 1990 will be published in May 2016 by Wits University Press.


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