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Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

“It covers all the issues of our country” – Paul Slabolepszy on his award-winning play Suddenly the Storm

Paul Slabolepszy’s Suddenly the Storm set in Johannesburg’s East Rand at the home of an ageing former police officer Dwayne Combrink and his much younger wife Shanell, poses the question of whether the wounds of the past can ever truly be healed.

Combative, volatile, constantly on the verge of exploding, Dwayne and Shanell Combrink are two halves of a white South African workingclass couple, living an uneasy truce as they struggle with the day-to-day trials of scraping together a living and dreaming competing dreams.

But beneath Dwayne’s angry, violent exterior lies the heartbreak that governs his attitude to life. Dwayne is a man in mourning. Shanell believes his current level of despair was sparked by the death of his childhood friend and recent work partner, Jonas, but the source of his mourning and anger lies much further back. When the elegant and self-contained Namhla Gumede, born on 16 June 1976, arrives on their doorstep seeking answers to questions that have remained buried for 40 years, Dwayne and Shanell finally find out the truth.

What starts as a smouldering dark comedy suddenly turns into a roller-coaster ride of startling revelations, rage and recrimination … before the storm finally breaks.

Here Paul discusses his Naledi award-winning play on SABC:


 

Suddenly the Storm

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Watch an interview with Mandla Mathebula, author of The Backroom Boy: Andrew Mlangeni’s Story

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 refl ections 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.

The Backroom Boy is one of Wits University Press’ bestsellers.

Polity recently conducted an interview with Mandla Mathebula, the author of Backroom Boy. Watch the full clip here:

 

The Backroom Boy

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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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Listen: Jean and John Comaroff, authors of The Truth About Crime discuss what crime says of a society

The Truth about Crime is replete with original insights. Reflecting on the disproportionate relationship between fear and actual danger in a number of major countries, Jean and John Comaroff explain why criminality, although far from matching many other potential sources of public peril, elicits much more civic outrage. We learn how changes in the meaning of criminality and the nature of crime-and-policing are associated with the recent shift in the relationship between capital, governance, and the state. We also learn how these developments in both the United States and the Republic of South Africa have resulted in steps taken to discipline or control certain groups defined or viewed as threatening. This is a compelling book, a must-read for scholars and laypersons alike.” – William Julius Wilson, author of The Truly Disadvantaged

The Comaroffs’ constant articulation of sparkling ethnographic vignettes, rich statistical data, and highly imaginative insights makes for a truly effervescent argumentation, creative and, at the same time, thoroughly documented. With this combination they offer a powerful book that newly addresses a theme that is becoming central all over the world: our increasing obsession with (in)security.“- Peter Geschiere, author of Witchcraft, Intimacy, and Trust
 
 
 
In this book, renowned anthropologists Jean and John L. Comaroff make a startling but absolutely convincing claim about our modern era: it is not by our arts, our politics, or our science that we understand ourselves – it is by our crimes. Surveying an astonishing range of forms of crime and policing – from petty thefts to the multibillion-dollar scams of too-big-to-fail financial institutions to the collateral damage of war – they take readers into the disorder of the late modern world. Looking at recent transformations in the triangulation of capital, the state, and governance that have led to an era where crime and policing are ever more complicit, they offer a powerful meditation on the new forms of sovereignty, citizenship, class, race, law, and political economy of representation that have arisen.

To do so, the Comaroffs draw on their vast knowledge of South Africa, especially, and its struggle to build a democracy founded on the rule of law out of the wreckage of long years of violence and oppression. There they explore everything from the fascination with the supernatural in policing to the extreme measures people take to prevent home invasion, drawing illuminating comparisons to the United States and United Kingdom. Going beyond South Africa, they offer a global criminal anthropology that attests to criminality as the constitutive fact of contemporary life, the vernacular by which politics are conducted, moral panics voiced, and populations ruled.

The result is a disturbing but necessary portrait of the modern era, one that asks critical new questions about how we see ourselves, how we think about morality, and how we are going to proceed as a global society.

Anna Saldinger recently interviewed the authors on the Californian radio station KPFA. Listen to their conversation here:

 
 
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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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“Oh We Had Fun”: Pioneering Documentary Photographer Omar Badsha Chats About His Life’s Work

One Hundred Years of the ANCEarlier this year, Omar Badsha, co-editor of One Hundred Years of the ANC: Liberation Histories and Democracy Today and one of South Africa’s most celebrated documentary photographers, sat down with Linda Fekisi to talk about his life’s work.

“Inyathi ibuzwa kwabaphambili! This Xhosa proverbs that means wisdom and knowledge is learnt from the elders, comes to mind as we speak. Omar Badsha, is a goldmine of an elder,” Fekisi writes in her article for The Journalist. During the interview they spoke about the photos he has taken, the meanings they have taken on (to him and others) and the things he has learned along the way.

“All photographs have different meanings to different people because you bring your own experiences to the image and you then read it. Firstly, from your standpoint and secondly you read it from the caption or vice versa. Then you react to the picture,” Badsha says.

Towards the end of the conversation Fekisi asks a poignant question: “What did the Struggle Generations do when they were not plotting to overthrow the apartheid government?” To which Badsha replies: “Oh we had fun.”

Read the article for more about this remarkable man:

He is a member of the post-Sharpeville generation of activist artists who, together with his close friend Dumile Feni, wrestled with the challenges that black artists and academics faced in a period of intensive repression during apartheid. Badsha rediscovered many of the works for the Seedtime exhibition, including a collection by Dumile Feni, in his father’s tiny flat after his death in 2003.

I am humbled as I sit down to talk with a man whose work exudes our recent history. I am worried because he is sharp. Has a critical eye for detail. I toy with comparing him with artistic greats but I dump the idea. He is iconic. Individualistic. Stands alone.

I leave his Woodstock apartment on a sunny winter afternoon with a tank full of knowledge. He has shared with me his new narrative for photography and has given me a glimpse into the frivolous activities of freedom fighters when they were not opposing apartheid. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Watch a video by SABC2 Eastern-angled lifestyle programme Mela about Badsha’s photography and life:

YouTube Preview Image

Book details

  • One Hundred Years of the ANC: Liberation Histories and Democracy Today edited by Arianna Lissoni, Jon Soske, Natasha Erlank, Noor Nieftagodien and Omar Badsha
    Book homepage
    EAN: 9781868145737
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

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Gabeba Baderoon: Slavery is the Root Cause of South Africa’s Sexual Violence

Regarding MuslimsGabeba Baderoon elucidated the complex questions tackled in her book, Regarding Muslims: From slavery to post-apartheid.

The book developed from Baderoon’s doctoral thesis, and she says the ideas “percolated” in her mind for a long while. She says Regarding Muslims emphasises and explores the centrality of slavery and slave culture in the formation of South Africa, an area she believes is neglected in academia, as well as the origins and developement of the “Cape Malay” people.

“What I argue is that our sense of our national beginnings and what counts as national can’t be provincial, so it can’t only be about Gauteng. We must be able to, for instance, think about how our longer colonial history included KZN and the Eastern Cape and also the Western Cape, which is profoundly influenced by slavery.

“So, part of what this book is trying to say is, ‘we can’t underplay that part of history in thinking of ourselves generally as South Africans because unless we understand that history better we won’t know why someone for instance thinks of coloured people in terms of a particular tone of pathos’.

“Where does that come from? It comes from the lens of slavery,” is her theory. “If you’re thinking about the epidemic of sexual violence we’re experiencing today (in the country), it goes back to slavery,” is another contention.

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Video: Adam Habib Explains Why He Believes Afrikaans Universities are a Bad Idea

An interview and follow-up article (featured in the Afrikaans newspaper Beeld) by Adam Habib, rector and vice-chancellor of University of the Witwatersrand, proposed a new angle to the transformation and language debates currently surrounding South African universities.

Rewolusie op ysSouth Africa's Suspended RevolutionInguqukombuso YeNingizimu Afrika Eyabondwa YashiywaNtwa ya Boitseko e Fanyehuweng ya Afrika Borwa

 
In the article Habib explained that he believes that Afrikaans institutions, like Stellenbosch University and the Potchefstroom campus of North-West University, are unconstitutional. KykNet’s breakfast show Dagbreek TV invited Habib to expand on this idea.

Habib starts the interview by saying that the current discourse around the transformation of South African universities is not at all productive, “but it should be,” and notes that emotions should be removed from this debate in order to see that nobody is “attacking Afrikaans”, but that they are simply trying to answer the question: How are we approaching education in a democratic, 21st century South Africa.

“We have to, all of us, myself included, understand that the 21st century, whether we like it or not, is a period and a context of integration. The question is how are you Afrikaner, how are you South African, how are you African and how are you human, simultaneously? That’s what Braam Fischer was. That’s what Beyers Naudé was. That’s what Nelson Mandela was.”

Habib notes that readers of his article misunderstood what he is trying to say, forcing their own agenda on the discourse: “What I am saying is don’t use language as a code for race, or a code for ethnicity.”

Watch the video for his interview with Rozanne McKenzie. There is a short introduction in Afrikaans before the English interview:

YouTube Preview Image

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John Kani Compares his New Play Missing to Nothing But the Truth

Nothing But the TruthJohn Kani, actor, playwright and author, says the same DNA runs through both Nothing But the Truth and his new play, Missing.

Missing focuses on how Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 affected those ANC members living in exile in Europe.

Kani says his most recent play looks at the dynamic between politics – “conspiracy, intrigue and betrayal by his own comrades” and a family having to return to an unfamiliar “home”.

Is it a companion piece to Nothing But The Truth, in the sense that you told the story of return from those left behind. Now you are telling the story from the point of view of the returnees.

No, but there is a DNA thread … you right, he [Robert in >Missing like Sipho in Nothing But the Truth] is also looking at his age, his daughter is going to get married, there is a custom we need to do as Xhosas … Mrs Thabo Mbeki, after seeing the play [Nothing But the Truth], said to me: “John, not all of us were like Themba in exile. Some of us struggled and suffered, especially us women who stayed in these one-roomed flats, never with your husband. I’d love to tell you that story one day” …

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John Kani’s New Play Missing Tackles Apartheid Exiles’ Relationship with “Home”

Nothing But the TruthJohn Kani, actor, playwright and author of Nothing But the Truth, discusses his latest play, Missing.

Speaking to Yazeed Kamaldien from City Press, Kani says he drew heavily on his political past for his latest work, which will be at The Market Theatre in Johannesburg from 4 June. In it he plays a fictional figure named Robert Khalipa, who served the ANC for three decades in exile in Sweden. He expects to be handed a position in parliament under Nelson Mandela and then Thabo Mbeki, but is not called back to South Africa.

Kani says the play tackles the complex relationship apartheid exiles had with “home”:

When Nelson Mandela was released in 1990, it was arranged that a group of these exiles would come home and be part of this negotiating team. And be part of the whole setup structure of the government this side.

Somehow, his name was missing on this list. He could not work out why his name was not on this list. He spends all these years in exile, trying to ask himself: ‘What did I do, what did I not do? What did I say that could be the reason I was left out?’

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