HOW WE MET: JANI ALLAN & CHIEF BUTHELEZI

Chief Buthelezi, IFP leader has announced his retirement from politics.This is the story of How We Met.

 

JANI ALLAN: At the time I met Chief Buthelezi, in 1982, he was still flavour of the month – that was before political pragmatism took over. I remember an interminable lunch for the opening of the Drakensberg Sun Hotel in Natal. There wasn’t an interview scheduled with His Excellency afterwards, but I thought I’d try and busk it anyway. The corridor outside his room was like a Japanese subway, packed with chiselled-faced Zulus. Very stern and very forbidding. My mind kept flashing back to a scene from the film Shaka Zulu where Impi warriors are chanting: “One Zulu is worth a thousand other men.”

I felt embarrassed to be…

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The Zimbabwean Ruins – the Looting of Zimbabwe

Illegal wildlife trafficking in Zimbabwe has become a multi-billion dollar industry involving millions of animals that are sold as souvenirs, trophies, and for “medical” products every year. 

There is only one thing more ridiculous than an African despot; the exaggerated respect accorded him by white bien pensants.

Given the farce of political correctness, Robert Mugabe is (still) given a platform at the UN and people (still) pretend to take him seriously.

He is the perpetrator of some of the worst human rights abuses on the continent since the zenith of Idi Amin. 

Currently, Zimbabwe is one of the poorest and most politically corrupt nations in the world ranking 163rd out of 176 countries on the 2012 Transparency International…

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A Warrior Woman for WAR

South Africa has previously been labelled the rape capital of the world. Some statisticians estimate that one in three South African women have been raped or will be raped.

Lily Reed became that one in three on the 23rd August 2012 when she was gang-raped, robbed and beaten by twelve armed men during a home invasion in Malawi.

Her six year-old daughter and her partner’s nine year-old son were held hostage to witness the events of that night.

In her book The Dark Seed, she writes about the brutal home invasion – rape fest and robbery – as though she were describing a battle.

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Kindness is like snow; it beautifies everything it covers

Dear Beloved Donors,

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.

This, then, is a thank you present that is long overdue. 

I had hoped that my current circs would have changed, but I fear they haven’t. 

No, strike that. I am still at home, in my sweet little rented flat, overlooking the parking lot.

But I am here. Baruch Hashem – and you.

Thank you to all the people who responded to me. You are my homies; the feeling I get from you, no matter where you live, no matter how long I have been away. You connected with…

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The Empress of Style – La Belle Époque of Diana Vreeland

It is 1982 Diana Vreeland graces the cover of New York Magazine.

 

She is wearing huge gold cuffs on each wrist and her quintessential bone necklace around her neck. Her confidence and vigour leap off the page. She is an icon, her sense of style and originality are singular.

 

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A Tribute to Joey’s Landmark

Illustrator: Trevor Romain

In a week, heavy with sad news, I hear from my international informants that The Doll House Roadhouse on Louis Botha Avenue in Johannesburg will close on 31st August 2017.

It opened in 1935.

At last! A cause we can get behind that isn’t political. Save a Johannesburg Heritage Landmark. Rhodes must fall, but the Dollhouse must stand!

On a Facebook page, the fans of the Doll House implore you to email the Gauteng Province large fromages to halt the imminent demolition of the road house on Louis Botha Avenue next to the Reform Shul.

I suspect that it is the memories rather than the menu that people recall. 

The Doll House has – had – a menu that was guaranteed to make a Banting blanch.

You could have fried chicken and chips, curry and rice and…

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Jobless in New Jersey

Someone once said that they could name an amusement park ride after my life. Perhaps that was true in the past. In the past there were the ‘wheeee’ moments when I would fling my hands in the air and shriek with joy.

These days there is a lot more horror and less hoorah.

What Old Testament aspect of God’s nature did I annoy to find myself job-hunting in America?

I’m not really good at looking for jobs. Probably because I haven’t really had many jobs in my life.

First, I was a schoolteacher at Bryanston High School. Despite wearing post-box red platform boots for the job interview, the Headmaster, Mr Viviers, hired me on the spot.

Pari passu once or twice a week I would go to a classical music concert at the Johannesburg City Hall. Straight afterwards, I would drive down to the Stygian offices of the Citizen newspaper in even more Stygiany Doornfontein…

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Face to Face with Magnus Malan

In June 1988 I flew to Cape Town to interview the South African Minister of Defense, Magnus Malan. The world’s media was fixated on the conflict in Angola as the Cuban forces were thought to number over 54, 000 in the war-torn country. Meanwhile a controversial Nelson Mandela tribute concert, televised live to millions of people in over 60 countries, gave the anti-apartheid movement its biggest worldwide audience. Whitney Houston, George Michael, the Bee Gees and Dire Straits performed at the Wembley Stadium concert.

The lens of the world’s media this week zoomed into close-up on Africa’s Vietnam – Angola.

In the spotlight is General Magnus Malan, Minister of Defence since 1980.

This week JANI ALLAN flew where Eagles Dare, caught the ‘Superhawk’  on the wing and interviewed General Malan FACE TO FACE in Cape Town. 

 

MOST people love to talk about themselves. Not the Strong Arm of the SADF.

Perhaps he prefers war-war…

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Face to Face with Sheila Kohler

Jani Allan ventured into the pretty town of Princeton, New Jersey and came FACE TO FACE with South African-born author, Sheila Kohler. 

Sheila and I arrange to meet at Dinky’s on Princeton campus.

Sheila’s memoir ‘Once We Were Sisters’ has been described by Joyce Carol Oates as “a beautiful and tragic tale with echoes of cultural sexism and misogyny.” 

South African-born author, Sheila Kohler.

JM Coetzee notes that “the most striking parts of this rich and poignant memoir…reflect on the necessary cruelty of the writer’s art, sacrificing the truth of the world to the truth of fiction.’

Others speak of the book being viscerally compelling and intensely personal. 

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My life and the Oscars

On Saturday night Jobert invited me to a trèchic dinner party at the Swan Hotel in Lambertville. I was unable to attend, (muling duties!) but Jobert kindly dropped off my Oscar at the restaurant. On Sunday night, just as I had opened the Bollinger – I don’t drink in solitary, the Pomeranians are with me – Comcast went on the fritz. By the time I had the problem sorted the lead-up to the borefest was well underway.

***

 

How we miss Joanie.

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La La Land – a tissue-thin fantasy

 

Last Friday I skived off from the restaurant and persuaded Tom to take me to the movies.

Tom is the restaurant’s gay book-keeper. He is the first choice to take one to see Dream Girls, Diana Ross – or La La Land.

He once gave me a full-sized high-heel chocolate shoe because I said I would eat a shoe if it were covered in chocolate.

We went to the Oxford…

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Jackie and the the shattered psyche of a nation

Perhaps because I went to see Jackie on the eve of Donald Trump’s Inauguration, it assumed an especial significance.

The mystique of the Presidency has long fascinated me. There is something almost cultish about the way Americans refer to “My President’, rather than THE President.

Given the jaw-dropping ignorance of some Americans – well, least-ways those questioned by Jay Leno or Alan Watters on TV.

– I can’t help being less than sanguine about Jackie as box-office gold.

In Watter’s World, Jesse Watters goes around with a camera and mike and asks people questions like ‘Who fought the Civil War?’ “What is the capital of New York?” Their responses elicit gales of laughter.

Certainly its a dot on the cards that I would not be able to find a millennial who knows who ‘Jackie’ was.

The second…

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Finding Tracy

Pic: Pretoria Moot Rekord

One of the main news items in South Africa this week comes after Mark Scott-Crossley handed himself over to police. A warrant for Scott-Crossley’s arrest was issued in December after an alleged racist incident in Limpopo. He now faces attempted murder charges. In 2005 Scott-Crossley was tried and convicted for the murder of a worker who he threw into a lion enclosure.

In 1988 Jani Allan found herself in the Johannesburg family home of Mark Scott-Crossley whilst working as a journalist for the Sunday Times. The disappearance of Mark’s sister, Tracy was quickly developing into one of the most high-profile crime stories of the decade. Tragically, Tracy was one of six schoolgirls who disappeared in 1988 and 1989 shortly before paedophile Gert van Rooyen and his lover Joey Haarhoff committed suicide…

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Canvassing – with a Nat out of Tatler and an assertive DP yuppie

I wrote this column in  the winter of 1989 – six weeks before the South African general election. The Sunday Times was leading with the story ‘NATS FACE VOTE CRISIS’ as a shock poll was predicting a deadlocked parliament.

I was tasked with accompanying the NP’s Sheila Camerer and the DP’s Tony Leon on the campaign trail in their Johannesburg constituencies. Leon would later become the gifted leader of the re-branded Democratic Alliance where Camerer would join him as an MP.

 

ALL politics, someone once observed, is based on the indifference of a majority.

With only 47 more days to The Election, JANI ALLAN pounded the pavements with a pair of politicos and came FACE TO FACE with that privileged species, the White Registered Voter.

Sheila Camerer, MP for Rosettenville is quite charming about agreeing to let me tag along with her for a morning’s canvassing in the deep south.

We meet at the…

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Bullies on the left

The liberal media, both print and electronic, has lost all credibility. I am reasonably sure that none of the mainstream print media had stories prepared for a Trump victory. I watched the networks and cable stations in their midnight meltdown — embodied by Rachel Maddow explaining to viewers that they were not having a “terrible, terrible dream” and that they had not died and “gone to hell.” Maureen Dowd, (Aka Maureen Dowdy, High Priestess of the NYT)

 

Dear liberal friends in America,

I usually don’t write about politics. In the past, it has gotten me into All Sorts of Trouble.

Why, when I was asked to write a piece about the American election for papers in both London and South Africa, I refrained from doing so, fearing a backlash. My political ideology has been misconstrued in the past. 

In any…

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Bullfighting – art, sport or simply barbaric?

We live in an interesting time. It seems difficult to imagine a day in which we aren’t slapped in the eye by disasters that befall mankind. We are preoccupied by a diet of WikiLeaks/news of carnage in the Middle East/Brexit Blues and a political refugee crisis that continues to test the moral compass of the lovely Angela Merkel.

Then there are the voices of wary professors and aggrieved student activists that continue to proliferate in the South African news cycle.

My overarching compassion lies with those who do not have a voice.

I was seriously depressed, therefore, to learn this week that Spain’s constitutional court has overturned a ban on bullfighting in Catalonia, declaring it unconstitutional. (The ban, not the bullfighting.)

The court protested that bullfighting was “part of Spanish heritage” and therefore any decision on banning it could only be taken by central government.

The timing is flawless. This year happens to be the…

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I get married and become a columnist (extract)

This is an extract from Jani Confidential (Jacana, 2015) by Jani Allan.

If you really want to know who I am, let me tell you a story. The windows of my memory are casually framing pictures of a roseate hue. I just happened, for a while, to be at the top of a layer cake with icing decorated with stars.

The story I am going to tell you contributed immeasurably to my sense of self.

It is my Gordon story.

*

Gordon Schachat will tell you the story. My shrink will tell you the story.

Gordon said he saw me walking down the steps of the Great Hall at Wits University and decided then and there to marry me. That day my avatar was wearing a chocolate suede midi-skirt buttoned up the front and a pair of matching chocolate suede thigh boots. I was twenty-one.

Gordon took to hanging around the canteen when he knew I would…

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Barefoot in the park – and elsewhere

When my friend Bruce told me that he and his chums go for a barefoot walk in Melville Koppies every Sunday and I should try it, I looked like a hen stupefied by a chalk line.

Why? Why would I want to walk barefoot anywhere except from my bed to the bathroom?

Living in America makes one pathologically afraid of outside. There are extremely unpleasant things. Snakes, mosquitos the size of Chinook helicopters, plagues of cicadas, poisonous bumblebees called Red Jackets, praying mantises and sloths.

Why would I want to risk stepping on or indeed being in the vicinity of these creatures?

The only Barefoot in the Park I used to be familiar with was the 1967 American comedy film starring Jane Fonda and Robert Redford….

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EXCERPT FROM JANI CONFIDENTIAL

Jani Confidential book display at Munro Boutique Hotel, Johannesburg.

CHAPTER 1

My Mother, Myself

My moon is in Capricorn. Astrologers will tell you that this signifies a plate-glass cold maternal figure, distant and given to withholding praise and affection.

So it was with Janet Sophia.

She scooped me up when I was a runt with cabbage ears. I could fit in a shoe box. She named me Isobel Janet. She didn’t tell me I was adopted until I was eighteen. She was short-fused and I had annoyed her about something or other. ‘I didn’t want you. I really wanted a little boy!’

I ran out of the house and sat in the stable for hours.

But I am my mother. More importantly, I am her creation. Then – and still…

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Beyers Naudé: ‘Who defines the concept, Afrikaner?’

Twenty-seven years ago Jani Allan interviewed the Rev Beyers Naudé at his modest home in Greenside, Johannesburg. His endless soul-searching in defining the concept of an Afrikaner   continues in Afrikaners’ ongoing existential quest for belonging.

Christi van der Westhuizen, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Pretoria, advances  andersdenkendheid – a condition of thinking differently – as the democratic duty of Afrikaners. Andersdenkendheid lies in direct opposition to eendersdenkendheid – a condition derived from the doctrinaire advances of JG Strijdom. The Afrikaans word refers to a condition of thinking the same. In 1948 Strijdom claimed that opposition to apartheid was as treasonable as refusing to defend one’s own country during an outbreak of war.

The Rev Beyers Naudé (1915-2004).

The hallmarks of andersdenkendheid – dogged questioning and critical…

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Fasten your seatbelts! The Force is with you again

I wrote this column some thirty-six years ago on the eve of the release of the Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. Trapped in a maelstrom of political uncertainty, South Africa in the ’80s was like Berlin before the war. People tried to blot out the reality of what was happening in the country with the same desperation. I think that this piece captures the spirit of my young avatar, spellbound by the magic and escapism of the epic space opera franchise.

 

THE Empire Strikes Back! Slide into your spacesuits and leap onto the spacewagon (again) with Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Darth Vader, extra-terrestrial, celestial Uncle Tom Cobbly and all.

Hold onto your PLSS (Portable Life Support System) and get ready to make the jump into cyberspace!

Swop your Maserati Mercedes or Mini for a Millenium Falk, and when he says ‘Your place or mine?’ remember he might just mean ‘galaxy’ and not ‘pad’!

A long…

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