Category: South Africa

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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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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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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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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Afrikaner pride and passion mix with fun and laughter for the new era boere punks

Twenty-seven years ago Jani Allan interviewed Afrikaner musical guerrillas Johannes Kerkorrel and André Letoit at a restaurant in Hillbrow. Their rendezvous coincided with one of the most sensational developments in South African history: State President P W Botha met with Nelson Mandela at Tuynhuys in Cape Town.

Marianne Thamm has explained how this “Voëlvry” generation of the 1980s laid the foundations for progressive Afrikaans music of the 21st century. The likes of Francois van Coke and his alternative punk band, Fokofpolisiekar  make music that is  ‘defiant, provocative, rebellious, subversive and engaged in deeper existential questions.’

Kerkorrel would tragically end his own life and Hillbrow would become unrecognisable. I have chosen this passage from Marq de Villier’s White Tribe Dreaming. This pair of ‘boere punks’ embody the spirit of Afrikaners that made the dramatic leap in rejecting the Afrikanerdom of Die Groot…

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Tribute to Douglas Gordon Margach from a former colleague in the newsroom

I met Doug Gordon in the mid-seventies. He was a news reporter on the Sunday Times. It was Doug who suggested that I apply for a job as a columnist on the then great broadsheet.

The Sunday Times in those days was a unique and often bizarre blend of tabloid journalism and serious political analysis. Tertius Myburgh, the editor, called it ”quali-pop”.

Myburgh referred to the “craft” of journalism and how “we” could make our “craft” a socio-political force in South Africa.

It worked. The Sunday Times had a readership of some four million.

It snagged the serious attention of local politicians, international statesmen and some of the best political analysts from South Africa and abroad, all of whom jostled for space in the paper’s opinion pages.

Politically? Myburgh said we were ‘extreme centre.’

To be a journo on the Sunday Times in those days was to have a job with kudos. There were high standards and…

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An open letter to Daddy dearest, Tertius Myburgh

You were hugely influential as the successful editor of the country’s largest newspaper. You were seen as a builder of bridges in a deeply divided society. Before we both become a footnote in history, let the record show I believe you used me as a cabaret turn.

Dear Mr Myburgh,

Almost 25 years to the day after you died, John Matisonn’s book God, Spies and Lies has been published.

Most journalists are doing a “yawn yawn snore”, pretending that everyone knew that you were an apartheid spy.

I remember our first meeting.

I thought you were handsome and debonair,

(Andy Garcia in the movie.)

You looked exactly as I thought an editor should look. Lots of thick wavy hair. Big strong teeth. Braces. You were vain about your clothes. Your shirts were made in Jermyn Street. Your…

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Life as a scatterling of Africa

 

In the early eighties two young men came to the offices of the Sunday Times in downtown Johannesburg on a Monday morning to be interviewed.

One was a Lancashire-born son of a Jewish immigrant from Poland; the other was a Zulu migrant worker. During the interview (which took place in the office while someone hoovered the newsroom) they were slightly awkward and most obliging.

It was transparent as cellophane that neither Johnny Clegg nor Sipho Mchunu were used to the adulation that they were receiving.

They met when they were in their teens and formed Juluka. Juluka went on to become one of South Africa’s biggest musical exports.  Their “Scatterlings of Africa” was first released in 1982 and remains the band’s biggest hit.

Although their albums were pointedly political, “Scatterlings” remains the track that all…

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Conversation Envy

This column appeared in the August 2015 edition of Fair Lady. 

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My secret envy

Kotel, Jerusalem – where my prayer was planted in the cracks two years ago. Earlier this year the journalist Caryn Gootkin was in Jerusalem. She said a prayer for me at the Kotel as I nervously prepared for my return to South Africa.

A couple of weeks ago I waited on a Jewish wedding party.

One of the women in the party gave me the challah (the bread eaten on Shabbat) and asked me to warm it in the oven. I was required to put it on a plate and bring it to the table covered with the traditional embroidered challot.

A young man said…

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Let’s go hunting – for Cecil the lion killer’s apologists

Earlier this year, Ricky Gervais found a photograph of huntress Rebecca Francis smiling like a carrion beside a dead giraffe.

“What must have happened to you in your life to make you want to kill a beautiful animal and then lie next to it smiling?’  he tweeted to his 8 million followers.

When asked why she feels the need to trophy hunt, Rebecca says ‘I’m gonna provide meat for my family, I’m gonna have an experience in nature. I’m gonna be one-on-one with the animal.”

Being one on one with the animal is getting a thrill from hearing the thwack as the arrow pierces the flesh, following the trail of blood and hoof prints of a fatally wounded beast – and then waiting for it’s death gargle.

How long is society going to allow this barbarism to continue?

As the sage said, all truth goes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Then it is…

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Letter to a Young Jani

 

 

 

 

 

This column was originally published by De Kat in August 2014. 

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