NEWS

Jani Confidential book reviews

Marianne Thamm for the Daily Maverick: Jani Allan, white South Africa’s brittle fall girl – a cautionary tale

Len Ashton for Noseweek: Books. Comeback. Second helping

Marika Sboros for BizNews: Jani Allan memoir: the psychology of sex, power, betrayal and ‘slut shaming

Tiffany Markman for Women24: Jani Confidential by Jani Allan

Herman Lategan for Beeld: Jani Confidential: Briljante joernaal van ontheemding

Rod Mackenzie for Mail & Guardian’s Thought Leader: Jani Allan: Abuse and disgrace (Part I)

                         Rod Mackenzie for Mail & Guardian’s Thought Leader: South Africa and other orphaning nations (Jani Allan Part II)

”…there is enough to reveal a fragility and vulnerability of a woman who, despite everything, has kept her head above water.”  Mark Levin, The Mercury, 30 April 2015

”Allan takes us through her rollercoaster life and career with her usual wit and some degree of self-deprecation…The one solid fact that emerges is that she is a survivor and tough as hell. ”  Glenn Hollands, Daily Dispatch, 15 May 2015

”Whatever has happened to Allan, and despite having her words used against her, undoubtedly she has not quite lost her skill for imaginative metaphors.” Sunday Tribune, 19 April 2015

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Sunday Times (London), 28 January 1990

People; Jani Allan; Writer haunted by a hunk with blowtorch eyes

Six months ago the South African journalist Jani Allan fled to Britain to escape the explosive repercussions of her relationship with the neo-Nazi leader Eugene Terre Blanche. “I might as well be a leper, she said in London last week. “I am on a hit list. I am without a job. I have no visible means of support.

The former model, who for 10 years wrote a star column for South Africa’s largest national paper, The Sunday Times, in Johannesburg (no relation to this newspaper), has been living with friends in north London and subsisting on occasional freelance work. She is reported to be on a hit list that includes Archbishop Desmond Tutu, allegedly compiled by a rightwing terror organisation, three of whose members are at large after escaping police custody in South Africa.

She clearly feels a degree of anger about her former editor, who she believes may have involved her in a plot to destabilise Terre Blanche’s party, the now broken-backed Afrikaans Resistance Movement (AWB). The saga began in December 1988, when she was asked at an editorial conference to “go and have tea with Terre Blanche. “I had not heard of him, she admitted. “I am not really a political person.

In fact, she had been conducting interviews with politicians for only a year in her column, after it was beefed up from a social diary. Politically, she says, The Sunday Times was “extreme centre.

A fine arts graduate, a classical music student and former child prodigy, she had been employed by the editor, Tertius Myberg, on the strength of four music reviews. She became, she says, his “blue-eyed girl. I was adopted and never knew my parents. I guess he was always a father figure to me. I’d hate to think that he sent me into that situation.

Terre Blanche, she reported from their first meeting, was “a hunk. I’m impaled on the blue flames of his blowtorch eyes. Although the phrase was to haunt her, a perusal of her interviews shows a fondness for such extravagant language. She wrote, for instance, that Dr Denis Worrall, the uncharismatic former South African ambassador in Britain, “grins the celebrated grin that has been known to cause grown women to go ga-ga.

Allan, 37, says that her ignorance of Hitler’s personality cult prevented her from foreseeing the political veneration that would be read into her words. “It sounds farfetched, but we are only taught South African history at school.

She was the “heroine of the newsroom when she returned with the interview. “They all used to say about Terre Blanche, `He’s really amazing’, but when it came to writing it, they didn’t. They were afraid of losing their liberal image. I was the only one stupid enough, or reckless enough, or honest enough, to actually write what he was like.

Two weeks later she attended an AWB rally, when she was not only to attract Terre Blanche’s fierce ocular attention, but the lenses of television cameramen. In retrospect, she finds this odd. “I was an ordinary journalist attending an event with the world press; how come they had footage of me if I hadn’t been set up? The cameras were on me the whole time.

She maintains that her meetings with Terre Blanche over subsequent months the cause of much speculation were all at the behest of her editor. Both she and the AWB leader have denied physical intimacy.

This was suggested and then withdrawn in a court case resulting from Terre Blanche being discovered in a car with Allan after he forced the gate to the Paardekraal Monument, 60 miles from Johannesburg. It was a rendezvous with a camera crew, they claimed.

The incident had the hallmarks of a set-up, she believes. “Fifteen police cars appeared and I don’t know how many policemen. It was like the movies. I said, `Am I on Candid Camera?

While Allan’s professional reputation was in tatters, an obsessed Terre Blanche was to blow his charisma in a series of drunken and sometimes obscene telephone calls, duly tape-recorded, which became public after a bomb went off by her flat.

“Terre Blanche used to come and beat on the door. I spoke to his wife, saying I had some very interesting tape recordings and would she please take note that her husband has been here. I told my editor, and he said, `Right, we’ll write him a stiff lawyer’s letter.’ I said, `Look, this is a man who’s planning a revolution, he hasn’t got a full box of chocolates.’

“After the bomb he said, `Right, we’ll publish the tapes.’ I said I didn’t think that would be wise, as the security police had told me my life would be in danger. He said, `We’re going to blow them out of the water. They largely succeeded, but Allan considers the price too high.

She had just emerged from a course of traction for her seized back, and was then rushed to hospital with a bleeding ulcer. “I internalise things and don’t express any emotion. She was receiving death threats. Interviews were drying up. “The British ambassador in South Africa said, `My dear, in view of the situation you find yourself in, perhaps we should wait a few months. She sold her possessions and arranged for her ancient Lancia Spyder convertible, a present from her former tycoon husband, to be flown to Britain. “Six weeks later it turned up at Dover, completely vandalised. It had been to more countries than I have.

It has been an unhappy stay. Finding a job has been “more difficult than opening an oyster with a bus ticket. Her brief stints on tabloid newspapers were marked by canteen errands and taunts of ‘Nazi’, she says. “But I love England. And I can’t go back.

The Home Office, she says, is favourably considering her application for a four-year writer’s and artist’s permit.

Her agent, Gillian Faulkner, commented: “She’s an artist and writer who has been a top model and taught at university. With the way she looks, men fall over her. If they’re insecure, they’ve got to hate her. Now all the mediocre people are feasting on her misfortune. She’s been seriously libelled. She can’t go back because she has been threatened.


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Sunday Times (Johannesburg) July 23 1989

JANI: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

What’s a striking blonde art-teacher-turned-columnist doing mixed up with a raging rightwing politician like Eugene Terre’Blanche?

It’s a question that still worries Jani Allan.

If there is one thing that the popular Sunday Times writer wishes for most fervently, it is that her name be disengaged from that of controversial leader of the AWB.

Last weekend – just when she thought she was back in calmer journalistic waters after the stormy events of Paardekraal last December – the headlines once again coupled her with Terre’Blanche.

It was disclosed that the AWB leader had paid an uninvited and unwelcome visit to her flat after midnight one night last month.

His pleas to be admitted ignored, he fell asleep, snoring in the passage outside.

Then, early last Friday, a bomb exploded near her apartment.

Neither the police nor Jani have found any link between the explosion and any individual or political movement, but shortly before the bang she spotted khaki-clad figures outside her door – and inevitably the speculation she hates has begun all over again.

For a public figure, Jani is a remarkably private person.

Her circle of friends is small, close and intensely loyal. Her acquaintances are obviously many, but mostly distant.

Colleagues enjoy her sense of humour – she is given to literary quotation – but the girl described by some newspapers as high-flying, zany and whacky speaks softly and is as likely to spend her evenings quietly at home as partying till the small hours.

Yesterday, for the first time – and some would say not before time – Jani spoke frankly about her professional dealings with the 48-year-old AWB leader which, over 18 traumatic months, have come to haunt her.

The saga began in January 1988 when she was assigned to interview Mr Terre’Blanche – then, as now, a news-making personality – for her Face to Face feature in the Sunday Times.

In that column, the first to set tongues wagging, Mr Terre’Blanche talked passionately of wanting back the land ‘that my nation killed 22, 000 British soldiers for’ during the South African War.

It was exactly the stuff of a good, meaty profile of a controversial character.

‘Look’ Jani wrote in her typically conversational way, ‘the man’s no mimsy. To be honest, he’s a hunk. Far more attractive face to face than his telegenic image.’

Then she continued somewhat breathlessly: ‘Right now, I’ve got to remind myself to breathe. I’m impaled on the blue flames of his blowtorch eyes, you see.’

She has a way with purplish prose, does our Miss Allan. On the other hand, if the testimony of her subjects is anything to go by, much of her word sketches are shrewd and penetrating.

Only last week one wrote to the editor of her paper praising her interview with him as the most accurate he had ever read.

The Terre’Blanche piece was, to put it mildly, received with less than universal applause. But that is her way – she writes what she thinks and that is why millions read her every week.

That could have been the end of the matter, but the story didn’t die down. Invited by the AWB – now shrewdly sensing a public relations coup – to witness its Aquila guards in training, Jani accepted.

She has a news sense and recognised the uniqueness of the opportunity – although she is not known around her office as a political sophisticate.

The piece appeared as a minor scoop and then by and large, the Jani-and-Eugene show came to an end.

Until last December – and the encounter at Paardekraal.

The incident led to charges of crimen injuria and malicious damage to property against Terre’Blanche. They were dropped following a six-day trial in Krugersdorp.

Jani had accompanied the AWB leader to the Krugersdorp monument to do an assignment commissioned by a British news agency.

They were also to rendevouz with a Portuguese TV crew, which became lost and never pitched up.

Was she wise or was she foolish? With hindsight, Jani thinks she should have passed up the invitation.

Political correspondent, gossip writers and cartoonists – seizing on the incident because good rightwing leaders are not supposed to hang around hallowed monuments with blonde ‘Engelse pers’ columnists at dusk – had a field day.

Understandably. Both people were high-profile, each controversial in a different way – and hugely unlikely companions for a twilight tryst, which this was, wrongly, seen to be.

Further fuel to the flames was added because Mr Terre’Blanche is not without his political enemies.

Jani admits that, in her unfamiliarity with politics, she had perhaps allowed herself- and more especially her access to space in South Africa’s biggest newspaper – to be used for political purposes.

Emphatically and persuasively she denies any kind of romantic entanglement – ‘though’ she says, ‘I cannot speak for the fantasies that other people may have harboured.’

Supporting her view is the fact that, after 18 months of digging, reporters have failed to come up with anything to turn the rumours about romance into fact.

‘He was absolutely proper on the six or seven occasions we met,’ she said yesterday. ‘And I used the word hunk with absolute honesty, though I doubt whether I would still do after seeing recent photographs of him.

‘It was me attempting to see beyond the stereotyped image. He’s not just a flat cartoon character.’

Did she not think that what many regarded as a eulogy to a rabid rightwinger showed insensitivity?

‘No, not at all. One thing I keep very clearly in my mind when I do my interview is that it is my face to face column and I only write about information I get during a specific interview.

‘He never, in our conversations, aligned himself to Hitler or anything like that. In any case, I care little for politics. I am interested in all sorts of people who have a point of view and the stamina to sustain it. Many of them are in the public eye.

‘I have written about many people on the political left and centre. If I could I would interview Nelson Mandela. But would I then be accused of being pro-ANC?

‘In that column which sparked all the problems, I also spoke about Mr Terre’Blanche’s dirty fingernails, but nobody pointed that out. I told the truth as I perceived it. That is very important to me.’ After writing that first column, Jani also visited Mr Terre’Blanche at his home in Ventersdorp, where she met his wife Martie.

After the Paardekraal incident, the couple also visited her at her apartment on one occasion.

Jani insists that all but one of her meetings (Paardekraal) with Mr Terre’Blanche, other people were present – either fellow journalists, members of Aquila, other officials or his wife.

Even at Paardekraal she did not expect to be alone. ‘I actually have copies of two letters from the Portuguese TV people,’ she said.

‘I can’t vouch for their accreditation as TV guys, but one of them sent a picture of me which he had taken on a previous occasion when we had been on assignment at the same place.

‘I’ve been as discreet and patient about Mr Terre’Blanche as about anyone else I’ve interviewed.’

‘But after 18 months of malicious and unrelenting speculation, I’ve had enough.’

‘Perhaps now, after that snooze outside my flat, I will have heard the last of him and be able to regain some of the professional integrity I believe I lost when he accused me of planting stories in my newspaper.


11 Responses to NEWS

  1. Melody says:

    Hi!!!
    hope I signed in correct.
    is your site also published on Facebook?
    ox

  2. Richard Gossow says:

    Lambertsville, NJ. I can understand why you live there, right across from artsy-fartsy New Hope. Been there a few times as I live not too far away in one of Philly’s suburbs. Originally from Cape Town & Swakopmund, Namibia and remember you fondly from the 80s & 90s. Enjoyed reading your columns and looking forward to your book.

  3. Benjy Mudie says:

    Great to have your intelligence and sharp analytical wit back in journalism…..

  4. Shaun says:

    Hey, when is that book coming out?

  5. Rob Jacobs says:

    Hi Jani, you got me going on conspiracies back when you were on Cape Squawk. For this I thank you. – Now CTTV’s carrying the baton.

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