Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Bookstorm

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Impress your guests with Jan Braai’s Red Wine Pears potjie recipe

The Democratic Republic of BraaiDie Demokratiese Republiek van BraaiJan Braai’s newest book, The Democratic Republic of Braai, was recently published by Bookstorm.

Jan is well known for his legendary braai desserts, and this mouthwatering recipe for Red Wine Pears is no exception.

Have a read, and impress your guests at your next potjie get-together:
 
 

The Democratic Republic of Braai by Jan Braai

 
Red Wine Pears

Fresh fruit is always welcome around the braai fire. Especially when it’s sweet, flavourful, comes with a red wine sauce and is served as dessert.

Make sure you use firm pears for playing this game as they will hold their shape better after cooking in the red wine. Always use the quality of wine you would also drink. If you were supposed to use something that tastes like vinegar, the name of the recipe would have been “Vinegar pears” but it isn’t.

Once done, you can also serve these pears with soft mascarpone cheese or ice cream instead of the blue cheese and pecan nuts, but then it is not going to look this cool in photos.

What you need
(feeds 6)

6 pears (firm but ripe)
1 packet pecan nuts (100 g, chopped roughly)
1 bottle good red wine
2 tots soft brown sugar
1 thick strip of orange peel
juice of that same orange
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves (actual cloves, not garlic cloves)
1 star anise
1 block blue cheese (200 g, crumbled)

What to do

1. Peel the pears with a vegetable peeler, leaving the stalk still in place. The stalk makes absolutely no difference to how they taste but it does make them look cool.

2. Get your potjie on flames and dry-toast the pecan nuts for about 2 minutes until they start to smell like they want to be part of the meal but before they burn. Immediately remove them from the potjie before they do exactly that, and burn.

3. Place the wine, sugar, orange peel and juice, and all the spices into your now empty potjie, stir to mix, and bring the mixture to the boil.

4. Add the pears, put the lid on the potjie and let it simmer for 40 minutes until the pears are soft. Turn the pears often making sure they colour evenly all over. Once the pears are soft but still firm, remove from the potjie and set aside. It’s fine if they cool down partially or completely.

5. Bring the sauce to the boil again and reduce until it becomes more like a syrup. During this time, taste the sauce and if you want it sweeter, add a bit more brown sugar to it.

6. Serve the pears with crumbled blue cheese and a sprinkling of pecan nuts, and top it off with the wine reduction from the potjie.

 
Related stories:

Book details


» read article

‘If Johannesburg works, South Africa works’ – Herman Mashaba outlines the DA’s plans for Joburg

Capitalist CrusaderBlack Like YouThe Democratic Alliance has shared an extract from the speech delivered by its mayoral candidate for Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, at the launch of its electoral campaign for Johannesburg.

Mashaba announced that he was making himself available as DA mayoral candidate in December last year.

In the speech, Mashaba outlines the DA’s plans should they win Joburg in the local government elections, including “schools to skills” programmes for teenagers, early learning daycare centres in every township, cutting red tape for small businesses, and “strengthening the muscle” of the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department.

Mashaba is the founder of the Black Like Me hair care empire and the author of the memoir Black Like You and Capitalist Crusader: Fighting Poverty Through Economic Growth.

Read his speech:

Today we take the future of Joburg into our hands.

We are in Alexandra today, a place which represents the potential of Johannesburg, to show our determination to bring change to Johannesburg.

Let’s build a fair Johannesburg that we can all be proud to call home. Let’s create jobs for the millions of unemployed.

Let’s empower the many young black people who don’t experience the dignity of work.

Johannesburg is a great city. It is a melting pot of cultures. It’s the heartbeat of our nation. But Johannesburg can be even greater.

There was a time after 1994 when Johannesburg made progress towards redress.

There was improved housing delivery and essential services. There was development. There was economic growth.

Freedom meant that our city became one Jozi, a city that everyone called home.

But today that progress has stalled. Service delivery is no longer meeting people’s needs. Unemployment is unacceptably high.

Those close to government are getting rich, while everyone else is getting poorer.

We have stopped moving forward.

The current of corruption and bad governance is pulling us backwards.

That’s why I am standing as the DA’s change candidate. To make Johannesburg stand tall again.

I’ve entered the race of my life because I love this City and because I’ve seen how opportunity changes lives. It is deeply personal.

I know that opportunity is the difference between hope and fear, life and death.

My story, like many of your stories, challenges those who seek to use race to divide us.

Like millions of black South Africans, I grew up in poverty during apartheid. I grew up in GaRamotse in Hammanskraal and I was raised by my sisters while our mother worked long hours as a domestic worker.

Mmusi Maimane and I went back there last Monday, and I saw how too little has changed.

The difficulty of life back then, in so many ways still exists today in places like Soweto, Alex, Orange Farm, Kaya Sand, and Zandspruit.

This is not yet a fair society.

And this is why I work for change in Johannesburg.

In my twenties, I set up a company called Black Like Me with a white partner. A man I could proudly call a friend.

I have always believed that black and white South Africans journeys are bound together.

We share unbreakable bonds of humanity and goodness. We share one destiny. We stand or fall together.

The dream of a non-racial South Africa gives life. Despite the storms that threaten to overwhelm us, the dream lives on. The dream will never die.

This dream motivates me every day.

I’ve not found hatred or bitterness on the campaign. I’ve found courage, warmth, and kindness in the midst of unspeakable difficulties.

I’ve been changed by what I’ve experienced.

I’ve seen poor and old grandmothers dig their own toilet pits.

I’ve been stung by the despair of young black men in townships without jobs or an education.

I’ve felt the hopelessness of young people, most of whom are black, trapped in long-term unemployment.

I’ve winced as young mothers queue to pump water for their families into buckets.

I’ve felt the frustration of small business entrepreneurs, many of whom are black, who have no support to prosper.

This stirs us to action.

This new DA city government will redress past injustices. Redress means to “make right” with our brothers and sisters, with a dynamic economy.

Ending the divide between “insiders” and “outsiders” will turn South Africa around.

Our vision is to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the City of Gold over the next five years. We will attract investment by being an open, transparent, clean, well-governed city that is open to business.

For if Johannesburg works, South Africa works.

We’ll get Johannesburg working by helping small businesses. We’ll cut the red tape that strangles entrepreneurs. We’ll cut up the old by-laws that obstruct business growth, in our first days in office. After 100 days they’ll be removed or amended.

We’ll audit City-owned land and buildings to set free the people’s assets. We’ll identify affordable commercial spaces for small businesses, artisans, and shops, and we’ll make them available at the most affordable annual rental possible.

We’ll connect people to training opportunities and internships. We’ll help them to find jobs in these new businesses.

I know how business works, with a 30-year track record of creating thousands of jobs. Job creation is in my public service DNA.

The DA will connect aspirant entrepreneurs to start-up loans.

We’ll carve up large tenders into small contracts. Many more small businesses can then bid for them successfully. And we’ll open up the tender system entirely, so everyone can see how they are awarded.

We’ll cut out all of the unnecessary consultants, to save millions for service delivery.

We’ll partner large, sector-focused companies with smaller businesses that want to grow. These will be business growth mentoring programmes through the City.

We cannot stop thinking about the future. The “Internet of Everything” will determine the future of successful cities.

We’ll develop a customised network by 2021 and we’ll centralise City data to improve service delivery, from repairing potholes to saving energy.

City and state trade missions to South Africa will bring investment to a new Jozi that is open, accessible, and transparent.

We will lead a revolution in the service levels of public servants and unveil a ‘Service with Pride’ vision on day one.

Courtesy and swiftly answered telephones will become the new norm. We’ll award exceptional performance for raising the City’s profile.

We’ll introduce an Executive Projects Dashboard for real-time monitoring of every project around the city. No project will just stop half-way and go unfinished.

The poorest residents of Joburg suffer the most from corruption. Corruption steals our public money, and it kills jobs.

When we take office, we will make corruption public enemy number one.

Criminals will be handed over to the police.

The DA will strengthen and bolster the Integrity and Internal Investigations Unit in the JMPD. Through the Mayor and open committee meetings, the unit will be directly accountable to the people. Criminal charges against corrupt officers will be pursued.

We also know that crime and drugs are wrecking people’s lives.

The DA-led City will strengthen the muscle of the JMPD.

Safety and security data will be centralised. This will improve local policing and identify drug lords and gangs.

The best technology will be used. Patterns will be spotted before crime is committed.

The police will be protected with body and vehicle dashboard cameras, and a fleet of ghost cars.

Our JMPD will be protectors of each and every one of us.

For if Johannesburg works, South Africa works.

The DA will introduce “schools to skills” programmes for teenagers to navigate one of life’s toughest journeys, which will prepare young people for the modern workplace through skills training right out of school.

The DA will work with the private sector to drive two new special projects. We’ll establish early learning day care centres in every township, where our children will receive love, nutritious meals, and a basic pre-school education.

We’ll identify city-owned properties for entrepreneurs who will transform them into top performing schools and technical colleges for our poorest residents.

We know that a home is more than just where we raise family, it is our economic security. We cannot get Johannesburg working until we fix the housing crisis.

We’ll do four major things to turnaround Johannesburg’s housing crisis:

We’ll fast-track ownership by giving thousands of people title deeds. The poor will come first.

We’ll do everything possible to stop housing list corruption. The process will be transparent and open. The list will be available for anyone to see.

We’ll incentivise entrepreneurs who build green-friendly homes.

We’ll provide basic services to informal settlements, with the best free allocations in South Africa, to the poorest residents.

The DA does this in other cities where we govern, and now we want to do this in Johannesburg.

Affordable and safe public transport goes hand in hand with housing. The poorest of our residents will have easy access to quality public transport.

No more will Soweto residents pay up to half of their money each month just to get transport into the City.

We will integrate the divergent bus services, and we will bring about a single ticket system so that our residents can travel seamlessly. And we’ll promote rapid transit, adaptive parking, bike-sharing, and walking paths.

We’ll work with the private sector to build sporting facilities. I want to see new soccer turfs in every community where young soccer talent is currently lost on dusty sand pitches.

We’ll have properly resourced and staffed clinics. We’ll employ caring nurses, and we’ll fill vacancies so that people don’t spend hours and days queuing for medical help.

For if Johannesburg works, South Africa works.

The time has come to put the government to work.

These are not pipe-dreams, but tried and tested promises, from where the DA governs already.

The best story to tell in South Africa, is how life gets better and better under the DA.

It’s the story of how unemployment is lowest, where the DA governs.

It’s the story of how services are delivered at the highest levels in South Africa, where the DA governs.

It’s the story of how we spend every cent of public money for the good of the people, where the DA governs.

The time has come to elect a DA government that brings this change to Johannesburg.

The time has come to elect a DA government that works for the people.

These are not empty words.

We stand on the shoulders of DA councillors who have already changed South Africa.

And let me say this: If I do not deliver on these promises after being elected, vote us out. It is that simple.

There is nothing broken in Johannesburg that cannot be fixed by Johannesburg. Johannesburg has all the right ingredients to be a great City.

The potential to greatness is in the residents of the City.

The current government talks big but acts small. But there is no glory in acting small.

Greatness does not happen by chance. It takes hard work, guts, and determination.

The DA government will create jobs and deliver quality services to every resident.

We will deliver a Fair Johannesburg, where Freedom is tangible, and where Opportunity abounds.

So far, this campaign journey has taken me from door to door, street to street, township to township.

The journey has taken me to meet people of character, of goodness, of decency.

The journey has brought me to this point. I am now asking every resident of Johannesburg to come on board and join me on this great journey: A journey to a prosperous and fair Johannesburg.

Your votes will elect a DA government that creates jobs and provides services.

That destiny rests in all of our hands.

For this is true: If Johannesburg works, South Africa works.

 
Related stories:

Book details


» read article

Win a copy of Death By Carbs by Paige Nick: Undeniably brilliant satire

Tim Noakes and Paige Nick

 
Death By CarbsDeath By Carbs, Paige Nick’s rip-roaring satire of the so-called “Banting revolution”, has been incredibly well received.

In a review for Women24, Marisa Crous writes: “Nick is my kind of author: undeniably brilliant at writing satire.” Avis Perks writes in a review for The Cape Argus: “Whether you’re a Tim Noakes fan or not, or even a mere bemused bystander, all you need is a healthy appetite for humour to enjoy this irreverent take on our weird and wonderful society.”

If you want to get your hands on a copy, you can follow traditional methods like ordering online or visiting your local bookshop. If you are in Cape Town, you could contact the author directly on her Facebook page and get your own personalised copy:

If you live in Cape Town and you’d like a personalised copy of Death By Carbs delivered to your door for just R150, let me know, I’ve got a boot full of books, and I’m not afraid to use them.

Or, you could enter Women24‘s competition, which closes 15 February, to stand a chance of winning one of two copies:

Want to win a copy of this book? Simply send us an e-mail to chatback@women24.com and tell us about your favourite mystery novel.

Women24 review:

Sunday Times columnist Paige Nick has written a delightful novel which pokes fun at this entire phenomenon. Death by Carbs is a refreshingly witty read with an exceptionally written bunch of characters. They represent all possible affected parties of this diet craze: the fans, the internet trolls and those most likely to benefit from the death of Noakes himself.

Cape Argus review:

 
Related links:

 
Book details


» read article

Proteas and Cricket South Africa support Gift of the Givers’s drought relief campaign

Imtiaz Sooliman and the Gift of the GiversThe Gift of the Givers has been taking its motto – “Best among people are those who benefit mankind” – to heart by extending a helping hand to the thousands upon thousands of South Africans suffering because of the ongoing drought in the country.

Linking up with various big organisations, Gift of the Givers is in the process of distributing water, hygiene packs and food as well as animal feed to areas in need.

In a press release on its website, the organisation reports on the support given to them by the Proteas and Cricket South Africa:

Gift of the Givers Drought Relief Campaign has been expanding exponentially drawing interest and support from diverse sections of the South African public. Today we have an interesting new partner. The Proteas and Cricket South Africa have expressed a willingness to support the campaign encouraging all supporters arriving at Mangaung Oval in Bloemfontein for today’s first ODI between England and South Africa to bring a 5 litre bottle of water. At some point predetermined by CSA select members of the Proteas team will do a symbolic handover of 5 litre bottled water at our vehicles which will be stationed at Gate 3. Those who have not managed to purchase water can sponsor R10 per 5 litre bottle at the trucks. Contributions are welcome for animal feed as we commence distribution of water and animal feed to small farmers in an attempt to save their animals and farms. We have been busy with extensive drought relief programmes in the Free State.

Gift of the Givers has also shared photos of the handover on Twitter:

 
A detailed report back on the extent of the Gift of the Givers’s drought intervention in several provinces in South Africa will be presented on its website soon.

For more on this disaster relief organisation read Imtiaz Sooliman and the Gift of the Givers: A Mercy to All by Shafiq Morton.
 
Related stories:

Book details


» read article

Something for everyone: The new Sunday Times Food Weekly Cookbook

Food Weekly Cookbook 4Don’t miss the new Sunday Times Food Weekly Cookbook 4:

The Sunday Times brings you a bumper helping of the Food Weekly Cookbook – the fourth edition following on the very successful first three editions.

There’s nothing quite like a homemade meal. The Sunday Times Food Weekly Cookbook offers a wide selection of easy recipes to choose from – and there’s something for everyone. From everyday suppers to family gatherings and easy entertaining, there’s a feast of ideas here.

And for those with a sweet tooth, cakes and desserts galore …

About the author

Hilary Biller has been writing about food for more than 25 years and has a flair for making food accessible in the tastiest ways possible. Hilary has held the position of editor of the Sunday Times Food Weekly supplement since 2008, and has written nine cookery books to date.

Book details


» read article

Herman Mashaba laments “sentimental allegiance” to the ANC – Excerpt from Capitalist Crusader

null

 
Capitalist CrusaderBlack Like YouRead an excerpt from Herman Mashaba’s new book, Capitalist Crusader: Fighting Poverty Through Economic Growth.

Mashaba is the founder of the Black Like Me empire and the author of the bestselling memoir Black Like You. He is also executive chairman of Lephatsi Investments (Pty) Ltd, Leswikeng Group of Companies and Phatsima Group of Companies and holds several other directorships.

Mashaba recently announced that he is making himself available as a mayoral candidate for the Democratic Alliance for the City of Joburg in 2016, saying: “For too long I have watched from the sidelines at how corrupt and self-serving ANC politicians have mismanaged Johannesburg.”

His offer was officially been taken up by the party on Saturday in an announcement by DA leader Mmusi Maimane. Mashaba beat Wits professor and DA councillor Rabelani Dagada to the candidacy.

Mashaba made some controversial comments at the press conference on the subject of Black Economic Empowerment. “If I have the powers to instruct Parliament to … remove all laws and policies that classifies me as a black South African, as a black human being … I can assure you I would do it tomorrow,” he told reporters.

Read the excerpt from Capitalist Crusader, in which Mashaba expresses concern about the allegations of corruption that exist at all levels of government, including cronyism, nepotism, and mismanagement and exploitation, specifically “on mines owned by Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) companies”.

* * * * *
CHAPTER 2

THE POWER OF OUR VOTES

Strong national policies and good governance are essential for the development of a healthy democracy; without them South Africa faces collapse on all levels. Fortunately, the South African Constitution was formulated and developed by top legal and social minds to provide for the human dignity of all South Africans, and is a remarkable democratic legislative framework for good governance. The Constitution came into effect in 1997 and really gave me a strong sense of national and social security, since I believed that by adhering to its provisions, South Africa was on a path of genuine, sustainable reform that would uplift its entire people and advocate good governance.

When Thabo Mbeki became president in 1999 I had a positive outlook on the future of the country, and my faith in the nation’s leadership was cemented when Mbeki eloquently advocated and promoted what was commonly known as the African Renaissance initiative, whereby Africans strive to surmount African challenges to achieve economic, cultural, and scientific renewal; an initiative that I and many other people embraced. The rebirth of our continent under South Africa’s leadership was an exciting prospect.

In 2000 the German government invited me to address a conference in Berlin to promote the African Renaissance initiative, which I understood under Mbeki’s leadership to mean encouraging the continent to embrace the fundamental cornerstones of democracy, namely democratic principles, respect for the rule of law, and freedom of the press. Moeletsi Mbeki and Tokyo Sexwale were also among the speakers at the same conference.

However, my faith in Mbeki’s leadership and his understanding of an African Renaissance were soon somewhat compromised when he supported (by his quiet diplomacy) Zimbabwe’s land redistribution programme, a venture that resulted in massive human rights violations when white farmers were stripped of their farms without compensation, and often violently so. I felt betrayed and disappointed, and further events triggered serious doubts in me about Mbeki’s political vision. In 2000 he appointed Jackie Selebi as the national police commissioner. In 2007 the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) issued a warrant for Selebi’s arrest on corruption charges. On the grounds of this investigation into Selebi, Mbeki placed him on extended leave in early 2008 and suspended Vusi Pikoli, head of the NPA. Mbeki’s handling of Selebi’s corruption and Pikoli’s suspension raised serious questions in my mind regarding Mbeki’s leadership and his lack of respect for the rule of law. How on earth could anyone justify maintaining the country’s Commissioner of Police with a cloud of criminal cases hanging over his head? These doubts were extended to the ANC when they recalled Thabo Mbeki as president of the country in 2008, only three months before the national election; I realised I could no longer vote for the party of Mandela, Tambo, Sisulu and all the other leaders who had helped to deliver the freedom we were enjoying. Later, upon reading Reverend Frank Chikane’s book Eight Days in September: The Removal of Thabo Mbeki, I got a sense of how the ANC was prepared and determined to expel Mbeki, again with brazen disregard for the rule of law. The rule of law must be paramount in a society that wishes to be considered democratic.

When the Congress of the People (COPE) was established as a result of Mbeki’s expulsion, I was immediately suspicious of some members of its leadership, because it appeared that these individuals’ motives were driven by personal advancement rather than an intention to serve the people of South Africa. The main mandate a political party receives when it wins an election is to adhere to the will of its constituents. Voters are guided by the principles and the policies that a political party promotes, and if a party advocates promoting the economy, I expect to see their policies aligned to such advocacy. When a party fails to deliver on its election promises, and appears to have other agendas, it is time to reconsider supporting that party.

Was it just me who was disgruntled with government policy in the run-up to the 2014 election? I engaged in conversations with friends and family, trying to gauge their political opinions and sentiment. I was encouraged that lengthy and vociferous political debate was taking place in my hometown of Hammanskraal, since I believe that without engagement, critical thinking cannot develop and there can be no hope of solutions for the country’s problems. Even though I support everyone’s right to vote for the party he or she supports, I was depressed by some of the opinions I heard.

Many of my friends and family, from young to old, seemed to feel that the Economic Freedom Front or the Democratic Alliance were best qualified to tackle the country’s immediate local problems, such as employment or service delivery, because the ANC had failed to deliver basic human services, and protests seemed to have had no effect. Yet these same people felt that they could not abandon the ANC nationally, and upon further probing, I saw that their support for the ANC on a national level seemed to be motivated more by loyalty to the party that had delivered them from apartheid than by any belief that the ANC would actually deliver on promises. I drove home in a dark mood that night, dispirited by how sentimental allegiance might prevent the growth and development that South Africa so desperately needed. Just as I believe there is no place for emotion in the boardroom, I don’t believe emotion has a place in elections. When voting, we really have the responsibility of voting for the party that represents our perspectives and will provide good governance.

In the build-up to the watershed 1994 election, I had taken some time off from my business and involved myself in voter education. As a member of the previously disenfranchised, I found that putting my cross on the ballot paper represented more than just supporting a political party. Like the majority of black South Africans, I was also voting for the first time in my life and recognised it for the momentous occasion it was going to be. We were exercising a right that had long been denied to us. Those who voted for the ANC were finally able to say thank you, we believe in you to lead us into the new South Africa. Undoubtedly, for many voters that first vote was going to be emotionally charged. However, I was adamant that people should understand what their votes meant, and I wanted to ensure that everyone who wanted to vote knew the procedure involved. Prior to that first democratic election, education was vital, since, like me, the majority of South Africans had never imagined ourselves being granted the freedom to vote, and we had little to no knowledge of voting protocols. My company Black Like Me funded a voter education programme run by Dr David Molapo of the I Can Foundation. David and his team, including his wife Mmamiki and Abner Mariri, did a sterling job across the country educating the educators. Many other organisations embarked on voter education campaigns. Despite these combined efforts to encourage voting, only 56.38% of the population were finally registered to vote; but what was inspiring was that 86.87% of those registered voters did indeed vote.

null

 

I need hardly describe the attendant euphoria. Every South African remembers. Images of long lines of eager and patient first-time voters swept through the media across every nation during the three days of voting in this historic election. The whole world was celebrating with us as 19 million people voted for candidates in 19 political parties and the ANC swept to victory. Our votes were a hard-won freedom, but now voting is our right, and it deserves to be treated with mature thought and consideration for the future of our whole nation. As the 2014 election approached, I tried very hard to gauge South Africans’ commitment to voting; after all, we can hardly criticise an administration if we do not participate in it at the most basic level, namely by voting.

In this voting statistics table it is evident that there are discrepancies between the South African population, the voting age population, the registered voters, and the number of people who actually cast their ballots. If we look at the 1994 election, the discrepancy between the recorded voting age population and registered voters is in the region of about a million.

If we analyse the results across the 20-year period, we can see that there has been a marked decline in the number of registered voters actually casting their votes (from a difference of 3 million in 1994 to a difference of 7 million in 2014 between registered voters and ballots cast). Indeed even more worrying, we see a significant decline in citizens registering to vote (25 million out of a population of 48 million). The decrease in registered voters is disturbing; our electoral responsibility has decreased from 86% to 72%, which means that almost 15% of electorally eligible people have renounced their civic responsibility. This will have severe repercussions on the administration of South Africa, since these voters are effectively leaving other people to decide their futures. While we can acknowledge that there are obvious valid reasons for not registering to vote – access to registration, illness, remoteness, lack of education, and fear of intimidation – a 15% abstention is high.

I wonder what this abstention is saying about the South African voting age population? Which segments of the population aren’t registering to vote? Why aren’t they registering to vote? Are they apathetic or frustrated? Have they given up or have they emigrated? Are they satisfied or dissatisfied with the way that South Africa is being governed? How do we even begin to assess this abstention? We need to engage with our fellow South Africans who don’t vote and we need to examine their reasons for staying away from the polls, because votes are the way of ensuring that all voices are heard. Generations of South Africans never enjoyed this political freedom, and many suffered and died for this privilege. Not bothering to vote is both an apathetic shrug of one’s political shoulders and an insult to those who fought to secure voting rights for all. It is also political myopia to refrain from voting, and it irresponsibly eliminates one’s voice and one’s say in the political future of our country. While a single vote might be a drop in the ocean, collectively votes have weight and can transform the direction a country takes.

The people and the policies that South Africans vote for determine the country’s future. People who are against the government and refrain from voting are voiceless; their silences are not votes. Failure to vote will result in an administration that considers itself mandated by its population because of its policies. All the people who want to have a say in those policies must become responsible voters and must actively demand that their wishes be heard by voting for a party that will ensure the country is administered according to our Constitution. Being proactive and casting our votes means that we don’t have the retroactive battle of challenging a government that strays; reactive and retroactive responses are ignored by government simply because when voters had the chance to challenge government or its policies, they were absent instead of seriously showing their commitment to how South Africa is administered. I think Pericles put it aptly: ‘Just because you don’t take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.’

From the voting patterns shown in the preceding table, it would seem that voter education needs to be sustained and that it is as important now as it was in the run-up to our first democratic election. If South Africans hope to have any say in the country’s administration and future, then we need to ensure that people vote, and we all need to know why we are voting and what the party we are voting for actually stands for, and what that party has delivered and what it intends to deliver.

As I engaged in conversations with fellow South Africans in the run-up to the 2014 election, I was frustrated with the responses from people who had decided to vote for the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the ANC. Why couldn’t they see that the EFF was no better than the ANC, and that their economic policies, in particular their rhetoric about land expropriation without compensation and nationalisation of mines and banks, will certainly hurt the country? Why would anyone voluntarily support the ANC when it was led by a man refusing to face censure for his alleged corruption? How is it possible that our president managed to slip through the tight strictures of our Constitution? I tried to make sense of it. Was the ANC-led government’s failure to respond to voters a reflection that the ANC was no longer in touch with what the citizens needed, and as a result some people felt that the EFF was the only party still in touch with their needs? On the other end of the political spectrum, why was the Democratic Alliance (DA) perceived as an elite white party that only had room for the ja-baas blacks? Did people consider the ANC government’s misappropriation of the country’s money to be acceptable because then the whites got less, or did ANC supporters view it as a time for blacks to feast? After 20 years, were we finally seeing what white people had been afraid of when the ANC came to power – that the white population would be sidelined in every sphere of society? Did marginalised black people want to see suffering for both whites and so-called kleva blacks (who look down on African ways and subscribe to middle-class individualism)? How had the country failed so spectacularly that these underlying racial issues were taking precedence in decision-making?

Surely when we vote we need to exhibit maturity and responsibility. But when I think about friends who basically have not worked since we left school 36 years ago, men and women who are only sporadically able to support their families, I can understand that they are hoping Julius Malema and the EFF will bring the plight and fight of the poor to the forefront of political agendas, that it is emotion and desperation that motivate their support of the EFF. Considering that it is the new political party on the block, the EFF did well. It managed to achieve an astounding 6% of the votes cast, more than a quarter of the votes secured by the official opposition, the DA (22%). And the EFF beat diehard parties such as the Inkatha Freedom Party (2%), the United Democratic Movement (1%) and the Pan Africanist Congress (0.21%). I can hardly blame EFF supporters who feel that the EFF is the only party talking to them, because as far as those unemployed and poor people living in dire circumstances are concerned, no other political party is saying anything to improve their situation. But this is all the EFF is doing too: talking. The party has not actually achieved anything except to incite disharmony and promote Mugabe-style land grabs. So what sector of the electorate is it to whom the EFF appeals – the genuine poor or the bone idle?

In the run-up to the 2014 election, and indeed since then, paging through the major newspapers reflects the signs of a government not coping, a government that has spiralled into dysfunction. A president being accused of allowing his alleged benefactors to land a plane at a national key point during wedding festivities, a president using R246 million of taxpayers’ money to fund the upgrade on his personal property and refusing to repay the money despite the public protector’s recommendation that he do so. Cabinet ministers giving jobs to pals and contracts to partners and family members, metropolitan cops trying to coerce motorists into buying e-tags on behalf of the South African National Roads Agency, parliamentarians and their wives accused of earning ghost salaries and drug-dealing, mismanagement and staff being exploited on mines owned by Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) companies. The allegations of corruption at every level and in every sector and the hardships suffered by the poor fill our newspapers. But amid all these depressing and infuriating news items, is there something positive that I am missing? Is the government’s scorecard as poor as I imagined it is, and is that why people have stopped going to the polls – because they believe that their vote has no power to challenge or change government – or has the government achieved significant accomplishments that have given its supporters hope? Have the ANC actually delivered on the promises they made in their election manifestos?

Apartheid and its draconian policies systematically froze out black people until the onslaught had dehumanised them. Are the ANC and its leadership flouting the Constitution and doing the same to anyone who challenges them – intimidating people and freezing them out? If South Africans don’t demand adherence to the Constitution, namely democratic principles and adherence to the rule of law, where does our future lie? On the country’s 20th anniversary of democracy it seems appropriate to perform a thorough investigation of the government’s policies and adherence to the Constitution.

* * * * *

 
Related stories:

Book details


» read article

Black tax and non-bloody racism: Eusebius McKaiser talks about his book Run Racist Run (Podcast)

Cover Reveal: The New Book from Eusebius McKaiser

 
If ever there was an important book to read to stay in tune with the spirit of the time, and what is going on in South Africa, it would be Run Racist Run: Journeys Into The Heart Of Racism by Eusebius McKaiser.

Run Racist RunHe recently spoke to The Voice of the Cape’s Drivetime host Shafiq Morton (author of Imtiaz Sooliman and the Gift of the Givers) to introduce potential readers to this new work of non-fiction. “This certainly is a book that addresses all the issues that sometimes people are too scared to talk about – sometimes they might just whisper about them. In this particular book,” Morton says, “Eusebius gets in your head and scratches your eyeballs from behind.”

During the interview, McKaiser explains what sets his book apart from other books on racism and why he focuses on what he calls “non-bloody forms of racism”. He breaks down the concept referred to as “black tax” and explains why he does not believe in equal opportunity on principle.

McKaiser also addresses white liberals “who think that because they hate someone like Steve Hofmeyr that that means they are not capable of the spectrum of racist attitudes” and shares with Morton why he used Max du Preez as an example to illustrate his point. To end the conversation, McKaiser breaks down the matter of “literary apartheid” which blew up last year after an event moderated by him at the Franschhoek Literary Festival.

Listen to the fascinating interview:

 
For a taste of Run Racist Run: Journeys Into The Heart Of Racism, read an excerpt from the first chapter:

 

Related links:

 

Book details


» read article

“Biko Lied” – An Extract from Chapter 1 of Eusebius McKaiser’s New Book, Run Racist Run

Cover Reveal: The New Book from Eusebius McKaiser
Run Racist RunCould I Vote DA?DA of nie?A Bantu in My Bathroom

 
Bookstorm has shared an excerpt from the first chapter of Eusebius McKaiser’s new book Run Racist Run: Journeys Into The Heart Of Racism.

The chapter is titled “Biko Lied”.

In the excerpt, McKaiser points out how “white people can afford to be wilfully ignorant about the reality of racism”.

McKaiser describes meeting a young white man who casually dismissed the importance of racism as a topic for a book, saying that he “did him a favour” when he “took him to the cleaners”.

Read the excerpt:

* * * * *
BIKO LIED

 
(Why) are black writers preoccupied with race and identity?

Is Literary apartheid a feature of local racism?

Does white privilege extend to the world of the writer?

I recently had a drink in Greenside, Johannesburg. A friend of mine, Amy, had my keys. I had forgotten these at a function we were at earlier in the day. When I picked up the keys, she asked me to stay for a drink. I obliged. She was with another friend of hers, someone I did not know. He was a white South African male, bisexual and dating a coloured woman. Amy is very charismatic and full of laughter, and she volunteered this information on his behalf within the first minutes of us meeting. I think it was an attempt to say, ‘Guys, get on with being comfortable with each other immediately because you have, like, stuff in common!’

Except, Amy miscalculated. This dude – call him John – asked me what book project I was busy with. I told him that, actually, it was a long and complicated story. He seemed eager and so I told him I was busy writing a book on illness, death and the meaning of life. He seemed genuinely fascinated by those themes and wanted to know how on earth I had chosen these topics, and what I was hoping to say and achieve in the book. Because he seemed so interested in my work, I told him about my decision to put that book on ice. Instead, I announced, I was writing an anthology on racism, a collection of essays that built upon the first part of A Bantu in my Bathroom.

Having almost completed the entire book at that point in time, I was excited to talk to an interested person – like John – about it. I was ready to explain how the book had demanded to be written, and why the kinds of issues I raise and explore were distinct from any of the questions I had tackled before, or had been discussed in any public discourse on race. But the fucker dampened my enthusiasm before I had a chance.

He rolled his eyes. ‘Racism! Aaaah. That’s so boring! Surely racism isn’t a thing anymore? No one cares about racism. Everyone cares about illness and death, though!’

I was raging mad. Not because, obviously, he would not help my book sales, but because he illustrated a brutal reality: that whites can afford to pretend that racism isn’t a thing. Just like men can pretend that sexism isn’t a thing, and just like homophobes can pretend that being gay ‘isn’t an issue anymore’; so, too, white people can afford to be wilfully ignorant about the reality of racism.

Not all whites were or are perpetrators of anti-black racism. However, all whites benefited, and still benefit, from the history of anti-black oppression. Two profoundly vicious consequences flow from this: many whites are blind to racism’s continued presence; and, related to this blindness, many whites rationalise their ignorance by thinking that black people are ‘race-obsessed’. Not only does John fail to examine how our collective experience of racism’s history affected him, personally, but he has the audacity to be casually and confidently dismissive of the possibility that racism could be a significant, horrid truth for other people, every day.

As my late mom would have put it, I took him to the cleaners. ‘Racism doesn’t matter to YOU, because you’re white and you can afford not to see racism or not even think about it. I don’t have that luxury, OK? It’s no different, buddy, from you and me dismissing women who write about sexism. Because we happen to be born with penises and the world is structured to advantage us and oppress women, we can roll our eyes at sexism. That’s exactly the same with racism. If you think it isn’t an issue any more, I suggest you take time to speak to black people instead of assuming you know our lives. Use it. Don’t use it.’

I have zero regrets about making him go red. He asked for it. He deserved it. No, I am perhaps slightly too generous here. He didn’t deserve me explaining to him what he ought to know. I did him a favour. I don’t think black people have a duty to convince whites that racism is a reality. We need to get on with strategies for dismantling racism’s legacy. White allies in the fight against racism are useful and important. But it is a bonus to have a black person explaining ‘race’ to you, or why and how you are wilfully ignorant about racism, and why racism matters. And I am not even sure John is an ally, let alone an ally with blind spots. So while I was mad at John, I actually did more than I needed to. I could, just as acceptably, simply have chuckled, not upset the convivial Greenside pub atmosphere, and said, ‘John, let’s drink bud! BARMAN!’

Amy was wrong in her unreflective assumption that John and I could get along because we were both not straight, and because he was in an interracial relationship. You don’t have to be straight to be bigoted or ignorant. And being in an interracial relationship doesn’t mean you grasp the ways in which racism continues to play out. And, for Amy, an additional lesson, perhaps, was that as an ally in the fight against racism, there is a greater level of vigilance required in spotting and rupturing non-bloody manifestations of racism among white friends than you might have realised.

The encounter with John has remained with me because I had all along felt ambivalent about writing this collection on racism, and his dismissiveness took me back to that place of doubt. I was, until I actually started working on it, excited about Searching for Sello Duiker, a book that was neither overtly about South African politics nor about race. It took enormous resolve not to care about people like John who would roll their eyes at another book on ‘the race question’. (Not that people like John have necessarily read any other books on race.)

What the Johns of the world do not know is that black writers who have any self-awareness about the world in which they live and work cannot just let go of the race question. Because race continues to haunt us. And while it would be wonderful to write about a greater range of subjects – and, to be sure, many black writers can and do – there will never be a shortage of black writing on race and racism.

So, in a way, this essay is a meditation on the black writer’s preoccupation with race. The legacy of racism is so darn powerful and ubiquitous that it extends as a matter of course to the world of the writer. Contrary to popular assumption, many of us do not wake up and freely choose what to write. Our writing is in part a reflection of the world we live in, coupled with unique biographical facts about each writer. I want to both describe and defend the apparent preoccupation of black writers with questions of identity in general, and with race in particular. It is, in complex ways, a preoccupation that flows from the history of anti-black racism itself, and that history’s reach into present reality.

* * * * *

 
Related links:

 

Book details

  • A Bantu in My Bathroom: Debating Race, Sexuality and Other Uncomfortable South African Topics by Eusebius McKaiser
    EAN: 9781920434373
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

» read article

Tim Noakes Joins Paige Nick for the Launch of Her Satirical Novel Death By Carbs at The Book Lounge

Tim Noakes and Paige Nick

The line in the sand – or rather across the centre of the table – had been drawn! Downstairs at The Book Lounge, earlier this month, the edibles were neatly laid out. On one side of the red tape were the Banting-friendly nuts. (One wit suggested off camera that the Banting-friendly nuts were all upstairs filling up the seats with their newly slimmed down derrières …) On the other side the sweet potato pastries and brownies. As always, the Leopards Leap wine flowed generously, but for those who care, no carb-free wine was available …

The event was the launch of the latest book from the pen of the multi-talented author Paige Nick. Death By Carbs is a satirical novel inspired by Tim Noakes’ controversial cookbook The Real Meal Revolution. In the words of Mervyn Sloman, who welcomed an eager crowd to the Book Lounge, “the cover bears a remarkable resemblance …”
Paige NickDeath By CarbsHe described Death By Carbs as: “Marvellous, scary, sick, slightly twisted, terribly funny and extremely smart!”

Nick got the idea for the book after hearing about The Real Meal Revolution everywhere she went. “In the queue at the chemist, at dinner parties … wherever I went somebody was obsessing about this book.” When Nick mentioned Tim Noakes’ name to a friend of hers she sighed in exasperation, saying, “I could just kill him!” Nick replied, “Pick a number and stand in line …” The idea was born of writing a crime spoof, and her creative process kicked into action.

Once the book was completed, Nick “stalked” Noakes, begging for his private email address from friends and acquaintances. She sent him messages on five or six different platforms, and then spammed him. She finally got him on the phone and said, “I’ve written a book about you and I want this book to go out into the world with good karma. I really want your blessing.”

“Did you really say karma!?” Sloman interrupted. “I did!” said Nick. Noakes picked up the story, saying, “I told her I would never stand in your way. Go … publish your book.” Nick advised Noakes he might want to read it first, “Seeing as you die on the first page …”

At that stage the manuscript’s working title was Who Killed Tim Noakes?. “It came at rather a difficult time in my life,” said the professor, who read it regardless. “I thought she’s put so much effort into it and it’s such a good book that I’m not going to stand in her way. But at the time I was feeling fragile. I’m less fragile now. I’m very happy to support this book because it introduces Banting to even more people.”Tim Noakes, Paige Nick and Mervyn Sloman

While doing her research for this book, Nick discovered a rich vein of gold on Facebook, where some Banting support groups have as many as 140 000 members, some of which are “moer of an active”. She described them as being eternally online. “I do not know when they eat! I do not know when they sleep!”

Much of the interactions are positive, folk sharing recipes and encouraging each others’ weight loss, but much is mean-spirited fighting which is like an addictive soap opera. Nick described the hilarious comment thread where a member of the group confessed to falling off the wagon by having had a Whopper Burger. She proceeded to describe the misery of her bowels and was harangued mercilessly – not for oversharing but for forgetting that she was part of the “Banting for Life” group. She was warned by one of the more self-righteous compadres that this was not a Banting-for-when-you-feel-like-it group!

On a more serious note, Noakes spoke about the vested interests of commercial enterprises that keep people eating in an unhealthy manner and consuming medications to remedy this. He recalled a visit to clinic at Delft where many people have been treated for high blood pressure for many years. They have not, however, received any kind of nutritional counselling that would facilitate their recovery. Noakes is adamant about one thing: “I just want people to know the truth,” he said. “There has been a massive cover up.”

Those who attended the event engaged in a vigorous question and answer session with Nick and Noakes. They queued patiently afterwards, despite the heat, waiting for the celebrity duo to sign their copies of Death By Carbs and The Real Meal Revolution.

 

* * * * * * * *

 
Liesl Jobson (@LieslJobson) live tweeted the event using #livebooks:


 

 

* * * * * * * *

 
Facebook gallery

 
Book details


» read article

“Please Never Submit Again.” – Bestselling Author Gareth Crocker Shares His Experience of the Publishing World in Ka-Boom

 
Ka-BoomKa-Boom, the latest book by Gareth Crocker, is the perfect Christmas gift: fast-paced, punchy and funny.

In the book, Crocker describes his early years as a promising soccer player and poet, his first job – in the criminal underworld – the time he decided to run the Comrades, the time he decided to try out for the Olympics, and, ultimately, how he became the bestselling author of five books, having sold more than three million copies worldwide.

Two of Crocker’s novels, Finding Jack and Never Let Go, are being adapted for films in Hollywood.

In this excerpt from Ka-Boom, Crocker shares his experience of trying to find a publisher, during which time he amassed a chest full of rejection letters along the lines of: “Please never submit again.”

Gareth Crocker

Read the extract:

* * * * *

 

‘The only horror here … is your writing.’

 
So here, in brief, is my view of the modern book-publishing world.

To begin with, let’s look at the money (he writes, with a straight face). The reality is that if you plan to live on something even vaguely more substantial than tree bark and urine, you pretty much have to land an international publishing deal. Even then 99 out of 100 authors still can’t make a decent living out of their books. Those who claim they can are, in fact, often retired, boosted by a plump inheritance, lying their pants off or supported by a kind and hard-working spouse. Either that or they rob banks in their spare time. Part of the problem is that the buying public’s attention span has dwindled alarmingly over the past decade. This is further exacerbated by the increasing competition for people’s leisure time which, itself, is shrinking. The other difficulty is that, unlike at the cinema, say, where a moviegoer has maybe a dozen films to choose from, a large bookstore presents a buyer with 78-quadrillion titles. I maintain that it is an absolute miracle for a stranger to emerge from a bookstore clutching your novel in his or her mitts. It’s a wonder of such proportions that it feels almost biblical. There are very few industries where one has to compete not only against a sea of current competitors but against an ocean of rivals from around the world … many of whom have been dead for decades. It’s like running a race against every professional athlete in the history of the sport. And let’s not even get into the current e-book ‘pirating’ culture that is bayoneting the already gravely wounded and malnourished writer (feel free to cue the violins at any point).

After that cheery start it’s important to note that the South African book market is about as big as a postage stamp on a rhinoceros’s arse. Which may tempt you to try and land an international publisher. However this, as you now know, is far easier said than done. Here are several … shall we euphemistically say ‘hurdles’ … that need to be overcome. For the sake of brevity, I shall list only a handful of the key ones:

    1. Large international publishers (based mainly in London and New York) receive *47.356-trillion zillion (*audited figure) book submissions a day.

 

    2. Large international publishers already have full lists of their own authors and, in many cases, don’t have the capacity or the desire to take on new writers.

 

    3. Large international publishers have to invest heavily in new writers, given that it takes many years to build a writer’s name and reputation. So they have to be absolutely blown away by an unpublished author just to consider him or her.

 

    4. Large international publishers often take a dim view of authors living in the colonies and, subconsciously or not, prejudge writing that does not come out of the more cosmopolitan cities.

 

    5. Large international publishers do not accept ‘unsolicited manuscripts’. Which means that any manuscripts you send them … will never be opened at all.

 
Ah, right. So that’s quite a challenge then. After all, it’s unlikely that one of these publishing behemoths will offer you a multibook publishing deal if they have not, in fact, read your work.

So how then does one get published in this mystical world of closed doors and near-impossible odds?

Well, unfortunately, you need to find a reputable agent to represent you.

Agents are the publishing world’s ‘filtering system’. Simply put, they sort the wheat from the chaff. It’s actually rather brilliant. Given that the vast majority of reputable agents operate purely on a commission basis, this means that they will only take on writers who they feel have an actual shot of being published. In other words, their livelihood depends on their ability to spot and nurture talent.

The publishers then sit back and wait for these agents to find the next Patterson, Grisham and Crocker (ahem).

Which means that you, as the lowly writer, have no choice but to delve into the often slimy back alleys of literary agents. That sounds rather gross and sordid, which is quite right (more on this subject, anon).

Of course, I didn’t know this when I submitted Malevolence to every publisher on the planet at great financial and emotional cost. When I found out that I needed an agent to get my foot in the door, I was forced to delve even deeper into my already hefty student loan to print out and dispatch more copies. (These days, of course, most agents are content to receive email submissions. Hmph.)

You can’t imagine how ruinously expensive it was. Especially if you were as young and poor as I happened to be. Paper is very heavy. Posting or couriering off a 500-page, double-spaced manuscript is a little like sending a chair halfway around the world. You get charged a small fortune for it.

In the months and years that followed, whole forests would be stripped and laid bare so that rejection slips could be printed and posted to me (at my own cost, no less, as agents insist that you include a fully paid-for self-addressed return envelope with your manuscript so that you can also bear the financial burden of being stabbed in the heart). In the beginning I kept a file of my failure. But then, when the file got too heavy and threatened to collapse my writing desk, I upgraded to a large chest. The sort that you would find in the land of Narnia. This was better because I could close the lid and try not to think about how awful I was. And then, one day, the chest lid would no longer close.

A smarter person would have given up at this point. But not me. Oh no. I was going to ride the wheels off this train. Fortunately, the rejection notes themselves were often quite kind and supportive which would lift my spirits to no end. Here are extracts from some of the more memorable ones (I actually have them framed in my writing studio):


    – ‘Please never submit again.’
     
    – ‘I can’t work out if this is a horror novel or a parody of one. Either way, it’s woeful.’
     
    – ‘I’ve never seen so many clichés assembled together in one story. Reading your manuscript was indeed a dark and stormy night.’
     
    – ‘The only horror here is your writing.’
     
    – ‘No. God no.’

 
And then you would pick up a writer’s magazine where some famous author would relate his or her story of how they first became published.

‘So I decided to write my first book in 2004. I was convinced nobody would like it and so I very nearly never submitted it. But thankfully I did and immediately found an agent. He loved the book so much he set up a publishing auction and I was offered $43-billion by a dozen international publishers that very week. I really am so blessed.’

Let’s see how blessed you are when I ram my laptop down your throat.

The reality, of course, is that very few writers have an overnight ‘rags to riches’ story. It almost never happens.

Anyway, after every agent and his dog had tossed me out, I finally had to concede that all was perhaps not perfect with Malevolence. And so, I wrote another horror de force – The Pumpkin Hour. No, it wasn’t a book for children. It was a very serious and very scary adult novel. And another 17 834 rejection slips came flapping into my mailbox, not unlike that scene with the envelopes and the owls in Harry Potter.

Then came another literary weapon of mass destruction, In the Eyes of a Child.

Surely this was the one? I had grown so much as a writer. I couldn’t imagine this gem not being accepted. Well, whether I could imagine it or not, the rejection slips kept flooding in.

At this point I was considering opening up a recycling plant. Lord knows I could pulp myself into some real money.

And then, at my lowest ebb, the PR company I was working for (my day job) was kind enough to send me to an international PR Convention in Chicago. If I’m honest I only went to about three presentations and spent the rest of my time at Andy’s Jazz Club sipping Apple Martinis with my mate, Mitch Ramsay. Afterwards, however, I had a few days to spare so I decided to do the touristy thing and head out to Washington.

Top of my list was a visit to the Vietnam Wall.

While I was standing there, my eyes skimming over the names of the 60 000 or so US soldiers who perished in the Vietnam War, a man pulled up beside me. He was dressed in full military regalia. He remained perfectly still for a while before reaching into his jacket and pulling out a dog harness which he placed against the wall.

And then he started to cry.

I waited a few minutes until he had regained a measure of composure before turning to him. ‘I’m so sorry to intrude,’ I began (clearly not sorry at all), ‘but I have to ask you … why’ve you placed a dog harness against the wall?’

The former soldier then told me the heartbreaking story of the Vietnam war dogs and how some 4000 canine soldiers were sent over to help American soldiers in the war (by locating enemy patrols, finding bombs, sniffing out booby traps and so on). His eyes moistened again as he explained that, at the end of the war and due to the cost of the withdrawal, the US government declared the dogs ‘Surplus Military Equipment’ and they were ordered to be left behind together with the old tents and prefab buildings.

‘Our dogs saved the lives of at least 10 000 US soldiers, and dog handlers like myself were forced to abandon them. I had a gun pointed at me on the day I was bundled into a helicopter for the long trip home. It’s been over 30 years and I’ve never stopped thinking of my dog, Shadow. He saved my life – and the lives of my platoon – on at least three occasions. If it weren’t for him, my name would be on this wall.’

And in that moment, I knew what my next novel would be about. No more cheesy horrors for me. I would write a book that would a shine a light on this horrific injustice. It would tell the story of one brave soldier who refuses to abandon his dog and what he does to try and save him. Fiction told against a nonfiction backdrop.

I started writing the book that night in my hotel room. A year and a half later, Leaving Jack was completed. And this time when Kerry emerged with the manuscript in her arms, she was crying.

‘It’s beautiful, Ga,’ she whispered. ‘Absolutely beautiful.’

And just like that I knew my days of being rejected were numbered. My long apprenticeship would soon be over.

Or so I dared to believe.

* * * * *

Related stories

Book details


» read article