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Archive for the ‘Non-fiction’ Category

What’s Your Moonshot? Interview with author John Sanei

moonshot cover                   John Sanei 2017



John Sanei is a trend specialist, entrepreneur, business innovation strategist and now author who travels the world speaking to some of the globe’s most influential businesses about how they can future-proof their businesses. Here, he talks to us about his debut book What’s Your Moonshot?

Tell us about What’s Your Moonshot?

In 1961, JFK gave a speech stating that he believed the United States would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. At the time the technology to do so didn’t exist but his daring statement created a huge amount of energy and in eight short years the country had achieved one of humankind’s greatest feats. Decades later, the likes of Steve Jobs and Elon Musk have been able to create the same sort of “moonshots” with huge amounts of money and brainpower. The book is based on the fact that we are moving into a world where we will have access to 7 billion people at the click of a button in the next 5-10 years. The world will have free fast Wi-Fi, together with almost free energy sources and almost free transportation. With this in mind, we all now have the ability to do what organisations and governments used to do in previous decades: create “moonshots”
The book is about how we view the future. Are we victims or architects of it? It also asks how we categorise and contextualise trends in order to help us innovate; how to create businesses that have got global footprints and are creating solutions for humanity’s future.

Why did you want to write a book?
I wrote it for three reasons. The first was a brain dump – a Feng shui principal of getting rid of the old to bring in the new. It’s what I practise at home in my physical space but also in my mental space in order to bring in new information. I wanted to download the information that was sitting in my head.
The second reason’s based on a quote from Yogi Bhajan, the man who brought Kundilini Yoga from the East to the West: “If you want to learn something, read about it. If you want to understand something, write about it. If you want to master something, teach it.” I feel I had to write about internal dialogue and external strategy in this book in order to really understand them, and I am now mastering them in my consultation and speaking engagements.
Finally, I really wanted to give people a toolset and a step-by-step programme in order to create moonshots and create positive businesses that the globe really needs.

In What’s Your Moonshot? you talk about being Forever Profitable – in a nutshell, what does that mean?

Forever Profitable is the methodology I use to guide organisations into the future. It’s quite self-explanatory; by following the methodology you’re able to maintain profitability forever. It’s a big statement but when you understand the methodology you realise that it’s a very clear step-by-step process involving
The future of your industry
The future of your consumer
The future of your employee and
The future of technology
Of course there’s more to it than this – you’ll have to read the book!



John shares What's Your Moonshot? with Richard Branson in Cape Town.

John shares What’s Your Moonshot? with Richard Branson in Cape Town.


Describe your creative writing process.
I built out the keynote presentation about two years ago and have given keynote speeches since.  Then my copywriter, wordsmith and ghost writer, Kirsten Molyneaux, came to one of them with the intention of helping me write the book. She drew up a structure and from there we met and did strategy sessions on what each chapter could be about and what the process of the book should follow in order to bring about moonshot thinking.
It was a long process, with lots of back and forth between Kirsten and me, and my editor Tim (Richman). There was a lot of chiselling to capture it all concisely and present it all in an easy-to-understand way – but I didn’t actually write anything. I really voice-noted everything because I think better when I’m talking than when I’m writing. I also know my strengths and I think that’s important: most people find it quite daunting to write a book because they think they have to sit down and write. With modern technology, we have so many different options available to us  I used my strengths in speaking and I found someone who could match my skills in talking with writing – Kirsten helped me bring it to life.

What was your most challenging hurdle in publishing this book?
The type of personality I am, it’s always about the details afterwards. It’s the re-writing, the re-reading the re-writing again – that editing part of it was really challenging to me because once I’ve got it out of my head I don’t really want to see it again. I’m grateful to Tim and Kirsten for holding my hand through that editing process.

Who is your author hero?
Seth Godin. His book The Purple Cow changed my whole life. And I loved the way he brings ‘Aha’ moments into small, simple stories.

What are you currently reading?
I’m not actually reading anything. I’m listening to two books: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari and The Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani.

What one thing would you like your reader to come away with having finished What’s Your Moonshot?
A reality check. A check on the potentiality of them as a human being; a potentiality of dreaming bigger and bringing about these global solutions to humanity’s problems based on my methodologies. I want people to just think bigger…for them to ask the question, what is my moonshot?

Who inspires you?
Anyone who is living his or her highest excitement and living a purposeful, driven life inspires me. Whether they are designers of clothes, writers of books or running a multi-billion dollar business – they all inspire me.
Specifically, Peter Diamandis is one of the most advanced human beings I know of. He is the original ‘moonshoter’ and he’s inspired me to write this book and to help me think in a very specific way.

What’s your next book?
I have a couple bubbling in my head but nothing has been formalised yet. I’ll get there. Now that I understand the process of publishing and I understand what it takes, I’ve got a better and clearer understanding of how I can actually get them out of my head. I’m heading to the States soon so I’m sure that will lend some inspiration.

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Interview with Real Meal Revolution: Banting 2.0 Author Jonno Proudfoot

Cover_HR jonno portrait
Jonno Proudfoot is a food expert, entrepreneur and adventurer, and the driving force behind the Real Meal Revolution brand. He conceptualised and co-authored the bestselling Real Meal Revolution and Real Meal Revolution: Raising Superheroes, both of which have been published internationally by the Little, Brown Book Group. He is the MD of the Real Meal Revolution diet company, which specialises in online and face-to-face weight-loss and healthy-eating support. Real Meal Revolution: Banting 2.0, published in December 2016, is his third book.

The original Real Meal Revolution book was launched in November 2013 and has been a publishing sensation in South Africa. What have you been up to since?
Short answer: a lot.
The success of the first book was so sudden and overwhelming that it was difficult to work out what to do next. It’s still on the weekly bestseller lists more than three years later, and I believe we’ve now sold upwards of 250,000 copies, which is incredible in the small South African market.

So where do you go from there?
A very good question!
There were some important personal milestones for me that came in relatively quick succession after the book was released: I had the opportunity to complete a dream adventure with a good friend, swimming the 450kilometres from Mozambique to Madagascar on an epic seven-week journey; I got married; and then my wife Kate fell pregnant not too long after that, an even more epic journey.
From a business perspective, I had registered the trademark for “the Real Meal Revolution” and had always intended to do “something” with the brand – I just wasn’t sure exactly what. I envisioned the business as a healthy eating and lifestyle support company based on the principles set out in the book, and once it was up and running properly the first product we sold from our website was an online weight-loss course with lectures by Prof Noakes and Sally-Ann Creed and cooking lessons from me. It had hundreds of recipes, a shopping list generator and most importantly a meal tracker that clients could use to track their carbs.
Since then, the website has seen a huge amount of traffic and the business has progressed quite radically. Today, we specialise in teaching people to adapt to a low-carb diet. We’ve had close on four million hits since 2015, with an enormous amount of customer feedback to help us refine the Real Meal Revolution approach. The new book is very much a result of this ongoing process.

This is in fact the third Real Meal Revolution book. The first was the original red science-cum-diet-cum-recipe book that has become so recognisable to South African bookstore goers. The second was Real Meal Revolution: Raising Superheroes, on children’s nutrition and also with full-colour recipes. How is the new book different from the others?
This a smaller-format black-and-white book and it’s completely “how-to”-focused – a handbook to help you to Bant as effectively as possible. Basically we’ve taken three years of Banting feedback from thousands of our readers and customers and refined the Real Meal Revolution diet to its most practical, workable form.
There are important staple recipes in the back of the book but this isn’t an inspirational cookbook like the first two books. Rather, I would say it provides the new framework for our next 20 cookbooks.

So is this book a “better version” of the original Real Meal Revolution or something different? If I’ve bought that book already, why should I buy this one?
I must be clear on this: the first Real Meal book remains, in my opinion, an incredible and almost authoritative introduction to LCHF (low-carb high-fat) eating. If you’re new to the concept of Banting, you pretty much have to buy that book because it gives you all the basic LCHF recipes that you can’t do without, from cauli-rice to courgetinni and all the rest. You also get the detailed science to get your head around making the switch from low-fat to low-carb eating. But the actual dietary advice was quite general and now seems relatively rudimentary.
Real Meal Revolution: Banting 2.0 assumes a level of understanding of LCHF eating and it only touches on the science so that it can focus on nailing the how-to aspect – which is the diet and the lifestyle. The approach is more nuanced and sophisticated yet far easier to follow.
So if you really need an LCHF diet that works because you need to shed kilos or you have specific health concerns, or if you’ve tried Banting and fallen off the wagon, then this is the book for you.
In short, Banting 2.0 is a framework that the Real Meal Revolution company now uses to usher people who want to lose weight and rejuvenate their health into a low-carb healthy-eating lifestyle. It could be seen as our company manifesto.

Can you give some examples of how the “new” Banting 2.0 differs from the original Banting as described in the red book?
Sure. For one, we found that many readers of the original book ended up simply cooking from the book and winging the diet – perhaps there was too much science or we weren’t clear enough. So we’ve tried to be as straightforward and methodical as possible in Banting 2.0. The approach has four phases, with a clear way to calculate how long you should be in each stage, depending on your needs. There’s a starting point and a defined goal, and a large resource of tools to move you forward.
Importantly, we’ve recognised the importance of lifestyle when it comes to health and weight loss. You can’t expect to be optimally healthy if you’re not sleeping well or you’re chronically stressed out. Diet, sleep, exercise and stress management are all linked. Similarly, goal-setting and your mental approach is also critical, so we’ve incorporated these elements as well.
From a technical point of view, we now know how best to Bant to avoid many of the side effects that are common for those who might have gone cold turkey before. In particular, we’ve seen the enormous benefit of restoring gut health to assist with this and to push you through the dreaded plateau. The science on gut health has taken enormous strides in the three short years since the original Real Meal was published and has come to be seen as a fundamental aspect of human health. We follow all the top LCHF and other dietary resources around the world on a daily basis, so we’ve been sure to incorporate all the newest science into our diet. This is probably most noticeable in our new refined lists, which I’m perhaps most proud of. The book is in black and white, but there is a full-colour pull-out of the lists for your fridge – up to date and easy to follow.

The book is written by you “and the Real Meal Revolution team”, without any of the authors from the original book. How are you qualified to write the book?
Great question. The first point to acknowledge is that this was an enormous team effort and I hope that is made prominent enough in the book. The most important thing to remember is that Banting 2.0 is for the most part a summary of all of the feedback we have received from our customers. We had collated it simply for our own team, but the info in it was so valuable that we realised we needed to publish it. We then called in the medical and dietary experts to ensure the science and advice was accurate and properly conveyed.
So the “Real Meal Revolution team” mentioned on the cover of the book includes an LCHF medical expert, a dietitian who has trained and worked in the UK, Australia and South Africa, and numerous members of the company who work with active Banters on a daily basis, have collated the data from thousands of clients and know what works in the real world.
From my personal point of view, I have achieved a world first in endurance swimming and I am a chef with experience in catering at events for thousands of people. I hope that means I’m qualified to offer advice on setting goals, practical eating and writing shopping lists! Beyond that, I’ve been in what is essentially a brand-new health field since the very beginning, and I’ve seen the confusion and problems that it can cause at a user level. But I’m essentially just a name for the company as a whole.

Some people might ask, “Where’s Tim Noakes?” Have you “appropriated” his revolution?
Haha. No, I don’t think I’ve appropriated the revolution at all. Prof certainly gained all the headlines before the original book was even an idea in my head – which is why I approached him in the first place with the plan to make that book – and he drove the publicity of it after publication with amazing stamina and enthusiasm. I think it’s fair to say that without Tim Noakes, the Real Meal Revolution would have sold a fraction of what it did. But I was always intent on owning and developing the Real Meal Revolution brand.

Professor Noakes and “the Real Meal Revolution” are seen to be linked by many in the Banting community. What’s your relationship now and why wasn’t he a part of the new book?
I had the honour of working with Prof on the first two Real Meal Revolution books and on a weekly basis with the business for two years. We’re still in touch but our two organisations parted ways in the middle of 2016, which was understandable given our different priorities and platforms. I would say we both have the same end goal – to change the way South Africa and the world eats – but we were pulling in different directions, and both entities were struggling to achieve what they wanted to within the constraints of a contract we had drafted more than two years before at a stage when we didn’t even know what we wanted to do.
Along the way, the two other original authors have also gone their separate ways. I don’t think LCHF eating is a brand or business priority for David Grier, while Sally-Ann Creed has pursued it in the way that works for her.
I think the Real Meal Revolution brand and Prof will always be linked in people’s heads –as may be expected, given the incredible impact of the original book – but The Noakes Foundation will come to be recognised for its outstanding scientific research while I hope the Real Meal Revolution company will be recognised as the go-to for recipes and lifestyle advice in response to that science (and the science of all the other experts).
Though it was based on a lot of the work we did together, the new book was the company’s first project without Tim. You will notice it is much more consumer-focused and is very light on the science. For the most part, we have referred readers to the experts in the LCHF community, should they wish to find out more.
Readers who need practical advice in changing their lives will benefit from this book in a big way. That was always my personal strength and it’s the company’s strength so we’re now fully focused on it.

This is the third Real Meal Revolution book. How did the writing and production process differ from the others?
Great question.
The original was one massive adrenalin rush. We wrote it in about a month and sent it to print 63 days after starting. Design, photography, writing, editing and the rest was insanely rushed, hugely energised and super fun.
With the second book, Raising Superheroes, we actually published it ourselves, which made sense at the time as it allowed us to retain copyright of all the material involved, among other things. We had the luxury of production values that were off the charts, thanks to the success of the first book, and it was ultimately a lesson in publishing. In the world of publishing, authors often talk about how publishers are a nightmare, while publishers often talk about authors being the nightmare. I found it hugely valuable to see it from both sides. I have the utmost respect for publishers as a result of my experience with Raising Superheroes. It’s an incredible book, it sold over 25,000 copies, which is amazing, and I am extremely proud of it – and I know Prof Noakes is too. But it occupied a lot of our time and energy!
With Banting 2.0, I opted not to publish through Real Meal Revolution. It was easier to hand it over and Burnet Media, who had assisted on Raising Superheroes, did a cracking job. Most importantly, the book does what I wanted it to do: it offers the right advice in the right way. With Banting 2.0, the toughest part of the production was getting the lists to match the right phases, and to offer an approach that was accessible to the different Banting levels. It was something that went back and forth until the minute before the book went to print – and even afterwards! The publishing process allowed us to focus three years of work, research and data gathering into one, unified document.

What do you hope to achieve with Real Meal Revolution: Banting 2.0?
My hope is that the methodology in this book will accelerate the growth of LCHF and Banting as a movement. We have approximately 350 certified Banting coaches around the country and world (and counting) and they’ve taken to the book with great enthusiasm, while individual sales are going well. We’re on to our second print run, and we’ve signed a deal to publish the book internationally through Little, Brown in the UK.
Because the steps are so clear in this book, it makes Banting easier to adopt, thus making it easier to spread. We’re using it to drive the business forward and in time I would like the Real Meal Revolution to affect millions of people around the world.

And where to from here for Real Meal Revolution the company?
The world! We have set a goal to change 100 million lives by 28 February 2025. There aren’t even 100 million South Africans. I see this going global and I don’t want to stop until we reach our target.

• For cover image, author image or more information on the book, contact
• For more information on the Real Meal Revolution company, contact or see

Note to editors: this Q&A is free for use, provided it is accompanied by the information below and that any edits are approved – send to
• Real Meal Revolution: Banting 2.0 is available in all good bookstores and online. Recommended retail price is R190.

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In memory of Richie Benaud

b. 6 October 1930 – 10 April 2015

Australian cricket captain (1958-1964); globally acclaimed commentator; reason for the South African cricket team’s “choker” tag.


This is an updated extract from 50 People Who Stuffed Up South Africa by Alexander Parker, with illustrations by Zapiro

50 People Who Stuffed Up South Africa (Revised Edition) low res

Let’s be straight up about this: Richie Benaud was an absolute legend. Never has an internationally respected authority on cricket combined such a gentlemanly and unassuming knowledge of the game with such a sartorially smashing collection of off-white sports jackets. Whether beige, cream, ivory, light tan, vanilla, bone, bamboo, sand, camel or cashew, Richie wore those jackets like a king, and in doing so he became one of the most loved and lovable names in all of sport. And an Aussie at that.

But the man right royally screwed us over. And by “us” I mean every cricket-loving South African who’s ever yearned for the sweet taste of World Cup victory.

Casual observers of the recent history of South Africa will often point to that fateful World Cup semifinal in Birmingham in 1999, when Lance Klusener took us to the brink of a sensational victory over Australia before it was tragically snatched from under our noses by a needless run-out, as the moment when we assumed the mantle of crunch-match chokers. The game ended in a tie, with the Australians progressing to the final on a superior run rate, and it’s no understatement to suggest that the psychological damage inflicted on South African fans that day cast a pall of gloom over the country for months, possibly years, to follow. Even today, the memory still raises a tremble of moisture in the eye. (And spare a thought for Klusener, one of the true legends of South African one-day cricket and a genuinely nice guy. In 2011 he admitted that he still thinks about the incident regularly. “I’ve asked the questions a thousand times, if not a million. Why did we run? Why didn’t I wait for the next ball,” he said. “It’s become a part of me and who I am. I’ll be asked about it for the rest of my life and I’ll always have to say
I’m sorry.”)

But our failure in key knockout matches goes back further than the Birmingham tie – to 22 March 1992 to be precise. The venue was the Sydney Cricket Ground and the match was another World Cup semifinal, this time against England. Back then, we were the new kids on the World Cup block, having recently returned to the international fold after years in the sporting wilderness, and no-one fancied our chances going in to the tournament. But we’d played out of our boots and somehow made our way to the semis on the back of a tight bowling attack, Peter Kirsten’s artful bat and Jonty Rhodes’s inspirational fielding.

The game was a cracker, hanging in the balance from start to finish. Donald got Gooch early, and Pringle bowled well, but the Zimbabwe-born Graeme Hick hit a fluid 83 before a late flurry from Reeve got England to 252 in 45 overs. South Africa hadn’t bowled the full 50 overs by the designated end-of-innings time, so the tournament rules – and here’s where Richie started getting involved, because he’s the man credited with devising them – necessitated that the five overs not bowled be simply lobbed off both the English and South African innings. An odd rule, many would have concluded at the time, but not as odd – or cruel – as that which governed the target re-calculation after a rain delay…

South Africa started the chase at a good clip, with Hudson hitting 46 off 52, but we lost wickets regularly and were struggling to keep up with the required rate by the middle overs. Rhodes then got the chase back on track with a typically live-wire 43, before he, too, lost his wicket, and it was left to stalwarts Brian McMillan and Dave Richardson to take us through the last critical overs. Then, with 22 required for victory off 13 balls and McMillan on strike, it started to rain. Not too heavily, mind you, just enough to get the players off the field. For 12 minutes. Twelve fateful minutes.

Once again, Richie’s rules kicked in, and when play resumed South African fans were aghast to see that our allotment of overs had been reduced by one while our target remained steadfast: 22 required off 7 balls, read the SCG scoreboard. Suddenly, a tricky situation had transmogrified into a Herculean task – a near-miracle was required, all because of a ridiculous formula that saw the runs scored in the least expensive over of the English innings, in this case a Pringle maiden, being deducted from the target. Meanwhile, the weather was now fine and the floodlights were blazing – there was all night to finish the game. But the farce was not yet complete: somewhere in the ground the minute hand on the relevant timepiece ticked over once more and it was deemed that yet another over had been lost, this time in conjunction with one run from the target: suddenly 21 runs were required off just 1 ball*. Now not even a miracle would suffice. A stone-faced McMillan prodded the last ball of the match away for a single, and we’d lost by 19 runs. A potentially brilliant climax had been reduced to absurdity; South Africa’s unlikely World Cup dream was over.

“Twelve minutes of rain was all it took to wreck a classic contest and produce the sort of farce that so often crops up when cricket’s regulations get themselves in a tangle,” wrote Cricinfo’s UK editor Andrew Miller, when reviewing the match some years after the fact. But those 12 minutes didn’t just wreck a classic match. In the years and competitions to come, it seemed that those 12 minutes had instilled in South African cricket the notion that, come the critical moment in a high-profile knockout match, the fates would conspire against us. First it was the bizarre rain ruling in Sydney; then it was one-man-team Brian Lara destroying us in the 1996 quarterfinal in Karachi (again by 19 runs); then that tragic run-out in Birmingham in 1999; then another debacle in the rain in 2003, this time against Sri Lanka in Durban, when poor Shaun Pollock and Eric Simons couldn’t get their maths right… By the time the 2007 World Cup rolled around, the team, now ingrained with angst-filled bewonderment at our inability to pull off the big victory that our world rankings suggested was our due, tried to just relax and not get expectations up – a strategy that saw us limp into the semifinals, only to be rolled over by Australia like the blind school’s 5th XI. Needless to say, the curse struck again in 2011: we were bundled out in the quarters by a very mediocre New Zealand – a team we’d beaten eight times in the previous ten encounters – having, at one stage, been cantering to victory.

And then, 2015. Back down under. And history repeating itself as the fated rain once again fell on South Africa in a World Cup semifinal… And though the rain rules had been updated by Messrs Duckworth and Lewis as a direct result of that 1992 debacle in Sydney, the new rules hadn’t kept up with the changing pace of limited-overs cricket (and may well be changed in the near future as a result). New Zealand were given the sniff they should never have had, and the legacy of 1992 decreed a nail-biting victory to the team that wasn’t South Africa. For those of us with “South Africa To Win Need 22 Runs Off 1 Ball” still seared into their memories 23 years later, we knew it was inevitable from the moment that first drop fell – though that didn’t stop us hoping till the very last ball…

After more than a decade as one of the top-ranked limited-overs sides in the world, what do we have to show for our endeavours? Well, we did win the inaugural ICC Champions Trophy in 1998 in Bangladesh… and that’s it. We haven’t won a World Cup, whether ODI or T20. We haven’t made it into a World Cup final. Amazingly, we have won only one knockout match at a World Cup: our 2015 quarterfinal against Sri Linka. (Which is something, at least.)

How is this possible? Why does it happen? No-one can say. But we’ve got to blame someone, and in the absence of any other contenders, it has to be Richie.

Richie Benaud – a champion himself, and the most marvellous of the modern commentators – passed away in April 2015. Go well, Richie, and may your ghost look more kindly on us at the next World Cup in 2019…

* The TV display and scoreboard incorrectly indicated 22 runs required.

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Joy and tears Down Under: The 1992 World Cup

The ProteasTo celebrate the upcoming Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, we’ve turned to The Proteas by Neil Manthorp. In this extract we take a look back on the South Africa’s first World Cup, fittingly also in Australasia: it was a momentous and wonderful tournament that saw Jonty Rhodes deliver the most famous run-out in ODI history, but was destined to end in drizzle-soaked tragedy at the SCG. 

There was outrage around the country, and not just amongst cricket followers. Even those with no more than a passing acquaintance with the game were appalled by the treatment meted out to three of its most distinguished household names.

When selection convenor Peter van der Merwe announced a list of 20 names in a preliminary squad for the World Cup in December of 1991, and it didn’t include Clive Rice, Jimmy Cook and Peter Kirsten, the good citizens of South Africa were up in arms about the unfairness of it all. There were petitions and even threats, some veiled and some very much out in the open. Kepler Wessels, who had assumed the captaincy from Rice, was suddenly a backstabbing traitor in the eyes of many, rather than the returning prodigal son who would lead the country of his birth into the brave new world. Wessels, who had honed his skills in English county cricket as well as with Queensland and, of course, the Australian national team, had nothing to do with the selection of the squad.

Van der Merwe tried to be as diplomatic as possible in the face of the hue and cry, noting often that the trio were “great players” and that their country “would always be grateful to them for their contribution to the game”. In the wake of criticism of the Proteas’ fielding on the exploratory tour to India the previous month, the six-man selection panel had decided, he explained, to opt for players “a little more fleet of foot”. Dear oh dear. Talk about being damned with faint praise. If anything, Van der Merwe’s attempts to pour oil on troubled waters merely inflamed tempers.

Behind the scenes, meanwhile, it turned out that the omission of the three had been far from unanimous, with selectors Lee Irvine and Peter Pollock strongly objecting. “There certainly wasn’t unity among the selectors,” remembers Irvine, who was one of those who believed that Van der Merwe was using his position to force a shift in power within South African cricket from Transvaal to Eastern Province. “We needed the experience of guys who’d played abroad, I felt, and I argued long and hard for the inclusion of all three of them, even with Kepler as captain. At one stage we got Kepler into one of our meetings and I asked him who he wanted to be opening the batting with on the SCG against Australia in a couple of months, and he said, ‘Jimmy Cook’. But Van der Merwe was politically astute and he got what he wanted.”

There were several “outsiders” in the squad, including the Northerns pair of Mike Rindel and Tertius Bosch, but most people reserved their anger/disgust/disdain for the selection of the young Natalian Jonty Rhodes. Not for Rhodes himself, of course – nobody had a mean word to say about the mild-mannered, clean-living boy from Maritzburg – but he did not, they believed, deserve to be going to the World Cup.

“If Jonty Rhodes is a better cricketer than any of Rice, Cook and Kirsten, then I know nothing about the game,” muttered Graeme Pollock when the squad was announced.

It was as close as anybody ever came to directly criticising Rhodes; it wasn’t his fault that he’d been chosen, but he was a soft target. He’d made cricketing headlines around the world the previous season when, needing seven to win off the final ball of the match, he’d despatched a waste-high no-ball from Richard Snell into the stands then followed that up with a four to take Natal into the Benson & Hedges day/night final. But aged 22 and with a single first-class century to his name, he wasn’t just seen as a “wild card”, he was regarded as an intruder. And even he had sympathy for the illustrious trio of senior players he’d leapfrogged.

“It did seem unfair that the players who had kept the game going for so long during the isolation years were deprived of the chance to play in the World Cup,” Rhodes recalled years later, “but there wasn’t much I could do about it. Maybe it was wrong but it wasn’t within my power to change it. I was as surprised as anyone when my name was included in the twenty. I didn’t even know anything about the announcement of a preliminary squad.”

After hearing of his non-selection, a distraught Peter Kirsten contacted Irvine for advice. “He was in tears, but I told him to shut up and not say anything in public because there was still time for him to make the final squad. But comments from Rice and Cook made it into the papers and there was no coming back from that.”

Cook, in particular, had something to say – but on behalf of Kirsten rather than himself or Rice: “I can’t believe that Peter Kirsten can win the man-of-the-match award in the third game in India just six weeks ago and now he’s not good enough to make a squad of twenty. Either you are good or you are bad, and I find it strange that those of us who were considered ‘good’ just a few weeks ago are now considered ‘bad’.

“I believe you should always pick your best available team and if a couple of them are a little old, so what? But the selectors have picked a squad of athletes here… Doesn’t batting and bowling count any more? The squad is supposed to be going to a cricket tournament, not a track-and-field meeting.”

While the omission of Rice and Cook from the final squad can be debated to this day, the selection of Rhodes seems eminently sensible twenty years on. Limited-overs cricket was evolving and the team needed the third discipline, fielding, to compete on the international stage. As cricket writer John Bishop wrote, with no little prescience, in a profile of Rhodes before the tournament, “One ‘impossible’ catch or one electrifying run-out could change the course of a match. In one-day cricket, it often does.”

Rhodes could, at the very least, count on the support of Mike Procter. “I had seen the effect Jonty had on the Natal team and I believed he could do the same in the national team,” said the Proteas’ coach after the tournament. “It was obvious we needed to lift the standard dramatically from what we produced in India and I knew his enthusiasm would give the whole squad a lift.”

While the coach did his best to make sure Rhodes relaxed and felt a worthy member of the squad, Wessels told him not to put himself under too much pressure to score runs because “your fielding is so good you are already contributing to the team’s cause”. It came as huge relief to Rhodes but he nevertheless rarely opened his mouth from the moment the team landed in Perth on 7 February 1992, to the day they left. Apart from one memorable exception.

Having played a warm-up match against Zimbabwe at Harare Sports Club en route to Australia, there were no doubters in the squad when it came to Rhodes’s astonishing ability in the field. But a useful 35 in the second practice match, against Western Australia, showed those who hadn’t seen much of him before that he could bat a bit too. Rhodes played in all of the warm-up games in Australia yet always felt on trial and was never secure of his place, well aware of the mounting calls for a fifth specialist bowler to be included in the XI instead of him, a sixth batsman.

But at least Rhodes was beginning to settle into the squad and no longer felt like an extra in a fantasy movie. One of the scheduled warm-up games, against a Bradman XI at the Aussie legend’s home ground, the Bowral Oval an hour’s drive from Sydney, was washed out. On the bus ride back to the city, Rhodes broke out of his shell and attempted to lighten the mood of a bored and tetchy squad.

“You’ve got a lot to say for a youngster!” snapped an irritable Kirsten who, having followed Irvine’s advice and earned his reprieve, was very much the “old man” of the squad. Rhodes was mortified and kept his mouth shut for the rest of the trip. At least he could lie low back at the hotel with his schoolboy friend and now roommate, Hansie Cronje. However, on arrival back in Sydney, team manager Alan Jordaan announced that the rooms had all been shuffled, as was the custom in the days of sharing – and Rhodes was drawn with Kirsten…

“I was terrified,” recalled Rhodes. “I sat in the corner of the room and read my book for four days. I was too scared to turn the TV on! Peter was a legend of the game and I felt extremely small.”

By the time the first “real” game finally arrived, however, the young and old of the squad had formed a strong rapport. That’s what sharing rooms was all about. One was neither cocky nor cheeky and the other was just a bit of a grump with a much more effective bark than bite!

Wessels had organised former Wallaby rugby coach and renowned motivational speaker Alan Jones to chat to the team the day before their first game, against the defending champions, Australia. Rhodes absorbed his advice like a sponge: “Don’t be over-awed by the occasion. The SCG will be packed and noisy, more than you will have experienced before. Get used to it early, run around the ground before the match starts – and then ride the wave, don’t be swamped by it.”

Rhodes did that and turned in a spectacular display at backward point culminating in what would become a classic Rhodes run-out, with the batsman – in this case Craig McDermott – stranded a couple of paces short with a bewildered look of confusion on his face, having been sent back by his startled partner.

As it turned out, the only man apparently affected by the noise and atmosphere was umpire Brian Aldridge who neither saw nor heard a massive deflection from opener Geoff Marsh to keeper Dave Richardson off the first ball of the match. Allan Donald had the look of a man who’d just been told a joke in a foreign language – he just didn’t get it. Back in South Africa it had just gone 6am, and a nation that would quickly embrace the thrill of cricket-induced sleep deprivation was equally outraged. Donald eventually shook his head and wandered back to the top of his run-up.

Nonetheless, the host nation were restricted to just 170-9, thanks in no small part to some superb bowling from student Richard Snell, who was making the most of the postponement of his exams. Wessels was brilliant in reply, finishing with an unbeaten 81 as South Africa won by nine wickets, against all predictions.

Allan Border was the first to congratulate Wessels, entering the change room to embrace his former teammate. “That meant an awful lot to me,” Wessels admitted later. “There was no question about where my allegiance lay, but AB and many of the other guys in the Aussie team were good enough to say ‘well done’. It was a special gesture from them.”

Sports Minister Steve Tshwete also appeared in the change room afterwards, greeting Wessels with his trademark bear hug, first to the left, then to the right and back again to the left. When the team finally arrived back at the hotel, Clive Rice was there to greet them in the lobby. “Fantastic! Bloody fantastic!” he said, beaming from ear to ear, and issuing Wessels yet another hug. Despite his personal disappointment, Rice would always back South Africa to the hilt.

The rest of the tournament progressed as a mirror image of the pre-tournament plan – everything back-to-front. Having accepted that they were huge underdogs for the opening game, Wessels, Procter and the rest of the management group had banked on wins in the next two games against New Zealand and Sri Lanka to keep their semi-final aspirations alive. Instead, they lost by seven and three wickets respectively, without managing to break 200 on either occasion. In Auckland, at the awkwardly shaped Eden Park, they were shell-shocked by a thunderous display of pinch-hitting from Mark Greatbatch, revolutionary tactics that followed off-spinner Dipak Patel opening the bowling. They were learning quickly.

Once again, the new boys to international cricket were expected to struggle in the fourth game, against the West Indies, but they bowled them out for just 136 to win by 64 runs, with Rhodes holding on to what he still believes was the most powerfully struck catch he ever took, to get rid of Brian Lara.

Pakistan were also expected to have too much flair and skill for South Africa but they, too, succumbed, this time by 20 runs in a rain-affected game that will always be remembered for the iconic, running, flying dive into the stumps that ran out Inzamam-ul-Haq and catapulted Rhodes to instant stardom.

Rhodes had never seen, let alone played against, a team in such apparent chaos. Most of the players were in obvious awe of, and completely subservient to, captain Imran Khan, and while their talent was obvious they were entirely unpredictable. At one stage Rhodes’s frenetic running between the wickets caused the already taut Pakistani temperament to snap. “Wicketkeeper Moin Khan tried to throw the wicket down at the bowler’s end but succeeded only in throwing it straight at the bowler, Aaqib Javed. The fast bowler went down like a ton of bricks and was stretchered off to hospital! Chaos broke out after that with everyone shouting at each other. I just stood there with my mouth open. I couldn’t believe what was going on.”

The mood in the Pakistan camp wasn’t improved when a downpour during their innings brought into play the tournament’s new and highly controversial rain rules, which heavily favoured the team bowling second. Instead of needing 212 from 50 overs, the target was reduced by just 18 runs while 14 overs were subtracted from the innings; in a stroke, what had appeared a rather comfortable run chase swelled to the imposing asking rate of nine an over from the final 14 overs. Nonetheless, Imran and a young Inzamam set about their task in an efficient and determined manner and added 85 from 97 balls for the third wicket. They were still on track. Until Rhodes struck.

“It was obvious that Inzi wasn’t the greatest runner, even back then, so I was alert to the possibility of putting him under pressure. Then the moment arrived – a call, a hesitation. A chance. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision. I could have thrown but there was nobody to gather it if I missed. We were about the same distance from the stumps. I just backed myself and ran. But as I got closer, I thought he might make his ground, so I just took off!”

Of course, Rhodes had no idea of the wider and everlasting effect his spectacular effort would have on his own life and career. Or South African cricket for that matter. The photograph and television footage was repeated throughout the rest of the tournament and remains, to this day, one of the most widely used images of the modern game.

The Australian media were on to the story instantly and The Australian newspaper ran the picture across its back page in banner style above the caption, “Kamikaze commitment: a fearless Jonty Rhodes launches himself at the stumps.”

In the accompanying story Rhodes’s status and reputation was well and truly under construction: “The stunning commitment of Jonty Rhodes underlined the difference between the two teams in the field and delivered the knockout blow to Pakistan.”

The tabloid Courier-Mail headline cried Diving Bok ends Pakis last chance, while the more prosaic Melbourne Age wrote, “One inspired leap by Jonty Rhodes carried South Africa into serious semifinal contention and at the same time sentenced Pakistan to a premature exit from the Cricket World Cup.”

While everybody was right about Rhodes, they had all failed to do their maths properly. Pakistan, of course, recovered their form and composure in the nick of time to reach the semis and win the final. Rhodes, meanwhile, was to have yet more labels applied by the voracious Aussie tabloids. “Kamikaze Kid”, “Blond Cobra” and “Mr Cool Commitment” were amongst them. Fortunately, they never stuck.

South Africa needed to win one of their remaining two matches against England and India to reach the semifinals and, for some reason, they fancied their chances against the former. Donald, of course, had already played three years of county cricket with Warwickshire and was convinced that his countrymen had nothing to lose against an all-star English line-up containing the likes of Ian Botham, Graham Gooch, Alec Stewart, Graeme Hick, Allan Lamb and Phillip DeFreitas.

South Africa produced their most convincing batting display of the tournament against England at the MCG, their seventh game. An opening partnership of 151 between Wessels (85) and Andrew Hudson (79) might have laid the foundation for something a little more imposing than 236, particularly when viewed more than 20 years later, but the ODI game was an entirely different beast in 1992. Two new white balls were used and batting was exceptionally hard work for well over half the innings, by which time many teams were already five or six wickets down.

In reply, an opening stand of 63 between Botham and Stewart came at an eye-watering (for the era!) five runs an over. It was broken when McMillan bowled Botham, but Stewart was flying and the match was flying away with him. Desperate times required something special and Rhodes produced it with a moment of stunning deception, intercepting a fierce square drive from Stewart by diving to his left and then back-flicking the ball to the bowler, Meyrick Pringle, with the batsmen momentarily confused by whether the ball had even been fielded, let alone was under control. Brilliant.

Although the instant dismissals of Robin Smith and Graeme Hick brought South Africa surging back into the game, there was too much nous in the England middle order, with Neil Fairbrother finishing 75 not out in what turned out to be a comfortable victory.

It meant victory against India in Adelaide was crucial for a semifinal place. With the match reduced by rain to 30 overs per side before a ball had been bowled, Mohammad Azharuddin made a brilliant 79 to help post an imposing 180-6. But the imperious Kirsten, bravely promoted to open the batting with Hudson, produced the finest of his various match-winning innings at the tournament. Having already made a mockery of the original decision to leave him out of the World Cup with five scores of 47 or more, he saved his best for the Indians, a wristy run-a-ball 84 that saw the team to the brink of victory. South Africa won with five balls to spare.

In the days that followed, the excitement of merely being involved in the World Cup gave way – amongst both the players and the South African public – to the slow realisation that they might actually be able to go ahead and win the whole damn thing. Just a few months earlier, the idea that South Africa would be participating in an international cricket tournament in a foreign land was enough to boggle the mind, and in the four weeks since Australia and New Zealand had faced each other in the opening game cricket lovers back home had gorged, at all hours and for days on end, on the unprecedented spectacle. Fans across the land found themselves watching cricket through the night, transfixed by the comic-book voices of Tony Greig and Bill Lawry, along with Richie Benaud, Ian Chappell and others. Schoolboys simply demanded that matches took precedence over lessons and teachers were eager to oblige, decamping entire classes to watch midweek games in boarding houses and rec rooms. With the oversupply of professional sport on offer twenty years later, it’s easy to forget just how novel and exciting a South African team playing official international sport was.

Still, after the rather comprehensive beating they had suffered in India the previous year, the notion that the South African cricket team – the Springboks, as they were still referred to by many – might have a chance of winning the World Cup was laughable.

But now there were just four teams left. If the South Africans were permitted to play, that is.

As it turned out, just five days before the second semifinal was scheduled to be played there was the not-insignificant matter of the 1992 referendum taking place on the other side of the Indian Ocean. It had been called by FW de Klerk to determine whether the majority of white South Africans supported his reforms to end apartheid, and it was an event of monumental historical and political significance. UCB president Geoff Dakin acknowledged as much by stating that the South African team would be obliged to pull out of the World Cup if the no-vote prevailed. For cricket lovers, both the future of the country and their sporting destiny hung in the balance.

The yes-vote won by a large majority; it was game on.

Contrary to oft-repeated perception, Wessels thought long and hard about his decision to bat or bowl when his team faced England for the second time in ten days, this time at the SCG. Rain was forecast to arrive in Sydney at approximately 10pm, the exact time the match was scheduled to finish. Would it affect the outcome?

Wessels decided that his team’s overwhelming preference to chase a target rather than set one should be his strongest motive. When Gooch and Botham were removed early, things looked good. Hick was trapped plumb lbw first ball, and England should have been 39-3 – but umpire Aldridge once again ruled against the South Africans. A moment later Hick was caught by Wessels at slip off Pringle – but the celebrations were cut short by the sight of umpire Steve Randell signalling no-ball.

Hick went on to score a fine 83 from 90 balls as England posted a daunting 252-6 from 45 overs, five short of their allocation because of a wretched over rate. Wessels and his team incurred a fine for their tardiness but were soon to pay a much more painful price than mere money.

The captain’s approach to his own innings indicated his concern at the size of the target: he threw off the shackles he had worn for much of the tournament to belt 17 from 21 balls. At the other end, Hudson smacked 46 from just 52. As the overs were knocked off, South Africa somehow remained in the chase. Everyone in the middle order contributed something but none better than Rhodes with a wonderful 43 from just 38 balls. The game was heading for a classic finish, a World Cup semifinal bubbling and simmering towards an explosive finale.

All it took was 12 minutes of rain to ruin the match, shatter much of the credibility of what had been an otherwise fine tournament and make cricket administrators and law-makers look like arses for the umpteenth time in the history of the sport.

Before the 1992 World Cup, the method for recalculating targets in rain-affected matches had been a simplistic and deeply unsatisfactory one: simply subtract the average scoring rate per over lost. So, if the team batting first scored 250, then the team batting second would have five runs deducted from their target for every over lost. Most of the time it simply handed victory to the team chasing.

Source: Wikimedia

The Melbourne Cricket Ground. Source: Wikimedia

As a result, the committee of experts – including the revered Richie Benaud – gathered before the tournament to devise a method that would take into account the benefits of chasing a target in a smaller number of overs. Rather than subtracting the average run rate per over lost, they decided to remove the lowest scoring and least productive overs first – in other words, the maidens. Even more disastrously in this instance, an immutable regulation was laid down in which overs were deducted at a fixed rate during rain intervals to ensure that games would never end later than scheduled, common sense be damned. And, as it turned out, it was.

When the drizzle briefly became heavier in the final minutes of South Africa’s chase, umpires Aldridge and Randell consulted the players from both sides and asked whether they would like to continue. In the circumstances, it was like asking a condemned man lying on the guillotine whether he’d like to proceed. Strangely enough, England captain Graham Gooch indicated that, given how much his bowlers were struggling with the wet ball and what mortal danger his fielders were in on a greasy outfield, he’d prefer to retire to the pavilion. South Africa’s batsmen, Brian McMillan and Dave Richardson, suggested that a natural conclusion to the match would be a better option. But, as there was no consensus, the players left the field. Large sections of the crowd began throwing rubbish on to the outfield, and Gooch and the England players were soundly booed.

Sadly, that was just the beginning of the farce.

The shower soon passed and the players trooped back onto the outfield with the PA announcer informing everybody that one over had been deducted – one of two Pringle maidens that had been delivered in an excellent spell of 2-36 – and that South Africa’s target was now 22 from seven balls rather than the 13 balls it had been merely moments earlier. The announcement – and scoreboard – was wrong on two counts.

Firstly, the total was actually 21 runs. (A leg bye in one of the maidens had been overlooked.)

Secondly, it was one ball. Not seven.

It fell to McMillan to face it, and he bore the demeanour of a man ready to commit unspeakable deeds. He blocked it.

The players left the field to a mixture of subdued, confused silence from the expensive seats and muted boos from the terraces. It had all happened so quickly and with such ruthlessness. The players and spectators alike had been robbed.

There was even more disbelief to come when it was learnt that, incredibly, there were still seven minutes of scheduled time left to play – the clear skies and working floodlights notwithstanding. Another over could have been started. And why not the full 13 balls? But the inflexibility of officialdom meant that 12 minutes lost to rain had to result in two overs being deducted. Even worse: the tournament regulations allowed for a reserve day in the case of inclement weather, but the host broadcaster, Channel Nine, insisted that the match be finished that day.

The image of Kirsten, who finished just behind Martin Crowe and Javed Miandad as the tournament’s leading run scorers, sitting on the balcony in unashamed tears, moved not only South Africans but cricket lovers all over the world. Just months earlier, any team representing South Africa was largely reviled. Apartheid had demanded that. Yet here they were, last-minute invitees to the game’s finest showpiece event, and everybody’s favourite underdogs. They hadn’t played the greatest cricket by any means – indeed, they only passed 200 on three occasions, and didn’t even make it to 240 – but they fought harder and scrapped longer for every run than any other team present. They had made many friends, very quickly.

Encouraged by Tshwete and supported by Wessels, the players returned to the outfield and embarked on a lap of honour. (Adrian Kuiper, caught off guard, memorably ran the lap with just a towel around his waist.) There was sympathetic and appreciative applause all the way, but especially from the large section of England supporters who cheered with genuine warmth.

“It was unfortunate that England’s players were booed,” said Wessels afterwards. “If I’d been in Graham’s position I would have done the same thing. We had to play through a couple of hard showers when England batted, and we didn’t come off, but that’s the umpires’ decision. I couldn’t do anything about that. I don’t blame Graham. It’s not his fault, it’s just the rules.”

Gooch was similarly honest: “I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t think we should stay on [to finish the game]. The South Africans must feel very dejected to lose like that and my heart goes out to them.”

A younger English writer, Martin Johnson, destined to earn a reputation in the decades to come for pithy and acerbic observation, summed it up thus: “Had Martians landed at the SCG they would have concluded that there was no intelligent life on earth and gone home.”

However, it is worth remembering his final notation too: that South Africa had brought disaster on themselves by choosing “to bat second on a day that had blown in straight from Manchester”, and they had also “resorted to tactics that reassured us that the cynical side of South African sport has not disappeared after 22 years in isolation”. If they had not slowed their over rate and instead bowled their full 50 overs, England’s total would almost certainly have been out of sight.

Meanwhile, Peter Roebuck, who would become one of the most erudite and respected commentators in the sport, led a more impassioned call for common sense to prevail: “Was there not one person in power capable of saying, ‘Stop the rules, get out there and get on with it’? World Cups come once every four years and some of these players will never return. Both they and their supporters deserved better. It was a chaotic finish and an utter disgrace to the game of cricket.”

Of course, no wise words of retrospect could have had any effect in those shattered moments after the game. “Cowboys don’t cry,” Mike Procter bullishly observed the next morning, but Jonty Rhodes admitted later that there was no lack of emotion in the change room. “There were many tears. It was hard to lose on a technicality. The guys were devastated. We had worked so hard and come so far… It was hard to accept.”

A momentous month was done.

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The decline and fall of Jackie Selebi

50 People Who Stuffed Up South Africa

7 March 1950 – 23 January 2015


Disgraced National Commissioner of the SAPS (2000-2009); disgraced president of Interpol; crime denier; friend of the mafia; fraudster


Cartoon by Zapiro, Sunday Times © 2006. All rights reserved.

The story of Jacob Sello Selebi, commonly known as Jackie, is a sad tale of a legacy ruined, a fallen hero. Here was a man who sacrificed a great deal to help free his country – he was arrested for his activism in the 1970s, he went into exile, he ran the ANC Youth League, he became a member of the ANC’s National Executive Committee – yet who spent his last years in ignominious humiliation. Such a pity that, having helped liberate the nation, he felt the need to sell it down the river quite so spectacularly, and in quite such an internationally notable manner. How did it ever go so wrong?

After the ANC was unbanned, Selebi returned to South Africa in 1991 and was put in charge of repatriating exiled ANC members and other anti-apartheid activists. He and Thabo Mbeki were close.

Selebi was elected as an MP in 1994, but it wasn’t long before the Mandela administration sent him off to New York to represent South Africa at the United Nations. That continued for three years and, after a session in the department of foreign affairs as director general, his old mate Thabo asked him to take on the role of police commissioner in 2000.

This was classic Mbeki. The president, you’ll remember, didn’t really rate South Africa’s crime problem. He thought it was all a racist whinge, so he saw no problem in appointing as chief of police an old exile chum who’d never worn a uniform in his life. Selebi seemed to fit all the political requirements of the job – that is, he was loyal to Mbeki – and he ticked enough boxes to be elevated to the presidency of Interpol in 2004. At this point he was in an extremely powerful position and had the opportunity to make a difference to the lives of South Africans reeling from the wave of violent crime that had hit the country. But he didn’t.

Instead, his time as commissioner was to be catastrophic. Apart from anything else, Selebi was just a pathetic policeman. Embarrassingly overweight, he hardly inspired confidence in his subordinates, the poor guys on the sharp end of South Africa’s battle against crime. He wobbled about in his uniform like an enormous jelly in a duvet cover, and he saw no harm in describing a young female officer as a chimpanzee.

Amusingly, he thought it perfectly reasonable to suggest that prostitution and the drug trade be legalised for the duration of the Soccer World Cup. This was really cunning. You see, if you legalise a whole load of nasty stuff then there won’t be any actual crime to worry about while people go about pimping their daughters and selling mandrax to 12-year-olds. Naturally, civil society was appalled, and the top cop’s brilliant scheme was quietly shelved. The notion that we should turn South Africa into a vast whorehouse and crack den – but only, of course, while the whole world was watching – was so mad as to be laughable.

Less amusing was his attitude to his job. “What’s all the fuss about crime?” he nonchalantly remarked in 2007, infuriating the millions of South Africans concerned with our fifty-a-day murder rate. When taken to task, he expanded: “We do have crime in South Africa. Nobody has denied it. But to exaggerate the point and speak about a crisis… A crisis means total disorder. I’m sure what we experience, everyone around the world experiences.” He truly was Mbeki’s man.

Beyond the incompetence and negligence, however, there were the actual dirty deeds.

As it all came out in the court case, Selebi had a friend. A friend called Glenn Agliotti. Now, as Selebi was himself told in 2002, Agliotti was a drug smuggler and a gangster. But he was a rich one, and Selebi liked sharp suits and a bit of retail therapy for him and his wife every now and then. So his friend offered to help him out with a few thousand rand here and a Louis Vuitton handbag there. Then it became R120,000 here and R200,000 there. In the end, these bribes – those that were proven in a court of law, that is – were to amount to more than R1.2 million. Rather like the Zuma-Shaik relationship, Agliotti had the chief of police on retainer.

Bribes being bribes, there had to be something in return, so Selebi kept an eye out for his mate, using his position at Interpol to, among other things, show Agliotti a document indicating that MI5 and MI6 were tracking him. When eventually questioned on this hugely unsuitable relationship with a convicted drug smuggler – the police chief hanging out with the mafia don – Selebi was insulted: they were just friends and they never discussed crime, he declared, “finished and klaar”.

Mbeki, being Mbeki, did nothing. Loyalty, remember. In fact, he implored a meeting of religious leaders to trust him on Selebi the week after Agliotti was arrested in connection with the murder of Brett Kebble in November 2006.

But eventually it all became a bit too obvious and a bit too much. In September of the following year, the National Prosecuting Authority had Selebi arrested on charges of corruption, racketeering, fraud and defeating the ends of justice. He was given an extended leave of absence (on full pay) – with the result that South Africa didn’t have a national police commissioner for a year and a half – while the court case went ahead, and he quit his position at Interpol. Despite the jaunty arrogance that would characterise Selebi’s behaviour in court over the next couple of years, and despite the bald intimidation that the state advocate Gerrie Nel faced in leading the prosecution, the Selebi ship was going down.

In January 2008, a group of about twenty police officers arrived at Nel’s house, where they arrested him on trumped-up charges of fraud and perjury, handcuffing him in front of his family. The charges were quickly dropped, but the incident served as further motivation for Nel and his team to nail the complex and politicised case – which they did. Selebi was convicted of corruption in July 2010, and Nel ultimately won the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP) Special Achievement Award in 2012 for his efforts. (He would go on to achieve global fame in a less successfully prosecuted case, the trial of Oscar Pistorius.)

Ironically, it was Selebi’s insistence on testifying in his own defence, against the advice of his counsel, wife and friends, that ensured his downfall. In reviewing Selebi’s time in the witness box, Judge Meyer Joffe was scathing: “It is never pleasant to make an adverse credibility finding against a witness. It stigmatises the witness as a liar, a person of low moral fibre. It is a stigma that remains forever. It is so much more unpleasant to make such a finding against the person at the head of SAPS.” Selebi had displayed “a low moral fibre” and his evidence was “mendacious and in some cases manufactured”, Joffe said. “It is inconceivable that the person who occupied the office of the national commissioner of police could have been such a stranger to the truth. At no stage during the trial did the accused display any remorse.”

It was damning stuff, and resulted in a 15-year sentence for corruption. And all the while the crime outside continued. Great savage waves of it.

But it wasn’t done inside either. Following the example of Schabir Shaik, that paragon of modern South African venality, Selebi found that the awarding of a lengthy prison sentence had left him feeling somewhat unwell. The denial of his appeal was even more debilitating: with magnificent timing, he collapsed at his home while watching the judgment on television in December 2011. He went on to serve six months’ jail time in the medical wing of Pretoria Central Prison before being released on medical parole, treatment officially reserved for those with just months or even weeks to live. Unlike Shaik, however, it turned out that he was genuinely ill. Suffering from diabetes and kidney failure, he died three years later. On hearing the news, Shaik described him as “a good man”.

“What’s all the fuss about crime?” Indeed. In the world of Jackie Selebi – and the new politically connected South African elite – there’s no real need to fuss when you’ve committed a crime.

This is an edited extract from 50 People Who Stuffed Up South Africa by Alexander Parker, with illustrations by Zapiro

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In memory of Nelson Mandela (one year later)

18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013 

Saint, hero, icon, saviour and unquestionable moral titan to some; perpetually misunderstood political hero, reconciler and complex human being if you think about him for a while.

Cartoon by Zapiro, Sowetan © 2000. All rights reserved

Cartoon by Zapiro, Sowetan © 2000. All rights reserved

There’s not much new that we can tell you about Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Everybody knows the basics. How he was born into a Thembu dynasty, how he tended cattle as a boy in 1920s Transkei. How he went to Fort Hare, where he met Oliver Tambo, and then Johannesburg, where he met Joe Slovo and Ruth First, and was mentored by Walter Sisulu. You know about the ANC, MK, Rivonia and Robben Island; about his release from apartheid prison in 1990, and how he was voted in as South Africa’s first (truly) democratic president four years later. About his subsequent global-icon status and the way the world mourned when he finally passed away in late 2013. And if you don’t, well, you’re not going to find too much of that stuff here.

The picture you have in your head of Mandela is a mirror into your own soul. But if you stop and think about it for a bit, it’s possible you might not like the reflection.

The gravest misrepresentation is that Mandela was just a nice old gentleman, a benign and happy grandfatherly figure who only ever wanted black and white people to get along. Something like the personal embodiment of the McCartney song Ebony And Ivory, and about as complex. In this incarnation all Mandela desired was to end apartheid, draw a line under the past and put his feet up while fondly tousling the hair of the bouncy giggling Rainbow Nation. Then the crying would stop, and the beloved country would frolic off into an idyllic future.

Add to that a fuzzy sense of saintliness, as though this was a man who has never done any wrong, and the end picture can become a wilful misunderstanding of the past – and, dare one suggest it, somewhat racist. Many people seem to like the idea of an affable, harmless darkie content with the status quo. Historically, though, the moment Mandela ever said anything vaguely revolutionary, condemnation was rapid.

So when he told the British government to engage in talks with the IRA in the 1990s, people were outraged, even though John Major did just that after he came to power two years later. When he denigrated Dick Cheney as a “dinosaur” in 2002, the White House briefed against him. He strongly condemned NATO’s action in Kosovo in the late 1990s. He caused fury when he said that Tony Blair was the “foreign minister of the United States”. He was apocalyptically angry about the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

When still in the public eye, Mandela was in fact the perpetual activist, forever calling out injustice where he saw it. And he saw it in places those who dared to dismiss him as a congenial old simpleton didn’t like.

It may seem like madness to some, but there are people who really don’t understand that Mandela, quite naturally, viewed political liberation as only the first step to uplifting black South Africans from a subservient existence bequeathed to them by more than 350 years of oppression of one sort or another. The first democratic elections of 1994 were, of course, just the start to fixing things. Mandela may have been keen to forgive – famously keen, in fact – but he sure as hell wasn’t interested in forgetting.

So, for example, the image of Mandela portrayed in Invictus is, for want of a better word, unabashedly white. Mandela did not, in fact, spend his entire presidency making friends with Afrikaner rugby players. Yes, he worked famously for reconciliation, and for many white South Africans the memory of the great man appearing on the Ellis Park pitch at the 1995 World Cup final wearing a Springbok jersey is the defining image of the post-liberation era. (See François Pienaar.) There is no doubt he had a gift for making iconic gestures. But for many, many more South Africans, Mandela’s time in charge was marked by something most middle-class South Africans can’t even imagine. Like getting a house to live in. Or a constant electricity supply. Never mind a vote.

The fact is that Nelson Mandela’s presidency marked a fundamental revolution in the way this country approached the governance of the land and the people living in it. How could it not? With able assistance from his deputy, Thabo Mbeki, Mandela pursued a radical agenda to change, as fast as he could, the lives of poor black people. He launched the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), introduced the Land Restitution Act, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Labour Relations Act, and heralded the creation of a progressive and world-acclaimed new constitution. This was radical stuff, especially considering just how cowed and conservative South Africa was in the early 1990s.

But he didn’t just realign the architecture of the country. He worked on the ground too, and got things done. The Mandela presidency – only one term, remember – saw the building or upgrading of 500 clinics; nearly three million people were housed; two million were connected to the grid; three million got running water; 1.5 million children were brought into the education system. And amazingly, some people still wonder why the majority of South Africans vote for the ANC!

Indeed, the sentimental picture of a doddery, gentle, kind Mandela does a great disservice to the ANC, especially at a time when its reputation is in crisis. Under the corrupt and seemingly disinterested leadership of Jacob Zuma, following the paranoid and ultimately divisive Mbeki era, the party has rapidly haemorrhaged its reputation as a progressive nation-building entity. It is – to call it bluntly – in the process of looting the country and reducing to tatters our status as a gateway to Africa. But still. The ANC of old liberated South Africa.

Though Nelson Mandela was strategically promoted as the personification of the struggle, he did not ride in on a white stallion and, God-like, gift us all a chance at a future all on his own. Many brave men and women liberated this country. Mandela was certainly the greatest of the lot, but he was the quickest of them all to acknowledge the collective role of everyone involved.

Mandela was a tough, brave and ruthless leader in a liberation movement. Having initially adhered to the ANC’s nonviolent approach, as per the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, he changed tack after the Sharpeville massacre of 1960. The following year he co-founded Umkhonto we Sizwe, the Spear of the Nation, and was sent abroad to drum up support. He received military training and studied tactics of warfare, and went on to oversee bombings on government buildings and institutions that were symbolic of apartheid. The Umkhonto leadership had identified four forms of possible violence: open revolution, terrorism, guerrilla warfare and sabotage. They aimed to use the latter approach only, avoiding human casualties at all costs, but Mandela later admitted that the ANC violated human rights during the struggle, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission found that the organisation routinely used torture. This is not something we lay at Mandela’s feet. But it is because he was willing to face up to the ugly truth about the way in which some of his comrades acted, and to do so publicly, that we mention it. Mandela had no delusions of saintly grandeur. He left that to us – to the likes of the embarrassingly twee and middle-class suburban muppets who liked to sing him songs on his birthday, as if he were a child.

No, Mandela features here not because he was a kind and gentle old man. We love him greatly and admire with awe his legacy of reconciliation and his genuine desire for a nonracial South Africa. Of course. We bow to his huge contribution towards averting violence and killing and general mayhem, especially after the murder of Chris Hani in 1993, a time in our history when civil war seemed almost inevitable. We are forever grateful for his insistence that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, white or black, and we can never thank him enough for his speech at the Rivonia Trial, which ought to be writ large in the halls of Parliament. We marvel at his capacity for the symbolic gesture, for having tea with Betsie Verwoerd (in Orania!), for insisting that his assistant be a young Afrikaner girl. We’ll love him forever for making PW Botha look so doltish and stupid, and for out-living him too.

But that’s only one element of the story. Mandela was a complex, fascinating, flawed human being. As his third wife, Graça Machel, described him, he was “a symbol, but not a saint”. So he finds himself in these pages because, generally, he could never be excluded from a list of fifty brilliant South Africans. But specifically he is here because he was a militant and radical revolutionary ready to die, and to bomb, for the cause – after half a century of nonviolent protest by the ANC at the treatment of black South Africans, it was unfortunately what this country needed to wake it from its moral slumber. It was a lengthy process, but eventually it succeeded – and so it is Mandela, the warrior, we salute.

This is an edited extract from 50 Flippen Brilliant South Africans by Alexander Parker and Tim Richman.

50 Flippen Brilliant South Africans

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In memory of Ian Player (and Magqubu Ntombela)



It is an astonishing animal when you think about it. The white rhino. That magnificent beast like something out of The Lost World – not a thing we could begin to imagine were it not already here. And, of the southern variety, there were by some estimates twenty left. Just twenty, somehow eking out an existence in the remote “V” formed before the confluence of the White and Black Mfolozi rivers, the great hunting ground of one Shaka Zulu. That’s how thin the thread was, the animals shot almost to extinction by poachers and big-game hunters.

This was the early 1900s, and on the entire African continent there were only 650 white rhino remaining, the others being (quite logically) the northern variety. Today there are close on 20,000 white rhino left in the wild, more than 90 percent in South Africa, all of them southern, and all of them roaming the Earth in their primal (if still somewhat tenuous) splendour because of the efforts of two men: Dr Ian Player and Magqubu Ntombela.

Their story begins in 1952 when Player moved from Johannesburg to join the Natal Parks Board and met the man who would become his friend and mentor for life. Magqubu Ntombela was deeply connected to Africa, and filled with the traditional stories and lore of his particular place in it, specifically the area we now call the Hluhluwe-Mfolozi Park, the oldest protected park in the country.

At the time, the apartheid state was a mere four years old, and the esteemed South African government was far too busy setting out the legislative regime that would properly stuff up our country in the decades to come to worry about nature conservation. Rhinos, of which there were now several hundred in the area, were not particularly high on the agenda.

Wildlife conservation and the management of vast tracts of the South African wilderness was rather different back then to what it is now. Think of the bush today and the obvious name that pops up is the Kruger National Park, which was brought into existence in 1898 in its earliest form as a “Goewernments Wildtuin” by the then president of the Transvaal, Paul Kruger. To this day, it remains a fine national park, but if the picture you have in your head is that of a green Land Rover parked in a thicket of acacias next to a leopard, or a rimflow plunge-pool in front of a five-star chalet, then you’re not thinking about Kruger proper, you’re actually thinking about a private lodge in an adjacent reserve. The advent and rise in popularity of private game reserves since the 1970s has led to a massive influx of ecotourism money into the wildlife industry. It has become big business and as a result our animals are looked after far better than they used to be. In 1964 there were an estimated 575,000 head of game in South Africa; in 2007 there were 18.6 million. Today, a disease-free breeding buffalo can sell for up to R40 million. No-one could have contemplated such a ludicrous thought back in the first half of the 20th century when sheep and cows were the beasts of value – to the extent that game would be slaughtered en masse if they were believed to pose a health risk to farm animals. For this very reason more than 35,000 wild animals were killed in Zululand reserves in the two years from 1929 to 1931, which once again threatened the white rhinos, along with an increase in illegal poaching.

So it came to two people with a shared love for the veld, and the animals that roamed it, to see what they could do about the problem – this small problem, which no-one seemed particularly bothered about, of the potential extinction of the white rhinoceros.

The times being what they were, it would require Player’s whiteness to get things done, but Ntombela’s influence was central to success. Though illiterate and speaking no English, Magqubu Ntombela schooled Ian Player in Zulu culture, history and traditions, especially on the relationship between man and his environment. And Ntombela should have known – not only did he work in conservation from 1914 to 1993, he grew up in the hills of Zululand.

By the early 1960s, the two had initiated Operation Rhino, an anti-poaching campaign that saw them chasing down the hunters and setting up security networks to protect their animals. It was also a programme that would eventually see breeding colonies of white rhino sold to zoos, safari parks and game reserves far beyond the borders of Natal and South Africa. This was the vanguard of a new era in conservation, and they collaborated with the pioneering vet Toni Harthoorn to produce a wonder drug called M99, a synthesis of morphine that would render rhinos semi-incapacitated and easy to capture. They modified boma designs and worked to minimise animal stress during capture, when only years earlier dogs had been used to frighten game into snares and pits. It seems so sensible now, but this was revolutionary stuff back then; suddenly rhinos (and other animals) could be easily transported all around the globe.

In all, more than 3,500 white rhinos were moved to other areas, within their original range and all over the world and, as a result, the animal was eventually removed from the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of threatened species. Player and Ntombela would ultimately succeed to the point that white rhinos have become a relatively common sight in some parks, and it is almost impossible to drive through the Hluhluwe-Mfolozi reserve without seeing them. It is sadly ironic that the success of Operation Rhino all those years ago is altogether evident in the scale of the slaughter that has taken place since wide-scale poaching returned in force in 2008; that South Africa can lose more than 1,000 rhinos in a year, as happens today, is testimony to their work.

Beyond their shared love of the wild, Player and Ntombela had something of a shared history too. Ntombela’s father had fought with the inGobamakhosi – those Benders of the Kings – at Isandlwana on the same day that Player’s grandfather, a Natal Hussar, was fighting at Inyezane.

In 1987 the two men, now both celebrated conservationists, took a pilgrimage to Brecon, Wales, headquarters of the Royal Welsh Regiment, the descendant of the 24th regiment of Foot that was slaughtered at Isandlwana. In a side chapel of the town’s thousand-year-old cathedral hangs the queen’s colour that had, in a simply gobsmacking story that requires a book in itself to be properly told, been extracted from the battlefield at Isandlwana at the cost of several lives. Kneeling down, Ntombela filled the cathedral with traditional Zulu poetry and prayer. It was, for all present, intensely moving.

Player and Ntombela went on from Operation Rhino to establish the Wilderness Leadership School, wherein a part of the Hluhluwe-Mfolozi Park was set aside for access only by foot. Player, in particular, was concerned that man had forgone life in his natural environment, the wild, and felt very strongly about encouraging city-dwellers to discover the power of the wilderness on the human soul. “You cannot stand or sleep in a wilderness area at night and not be humble,” he explained.

Together with Ntombela, he took more than 3,000 people on walking trips into the wilderness areas of Hluhluwe-Mfolozi and Lake St Lucia game reserves. He was justifiably proud of their efforts and was always quick to credit his mentor’s role in all they had achieved. “Through his patient instruction he introduced me to a new cosmology,” Player wrote after Ntombela’s death in 1993. “We worked together capturing rhino and on long patrols fighting poaching gangs… He always led with courage; following the rhino paths and stopping to explain the history of the landscape. For Magqubu the hills and trees lived.”

But Player was not averse to criticising his friend’s stubbornness: “Wherever he went he carried his little three-legged cooking pot that he had bought in 1925 for five shillings. To smart hotels or into the wilderness, the pot went with him. Once we were attacked by lions and he put his pot down as we were retreating. When he decided he was going back to fetch it we had a furious argument. I said his life was more valuable to me than the pot. He ignored me, braved a wounded lion and returned, smiling, with his pot.”

What’s also hilarious about this incident is the almost casual reference to being “attacked by lions”. It was probably elephants the next day, perhaps buffalo the day after. It was a different and extraordinary time.

And it is an extraordinary legacy of conservation that both Ntombela and Player leave a story that is not told often enough. The illiterate Ntombela, wise beyond teaching when it came to the wild, and Player who was a truly remarkable man – more remarkable even, we’d suggest, than his more famous brother Gary.

Not that Ian didn’t do sport properly. On returning from active service in World War II where he fought in Italy as a teenager, he took up canoeing, and he eventually initiated, completed and won the inaugural Dusi Canoe Marathon, from Pietermaritzburg to Durban on the Msunduzi River. It was raced for the first time in 1951, and his victory came despite being bitten by a night adder during the event. He also won in 1953 and 1954. So stick that in your golf bag and smoke it.

Ian Player died in November 2014 at the age of 87, a colossus of conservation to the last, and very much involved with the modern fight to save the rhino from the pathetic whims and affectations of Vietnamese party-goers and sad Chinese men whose penises don’t work properly. We take nothing from his great international standing when we say that he couldn’t have done all he did without Magqubu Ntombela. Together, they have inspired future generations of new conservationists to ensure the rhino, and our wilderness, lives on.

This is an edited extract from 50 Flippen Brilliant South Africans by Alexander Parker and Tim Richman.<

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Azad Essa explains the aims of “South Africa Votes 2014″

Zuma's Bastard

Associate Editor, AZAD ESSA explains the aims of “South Africa Votes 2014″.

I wish I could say it was a warm summer’s evening by the water’s edge, with only a lazy sunset and the sweet rustle of birds in the nearby trees for company when the idea struck. But the idea of “South Africa Votes 2014” did not arrive in a flash.

The idea came in gradual wafts of the realisation of the agonising prejudice of South African media on the political dynamics of the country.

First came the continual barrage of service delivery protests that were ignored – except to report main roads were blockaded with burning tyres by some people from some settlement wanting homes, or water, or something-  ”so expect traffic”.

Then came Marikana. And our media battled to find its feet to tell the stories of the actual people who had embarked on the strike.

With some notable exceptions, the people impacted by the daily tragedy on our streets seemed voiceless in our media.

And with all these thoughts swirling in my head, there was the knowledge too, that a landmark election was fast approaching. A twenty year anniversary for the “new” South Africa was already stamped on the calendar but we seemed tangled in rhetoric: The anti-ANC/ZUMA media and the pro-government, nostalgic lot. Both unfair. Both delusional.

Both past their sell-by-date.

In many ways, there is a disconnect between the people and the English speaking media in this country, as we know it. The country is changing, but is the media reflecting these shifts – either in demographic, ideals or questions that people, especially the young, are asking?

Consider how our president and his administration is covered.

Startling paradox

President Zuma’s administration needs to be held to account for the decisions of his government. Yes. Totally. But when last did you read about the lives of the people his mistakes affect most? Their voices aew simply ignored, their experiences swept aside in a chorus of righteous indignation over his misdemeanours.

It is a startling paradox.

Little wonder then, that his administration, ANC-supporters can call upon “racism” at the drop of a Kanga?

Meanwhile, there are more young people in this country than we know what to do with – and their disinterest in politics is dangerous, even if it might be painfully easy to understand.

Besides, the sushi-shows, the celebrity-orgasms, there is little that speaks to them.

Let me rephrase that: there is little that relates to them, or represents them in South African media.

The English speaking media speaks an antiquated language. It talks of the past, be it resentfully or gleefully, and speaks of the present with spite, or favour.

But it’s not just the young who are under represented.

For far too long has public opinion been directed, manipulated by media houses, political analysts, academics and think tanks.

Where is the South African public voice in all of this?

Where are their needs listed, described without interruption, without prognosis?

Where is their unedited sentiment framed, without the coating of a Castle Lager ad?

Sometimes, it’s not just the politicians who forget that though ordinary people might revere symbols, ideas, and memories, it is dignity they crave most.

The basics of a decent wage, secure housing and sanitation, equal rights and fair governance – remain universal ambitions.

South Africa Votes 2014 – over the next three months – will focus almost exclusively on the voices drowned out by the din of election campaigning that is about to begin across our nine provinces.

It is of course a big ask.

But we hope to keep the voices speaking, and genuine street sentiment at the centre of our discussions here. Our intention is drive the election story through the voices of South Africans – of all spaces.

As a collection of journalists, we are an independent project, not linked to any political establishment, nor any media house.

This is your election. This is your platform. This is your community.

If you have a story to tell, feel free to contact us – via email: or on Facebook or twitter (@SAVotes2014)

Besides, memory is most lucid in the voice of the first person account and not in the historical recollection of a scholar, no matter how object they might pretend to be.

For now this website is in a “beta” phase. Over the next few weeks we’ll be welcoming more contributors, adding more content, doing our best to give you a street view of South Africa’s election.  Stay tuned. Get involved.

Azad Essa is a journalist at Al Jazeera covering Sub Saharan Africa. He is also the author of Zuma’s Bastard (Two Dogs, 2010) and The Moslems are Coming (Harper Collins India, 2012). Follow him on Twitter

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The Moslems are Coming: A Chat with Desktop Terrorist Azad Essa (Part Two)

Zuma's Bastard

This is the continuation of an interview that Maryam Ismail did with author and journalist, Azad Essa during the Sharjah International Book Fair

Book Stalker

One thing that e-books can’t do is show up in different places without you knowing they’ll be there. Azad Essa’s book, The Moslems Are Coming: Encounters with A Desktop Terrorist, did this to me. It stalked me. In every store I went to, it psssted me. How many times, I tried to avoid it, but its blue letters kept shouting, hey you!

Books about terrorists, please, I can’t be bothered. The cover has a picture of a guy holding an AK-47 with a flash drive attached to the end of it didn’t help either. Yet, despite it having my three least favorite subjects; sports, African politics, and corruption, I found myself buying it anyway. This book is filled with social and political commentary as well as a few anecdotes of his adventures in life. Many of which were part of a blog that he did for the Mail and Guardian in his native South Africa back in 2009. The minute I cracked it open, I was flabbergasted. Fanatic feminists, Viagra monologues, and football is not spared from his acerbic wit and pensive insights. I have to admit there are many laugh-out-loud moments as well.

In the Mountains of Kashmir

I learned a few things along the way: a. This guy can write a mean metaphor. b. He has no fear when it comes to writing what comes to mind. c. He loves and hates equally-with unadulterated passion.

This book tears into many issues. From his experiences as a South African with Indian roots. With chapter titles like Curry Stained Stud Muffins, one would expect to read about the great traditional heritage Indians brought to South African culture, however it is the opposite. He tears into their faults with the fervor of a loving parent aimed at setting a child aright.

Having attended university in India, no doubt made him sensitive to the Kashmiri issue. It is a war has been going on since, according to Arundhati Roy, “Indian independence from Britain.” However, there are a hundred stories in this tragedy that have yet to be told. Essa dares to cross the lines and talk about on of them, the disappeared Hindu Pandits of Kashmir.

Kashmir, made up of a Muslim majority, but ruled at one stage by a Hindu Raja, was divided between India and Pakistan, soon after petition in 1947. Thousands of Kashmiri Hindus, a minority group known as Pandits who lived alongside Muslims for centuries in the valley, were forced out of their homes when separatist groups pushed for independence in 1989. Those who stayed behind tell their stories to Essa, who writes with empathy and openness. It’s is one of the softer moments within the book.

He told me about the difficulties of working in Indian administered Kashmir. “If you are a foreign correspondent working in India, you certainly cannot write certain stories about Kashmir. You need special permission from the government to work there and they can shut your story down or tell you to leave if they don’t like the direction you’re taking.”

But it’s not just India.

“It’s a story that isn’t easily accessible on the Pakistan administered side either,” he added.

Nevertheless, for his part, he still came out with a poignant report of the how minorities also suffered even when the governing occupiers seemed to be on their side.

Click here for the full article on and get Azad’s latest book, The Moslems Are Coming as an ebook.

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Azad Essa and the Journalism Revolution

Zuma's Bastard

Reporting for Al Jazeera from South Africa during the ceremonies commemorating Nelson Mandela Azad Essa was a one man show. He stood in a downpour, searched out young people for their thoughts, and found the one guy who was desperate to go to Mandela’s funeral, but found irony standing in his way.

This is his turf, so he knows his way around. Hailing from Durban, South Africa, with ties to Gujarat, India, his South Asian wit and fearlessness gives him an edge that cuts through the nonsense.

Maryam Ismail met Essa while he was speaking at Sharjah’s International Book Fair and talked to him about the new era of journalism. This is Part 1 of her interview with him.

Azad Essa and the Journalism Revolution

I couldn’t wait for him to come to the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF). I stalked Al Jazeera, journalist, Azad Essa for weeks on Twitter. Was he as fierce in person and in his writing? I just had to find out.

He was definitely spooked. When he arrived in Sharjah was, he asked, the SIBF organizer “Who is this Maryam Ismail of New India?” When we finally met, he was put at ease. I wasn’t so scary after all. I spoke with him after the seminar, Journalism in a Foreign Land at the book fair about journalism, social media, and the new face of the profession.

Essa, who feigns humility by saying his book isn’t all that great, slowly reveals, that this young journalist does really know his stuff. He began his career doing a blog for the Mail and Guardian, a subsidiary of the Guardian version in England. This blog won the Best Political Blog in Africa award in 2009 and resulted in his books Zuma’s Bastard, published by Two Dogs books and The Moslems Are Coming put out by HarperCollins India.

Being a journalist takes commitment to a place which comes from being able to take issues that concern everyone one, not just the elites. This makes a lot of sense. One example that comes to mind is Jeffrey Sachs’ End of Poverty. There he claims that Bangladeshi women are better off working in factories and we now, see that he was wrong, the biggest winners in the game are Western brands and their consumers. Sachs seemed to be looking at the problem from above, for Essa, it’s better to get on the ground and meet someone closer to the issue.

In Choma, in southern Zambia, Essa reported that this village had successfully challenged and were slowly winning the battle against the three deadly diseases of tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV wrecking havoc all across Africa. The leader of this success was Chief Macha, the leader of the village of Choma, began a campaign to improve sanitation, which he found to be one of the key contributing factors in spreading diseases in his district. This simple approach, the Chief said, did more for helping his people Choma, than most of the solutions imposed upon by outside donors.

Azad is a South African of Indian origin, which makes him a foreign correspondent, of a different type. Still he says, as a correspondent covering Africa, he faces barriers all the time, including language and geography. This makes it difficult, he admits, to dig below the surface, and find the nuances of complex stories from the continent.

Read the full article on and follow Azad Essa on Twitter; @azadessa.

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