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Archive for November, 2016

How pornography brought down the last pillar of apartheid – Read an excerpt from Into The Laager: Afrikaners Living on the Edge by Kajsa Norman

A first-hand account of life in Orania: Into The Laager by Kajsa Norman

Into The LaagerJonathan Ball Publishers has shared an excerpt from Into The Laager: Afrikaners Living on the Edge by Kajsa Norman.

In the excerpt, Norman visits Joe Theron, the former music producer who introduced Hustler to South Africa and later founded its Afrikaans sister publication, Loslyf.

Norman is a London-based investigative journalist focused on dictatorships and conflict zones. Into The Laager is her examination of Afrikaner culture, from the Battle of Blood River to Orania.

She faces a different set of challenges at the Loslyf mansion …

Read the excerpt:

Chapter 17
Dina at the monument


During the second half of the 1980s, an increasing number of South African newspapers began to criticise apartheid. Many were censored or shut down, and in the end it was a pornographic magazine that took on the government censorship board and brought down the last pillar of the regime.

In the early 1990s, music producer Joe Theron decided to enter the sex entertainment industry. He wanted to start publishing Hustler in South Africa, so he flew to Los Angeles in an effort to obtain the rights. After trying unsuccessfully for three weeks to get an audience with American porn king Larry Flynt he decided to get more creative. He went to the offices of Hustler and rode the elevator up and down until Flynt finally entered the elevator in his wheelchair. After Theron delivered was quite literally an elevator pitch, Flynt invited him into his office. After the meeting, Flynt called his driver and asked him to take Theron back to his hotel to pick up his things, and then drive him to the Flynt mansion. He spent a week there, at the end of which Flynt gave him the rights to publish Hustler in South Africa, as well as in all other English-speaking countries outside the US.

In 1993, Theron launched Hustler in South Africa. It quickly grew to have the second-largest circulation in the country, despite being four times the price of any other magazine. With sales averaging 200 000 copies a month, Theron became a rich man.

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Pornography was banned during the apartheid era under the same strict censorship laws that targeted communist and anti-apartheid writings. After the fall of apartheid the standards were applied less restrictively, but Hustler magazine was still repeatedly banned.

‘The old censorship laws of South Africa were very old fashioned,’ says Theron. ‘When we launched Hustler in South Africa, we immediately started getting lawsuits against us. The main concern of the judges was the impact on children. We told them that we don’t make the magazine for kids; it’s for adults.’

Although most bans were lifted on appeal, the constant court hearings were time consuming and frustrating.

‘If you came to South Africa from overseas with a Hustler magazine in your bag you could go to jail. Yet I had travelled all over the West and seen porn available in First World countries everywhere.’

After having been dragged to court ten times, and having won all ten times, Theron decided it was time to take on the censorship board. He was eventually granted a session with the head of the board, Braam Coetzee, who would in turn decide whether or not Theron should have the opportunity to appear in front of the entire board.

Theron arrived early for his meeting with Coetzee. He wandered the 22-storey building and learned that there were 186 people working for the censorship board. When he walked into the meeting, he had only two questions:

‘Why don’t you want grown-ups to read these magazines?’
Coetzee: ‘Because it makes them depraved and corrupt.’
‘Then aren’t you scared to come to work every morning?’
Coetzee: ‘Why should I be?’
‘Well, you sit here on the 22nd floor of a building that is filled with 186 people who spend their days reading this stuff.’

Theron was eventually granted his meeting with the censorship board and its nine judges. He turned to one of the judges, an old lady, and asked what training she had received to avoid becoming depraved and corrupt through the material she spent her days reading.

‘Well, I’m an old retired school teacher,’ she replied.

He went on to pose this question to the other judges and, as expected, none of them had received any special training. They were just ordinary South Africans, and it soon became hard for them to argue that they would be less susceptible to depravity and corruption than any of their fellow countrymen.

A couple of months later Theron received a phone call from Coetzee thanking him for granting him early retirement.

‘We closed down the censorship board,’ says Theron. ‘We changed the whole law here. We set a precedent with regard to the sex industry. Censorship was the last pillar of apartheid.’

Theron then helped craft the new censorship laws for South Africa. By then he was publishing Hustler in England, Australia and New Zealand. His lawyers submitted proposals for new censorship laws modelled on the English and Australian versions that were by and large accepted.

But laws and value systems are two very different things. While the law henceforth allowed for previously prohibited material, such as pornography, the Afrikaner culture remained unconvinced.

In 1995, Joe launched an Afrikaans version of Hustler called Loslyf, slang for a promiscuous woman. It was the first ever Afrikaans-language pornographic publication. The first issue featured Dina at the Monument: a topless Afrikaans woman posing in front of the Voortrekker Monument. The issue caused an outcry among the Afrikaner community – and sold an astounding 80 000 copies.

Some 17 years later, when I enter the Loslyf office in downtown Johannesburg, business is significantly slower. As is the case for many printed publications these days, Loslyf is finding it hard to compete against web-based alternatives.

Like a wall of fame, old covers from the magazine’s heyday adorn the long hallway leading to the office of editor Donovan van Wyngaard. The covers boast poor-quality photographs of woman wearing the high-cut underwear typical of the 90s. They would not be considered especially attractive by today’s standards.

Although pornography still manages to outrage the conservative Afrikaner community, the novelty of Afrikaner porn has subsided. Van Wyngaard is also convinced that the Afrikaner aversion for pornography is completely feigned.

‘The Afrikaner community loves me behind closed doors but hates me in public. They’ll hide their Loslyf inside their Bible,’ he says.

Despite this, Van Wyngaard believes the Afrikaner man has become more sophisticated: ‘He is no longer a khaki-clad man in short pants with a firearm by his side. I want the magazine to reflect that change. I want to communicate that I know you’re not as idiotic as we thought before,’ he says.

In practice that means buying higher-end photographs from America and presenting them as local talent. In reality, only about 30 per cent of the women who appear in the magazine are Afrikaans-speaking.

Van Wyngaard used to work in television but lost his job owing to cutbacks. Now, both he and his wife work at Loslyf. Although Van Wyngaard is less than six months on the job, he tells me that he has already received death threats.

‘My family has completely disowned me and my brother won’t speak to me. We didn’t end up in this industry by choice, but because of financial strain,’ he says.

But somehow I’m finding it hard to believe that it was Joe Theron who corrupted Van Wyngaard and his wife. They are by no means new to the business. In 2009 they produced and marketed the very first pornographic movie in Afrikaans, Kwaai Naai or ‘The Incredible Screw’, which Van Wyngaard claims sold extremely well, somewhere between 10 000 and 15 000 copies. Then came the sequel, ’n Pomp in Elke Dorp, ‘A Shag in Each Town’, where a lookalike of well-known Afrikaans singer and womaniser Steve Hofmeyr plays the lead. This was followed by Amor – ’n Bok vir Sports, a story about a rugby player who cheats on his wife and gets caught on tape. More recently Van Wyngaard and his wife have embarked on a daring, mixed-race production called Forbidden Times, supposedly South Africa’s first mixed-race porn movie. But the success of the first film has been hard to replicate, he confesses; it is difficult to produce quality on a limited budget.

As I’m preparing to leave, Van Wyngaard pulls me aside. ‘Here, take this,’ he says, handing me a copy of The Girls of the Loslyf Mansion.

I look at him a little bewildered, and he quickly adds: ‘It also contains an interview sequence with Joe discussing censorship in South Africa.’

Just then, Joe Theron, founder of Loslyf and champion of South African pornography, walks into the room. When he notices the movie in my hand he frowns, visibly displeased.

‘I thought it might interest her to see your interview,’ Van Wyngaard comments.

But Theron ignores him and turns to me with stern instructions: ‘Make sure you put it away so that people don’t see it and get the wrong idea.’

‘And that’s coming from the owner?’ I retort.

He pretends he hasn’t heard me, but his voice softens a little.

‘Here, let me show you what you must do.’ He takes the DVD, strips its cover and puts it back in reverse, blank side facing out. ‘There you go. You wouldn’t want people to get the wrong idea,’ he says.

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The Lose It! Magazine Cookbook – A collection of the Lose It! team’s best recipes ever

The Lose It! Magazine CookbookJonathan Ball Publishers is proud to present The Lose It! Magazine Cookbook: A collection of our best recipes ever:

Filled with delicious and easy low-carb, high-fat recipes for the busy home-cook, this is a beautifully photographed addition to the health-conscious South African cook’s shelf.

The cookbook is compiled from favourite recipes from Lose It! Magazine, the magazine dedicated to low-carb, high-fat healthy eating. Lose It! Magazine has grown from a quarterly magazine to a bi-monthly publication, with a dedicated social-media following. Lose It! gives its legions of loyal readers everything you need to know to follow the low-carb, high-fat diet plan, and in the process lose weight, clear your head, increase your energy levels and sleep better – all while eating delicious, satisfying meals that are easy to prepare.

The Lose It! Magazine Cookbook includes tried-and-tested favourites and 20 brand new recipes, and over and above the usual contenders (meat dishes, fish and chicken), includes chapters dedicated to vegetarian options, nut- and dairy-free alternatives, and sweet, low-carb treats. Each recipe includes a fat, carb and protein break-down, and expert guidelines for sticking to the lifestyle are provided. Best of all, the recipes are delicious, appealing, fresh and tasty, cooked from easily sourced South African fresh produce.

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Krejcir: Business As Usual – An expose of the worst mafia boss this country has ever seen

KrejcirJonathan Ball Publishers is proud to present Krejcir: Business As Usual – the first comprehensive exposé of the worst mafia boss this country has ever seen, including material from never-before-published affidavits and exclusive sources:

Just who is Radovan Krejcir?

Known as “Baas John” to his underlings, he arrived in South Africa in 2007 under a false passport. He was a fugitive, a powerful Czech multimillionaire, who escaped from prison on fraud charges and fled to the good life in the Seychelles. But a bid by the Czech Republic to have him extradited saw Krejcir coming to South Africa. He was arrested at the airport, but an alleged bribe kept him in the country.

Once free, the Czech bought an ostentatious mansion overlooking Johannesburg. He held court from a suburban restaurant, eating and drinking with known criminals and senior police officers, making bloody deals and signing virtual death warrants. But it was the ruthless murder of Lolly Jackson that brought Radovan Krejcir’s name into the limelight.

Over the next three years 10 more deaths took place, each one more dramatic than the next. He was also the victim of a bizarre James Bond-style shoot-out. His business Moneypoint exploded when a bomb left inside a bag blew up, killing two associates.

Soon afterward Krejcir was arrested, but in true Krejcir fashion even a jail cell could not hold him down. Police foiled a plan to murder top cop Colonel Nkosana Ximba and forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan and to stop numerous escape attempts.

He has been found guilty and sentenced for kidnapping, attempted murder and attempted drug possession. He also faces charges for the murder of Sam Issa, the conspiracy to murder investigators and the murder of Phumlani Ncube, a hit man‐turned informant. But Krejcir reveals why we have not heard the last of the worst crime boss South Africa has ever seen.

About the author

Angelique Serrao is an investigative journalist at News24 and previously worked at The Star. During her multi‐award winning career, Serrao has covered numerous high profile stories, including the e‐toll investigation, the Wendy Machanik estate agency fraud and the Dave Sheer Guns scandal. She co‐wrote The E‐toll Scandal: A Journey from CEO to Civil Activist with Wayne Duvenage (2014).

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Bone Meal for Roses – the new novel by Miranda Sherry

Bone Meal for RosesFrom Miranda Sherry, the author of Black Dog Summer, comes a captivating new novel – Bone Meal for Roses:

Poppy was six years old when she was rescued from her abusive mother and taken to her grandparents’ farm to recover.

There, in the Breede Valley, where arid South African scrub exists alongside vineyards and fruit orchards, Poppy succumbs to the magic of their garden. Slowly, her memories fade and her wounds begin to heal.

But as Poppy grows up into a strange, fierce and beautiful young woman, her childhood memories start to surface. And then a love affair with a married carpenter across the valley explodes her world.

This is a lush, lyrical novel about a young girl’s struggle to come to terms with her past. It’s a coming-of-age tale with an edge, and a love story with a serving of strange …
About the author

Black Dog SummerMiranda Sherry was seven when she began writing stories. A few decades, numerous strange jobs (including puppeteer, bartender and musician), and many manuscripts later, Black Dog Summer was published by Head of Zeus. Miranda’s second novel, Bone Meal for Roses, is now available in South Africa. Her first work, Days Like Glass, was shortlisted for the EU Literary Award in South Africa in 2005. Sherry currently lives in Johannesburg with her sort-of-husband and two weird cats, and is working on her next book.

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‘The world may be wide, but our lives are less so’ – Read an excerpt from The Relatively Public Life Of Jules Browde

Stories of a very great grandad: Kate Sidley talks to Daniel Browde about his book The Relatively Public Life of Jules Browde

The Relatively Public Life Of Jules BrowdeJonathan Ball Publishers have shared an excerpt from The Relatively Public Life Of Jules Browde by Daniel Browde.

About the book

When Daniel is tasked with writing the biography of his grandfather, Jules Browde – one of South Africa’s most celebrated advocates – he sharpens his pencil and gets to work. But the task that at first seems so simple comes to overwhelm him. As the book begins to recede – month after month, year after year – he must face the possibility of disappointing his grandfather, whose legacy now rests uncomfortably in his hands.

The troubled progress of Daniel’s book stands in sharp contrast to the clear-edged tales his grandfather tells him. Spanning almost a century, these gripping stories compellingly conjure other worlds: the streets of 1920s Yeoville, the battlefields of the Second World War, the courtrooms of apartheid South Africa.

The Relatively Public Life of Jules Browde turns the conventions of a biography inside out. It is more than the portrait of an unusual South African life, it is the moving tale of a complex and tender relationship between grandfather and grandson, and an exploration of how we are made and unmade in the stories we tell about our lives.

About the author

Daniel Browde was born in 1976 in Israel, but has lived most of his life in South Africa. After completing a BA at Wits University he worked variously as a researcher, actor and film editor. In 2001 he was nominated for a Vita Award for best supporting actor for his part in the play Proof. Browde lives with his partner, artist Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi, in Johannesburg.


* * * * *


Read an excerpt from Chapter 10 of the book:

In the stories from this period, I found a beguiling argument: that a person can be understood as the end result of a chain of events. The idea that, if we look closely, we can see the seminal moment, the where-it-all-began. So Bruce Wayne puts on a mask and hunts criminals because two of them murdered his parents one night in Gotham, and so on, one thing leading to another according to an ultimately decipherable logic. In this way, we give coherence to the blind swarm of the past.

Even when I was a little kid, I knew what my grandpa’s superpower was – what he was the best at. It was called cross-examination. This, he would often tell me, did not mean ‘examining crossly’. It was more difficult than that, more artful. It was a way of asking questions so that the weaknesses of a story would reveal themselves. It took special skills of listening and memory. ‘Just a minute, sir, didn’t you say earlier that …’ was what I imagined him saying to a lying witness, having fed him enough rope and now watching him tie himself in a knot.

My father told me how law students would skip their lectures to go and listen to my grandfather cross-examine witnesses, that was how good he was – and I was always proud of him for it. But back then I just assumed that it was his natural superpower: as a bee knew how to make honey, so he knew how to get you to say what he wanted. But now I listened with increasing excitement as the flow of his narrative suggested that he was leading me to the font of this talent. Here it was, if I wanted it: the origin story.

‘My mother,’ he said, ‘had not a great income, and therefore I had to work. And I decided that any job I could get I would take, in order to try to make some contribution to the household.’

Ultimately (his word), he found work as a judge’s clerk, assisting two judges in the Witwatersrand Local Division. One was a man by the name of Leslie Blackwell, and the other was Harold Ramsbottom. Most of the time he worked for Blackwell, but when Blackwell went to hear cases on the circuit in Pretoria, he stayed in Johannesburg and worked for Ramsbottom. In the mornings he clerked for one of these two in the High Court on Pritchard Street, and in the afternoons he attended classes at the university in Braamfontein.

The tale was cleverly cast: Blackwell, an Australian by birth, had ‘a gnarled face with a big bulbous nose and hooded eyes. He was a very rough character indeed,’ while Ramsbottom, ‘or Rammy, as we called him, was a gentleman to his fingertips. To me he was the soul of courtesy …’

Rammy, my grandfather explained, had been an officer in the artillery in the First World War, and took a special interest in the progress of this young artillery veteran. ‘Every afternoon after work, he would drop me at the library. When Blackwell was here, I used to go by bus. But Rammy insisted on taking me in his car. On the way, he spoke to me about my studies and any difficulties I was having, and when I had problems I would talk to him about them. He really was a most gracious employer.’

So Blackwell and Rammy, the shadow and the light, provided the vibrant chiaroscuro that animated the background of the period.

Sitting in court, clerking for either one or the other, the young law student ‘was privileged not only to learn the requirements of judgeship, but also had the opportunity of listening to and watching the giants of the Bar at that time carrying out their duties in court and conducting themselves in the best tradition of the profession of advocacy.’

He mentioned two giants in particular. The first was Harry Morris, who had become famous for his work on the Lord Erroll murder trial in Kenya, a case that caught the world’s attention and would later become immortalised in the book White Mischief. ‘Morris was an absolutely brilliant cross-examiner,’ my grandfather said. ‘He had a real flair for it. And I learned a great deal from him, just sitting and listening to him question witnesses.’

The other was Harold Hanson, who was only fifteen years older than my grandfather and so still a relatively young man when my grandfather first saw him in action. Hanson would go on to become one of South Africa’s most well-known advocates, representing FH Alexander (of the Alexander Technique) and Bram Fischer, whose words he would famously read out on the last day of the Rivonia Trial. I read up a little about him and discovered that other lawyers spoke of ‘Hansonian eloquence’.

‘This led,’ my grandfather said, ‘to a determination on my part to follow in this tradition. In particular, I was attracted to the art of cross-examination, and its application in trials, whether civil or criminal, in eliciting from hostile witnesses evidence that would be of benefit to my clients.’

Students of myth call it The Road of Trials, when the hero is frustrated at the critical moment by forces beyond his control.

Blackwell, with his reptilian eyes, asks my grandfather-to-be to type out the handwritten pages of his autobiography after hours. Thinking he might make some extra money, our young hero takes on the job. So now, not only is he clerking for half the day and attending lectures for the rest, but there he sits, night after night in his bedroom, typing out with two fingers his hard-hearted employer’s life story. (‘I was virtually hamstrung …’)

And it is exactly then, suitably hindered, that he meets the Girl, a medical student from Cape Town who has come up to Johannesburg for a few days to attend a student conference.

Of course, this story I’d heard before – a few times – from both of my grandparents. I’d always enjoyed hearing it, had enjoyed identifying the slight variances in their accounts. Something I had not thought about before, though, was how near the physical coordinates of that intersection were to where they, and I, lived now – sixty years in the future. The block of flats where they met was less than ten minutes’ walk from where he sat telling me the story one more time, the dictaphone turning between us.

Going home that day, I took a route that was slightly longer than the one I usually used. I turned left on Osborne Road instead of right, and went the other way around the golf course, so I would pass the block of flats from the story.

Peering up through the windscreen as I drove slowly past the building, I thought about how the world may be wide, but our lives are less so. Most of us spend our days in one place. This was his place, here: these roads, pavements, houses and hidden gardens. And so far, at least, it had been mine too.

Related stories:

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Orania and the fringe of Afrikaner identity: Into The Laager by Kajsa Norman

A first-hand account of life in Orania: Into The Laager by Kajsa Norman


Thick-skinned and fearless, Norman searches for the only thing worth seeking: that, which in the clearest and most unambiguous way describes a society in transition.

- Henning Mankell

Into The LaagerJonathan Ball Publishers is proud to present Into The Laager: Afrikaners Living on the Edge by Kajsa Norman:

Nelson Mandela is dead and in South Africa his dream of a rainbow nation is fading. More than two decades after the fall of apartheid, groups of white Afrikaners have cut themselves off from this unpredictable country, fearing that their language, culture, and eventually their entire people, may soon become extinct.

Living on edge in an ever-changing nation, some have retreated to the breakaway republic of Orania, where they work to construct a utopia for white Africans. Within the safety of their laager – a homeland with its own flag and currency – they can, once again, dictate the rules.

Weaving between past and present, Into the Laager traces the war for control of South Africa, its people and its history, through a series of December 16ths, beginning with the Battle of Blood River in 1838. In so doing, it takes us back to the origin of these fears: the years of nationalism and social engineering behind this modern struggle for identity and relevance.

Along the way, Norman asks the difficult questions – those that are as relevant in today’s South Africa as they were in 1838: How do people react when they believe their cultural identity is under threat? How far are we prepared to go to survive as a people?

About the author

Kajsa Norman is a London-based investigative journalist focused on dictatorships and conflict zones. A Stanford University Innovation Journalism fellow, she has worked extensively across Latin America and Africa. She has also served as a press and information officer for the Swedish Armed Forces in Afghanistan and Mali. Norman’s other works of non-fiction include books on Cuba, Zimbabwe, and Venezuela, most notably Give Me Cholera: Forging a Future for Zimbabwe. Into the Laager was originally published in Swedish in 2015 as Bron över Blood River (Bridge over Blood River).

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