Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Cape Town Book Fair 2008

Next weekend (14-17 June 2008) the annual Cape Town Book Fair will be held, once again, at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC). I am making the trip down for my graduation ceremony which happily coincides with the fair. For politically minded readers there will be a who's who of writers and commentators present and I urge you to hunt them down and interrogate them as much as you can. Don't be shy, they're just people.

Something absolutely not to be missed is a 'conversation' between Mark Gevisser, author of Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred (see my review) and Andrew Feinstein, former ANC MP and the man behind After the Party, the fly-on-the-wall account of the ruling party and its smothering of arms deal investigations. This is sure to be a great dialogue between two passionate democrats who each have some very searching opinions on the state of politics today. Hopefully they'll have a lot to argue about, the articulate chaps that they are. Catch them on Saturday 14 June at 15h00 (Stand L8).

Xolela Mangcu will be talking about his book To the Brink: The State of Democracy in South Africa which I am reading it at the moment. Xolela has a piercing intellect and some interesting thoughts on the dangers of the reflexive racial solidarity propagated by our current leaders.

Alex Boraine, Max du Preez and Mac Maharaj will be debating the impact and legacy of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which for all those interested in transitional justice and the work of national reconciliation, should be a highlight. Boraine, who was the founder of IDASA and deputy-head of the TRC under Desmond Tutu, has just released an autobiography entitled A Life in Transition. I have read his account of his time at the TRC - A Country Unmasked - which is a wonderful overview of the travails and emotions of working on this "grand historical experiment". Max du Preez had a special role in televising the Human Rights Violations hearings as well as the Amnesty hearings on SABC. According to my friend Natalie Jaynes at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation there is a compilation DVD of his weekly reports out now, which could be worth a look. Mac Maharaj was a pretty nimble spy in his day and later a rather unremarkable transport minister. Putting his resume aside for a moment, he will have a lot to say on the issue of prosecutions and what the ANC perceived to be an unfair portrayal of its complicity in violations of human rights, particularly against suspected askaris in the camps of Southern Africa. Also, his experiences with post-TRC prosecutions and/or investigations (vis-a-vis the Bulelani Ngcuka affair) would be worthy of some attention. If he doesn't talk about these things, somebody should ask him to.

The Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR) will be presenting a selection of their publications and you are urged to find their stall and attend their sessions. The Centre will be showcasing four titles, to be accompanied by panel discussions on each topic:

Gulliver's Troubles: Nigeria's Foreign Policy After the Cold War.
Saturday 14 June 12h00 - 12h45 (room 1.42). Discussants will include Prof. Kader Asmal, former ANC MP and Cabinet Minister, now Professor Extraordinaire in Law at UWC; Dr. Adekeye Adebajo (Executive Director of the CCR) among others.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? Africa and China.
Saturday 14 June 16h00 - 17h30 (room 1.63) to be chaired by Prof. Ben Turok of the ANC.

HIV/AIDS and Society in South Africa.
Sunday 15 June 16h00 - 17h30 (Room 1.63).
Two notable panellists will be Nosizwe Madlala-Routledge and Justice Edwin Cameron. These individuals have contributed more to pushing back the frontiers of the fight against HIV and AIDS than many others can boast. I shared a philosophy seminar with Nosizwe in 2006 some months before she took a stance against her boss and got herself fired. She is not as combative in her speaking style as she is on policy matters, but she is a lone voice of reason in a party unable to confront the full extent of the epidemic and its wider impact on our communities.

The African Union and Africa's Human Rights Architecture.
(click for executive summaries)
Monday 16 June 16h00-17h30 (Room 1.43).
The Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete will chair this panel discussion which will include Dr. John Akokpari, a seniour lecturer in my department.

Last year's fair was a real treat. George Bizos was there promoting his autobiography, Odyssey to Freedom (which I got signed for my Mommy) as well as Richard Calland, Moeletsi Mbeki, Pregs Govender, et al. I even got to speak with Ronald Suresh Roberts, which was, needless to say, nothing short of spectacular. On the literary side the likes of Kiran Desai, Antjie Krog and Kopano Matlwa were also in attendance promoting their work and chatting to readers (this blogger being one).

I will be writing detailed reports over the long weekend for all those not in CPT and unable to attend. Those of you in town have no excuse, especially if you own a fanatics card which gives you free entrance.

See you there and don't forget to bring your books for signing!


  1. Oh wow that looks awesome. I want to go!!!!

  2. I'd be fascinated to hear your report/views on the Mark Gevisser -- Andrew Feinstein exchange.