Hugh Macmillan begins this pocket biography of the life of Thembisile Martin Hani, better known as Chris Hani, with his subject's death. For those familiar with the history of South Africa's transition from apartheid to democracy in the early 1990s, this choice is not surprising. Hani's assassination on 10 April 1993 outside his home in Boksburg was one of the most significant events of the period and as Macmillan notes, had the potential to derail the negotiation process and trigger a bloody civil war. Mandela's public address on primetime television that evening - in which he called for calm - emphasised Hani's remarkable ability to unify the nation in troubled times. His death also marked a major turning point in the negotiation process. Mandela, along with other key negotiators, such as Cyril Ramaphosa and Joe Slovo, urged the government to act with greater urgency and pushed for the date of the first democratic elections to be finalised in the aftermath of Hani's murder.
This intellectual biography of one of South Africa's leading white, anti-apartheid academic radicals, arrives during a feverish phase of the country's post-apartheid life. A new generation of black student radicals are staking a claim to the "radical" mantle in protests currently rocking the country's university campuses. If the work by the subject of Steven Friedman's book, Harold Wolpe and other Marxist theorists were de rigeur for white student radicals in the 1970s, Franz Fanon and Steve Biko and talk of "decolonisation" roll off the lips of post-apartheid student activists. What then does Friedman's biography have to offer in the contemporary moment where the now somewhat older white academic left is derided as "irrelevant" and as presenting obstacles to radical change?
In this brief autobiography of Botswana's late and former vice president, Mompati Sebogodi Merafhe, the author chronicles his life story which began in Serowe in 1936. Like most Batswana at the time, his parents were peasants and he looked after the family livestock before attending primary school in Serowe. Merafhe claims that he was a brilliant student with an admirable flair for the English language which other pupils were encouraged to emulate. However, owing to family commitments, his academic potential could not be fully realised and he ended his schooling at a lowly standard 6 level. Thereafter, he joined the colonial police force in 1960 in Gaborone. Merafhe's first posting was in the intelligence unit called the Special Branch. He says its prying and intrusive nature put him off so much that he asked to be transferred elsewhere and he was then shifted to the paramilitary Police Mobile Unit (PMU) in late 1960. Soon he also left the PMU and was transferred to Lobatse Police Station.
We would like to extend our warmest congratulations to the winners of this year's Johan Bergh Historia Award. It is awarded to the top third year student in History at participating South African universities.
Ons wil graag die wenners van hierdie jaar se Johan Bergh Historia Toekenning van harte geluk wens. Dit word toegeken aan die top derdejaarstudent in Geskiedenis by deelnemende Suid-Afrikaanse universiteite.