Press release: Writers, newsmakers and reporters at Suidoosterfees’ Jakes Gerwel Discussions

The 21st Suidoosterfees will be held at Artscape in Cape Town from 26 April to 1 May 2024. Authors, journalists and newsmakers will talk about new books and current affairs during the Jakes Gerwel Discussion series.

Entry to all discussions is free, but prior booking through Webtickets is essential. The series is presented by the Jakes Gerwel Foundation and the ATKV, with various publishers and cultural organisations participating.

Among the newsmakers on the programme is Caster Semenya, who will be in conversation with Koketso Sachane about the troubled waters she experienced in the international athletics arena. Caster’s stardom has been overshadowed by merciless speculations about her womanhood, leading to a lengthy court battle after she was denied the opportunity to defend her record at the Olympic Games in 2020. Semenya breaks her silence about her upbringing, her sexuality and the fight to be herself.

Salim S Abdool Karim, South Africa’s leading scientific adviser during the COVID-19 pandemic, will lift the veil on controversial decisions made behind the scenes during this uncertain period. In Standing up for Science he will explain to Angelique Coetzee how science can help us to counter the world’s most daunting challenges.

The way in which artificial intelligence is becoming part of everyday life is a source of fear for many South Africans. The topic is examined by two experts: Arthur Goldstuck, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Artificial Intelligence and Kerushan Govender, author of Age of Agency. In Artificial Intelligence – Will it take over? they will share their thoughts with Fred Roed and Kieno Kammies on how this phenomenon can used to our advantage.

The influence of legendary gamechangers in South African history, such as King Moshoeshoe, Olive Schreiner, Gandhi, Eugène Marais, Sol Plaatje, Miriam Makeba and Thuli Madonsela, will be discussed in Legends: Mandela, Makeba, Madonsela & Co. Matthew Blackman, Nick Dall and Dennis Cruywagen will remind festivalgoers why these individuals still inspire South Africans today.

Violence against women, a thorny issue in our society, is examined in a discussion by Jody Hendricks with Marlene Mahokoto, Melene Rossouw and Bernard Lategan.

Politics is also on the agenda. In Coloured – how classification became culture, Tessa Dooms and Lynsey Ebony Chutel will look at the complex history of Coloured people in the wake of colonialism, slavery and apartheid. They will focus on the vitally important role of Coloured people in the future of the country.

With the general election upon us, party politics will also be scrutinised. Opinionmakers Roelf Meyer, Francis Petersen and Naidene Lottering will look at the future of our young democracy and what potholes should be avoided in Demokrasie: in die truspieël & die wapad. And in How do we reboot SA?, Roy Havemann, Tessa Dooms and Dennis Davis will ask how South Africa will raise itself from the ruins of state capture.

Some of the country’s leading journalists will launch new books at the festival. Adriaan Basson and Qaanitah Hunter, authors of Who will Rule South Africa?, and Mills Soko, fellow writer of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, will be brain-picked by Jan-Jan Joubert on issues like coalition politics.

Mark Shaw, Rehana Rossouw, Caryn Dolley and Jeremy Vearey will participate in The Cape of wars as they discuss the reign of violence in the underbelly of picturesque Cape Town. The panellists will shed light on crimes, organisations and syndicates responsible for death and destruction in one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

In 50 Lies that Made South Africa, Jonathan Ancer and Lester Kiewit will discuss the myths, alternative truths and blatant lies accepted as gospel in narratives about the country’s history. For his book on the topic, Ancer conducted comprehensive research to get to the truth behind these fascinating stories.

The position of Afrikaans and the political controversies characterising the history of the language, are examined during the Jakes Gerwel Commemoration event. Gerwel, one of the Suidoosterfees founders, had a vision of Afrikaans as an instrument of reconciliation and inclusivity, which to this day serves as the foundation of all festival activities.

In the panel discussion Afrikaans amptelik 100 – vier ons of verdeel ons?, participants will share views on the centenary festivities, planned for 2025, to commemorate the status of Afrikaans as an official language. RSG presenter Martelize Brink will chair the discussion with Donovan Lawrence, Earl-Ray Basson, Rene Arendse and Giep van Zyl. Arendse and Van Zyl will explain how the 1925 declaration of Afrikaans as an official language by politicians responsible for discriminatory laws can still serve as departure point for the centenary without offending speakers of the language.

Afrikaans authors who enrich literature with stories in various language variants will launch new publications during the discussion series.

Nathan Trantraal is on the programme with Die man wattie kinnes vang, his graphic novel about a serial killer, The Railway Ripper, who murders Coloured boys and bury them in shallow graves on the Cape Flats. Trantraal’s mother and wife, authors Charmaine Africa and Ronelda Kamfer, are also included in the line-up. Africa’s gripping memoir, Amma, was published recently. Kamfer will lead a discussion with her mother-in-law and Gaireyah Fredericks, whose short story collection in Cape Afrikaans, Een voet innie kabr, pulsates with Cape Malay influences.

The Foundation for Empowerment through Afrikaans (SBA) will introduce Belinda Kruiper and Lyntjie Jaars on the festival stage. The foundation published Kalahari-waarheid, a book about Kruiper’s eventful life with the Kgalagadi Bushmen. It tells how Kruiper gained the trust of the Bushmen and supported them with land claim initiatives. The book also contains beautiful traditional Kalahari tales that are shared by communities around the campfire.

The memoir of Phoebe Gerwel, widow of the man whose name is associated with the discussion series, will also be launched. RSG’s Haidee Muller-Isaacs will host Phoebe and Rachelle Greeff, author of Phoebe: ’n Lewe saam met Jakes Gerwel, to discuss Phoebe’s eventful life and her life-long battle with bipolar disorder.

Award-winning poet and playwright Pieter Odendaal will be interviewed by Herschelle Benjamin about Droomwerk, Pieter’s play on the festival’s theatre programme. The main characters are loosely based on the author’s grandfather, an apartheid senator in the 70s, and his ancestral grandmother, Diana van Madagascar, the 17th-century slave who had to give her daughter to the Europeans. Topics include the search for identity and processing trauma from the past.

Diana Ferrus, Anzil Kulsen and André Hendricks will take the stage to discuss the role books play in helping us to better understand the world, and how it can inspire men to assume their responsibilities in communities in an accountable manner. Wat is jóú storie? is presented by Vriende van Afrikaans, with Chareldine van der Merwe as the host.

Youth book authors Fiona van Kerwel, Crystal-Donna Roberts and Thérèse Hulme will share their impressions of the market for young readers. Roberts is known for her Speurder Sammi series and Van Kerwel’s collection of stories for young readers, Leë blikkies vol liefde, was published recently. Thérèse Hulme, author of My word! and facilitator of the Jakes Gerwel Foundation’s narrative learning initiative in the Cape Flats, will lead the discussion in Blom die lesers soos die boeke?

During the session In Cities of Stories, authors Wisani Mushwana (Soft Landing), Megan Choritz (Lost Property) and Alistair Mackay (It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way) will talk about how events in city streets and alleys eventually end up as unforgettable passages in books. They will be in conversation with Lebo Mazibuko, former attendee of the Jakes Gerwel Foundation’s mentorship programme and author of Bantu Knots.

The complete Jakes Gerwel Discussions programme is available on Festivalgoers will have free access to the conversations after receiving booking confirmation on their cell phones and showing it at the venue door. Books by authors will be on sale at the venue.

The Jakes Gerwel Discussions are brought to Suidoosterfees by the Jakes Gerwel Foundation and the ATKV, and it is supported by NB Publishers, Jonathan Ball, Penguin Random House SA, Pan Macmillan SA, Naledi, Flyleaf, Protea Books, Boekdiva, Jacana, Maverick 451, Vriende van Afrikaans and The Foundation for Empowerment through Afrikaans (SBA).

The festival’s main sponsors are the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture; the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport; City of Cape Town; Netwerk24; Die Burger; NATi; kykNET; the ATKV and Artscape.