View Full Version : South Africa: Foreigner blames `colonial media´

Liberator Germaniae
Tuesday, January 30th, 2007, 09:57 PM
Controversial Trinidad lawyer Ronald Suresh Roberts has criticized South Africa’s `colonial media´ for having an "imperialist" ideology. British-born Roberts was speaking on January 29, 2007 at a reading of his biography on South African-born Jewess Nadine Gordimer in Johannesburg. Previously Roberts fell out with the Anti-Apartheid writer and Nobel Prize-winner when she withdrew authorisation for the biography.

Roberts hits out at SA's 'colonial media'

Sumayya Ismail | Johannesburg, South Africa

30 January 2007 05:00

Nadine Gordimer's controversial and now unauthorised biographer, Ronald Suresh Roberts, on Monday took aim at South Africa's "colonial media", saying contrasting views had been suppressed after the Sunday Times ran a critical profile on him.

Roberts was speaking at the Johannesburg Central Library, at a reading of his biography on Gordimer, No Cold Kitchen.

Referring to the profile, by Chris Barron and headlined "The unlikeable Mr Roberts", he said Barron misquoted his sources -- Ken Owen, a previous editor of the Sunday Times, and his wife, Kate -- and the paper never published the Owens' letters of complaint that were written in response.

"You would think that in a competitive media environment somebody would tell the real truth and in some way [that truth] will get out," Roberts said, adding that "what masquerades as public opinion is often white public opinion".

Earlier this year, Roberts lost his case of defamation against Sunday Times publisher Johncom Media Investments after he sued the newspaper for defamation. Acting Judge Leslie Weinkove dismissed Roberts's defamation claim with costs, including the cost of two counsel -- a severe legal sanction. It is believed Roberts's legal costs could exceed R1-million.

Weinkove's judgement found Roberts had been "vindictive and venomous" in attacks on public figures and that his conduct as a lawyer "in certain respects" had been "improper".

Roberts, originally from Trinidad, fell out with Nobel Prize-winner Gordimer when she withdrew authorisation for the biography.

At this week's book reading, he spoke about subsequent negative media comment on the Gordimer book. "I find it odd and escapist to discredit a piece of work because of a person they [the media] don't even know … they should stop playing the man [referring to himself] and play the ball," he said.


Roberts said the media had applied double standards to their judgement of his book, and some had called him "disloyal" for presenting a more real picture of Gordimer. Calling her a "committed African", he praised the vital role she played as an "unsilenceable voice" in South Africa's liberation struggle.

He said the bulk of No Cold Kitchen is about Gordimer being "a talented critic about the problems of the white liberal position", but added that it contains "certain details that perhaps she didn't like represented".

Roberts said Gordimer and her writing are often perceived to be "cold", something with which he does not agree, and that is the point of the book's title. "Her warmth expresses itself in a critical manner."

"[Gordimer's] particular way of writing comes across as distant … her certain withholding comes across as cold, but that just reflects other things," Roberts said. "This [book] is very much a real picture of Nadine."

Talking about "Gordimer's desire to place herself in a pantheon", Roberts said she "likes that impression of herself". Although some of No Cold Kitchen's portrayal of the author subverts this view of her, "it is in my mind contextualised and justified", he said.

"Nadine was always the author of her own story, of the story of her country; she was never on the receiving end," Roberts said, adding that the reason for their disagreement was "her unwillingness to accept that the writer writes the book".


At Monday's gathering, Roberts went on to challenge the journalism of fellow author and Sunday Times journalist Fred Khumalo, who was present at the event to read from his autobiography, Touch My Blood.

Roberts criticised the South African media for having an "imperialist" ideology. Mentioning University of the Witwatersrand professor of media studies Tawana Kupe, who said that the press can sometimes be an enemy to press freedom, Roberts said there are incentives in the media to report things in a particular way.

Derisively calling the relationship between himself and Khumalo "wonderfully robust", Roberts implied that Khumalo had also bought into this media mindset. He said that just because a person is black, it doesn't mean the perspective he or she represents is not imperialist. "We know that there are things we can and cannot say in the media."

Roberts also confronted Khumalo on his words in the Sunday Times earlier this month. In a piece that followed the newspaper's court victory over Roberts, titled "Would he sue me for ululating?", Khumalo wrote: "Somebody told me the other day that you [Roberts] were on the other side of the Atlantic. Maybe you should stay there!"

Speaking to the crowd, Khumalo said Roberts had "stolen my thunder and shot [at] my sails … [through his] very benign words on my evolution as a writer". He said he would not entertain Roberts's "observations" about him and the Sunday Times, and instead turned his attention to his own book.

Reading a chapter describing an altercation he had in a bar in Canada, Khumalo said: "I've grown up; I don't pick fights."

Source (http://www.mg.co.za/)

Liberator Germaniae
Wednesday, February 7th, 2007, 06:23 PM
Opinion piece by Andrew Donaldson in the "Sunday Times":

It’s the ‘native’ that causes all the trouble

04 Febuary 2007

Like many who have followed the adventures of this great scholar and eloquent presidential imbongi (praise-singer), I am puzzled by Ronald Suresh Roberts’ insistence in recent interviews that he is a native.

Not a native as in “cheeky native” — God forbid — but as in “native South African”.

Why has he adopted us? Surely we are not worthy? Why can’t he go back to where he came from? It’s not as if they don’t have a colonial legacy back in Port of Spain, the sort of thing he’s trying to “upset” or whatever it is he’s trying to accomplish here, hanging out with the big chief.

More importantly, I am puzzled by our continued fascination with the man. Perhaps it is time we stopped writing about him. Certainly, we need to get back into his good books, and stop needling him. He’s unstoppable. His Trinidadian mojo is too great, even for us. Every time we slap his name in newsprint, Ronnie’s powers increase fourfold.

It is true. Women wilt in his presence and are given to dribbling inanely about how the man drains their crystals. One journalist wrote recently that, “within seconds” of speaking with him, she was “made to feel intellectually inadequate”.

His is truly a terrible power. And it is the same for the men. We have no hope of combating this narcissist’s cant, and are thus surely doomed.

He is no friend of Reason, given to dark mutterings in fashionable Cape Town coffee shops about journalism’s dereliction of the truth, even as he himself is having his way with it.

After first standing truth on its head, that is.

No, far better for us to leave Ronnie in peace and let him continue finishing his book on the intellectual tradition of Thabo Mbeki.

No, stop that sniggering — and, please, no off-colour remarks about Cleopatra and the Queen of Denial. This is going to be a very important and powerful work. Ronnie says so himself. Like when he told The Witness: “[People] are afraid, people who intend to destroy the President’s legacy, who want to teach him a lesson as a cheeky bantu and to teach his successor a lesson about how to ensure a secure legacy. These are people who want to destroy the President and are afraid that this book may be a compelling articulation of his legacy.”

Stop that laughing in the back there. Let the man have his say.

“ ... My exchanges with the President have been a model of free intellectual exchange ... What the reader will come out with is a good understanding of Mbeki the man. What the reader won’t come out with is all the stuff that doesn’t interest me, like his relationship with his father. All the ladies’ magazine stuff, [that] you will get from [Mbeki biographer Mark] Gevisser’s book.”

So, a top book then, written by a top writer, and read by all top thinkers and pipe- smokers everywhere, the best of the best, a select few, a very select few.

And while we’re not busy with Ronnie’s book, we shall also be giving his other new publishing venture a wide berth. It is, he has said, “a rather explosive quarterly publication” called Molotov Cocktail, which will be launched at the Cape Town Book Fair on June 16. “It will be aimed at anybody who is fed up with the redneck media and who wants to read everything that is ignored by the redneck media.”

( It must be pointed out that anyone who doesn’t agree with Ronnie is a redneck.)

So, again, not too huge a print run, then. Which is a good thing, considering his recent, perhaps substantial, legal fees.

ON to housekeeping matters: a shameless plug for a book that contains a chapter written by me. It’s called Why I’ll Never Live In Oz Again (Two Dogs/Struik) and it’s probably a lot more fun than Ronnie’s book. (General theme: it’s crap out there.)

But more importantly, I do get a share of royalties. Certainly not the lion’s share, but a share nonetheless.

Which is why every home in the country must have a copy of this slim, patriotic work. Every little bit helps.

Source (http://www.sundaytimes.co.za/News/Article.aspx?id=375394)