The Other Side of History: An Anecdotal Reflection on Political Transition in South Africa

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Jonathan Ball, Jan 1, 2006 - Democracy - 174 pages
2 Reviews
One thing the 'old' and 'new' South Africa have in common is a passion for inventing history. History is not seen as a dispassionate inquiry into what happened, but rather as part of political mobilisation promoting some form of collective self-interest. Not for one second do I pretend to know the 'whole' or 'real' story of what happened in the old South Africa, or what is happening in the 'new'. I know that significant parts of what has been, or is being invented, are not the way I experienced them. This is a personal reflection on a fascinating period in my life which coincided with fundamental shifts in the political life of South Africa. I was fortunate to be in a position where I knew and had access to persons of influence across the political spectrum. This is my account of their interaction with each other and mine with them.

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Am about to read this but want to challenge Sue's negative comments about the man, for I was there when he explained to us candidates for the 1987 elections why he was stepping down as party leader. An admirer of Jean-Paul Sartre, he was not prepared to submit to being cast in any mold, as happens when one becomes a 'public figure'. It was an intensely personal conflict, and his decision infuriated many PFP heavyweights ( like Helen Suzman). However he believed and explained that variations of ' the truth ' wavered between essence and experience, and he felt he could contribute more to the country by maintaining his academic integrity..hence IDASA and his book, which, predictably, as Sue complains, did not pander to readers. He sets out it seems, to articulate and share his experiences, and leaves you the responsibility to construct your own truth. So don't underestimate this great man. Desi Halse 

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It was interesting to get the perspective of an opposition party leader during apartheid. Still, I don’t think this would have been my political party if I was a South African and I don’t think I care for Van Zyl Slabbert.


Inventing the past to secure the future
From Dakar to democracy
Backroom factotum and facilitator

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