Monday, 16 December 2013

Memories of Mandela- era South Africa

Benjamin Pogrund a hero of the anti-apartheid movement

Now that Nelson Mandela has been laid to rest, here is my memory of South Africa in the days of apartheid.

In 1969, I was visiting my father in Johannesburg, where, having businesses in southern Africa, he had a house and lived for part of the year.  I had recently joined the London Sunday Times as a reporter and feature writer, and , before I left London, I had asked the news desk for the telephone number of a contact in case anything came up while I was there. The man whose name they gave me was Benjamin Pogrund, then of the Rand Daily Mail

On arrival, I rang the number I had been given, and left a message for Ben to ring me. When he rang me back, my father asked me who this 'Benjamin Pogrund'  was. When I explained that he had won press awards for his reporting on events in the black townships, police brutality and the Sharpeville shootings and had been to prison, my father exploded with rage. 'Don't you realise where we are?' he fumed. He was not a man given to fear but he was not only angry but frightened. He explained that he assumed that his phone was already  bugged. I was astonished. Having already started, as a student of Russian, to visit the then Soviet Union, I had thought that South Africa was the antithesis of a police state. But it turned out that they were two sides of the same coin. Food for thought.

No comments:

Post a Comment