Other Writings

For 12 years I researched and wrote the story of Johannesburg, a city that was founded on gold and money and a mad rush to live life to the fullest. I interviewed people who were there in the making of that story. Here are some of the articles I wrote over those years.


For several years I wrote for the Brand South Africa website, mediaclubsouthafrica.com, and had great fun exploring everything from walking in the footsteps of the great naturalist and explorer William Burchell; taking a look at what heritage means; to trying to get into the soul of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in her published journal from prison; looking at the history of shweshwe fabric and stylish clothes made from it; to taking a look at HIV-positive Nkosi Johnson’s short life. 


Three stories I wrote for the Mail & Guardian newspaper:



Tuesday, June 25, 2019

A big “Hooray!” should echo across Joburg for the historic Rand Steam site in Richmond, which has risen from the destruction of Imperial’s mindless bulldozers 11 years ago.

This joy stems from the fact that the original 1902 Rand Steam Laundries & Cleaning & Dyeing Works has been largely reconstructed as a small neighbourhood shopping centre, in a unique first for Joburg, and possibly South Africa. It boasts the original street...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Such was the impact of poet Ingrid Jonker that decades after her death in 1965, the late Nelson Mandela read her poem, The Child who Was Shot Dead by Soldiers at Nyanga, at the opening of the first democratic Parliament on 24 May 1994.

"The time will come when our nation will honour the memory of all the sons, the daughters, the mothers, the fathers, the youth and the children who, by their thoughts and deeds, gave us the right...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sculptor Jackson Hlungwani lived a miracle: for some 32 years he had a wound on his leg that was intricately tied to his church, beliefs and extraordinary symbolic wooden sculptures, which he created up until his death at the age of 87 in 2010.

Described as a healer, preacher and visionary in addition to being a sculptor, Hlungwani created a unique world for himself in Limpopo, on a hilltop at Mbhokota village, 38 kilometres fr...

Monday, June 16, 2014

Antoinette Sithole, Hector Pieterson's sister, finds that schoolchildren want to touch her to see if she is real, once they have heard the story of 16 June 1976, and see the famous photograph of her running alongside Mbuyisa Makhubu, who was carrying the dying 12-year-old Hector in his arms.

"They find the story unbelievable," she says now, 38 years later. On that fateful day, police opened fire on thousands of schoolchildren w...

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The lively, cosmopolitan Cape Town suburb of District Six, like Fietas and Sophiatown in Johannesburg, came to symbolise the suffering and cruelties endured under apartheid when it was systematically bulldozed in the 1960s and 70s, forcing hundreds of families to leave their homes.

District Six was a working class area just beyond the CBD, probably dating back to the early 1800s, and was originally home to freed slaves, merchan...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Nkosi Johnson's mother never said goodbye to him when she died. This affected the 8-year-old boy deeply, so much so that he wanted to start a home so that Aids-infected mothers and children could stay together.

Johnson was born with HIV, and died of Aids in 2001; he was just 12 years old. He gave a human face to Aids in South Africa and the world, at a time when it was still a taboo topic in the country. Today it still carries...

Monday, December 9, 2013

Nelson Mandela had many women in his life. But perhaps the three most important were his three wives: Evelyn Mase and Winnie Madikizela, both of whom he divorced, and his Graça Machel, with whom he spent the last 15 years of his life, before his death on 5 December 2013.

Of his six children, three daughters remain – Makaziwe, Zenani and Zindzi. His children gave him a generous 17 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, with a...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

In 1923 wealthy socialite Frida Hartley gave up her comfortable life in London and headed to Johannesburg, where she opened a shelter for destitute women, a solid one-storey brick building in Bellevue.

Ninety years later the Frida Hartley Shelter is still solid, standing in a quiet, jacaranda-lined street of modest houses and small blocks of flats. And its doors are still open to penniless and abandoned women, some of them preg...

Monday, November 18, 2013

Described as the denim of South Africa, shweshwe, the pure cotton fabric in multiple patterns and colours produced exclusively in the Eastern Cape province, is worn by women in every cranny of the country.

It's been around for 170 years, at first imported, now produced in South Africa, and is as ubiquitous as the braai or barbecue. First worn by German settlers and Xhosa women from the 1840s onwards, besides the trademark blue,...

Monday, November 11, 2013

"If you take a pinch of Khoi-San lament, a dash of Malay spice, a measure of European orchestral, a splash of Xhosa spiritual, the clash of marching bands, the pizzazz of the Klopse, a driving primal beat and lots of humour and musical virtuosity, what do you get? Goema, Goema, Goema!"

So goes the description of goema music by www.profoundlysouthafrican.com, a goema music website. "Klopse" is originally a Dutch word, meaning "c...

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