Writer loses award for not liking blacks, defends her position

2010-12-09 14:52

The SA Literary Awards (Sala) has withdrawn its award for Annelie Botes, writer of the highly acclaimed Thula Thula, for saying she did not like black people.

“The South African Literary Awards (Sala) is outraged by the alleged racist remarks that are part of Ms Annelie Botes’s interview with Rapport newspaper on November 20 2010,” chairperson Zodwa Motsa said in a statement sent to Sapa and distributed on the internet.

Her remarks were restated in an interview with the Mail & Guardian published on November 26.

“Sala’s advisory board and its partners are concerned that Ms Botes’s alleged racist remarks may disgrace the awards.
It is therefore against this background that Sala hereby distances itself from such alleged racist utterances attributed to her.

“Sala abhors any form of discrimination, whether based on race, skin colour and gender. On the basis of the above, Sala board therefore withdraws the award which had been conferred upon Ms Botes.”

Botes, whose book Thula Thula on incest and child abuse received rave reviews, was recently announced winner of the K Sello Duiker Memorial Award from Sala.

But a letter was sent to her on Tuesday, a day before the awards banquet, to inform her it had now been withdrawn.

She told the Sowetan newspaper she would not comment – “because it’s my privilege not to want to comment”.

Thula Thula tells the story of a girl abused by her father over a long period, with her mother knowing about it but not doing anything.

Litnet reviewer Riette Rust said of the book: “This novel is one that had to be written. Thula Thula makes an important contribution to the opening up of discussions of a serious social issue that destroys so many lives: child molestation.”

The book states that one in five families in South Africa are affected by incest.

Botes is also the author of Raaiselkind (Child Riddle), a book about autistic children. Her latest book, Tabernakel, is autobiographical.

Raaiselkind was shortlisted for the Book Data/SAPnets Booksellers Choice Award in 2002 – the first Afrikaans book to have reached this short list.

The Afrikaans writer landed in the hot water last month after she said in an interview published in Rapport that she did not like black people.

Fired

She was subsequently fired as columnist from Die Burger Oos-Kaap.

Asked by Rapport newspaper to name the people she doesn’t like, she replied, “black people”.

Rapport conducted an interview with her because of the announcement that she had won the K Sello Duiker award for Thula Thula, which has sold 34 000 copies.

Botes (53) told the paper: “I am now going to be terribly honest. And let it shock this country. I do not like black people. I don’t understand them. I know they are people like me, I know they have the same rights as me. But I do not understand them. And then I don’t like them. I avoid them, because I am afraid of them.

“My neighbour was brutally murdered. Why? If black people are hungry, why don’t they just break in like in the old days, empty out the fridge and then leave?”

In the same interview, Botes told how she played with coloured friends as a child and how she was once fired as church secretary for criticising the church cleaner’s low salary increase.

She criticised both the current government and the apartheid government.

“I suspect black people are no longer furious with white people, but instead they are furious with their own government, and now they are taking it out on white people,” Botes said in the interview.

She confirmed her comments to the Mail & Guardian a few days later.

“I don’t want to back pedal over my comments. It’s the truth,” she said.

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