'Author should have had sensitivity not to invite Eugene de Kock'

Cape Town – The author of a book on apartheid assassin Eugene de Kock should not have invited him to a non-fiction awards shortlist party in Franschhoek, a freelance arts journalist said on Monday.

Karabo Kgoleng, who chaired four panels at the Franschhoek literary festival at the weekend, said the whole incident was horrible and unfortunate.

Her biggest worry was the festival might suffer and people might erroneously think it sanctioned his presence.

“I am totally putting this on her,” she said, in reference to Anemari Jansen, whose book Eugene de Kock: Assassin for the State was on the longlist for the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award.

“It is going to further sew divisions. She [the author] should have had the foresight and sensitivity not to invite him.”

More than a year after he was released from jail, the apartheid-era death squad leader Eugene de Kock was spotted at a discussion and the shortlist party on Saturday night.

Kgoleng said De Kock could also have declined the invite.

“It’s a bad idea. Whether he was a foot solider or not, I think for him to have gumption to show up, the nerve, especially considering it was the Alan Paton prize…”

With the country’s social condition at the moment, and racists popping out of the woodwork, she felt it was terrible timing.

“My biggest worry is that we don’t want to lose the festival to that. We don’t want to lose the opportunity to talk about the things that hurt us.”

Annie Olivier, of Jonathan Ball publishers, confirmed on Monday that neither she nor Tafelberg publishers had invited De Kock to the award function.

Jansen got permission from the organisers for De Kock to attend with her and could prove this, Olivier said.

Jansen did not respond to an e-mail or phone calls.

After seeing De Kock on Saturday night, novelist Lauren Beukes said she politely asked him to leave after getting the support of her black writer friends and publishers.

Musician and writer Nakhane Toure accompanied her.

Many were shaken and in tears by De Kock’s presence.

Beukes referred News24 to her blog on Monday, in which she described to BooksLive that De Kock graciously and quietly left.

“I walked over to him standing by the stairs and asked if he was Eugene de Kock. I said, ‘It’s inappropriate that you are here. People are in tears that you are here and I think you should leave. He said ‘Thank you for telling me’, and left,” she said on her blog.

Beukes added in an email that she was personally angry too.

“… it was a way for me as a white person to stand up to white insensitivity and ongoing willful ignorance of how apartheid devastated this country and black people and how the aftershocks continue to do so.  We cannot close our eyes and wish it away.”

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