Time of the Writer festival

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Athol Williams will be one of the panellists at this year’s Time of the Writer festival.
Athol Williams will be one of the panellists at this year’s Time of the Writer festival.

Whistleblowing on corruption is the theme for the first in a series of hot topics to be debated by some of the country’s top writers at the 24th edition of the Time of the Writer festival online.

The event will be hosted by the Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) at the University of Kwazulu-Natal from March 15 to 21.

“As South Africa marks the 20th anniversary of the Protected Disclosures Act this year, it is an opportune time to bring together some of our leading authors who have written about crime and corruption to reflect on whether the legislation has contributed effectively to combatting corruption and also about whether the act has provided effective protection for whistleblowers,” said Ismail Mahomed, director of the CCA.

The Protected Disclosures Act, No 26 of 2000, which provides protection for employees who disclose irregular conduct in their workplaces, came into effect on February 16, 2001, exactly 20 years ago.

Mahomed said the festival had taken inspiration for its theme, “The Writer: Whistleblower, Canary in the Mine or Testifier”, from a quote by author Daisy Hernández.

She wrote: “While it may well be that no book has ever prevented genocide or fascism, we still have a necessity for literature to testify to the political conditions of our lives — not only so that we might have a record of those we have lost, but also that we might have a reason to gather with others to read and to continue resisting.”

A panel moderated by Daily Maverick journalist Marianne Thamm will unpack the statement written by Hernándes in a webinar with South African authors Athol Williams, Brent Meersman, Mandy Wiener and Themba Maseko at 7 pm on March 15.

Williams, a poet and novelist, has survived the classic punitive marginalisation inflicted on whistleblowers. He is due to testify about global management consulting firm Bain & Company’s role in state capture at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into state capture.

Meersman is the co-editor of GroundUp and has chaired the Cape Town Press Club since 2013. His book Rattling the Cage takes the reader on an informed tour of the South African reality with essays that provide critical perspectives on and insights into SA’s recent past and current political, economic and social undercurrents.

Wiener is one of the country’s best known and most credible journalists and authors.

She worked as a multi-award-winning reporter with Eyewitness News from 2004 to 2014, filing reports for Talk Radio 702, 567 Cape Talk, 94.7 Highveld Stereo and Kfm radio stations.

Wiener specialises in investigative reporting and legal matters, having covered extensively both the corruption trial of former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi and the Brett Kebble murder trial.

Maseko is the communications director of Black Leadership South Africa and a former director general for public service and administration.

His testimony accused Jacob Zuma of lying during his first appearance at the state capture inquiry in July.

“The series of hot topics at this year’s Time of the Writer Festival covers subjects such as whistleblowing, migration, decolonisation, sexual identity and gender-based violence, but there are also several more light-hearted discussions with authors that will give us a deeper insight into our society and our times,” said Siphindile Hlongwa, co-curator of the festival.

Time of the Writer is one of the largest and longest-running literature festivals in Africa and it was at the forefront of the City of Durban being awarded the first African Unesco City of Literature status in 201.

The festival promotes South African and African writers in the current cultural climate that sees literature as part of a more significant social process around nation-building and social cohesion in South Africa and our continent. Over the years, it has hosted a wide variety of internationally acclaimed thought leaders, including Zakes Mda and NoViolet Bulawayo, while maintaining its focus on Africa. Time of the Writer has, and continues to, encourage debates and dialogue around all forms of the spoken and written word

• To be updated on the festival, follow Time of the Writer on @Timeofthewriter on Twitter and Instagram or like the Facebook page: timeofthewriter.

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