For once the dust cover doesn’t exaggerate: Max du Preez has “one hell of a story to tell”. For readers who missed the first edition (2003), this is a gripping and highly readable guide to what we as a nation have been through over the past 40 or so years. This new edition (completed in 2010) brings us up to date with Du Preez’s take on recent events and controversies
His central focus is the extraordinary recent history of South Africa – the years of transition, repression and turmoil (from 1976 to 1994). However, these events are filtered through the perspective of this unusual “pale native”, a different kind of Afrikaner. He didn’t just found a radical anti-apartheid weekly newspaper which ran a series of sensational exposés.
Pale Native should be required reading for any student of journalism in this country – particularly in the present era of renewed threats to press freedom. The team at the Vrye Weekblad showed a passion, energy and commitment that has rarely been matched.
After the enforced closure of Vrye Weekblad in 1993, Du Preez refused to fade away: he turned his hand to television journalism, founded Special Assignment and led the team that produced Special Report on the TRC.
Du Preez argues that we have reached a tipping point in our history. He is angry at the ANC’s degeneration into a party of “greed, money, politics, factionalism, corruption and power abuse” – but he is not ready to throw in the towel.
Unlike Breyten Breytenbach, he would not advise young South Africans to emigrate: his advice would be to “stay and help fight for a better society”. In fact, he sees this as the historic responsibility of all “pale natives”.
“My dreams for my country are far from dead.” Clearly, Du Preez is walking a fine tightrope. Deluded idealist? Hopeless romantic? Or clear-sighted realist?