Dear Mr Brigland,
I am reaching out to say sorry.
Jeremy called me today and expressed to me that you are unhappy about the tweet I sent a few weeks ago in which I referred to you as ‘an apartheid apologist.’ I apologise unreservedly. I should not have sent that tweet. It was wrong.
In these racially charged times my response was reckless. I did not hold myself to the standards to which I hold others and to which I try to hold myself. Indeed, I was acting in a similar way to the publisher — feeding into radicalised language to score points.
I have deleted the tweet and during the course of the day tomorrow I will also post a message to social media making it clear that I apologise without reservation and providing the same reasons I have outlined above. You are also of course, free to share this message with colleagues and friends.
Again, my most sincere apologies.
Edinburgh, 9 November,
First, an apology. I got home late last night and did not think I could give the proper attention to your kind and generous-minded e-mail letter that it deserved. So I decided to delay my reply until early this morning when my tiny mind is at its least worst …..
Second, I repeat that I do accept your apology fully and unconditionally. I have become increasingly interested in the latter years of my career in the difficult art of peace-making, from international levels down to reconciliation between individuals. It is not easy and requires high-mindedness and leaps of imagination between protagonists. It usually needs planets to become aligned at the mega level. Between individuals two hands are needed to clap. Thank you for offering your hand; I return mine.
Third, I offer you an apology for the kind of fight back I had been planning to your allegation against me. It would have been ugly and sucked us both into a mire that would only have made us unhappy. Your magnanimity has relieved me of that burden. Thank you, and I withdraw unreservedly those thoughts that had been informing my battle plans!!
We don’t need to tell each other that southern Africa is a rough region with a tragic history and great potential. You and I have come to the challenge from different polarities and entirely different life experiences. I do assure you that when I was posted to Zambia in 1974 for Reuters I was pumped up by the belief that I was going to destroy apartheid by the power of my pen and typewriter. Experience of realities has knocked me about more than just a bit. I now have rougher edges and have come to believe that truth is rarely pure and never simple [to plagiarise Oscar Wilde!]. Increasingly my writing has become more counter-intuitive. I have not been afraid to be controversial when necessary. But throughout these experiences I have never wavered from the core belief that people should not be judged on the pigment of their skin. It’s too ridiculous, and in my case hugely impractical because there are people of every possible colour in my extended family and among my closest friends. [By the way, I’m a kind of pinky-gray, as you might notice when we meet on 16 November in London].
I recognise and respect your observation about these racially charged times and that the trauma can lead to judgments we later regret. Though rationally these things should be easy and simple, history in fact tells us they are incredibly difficult. Ironically and serendipitly, my partner, the science author Sue Armstrong, has just finished reading your book Always Another Country. She admired it, for its style and its honesty, and urged me to read it. My response was to say I would never read a book by “that woman”!: I now, of course, have to move Always Another Country to high on my reading list, and I hope you will sign Sue’s copy for her when we meet in London.
Enough for now. Too much to talk about. But again thank you so much for relieving me of a heavy burden.
Sisonke Msimang (@Sisonkemsimang) It has come to my attention that a new book about #WinnieMandela written by an apartheid apologist has a blurb on the back taken from an article I wrote in the M&G. This is a sneaky marketing effort and I do not endorse the book. I will be writing to the publishers formally.
- Security police officer Colonl Daniel Bosman testified at the 1997 inquiry of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that the security police had been bugging the phone in Mrs Mandela’s house in Soweto on 29, 30 and 31 December 1988 over the period when Stompie Moeketsi was murdered, and recorded her speaking on the phone. This knocked out the claim by her defence counsel , George Bizos SC, that she was in Brandfort over the same three days, which was accepted by the judge in her trial in 1991 and another judge in her appeal in 1993. This crucial evidence was not presented by the prosecution in her trial.
- National Party Justice Minister at that time, Kobie Coetsee, later told the journalist and author John Carlin, correspondent for the London Independent, that he and the chief of the apartheid regime’s National Intelligence Service, Niel Barnard, had “conveyed a message” to “relevant members of the judiciary to show Winnie leniency.” (Bridgland, p.257)
- Bridgland reports that one of the members of the Mandela United Football Club who was in Mrs Mandela’s house at the time Stompie was murdered, Katiza Cebekhulu, told the TRC inquiry “he had approached Captain Fred Dempsey, the senior officer in charge of the investigation into the murder of Stompie Moeketsi, and state prosecutor Chris van Vuuren to say he had seen Mrs Mandela murder Stompie. Both said they did not believe him. Dempsey refused to take a statement from him; Van Vuuren made extensive notes.”