Day of Reconciliation

December 16th is the Day of Reconciliation in South Africa. It is the anniversary of the Battle of Blood River in 1838. Which was fought on the banks of the Ncome River in Natal by less than 500 Voortrekkers led by Andries Pretorius against an overwhelming force of over 10,000 Zulu warriors led by King Dingane. Over 3,000 Zulus were said to be killed that day.

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The Great Betrayal, Ian Smith, and Rhodesia

Most South Africans, especially of the generation slightly older than myself, know Ian Smith very well, the man who unilaterally declared Rhodesia's independence from Britain, served as its prime minister, and oversaw the bloody civil war that eventually led to the first democratic elections and the long reign of Robert Mugabe since then. Read hear about his story.

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The Rand Club: Truly a Bygone Era

I'm sure in its day the Rand Club in Johannesburg was THE place to be. It doesn't get any more venerable in terms of history in these parts. Incidentally, that is about the same time as the building of Prynnsberg, diamond magnate Charles Newberry's estate in the Free State which I've written about. One was fueled by diamond mining, and the other by the discovery of gold.

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We Are Rich!

Who knew that we’d have to come to Africa to finally be rich. And I don’t mean just normal rich, I mean super rich. Fifty trillion dollars and counting. You know how they keep talking about the super-rich in the U.S., the 1% of the population who have like 20% of the wealth? Well, I bet ... 

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Living Like a Diamond Magnate

I recently mentioned a vacation to you on which we had accidentally started a wildfire. I never wrote about it back then, as that fire had marred our otherwise wonderful memories of an amazing weekend. Only now did I go back through my pictures and realized they had a story to tell. Many thanks ... 

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South Africa’s Hypocrisy

There is not much in this world that I find more detestable than hypocrisy, though we all fall victim to it once in a while until others remind us of it. But to plow through, despite public outcry, with an act that defies what you yourself have preached for years, an act that flies in the very face ... 

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When a Crocodile Eats the Sun

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun picks up where Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa, another Peter Godwin book, had left off: Whereas Mukiwa is a memoir of Peter's childhood and coming of age in the Rhodesian armed forces during the early years of the civil war, this second book describes what happened in what was now called Zimbabwe after independence up until the present day.

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In the Footsteps of Paul Kruger and the Voortrekkers

Paul Kruger monument in pretoria

A day trip to Pretoria is a must if you are visiting or living in Johannesburg. It offers so much in terms of South Africa's multifaceted history, from Paul Kruger's life (Kruger House Museum) to the fabled Voortrekkers (Voortrekker Monument). But it is also a lovely city in its own right, with beautiful buildings and views everywhere you go - especially during jacaranda season each spring.

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Today is Heritage Day

On September 24, South Africans celebrate Heritage Day. It is a holiday meant to encourage everyone to remember their heritage, their culture, their traditions. Even though I’m not South African, it made me wonder: What is my heritage?

I grew up in Southern Germany, raised “schwäbisch,” in other words thrifty with a terrible accent, growing up on my mom’s homemade berry jam and the admonition to work hard and not impose on others. At sixteen I spent a year in the deep deep American South, having had the incredible ... 

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