On 9 June 2003, a 43-year-old coloured man named Magadien Wentzel walked out of Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town. Behind him lay a lifelong career in the 28s, South Africa's oldest and most reviled prison gang, for decades rumoured to have specialised in rape and robbery. In front of him lay the prospect of a law-abiding future, and life in a household of eight adults and six children, none of whom earned a living. Jonny Steinberg met Wentzel in prison in the dying months of 2002. By the time Wentzel was released, he and Steinberg had spent more than 50 hours discussing his life experiences. The Number is an account of their conversations and of Steinberg's journeys to the places and people of Wentzel's past. Wentzel had lived a bewilderingly schizophrenic life, wandering to and fro between three worlds: the arcane universe of prison gangs, steeped in a mythology of banditry and retribution, where he was known as JR; the fringes of South Africa's criminal economy, where he lived by a string of stolen names and learned the arts of commercial fraud; and his scattered family which eked out a living int the coloured ghettos of the Cape flats. The Number visits each of those worlds in turn. It is a tale of modern South Africa's historic events seen through the eyes of the country's underclass. Surprisingly, perhaps, it is neither a story of passivity nor despair, but of beguiling ingenuity and cool cynicism. Most of all, the book is an account of memory and identity, of Wentzel's project to make some sense of his bewildering past and something worthy of his future. When Steinberg met him, Wentzel was embarking on a quest to retrieve the name he had been given at birth. He was also beginning the daunting task of gathering together the estranged children he had sired into a nuclear family. It was an eccentric and painful venture for a man with his past, but it has led him to construct an account of himself that begs to be told.
In the spring of 1999, in the beautiful hills of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, a young white farmer is shot dead on the dirt road running from his father's farmhouse to his irrigation fields. The murder is the work of assassins rather than robbers; a single shot behind the ear, nothing but his gun stolen, no forensic evidence like spent cartridges or fingerprints left at the scene. Journalist Jonny Steinberg travels to the Midlands to investigate. Local black workers say the young white man had it coming. The dead man's father says that the machinery of a political conspiracy has been set into motion, that he and his neighbours are being pushed off their land. Initially thinking that he is to write about an event in the recent past, Steinberg finds that much of the story lies in the immediate future. He has stumbled upon a festering frontier battle, the combatants groping hungrily for the whispers and lies that drift in from the other side. Right from the beginning, it is clear that the young white man is not the only one who will die on that frontier, and that the story of his and other deaths will illuminate a great deal about the early days of post-apartheid South Africa. Sifting through the betrayals and the poisoned memories of a century-long relationship between black and white, Steinberg takes us to a part of post-apartheid South Africa we fear to contemplate. Midlands is about the midlands of the heart and mind, the midlands between possession and dispossession, the midlands between the past and present, myth and reality. Midlands is a tour de force of investigative journalism.
In this selection of his Business Day columns, Jonny Steinberg walks through Pollsmoor Prison on the eve of the invasion of Iraq and believes he sees in the jail's corridors why the US's impending war in the Middle East will fail. He meets a poverty-stricken old man who spends most of his state pension maintaining a black Mercedes Benz, and explains why this shows that government's welfare programme is working. He tells us why he thinks Thabo Mbeki is an Afro-pessismist and why a South Africa ruled by Tokyo Sexwale will be as riddled with corruption as Silvio Berlusconi's Italy. Steinberg has an eye for the strangeness of our fractured country. For the last five years, Steinberg has been recording the things he sees on his travels across South Africa in his fortnightly column on Business Day's leader page. Here are the best of those columns.
A country is policed only to the extent that it consents to be. When that consent is withheld, cops either negotiate or withdraw. Once they do this, however, they are no longer police; their role becomes something far murkier. Several months before they exploded into xenophobic violence, Jonny Steinberg travelled the streets of Alexandra, Reiger Park and other Johannesburg townships with police patrols. His mission was to discover the unwritten rules of engagement emerging between South Africa's citizens and its new police force. In this provocative new book, Steinberg argues that policing in crowded urban space is like theatre. Only here, the audience writes the script, and if the police don't perform the right lines, the spectators throw them off the stage. In vivid and eloquent prose, Steinberg takes us into the heart of this drama, and picks apart the rules South Africans have established for the policing of their communities. What emerges is a lucid and original account of a much larger matter: the relationship between ordinary South Africans and the government they have elected to rule them. The government and its people are like scorned lovers, Steinberg argues: their relationship, brittle, moody, untrusting and ultimately very needy.
On Park Hill Avenue in New York City, almost everyone is Liberian. Many fled here, survivors of a brutal civil war that claimed the lives of one in fourteen Liberians. But even an ocean away, the baggage of the past is difficult to leave behind. Steinberg spent two years in this close-knit neighbourhood, tracing the tensions between two men, Rufus and Jacob, with very different pasts but goals which were locked into a collision course. As national dramas played out on a small stage thousands of miles from home, Steinberg takes up a remarkable story of a horrific and heart-wrenching war, and of the quest to be human in a world losing its humanity.
At the end of a steep gravel road in one of the remotest corners of South Africa's Eastern Cape lies the village of Ithanga. Home to a few hundred villagers, the majority of them unemployed, it is inconceivably poor. It is to here that award-winning author Jonny Steinberg travels to explore the lives of a community caught up in a battle to survive the ravages of the greatest plague of our times, the African AIDS epidemic. He befriends Sizwe, a young local man who refuses to be tested for AIDS despite the existence of a well-run testing and anti-retroviral programme. It is Sizwe's deep ambivalence, rooted in his deep sense of the cultural divide, that becomes the key to understanding the dynamics that thread their way through a terrified community. As Steinberg grapples to get closer to finding answers that remain just out of reach, he realizes that he must look within himself to unlock the paradoxes at the heart of his country.
When Asad was eight years old, his mother was shot in front of him. With his father in hiding, he was swept alone into the great wartime migration that has scattered the Somali people throughout the world.This extraordinary book tells Asad's story. Serially betrayed by the people who promised to care for him, Asad lived his childhood at a sceptical remove from the adult world, living in a bewildering number of places, from the cosmopolitan streets of inner-city Nairobi to towns deep in the Ethiopian desert. By the time he reached the cusp of adulthood, Asad had made good as a street hustler, brokering relationships between hardnosed Ethiopian businessmen and bewildered Somali refugees. He also courted the famously beautiful Foosiya, and married her, to the astonishment of his peers. Buoyed by success in work and in love, Asad put $1,200 in his pocket and made his way down the length of the African continent to Johannesburg, whose streets he believed to be lined with gold. So began an adventure in a country richer and more violent than he could possibly have imagined. A Man of Good Hope is the story of a person shorn of the things we have come to believe make us human - personal possessions, parents, siblings. And yet Asad's is an intensely human life, one suffused with dreams and desires and a need to leave something of permanence on this earth.
The SAGE Handbook of Global Policing examines and critically retraces the field of policing studies by posing and exploring a series of fundamental questions to do with the concept and institutions of policing and their relation to social and political life in today's globalized world. The volume is structured in the following four parts:
Part One: Lenses
Part Two: Social and Political Order
Part Three: Legacies
Part Four: Problems and Problematics.
By bringing new lines of vision and new voices to the social analysis of policing, and by clearly demonstrating why policing matters, the Handbook will be an essential tool for anyone in the field.