Myrna Robins

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Subcategories from this category: Reviews, News, Events

Posted by on in Events

It may be a long way off, but already visitors are making plans to head to the enchanting village of McGregor as August comes to a close. From 28 – 30 August the third Poetry Fest will take place, with poets from across the country and from the USA and Holland having scheduled to attend.

Meet and engage with the poets at Temenos Retreat or one of several other congenial village venues. Relish the readings, workshops, musical recitals, open mic sessions and movies.

Bookings through COMPUTICKET or at the Temenos Office (023 625 1871).For more information –email Contact Jennifer Johnson, festival co-ordinator for more information.

023 625 1908 / 084 675 1164 .

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Posted by on in Events

Bookings for the 6th annual Knysna Literary Festival, from 18-22 March only opened early in February and some events are nearly sold out.

A five-day-long literary experience, the KLF offers attendees a diverse programme that includes small-group workshops, larger-group presentations, informal chats with authors and the opportunity to visit some of Knysna’s most exclusive private properties.

Festival manager Sasha Campbell explains, “This year we are thrilled to have South African celebrity cartoonist and author Jonathan Shapiro, famous as Zapiro, join us at the festival and apparently everyone else is, too! His Unplugged appearance - where he will talk about his book “Democrazy” at Ile de Pain on 20 March - sold out in just four hours!”

More events are expected to sell out soon, including the Delicious Word Journey on 21 March where Zapiro will be making another appearance along with Prof Jonathan Jansen, author of “We Need to Talk,” and Braam Malherbe, author of “The Great Trek.”

The Delicious Word Journey takes attendees on a four-course journey to some of Knysna’s most magnificent private homes and gives them the opportunity to chat with authors in a small-group setting while enjoying top South African wine and cuisine.”

The 2015 programme highlights include:

20 March: See Mandela from a New Perspective with Tony Leon, author of “Opposite Mandela,” R100pp

Tony Leon will share his unique insight into an unexposed aspect of the Presidency and leadership of Nelson Mandela, including stories of how South Africa’s first democratic president related to his political opponents.

20 March: Get Inspired with a Creativity Workshop hosted by Graeme Butchart, R100pp

Discover how to renew, refresh or unblock your creative energy, see the same things a new way and acquire tools that tap deep into your intuitive creative resources.

21 March: Mingle with award-winning novelist Jo-Anne Richards, R100pp. Join in on the conversation as Eugene Ashton, Jonathan Ball MD, leads a small group chat with Jo-Anne Richards about her award-winning novel, “The Imagined Child.”

21 March: a Small Group Chat with Shani Krebs, Author of Dragons & Butterflies, R100pp

Hear author and convicted heroin trafficker Shani Krebs tell the fascinating story of his life, from the party scene of Johannesburg to 18 years spent in a Thai prison, and his miraculous recovery.

22 March: Relive the Battle of Spioenkop with Simon Blackburn, R100pp

Labelled as the worst single day for the British of the entire Anglo Boer War, military historian Simon Blackburn will take you back in time to 24 January 1900 - the day of the Battle of Spioenkop.

Tickets can be purchased online at, in-person at the Pam Golding Properties Knysna office at 5 Gray Street in Knysna, or via EFT. Prices vary by event. For more information call 044 382 5574, email, or visit

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Posted by on in Reviews

The recent passing of Sir David Graaff focussed renewed attention on this prominent Cape family. Although present interests revolve around agriculture, it is the family’s contribution to South African politics that catapulted his grandfather and father into the limelight.

The fact that this biography was submitted as a doctoral thesis at the University of Stellenbosch gives a good indication of its nature: both formal and factual, it aims to “portray Graaff in his time, not to give an account of the man and the time in which he lived and worked.”

In this, it certainly succeeds, providing a valuable and comprehensive account of a man who was active in South African politics before and after the Union of South Africa came into being in 1910. Intensive and lengthy research has gone into the chronicle, starting with Graaff’s humble beginnings, his rise to becoming  a respected politician, a successful and shrewd businessman, and a Cape Afrikaner who managed to straddle the divide between Boer and Brit with impressive acumen.

David Graaff’s parents account for a romantic if impoverished beginning, eloping from the farm Radyn in the Overberg to Franschhoek where they married. Anna’s father, farmer Pieter de Villiers eventually came round to the idea of his farmhand son-in-law, stipulating that male offspring should take on the De Villiers name as well as Graaff, merging immigrant German and Huguenot refugee names with a combination that lives on today.

Nort and Annie , who eked out a meager existence on the farm, had nine children, the sixth of whom was David Pieter de Villiers Graaff, born in 1859. Although he had limited schooling, his intelligence was noticed by an uncle, Jacobus Combrinck, who swept young Dawie off to cape Town to be educated and to help in his flourishing butchery. Cape Town was enjoying boom times, and, at 17, the young man took over management of the business, soon to be joined by one of his brothers. Not only were upcountry farms bought to ensure a constant supply of meat, but Graaff realised the need for cold storage, in its infancy at that time, and installed cooling chambers on the butchery premises. This was the start of a business empire that eventually encompassed Europe, South America and neighbouring countries in southern Africa.

He was active in local politics from the age of 23 when he became a Cape Town city councillor, and nine years later was elected mayor. He helped bring electricity to the mother city, and then entered colonial politics, becoming a member of parliament. As a member of the South African Party Graaff played a role in the election of General Louis Botha as first premier of the Union in 1910.

He received a baronetcy from Britain soon after, and two years later, this bachelor surprised many by marrying a clergyman’s daughter Eileen van Heerden 30 years his junior.  Retiring in 1920 as MP because of ill health, Graaff devoted his time to diverse business interests , which encompassed Imperial Cold Storage, involvement in the SWA diamond fields and large land purchases in the Tygerberg ,where he had established his home farm De Grendel. He and Eileen had three sons, most famous of which was the eldest, De Villiers, who was to become SA's longest serving leader of the opposition.

Anyone with an interest in our history will happily digest this account of a life immersed in Cape politics and business .  Very few women and virtually no people of colour feature on these pages, which no doubt reflects the absence of both in those spheres in the early 20th century. I would have found the portrait of Graaff more engaging if we had learnt something of his social and home life – and if the biographer had answered some of the questions that locals have tossed around for decades: was it true, for instance, that one of the important sources of Graaff wealth was the income derived from an arrangement with the former SAR&H which, it was said, paid him a halfpenny for every ton of freight that was railed over his extensive properties in the Tygerberg?
Illustrations are limited to a handful of old photographs but the endnotes, bibliography and index are extensive.

Myrna Robins

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