Saturday 27 February 2016

The People Armed: a teaser

These two images are just a teaser for the international, multilingual film, text and photographic project, The People Armed: Anarchist Fighters Verbatim, of which I am the convening editor. This multimedia project will be contributed to by anarchist historians from across the world and will produce an online research tool consisting primarily of lengthy, unedited raw interviews with anarchist veterans from Europe, Latin America, North Africa, the Middle East and North America. At the top, I have just finished interviewing Marcello Ferrada de Noli, the anarchist theorist who laid down the military-political line for the Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria / Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR) of Chile in 1965; the MIR went on to fight against Pinochet. Below, is the cover of Ferrada de Noli's memoirs, Rebeldes Con Causa, due out by Libertarian Books in Sweden later this year.

Thursday 4 February 2016

Will The Bomb shed new light on the 1979 Vela nuke test?

The Bomb: South Africa's Nuclear Weapon Programme, a new book on the apartheid nuke project - by an insider - will no doubt shed more light on this shadowy subject which I covered in detail in Part 1 of my third book, Drinking with Ghosts (BestRed, Cape Town, 2014), titled "Unhale Radiance: The African Atomic Bomb." 

I can't wait to read this - especially regarding what the authors have to say about the 1979 "Vela" atomic test that I stated was almost certainly a clandestine Israeli test (with South Africa assisting and observing), shot on an Israeli ballistic missile from the Overberg Test Range in the Cape downrange towards South Africa's remote South Atlantic island possessions where the detonation was picked up by a US Vela spy satellite.

For decades, the world speculated about South Africa and the Bomb. The country possessed six nuclear bombs developed in secret, but then destroyed. No other country in the world has ever dismantled its own nuclear weapons. This book is so far the most complete statement of South Africa's nuclear weapons capability, written by a nuclear physicist who was involved directly in the process since 1975. Together with his daughter Lydia von Wielligh-Steyn, Dr. Nic von Wielligh has written a highly readable and compelling story about the atomic particle, and how it was tamed.  

Dr. Nic von Wielligh obtained his DSc in Nuclear / Atomic Physics in 1963. Among his achievementns, he was chief of the Department of Physics at the University of Durban-Westville and chief scientist at the South African Bureau of Standards. In 1975, he was appointed to the Uranium Enrichment Corporation (UKOR), and in 1985 in a management capacity at the Atomic Energy Corporation of South Africa (AEC).

After South Africa's entry in 1991 into the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, von Wielligh was given responsibility for the implementation of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) guarantees in South Africa, and in 1999, he was consultant and technical adviser at the South African embassy in Vienna, Austria. There he liaised with the IAEA on issues such as warranties, nuclear and radiological security, promoting the peaceful use of nuclear energy, technical assistance programs to developing countries and other issues. Since 2002 he has done technical consulting for government departments on issues involving international guarantees and related matters. He was for many years a member of the IAEA's international advisory committee on nuclear power and the implementation of guarantees, as well as board member of the South African Council for the Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Von Wielligh is the author of numerous classified scientific publications. Among his international publications can be counted the experience for (de facto) ex-nuclear weapon states with applications for post-Iraq safeguards, presented at the 1994 Safeguards Symposium in Vienna, Austria.

Lydia von Wielligh-Steyn is an accredited translator, experienced researcher, public relations tour guide, a published novelist and article writer and a member of the South African Academy for Science and Art. Since 2000 she has worked for an international perfume company in Johannesburg.

Tuesday 2 February 2016

PEN South Africa showcases my new book

A Taste of Bitter Almonds by Michael Schmidt:

When Nelson Mandela took the oath as South Africa’s first democratically-elected president in 1994, it symbolised the triumphal defeat of almost three and a half centuries of racial separation since the original corporate raiders of the Dutch East India Company planted a bitter almond hedge to keep indigenous people out of ‘their’ Cape outpost in 1659. 
The subsequent expansion of Dutch, Batavian, then British settler colonialism over the territories that centuries later were forced by Britain to form a sub-imperialist corporate entity called ‘South Africa’ has usually been retro-projected as a simplistic tale of white-over-black – but this ignores the multiracial nature of both the colonial elite and its underclass of servants, soldiers and slaves. The dispossession by genocide at the hands of Boer, British, Bantu and Griqua of the indigenous Bushmen – a term they themselves prefer to the pejorative ‘San,’ meaning vagrant – has been airbrushed out of the South African consciousness, as has the certain knowledge that all South Africans, including the author, are racially interrelated, creating blind spots that were viciously exploited by white, and now increasingly, black racist nationalists with the rise since 2014 of right-wing populism.
The Mandela moment had deep global resonance and for a few years thereafter the ‘Rainbow Nation’ was the world’s darling with the stories produced by journalists signalling in a breathless flood the dramatic changes of the transition – but in the world’s most unequal society, for the majority of its people, being excluded from a dignified life remained the rule over 1994 to 2015, and a taste of bitter almonds remained. Some of the most obvious – yet usually ignored – elements of continuity from the colonial, dominion and apartheid past in the democratic era include the intolerable official burdening of all young children by insisting on classifying them by race, the cynical unwillingness of the political elite to adequately redistribute to the hard-toiling poor the ill-gotten gains of the past especially land and corporate wealth, and the weird mimicking by today’s town planners of separatist apartheid urban geography.
In the year of South Africa’s troubled coming-of-age, veteran investigative journalist and anarchist activist Michael Schmidt brings to bear 21 years of his scribbled field notes to weave a tapestry, employing veteran war correspondent Martha Gellhorn’s ‘view from the ground’ technique: here in the demi-monde of our transition from autocracy to democracy, in the half-light glow of the rusted rainbow, you will meet neo-Nazis and the newly dispossessed, Boers and Bushmen, black illegal coal miners and a bank robber, witches and wastrels, love children and land claimants.
About the author
Michael Schmidt is a field reporter with 26 years’ experience, having worked for 19 years at South Africa’s leading print titles including ThisDay and Sunday Times before going into journalism training in 2008. He has worked across Africa, Central and South America, the Middle East and elsewhere. He has an interest in extra-parliamentary politics, free media activism, and conflict reporting in transitional societies. He is the author of four non-fiction books including Drinking with Ghosts: The Aftermath of Apartheid’s Dirty War (BestRed, South Africa, 2014), and has been published in Germany (2008, 2010), the USA (2009, 2013), Brazil (2009, 2014, 2015), Canada (2012) and Argentina (2015). He is currently working on six more books, and a multimedia project on massacre and memory, with Lebanese writer Rasha Salti.
Date of Publication: November 2015
ISBN: 9781928246060
Publisher: BestRed