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Author of Dimitri Tsafendas’ biography wins major international literary prize

By Edward Tsumele

The author of the  critically acclaimed  book, The Man Who Killed Apartheid: The Life of Dimitri Tsafendas,  Harris Dousemetzis,  was awarded a major literary award in the UK on Thursday night, the author’s local publisher Jacana Media conformed yesterday.

”Jacana Media is thrilled to announce the awarding of the Fage & Oliver African Studies Association UK Prize to Harris Dousemetzis for his extraordinary work, The Man Who Killed Apartheid: The Life of Dimitri Tsafendas.

Chaired by Ray Bush, Professor of African Studies and Development Politics, University of Leeds, the jury found this to be a gripping book based on ten years of solid research,” the Jacana Media said in a statement released yesterday.

 On behalf of this year’s jury, Professor Bush said The Man Who Killed Apartheid, The Life of Dimitri Tsafendas “is a tour de force of investigative, analytical rigour in righting one of the injustices perpetuated by apartheid. Harris Dousemetzis documents the political commitment of Dimitri Tsafendas in his assassination of the architect of apartheid, Dr Hendrik Verwoerd on 6 September 1966. The government of South Africa covered up the assassin’s motivation as one of mental illness, fearing political backlash for implementing apartheid. 

Dousemetzis, however, details the life of Tsafendas, a communist who was committed to racial, economic and social equality.  He became South Africa’s longest serving prisoner, who was subjected to inhumane conditions of confinement and torture, dying at the age of 81 after 33 years of incarceration. Harris Dousemetzis has written an accessible biography of Tsafendas that transcends the academic monograph. He highlights the life and times of apartheid, employs transnational historical evidence and in so doing, indicates the book’s contemporary relevance and significant contribution to African Studies. This is a captivating and hypnotising book, a fabulously worthy winner of the 2020 Fage and Oliver ASAUK book prize.”

Harris Dousemetzis and his daughter Maya, accepting the award.

In accepting the prize, Dousemetzis said that he dedicated the book to “Krish Govender, Judge Jody Kollapen, Bishop Ioannis Tsaftaridis, Dimitri Tsafendas and George Bizos.”

 Bizos incidentally and unfortunately passed on a day before the award ceremony, and so he never got to enjoy the honour in his lifetime.

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