What does it take to be a spy – to live two lives and deceive everyone close to you? Jonathan Ancer finds out in Betrayal – The Secret Lives of Apartheid Spies in which he describes why, and how, very different people took the paths they chose to follow. There’s Dieter Gerhardt who rose to the rank of Commodore in the South African navy and conveyed not only South African, but also British military secrets to the Russians. Gordon Brookbanks was an undercover agent at Rhodes University and saw nothing wrong in recruiting fellow students and betraying friends. Craig Williamson became not only a spy, but an assassin (his reasons form one chapter of the book). Vera Miles ostensibly spied for Fidel Castro. Then there were the countless vulnerable, often naive, students recruited into the ‘spy game’. It’s an interesting read, somewhat marred by small mistakes in one story that raise the possibility of other errors. Tafelberg, R285.
‘If you want to take a system down, provide a better alternative at least’. This comment clearly indicates exactly what makes Mteto Nyati tick and his book, Betting on a Darkie – Lifting the Corporate Game, reveals how he set about solving the problems plaguing various large organisations. Always interested in building and fixing things, he qualified as a mechanical engineer and became the only black engineer at Afrox. From there, his career eventually led him to steer Microsoft SA and MTN SA out of troubled waters. Today, he’s engaged in guiding the transition of Altron from a family business into a high-performing international IT company with a social conscience. (Pity Nyati’s career didn’t steer him towards Eskom, or even SAA!) That said, this is the uplifting story of a hugely talented man from a humble background, who went on to put his training and hard-won expertise to excellent use, thus benefiting everyone concerned. Kwela Books, R280.
During a lull in her career, Vida, a sound operator for international musicals, finds herself stage managing a university event. In Okay, Okay, Okay, Finuala Dowling recounts the complications when Vida meets Simon, the university’s Head of Effective Communication, who’s not an effective communicator, and becomes involved in university life with all its fault lines and complex culture. Kwela, R320.
Lee Den Hond has had her ups and downs in life. The downs included being stabbed in the back one night in New York – which, as things turned out, was probably a (heavily disguised) blessing. In her book, What Happens When You Say Yes, written with Tudor Caradoc-Davies, she describes building up a multimillion rand events company, winning a Businesswoman of the Year award and transforming herself into an extreme athlete. In 2013 she became the third South African woman to summit Everest. In 2017 she tackled the 250km six-day Sahara Desert marathon. She’s also involved in the Field of Dreams Foundation which helps disadvantaged children. As a sought-after public speaker, Lee inspires others to ‘say yes’ to their own personal Everests and to reach their full potential. Mercury, R292.