‘Sauce’ for the gander a disgrace to their gender

Reading Phillip de Wet’s description of my book, Agent 407, in the Mail & Guardian brought to mind a grubby little schoolboy poring over a DH Lawrence novel looking for the dirty bits.

Fortunately, I was prepared for the shabby, sexist journalism in the article by the front page, which carried a photograph of me and the headline The apartheid spy who shagged almost everybody in a juvenile and disgusting parody of the James Bond book and film The Spy Who Loved Me.

The headline, presented as fact, is untrue, sexist and calculated to vilify me, and the headline Scant sauce in ‘honeypot’ memoir is also inaccurate: it is not a “honeypot” memoir. The only truth in that is there is indeed “scant sauce”.

In the week that the people of South Africa celebrated Women’s Day, it raises the question of how far the country has come in changing attitudes to women if the newspaper that likes to think of itself as a supporter of fairness, freedom and liberation could stoop so low.

The writer’s apparent disappointment at the paucity of sexual indiscretions is somehow contorted into criticism of the book. He repeatedly implies that Agent 407 is a “kiss-and-tell”, which it isn’t, and that I was a “honeypot”, which I wasn’t. So what is his evidence for portraying me as some sort of sexual predator? An almost 30-year-old story put out by people who felt betrayed by me at university who may, or may not, have produced a badge saying they hadn’t slept with me. A badge of honour? I think not.


It was a discredit to whoever dreamed up that little slur then and is to the discredit of the M&G for choosing to repeat it now.

Just like the schoolboy aching for satisfaction from Lady Chatterley’s Lover, your reporter seems to have skipped through pages in his furtive search for the “good bits”. Anybody who has actually read the book will certainly know there is no attempt by me, or the publishers, to sell it as a sexed-up Jane Bond spy drama.

Writing the book was painful. I make it clear that I let down people for whom I felt real affection. Yes, betrayed them. Naivety and a young woman’s desire for travel and excitement set me on the wrong road.

But, in the end, my road to hell was paved with good intentions. My defection to the ANC was genuine and for several months I was able to provide useful information to the ANC as a double agent. Sadly, and I believe wastefully, some doubters within the ANC took matters into their own hands and I was imprisoned in Quatro.

I have tried my best in my book, Agent 407, to describe my story truthfully and I believe readers will find that I do not gloss over my actions, and accept that I deserve criticism for the part I played in the service of the apartheid state.

I am proud, however, that I defected to the ANC, and I have the highest regard for the ANC comrades with whom I had the privilege to work.

De Wet, and whoever constructed the front-page headline, clearly had an agenda. Their preconceived notion about the book completely misrepresents the content. The front page and the article inside the paper, in my opinion, clearly breach the South African Press Council code and I have made a complaint to that body. The M&G‘s own code of editorial ethics uses the words “fairness”, “accuracy”, “facts” … perhaps some of the staff should be reminded.

The media in South Africa played a significant part in defeating the unjust and cruel apartheid system and continue to confront injustice.

I would have expected the M&G, as a flag-bearer of the liberal left, by now to have the fair and equal treatment of women at the core of its editorial principles.

I am, however, grateful to the newspaper’s editor, a woman, for giving me the opportunity to express my feelings about the content of that edition. I cannot, indeed will not, complain about fair criticism of things I have done or failed to do. But in the South Africa I love I would hope not to be condemned for being a woman, be the subject of false sexual slurs, or be judged differently from a man.


See also

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

How smuggled gold destined for Dubai or Singapore has links...

Three Malagasy citizens were apprehended at OR Tambo International airport, but now the trail is found to connect to France and Mali

How lottery execs received dubious payments through a private company

The National Lottery Commission is being investigated by the SIU for alleged corruption and maladministration, including suspicious payments made to senior NLC employees between 2016 and 2017

More top stories

Sounding the alarm on shack fire losses

A tech solution to fires in informal settlements comes with insurance that pays out the victims of these blazes

Debunk the lies of anti-vaxxers

There’s more than enough to be suspicious about with Big Pharma, but know your enemy

From the land of the free to the country of...

Democracies are fragile entities that are often captured and exploited by populists, to the detriment of all concerned

Africa’s make-or-break moment

The African Continental Free Trade Area could transform Africa’s economic prospects and end its dependence on commodity exports
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…