SA author becomes wiser

WISER AUTHOR: South African author Jonny Steinberg will join the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research in May this year. Photo: Provided

WISER AUTHOR: South African author Jonny Steinberg will join the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research in May this year. Photo: Provided

An award-winning South African journalist and author is due to join a leading Wits think tank in May.

Author and journalist Jonny Steinberg has been at Oxford University for the past four years and will be joining the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (Wiser).

The multi-award winning journalist, author and scholar is part of the university’s Distinguished Scholars’ Programme which aims to attract the best academic talent to Wits over the next three years. Steinberg said he is “grateful” to be a beneficiary of the plan.

“Any good university has to be involved in the production of knowledge, which is universal. This type of initiative will strengthen that.”

After shuttling back and forth between England and South Africa for the past few years, Steinberg told Wits Vuvuzela he is looking forward to being grounded in a local institution.

“Up until now, I haven’t been able to deeply engage with everything that’s going on there [South Africa], I’ve only been able to hover above it, but now I’ll be able to, in a much more immediate way.”

Wits Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib said Steinberg “embodies the quality of talented individuals that we wish to attract, both from our shores and abroad”.

“If there is a good story to be told, I look at how that story can amplify these processes.”

He will join Wiser from the beginning of May as a full-time professor of the university and will teach a graduate course while he writes a book about the “transition to democracy”. This new book is about a man who was accused of murder in the early 90’s and spent the beginning of South Africa’s democracy in prison.

Telling South Africa’s stories

Steinberg’s previous books have looked at racial violence on South African farms, HIV and Aids, gang life in prison and South African policing.

He described the work he does as being “deeply engaged with new things and processes happening in South Africa.

“If there is a good story to be told, I look at how that story can amplify these processes.”

Writing, Steinberg said, is something he always wanted to do. He described being at Oxford in the mid-90’s and having to decide if he should stay there or come home.

“The story of a whole country was being rewritten, and I wanted to be a part of that.”