War of words over Boer musical

Edward Tsumele

Edward Tsumele

A war of words has erupted between a Pretoria resident and the producers of the forthcoming Boer War musical, Packed House Productions.

Responding to a letter written by V Thumbran, a resident of Arcadia, Pretoria, Deon Opperman and Paul Berning - executive producers at Packed House - have accused him of wanting to censor history.

The musical, titled Ons vir Jou: The Musical, is scheduled to perform at the State Theatre in Pretoria in September.

Extracts from a letter published in Sowetan on June 17 from an angry V Thumbran, read: "South Africa has a very proud history of producing award-winning musicals. This includes King Kong, Sarafina and District Six the Musical. The common denominator of these musicals was the injustice of apartheid, such as forced removals and protests against the pass laws.

"Afrikaners such as Beyers Naude, Bram Fischer and Breyten Breytenbach played a role in the liberation of South Africa. The hero worship of leaders who saw South Africa as a white man's country is out."

Opperman and Paul Berning see it differently and reply, in part: "To imply, as Thumbran does in his letter, that we should only produce musicals about the injustices of apartheid or figures like Breytenbach or Beyers Naude is absurd and denies the validity of the vast majority of musicals staged in the last decade all over South Africa, which had nothing to do with these themes at all.

"Thumbran asks: 'Why focus on an issue, the Boer War, that took place more than 100 years ago. We say: why not?

The Boer War was precisely about a nation fighting against an oppressive, imperialist regime - the very theme of musicals like Sarafina and District Six, which were cited by Thumbran as worthy projects.

"To call for the censure ofOns Vir Jou: The Musical, without any knowledge of its content, is a call by Thumbran on the political structures of our country to return us to apartheid-style censorship and oppression."