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Alfred Nobel's discovery of dynamite had made the transportation of nitroglycerine a reality and increasingly large quantities of the explosive were imported into South Africa in the early 1890s. To ensure a regular supply and to improve blasting efficiency, required for mining the hard quartzitic gold-bearing rock of the Witwatersrand, the Nobel Dynamite Trust decided to produce the required explosives locally.
And so it was that on 22 October 1896, President Paul Kruger travelled from Pretoria to the farm Modderfontein, east of Johannesburg, to open De Zuid Africaansche Fabrieken voor Ontplofbare Stoffen. After the Anglo Boer War of 1899-1902, management of the company passed into the hands of the British South Africa Explosives Company, with the Nobel Dynamite Trust retaining a controlling interest.
The founder of the Nobel Trust, Alfred Nobel, died in 1896, largely unaware of the fact that this new South African factory was to become the largest manufacturer of dynamite in the world. On his death he left a sum of two million pounds for international prizes for the advancement of science, literature, medicine, and world peace.
CURRENT SOUTH AFRICAN NOBEL PRIZE LAUREATES
Nadine Gordimer - The Nobel Prize in Literature 1991
Born in Springs, South Africa, 20/11/1923. Daughter of Isidore and Nan Gordimer. Has lived all her life, and continues to live, in South Africa. Principal works: 10 novels, including A Guest of Honour, The Conservationist, Burger's Daughter, July's People, A Sport of Nature, My Son's Story and her most recent, None to Accompany Me. 10 short story collections, the most recent Jump, published 1991, and Why Haven't You Written: Selected Stories 1950-1972, published 1992. Non-fiction: The Essential Gesture; On the Mines; The Black Interpreters. Among honorary degrees: from Yale, Harvard, Columbia, New School for Social Research, USA; University of Leuven, Belgium, University of York (England), Universities of Cape Town and the Witwatersrand (South Africa), Cambridge University (England).
Nelson Mandela - The Nobel Peace Prize (half of the prize) 1993
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born in Transkei, South Africa on July 18, 1918. His father was Chief Henry Mandela of the Tembu Tribe. Mandela himself was educated at University College of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand and qualified in law in 1942. He joined the African National Congress in 1944 and was engaged in resistance against the ruling National Party's apartheid policies after 1948. He went on trial for treason in 1956-1961 and was aquitted in 1961.
After the banning of the ANC in 1960, Nelson Mandela argued for the setting up of a military wing within the ANC. In June 1961, the ANC executive considered his proposal on the use of violent tactics and agreed that those members who wished to involve themselves in Mandela's campaign would not be stopped from doing so by the ANC. This led to the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe. Mandela was arrested in 1962 and sentenced to five years' imprisonment with hard labour. In 1963, when many fellow leaders of the ANC and the Umkhonto we Sizwe were arrested, Mandela was brought to stand trial with them for plotting to overthrow the government by violence. His statement from the dock received considerable international publicity. On June 12, 1964, eight of the accused, including Mandela, were sentenced to life imprisonment. From 1964 to 1982, he was incarcerated at Robben Island Prison, off Cape Town; thereafter, he was at Pollsmoor Prison, nearby on the mainland.
During his years in prison, Nelson Mandela's reputation grew steadily. He was widely accepted as the most significant black leader in South Africa and became a potent symbol of resistance as the anti-apartheid movement gathered strength. He consistently refused to compromise his political position to obtain his freedom.
Nelson Mandela was released on February 18, 1990. After his release, he plunged himself wholeheartedly into his life's work, striving to attain the goals he and others had set out almost four decades earlier. In 1991, at the first national conference of the ANC held inside South Africa after the organization had been banned in 1960, Mandela was elected President of the ANC while his lifelong friend and colleague, Oliver Tambo, became the organisation's National Chairperson.
Frederik Willem de Klerk - The Nobel Peace Prize (half of the prize) 1993
F. W. de Klerk was born in Johannesburg on March 18, 1936. He is the son of Senator Jan de Klerk, a leading politician, who became minister in the South African government. His brother Willem is a liberal newspaperman and one of the founders of the Democratic Party.
F.W. de Klerk graduated with a law degree from Potchefstroom University in 1958 and then practiced law in Vereeniging in the Transvaal. In 1969, he married Marike Willemse, with whom he has two sons and a daughter. De Klerk was offered a professorship of administrative law at Potchefstroom in 1972 but he declined the post because he had been elected to Parliament as National Party member for Vereeniging at the time.
In 1978, F.W. de Klerk was appointed Minister of Post and Telecommunications and Social Welfare and Pensions by Prime Minister Vorster. Under Prime Minister P.W. Botha, he held a succession of ministerial posts, including Posts and Telecommunications and Sports and Recreation (1978-1979), Mines, Energy and Environmental Planning (1979-1980), Mineral and Energy Affairs (1980-1982), Internal Affairs (1982-1985), and National Education and Planning (1984-1989). In 1985, he became chairman of the Minister's Council in the House of Assembly. On December 1, 1986, he became the leader of the House of Assembly.
As Minister of National Education, F.W. de Klerk was a supporter of segregated universities, and as a leader of the National Party in Transvaal, he was not known to advocate reform. In February 1989, de Klerk was elected leader of the National Party and in September 1989 he was elected State President.
In his first speech after assuming the party leadership he called for a nonracist South Africa and for negotiations about the country's future. He lifted the ban on the ANC and released Nelson Mandela. He brought apartheid to an end and opened the way for the drafting of a new constitution for the country based on the principle of one person, one vote.
Bishop Desmond Tutu - The Nobel Peace Prize 1984
Desmond Tutu was born in 1931 in Klerksdorp, Transvaal. His father was a teacher, and he himself was educated at Johannesburg Bantu High School. After leaving school he trained first as a teacher at Pretoria Bantu Normal College and in 1954 he graduated from the University of South Africa. After three years as a high school teacher he began to study theology, being ordained as a priest in 1960. The years 1962-66 were devoted to further theological study in England leading up to a Master of Theology. From 1967 to 1972 he taught theology in South Africa before returning to England for three years as the assistant director of a theological institute in London. In 1975 he was appointed Dean of St. Mary's Cathedral in Johannesburg, the first black to hold that position. From 1976 to 1978 he was Bishop of Lesotho, and in 1978 became the first black General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches. Tutu is an honorary doctor of a number of leading universities in the USA, Britain and Germany.
Desmond Tutu has formulated his objective as "a democratic and just society without racial divisions", and has set forward the following points as minimum demands:
1. equal civil rights for all
2. the abolition of South Africa's passport laws
3. a common system of education
4. the cessation of forced deportation from South Africa to the so-called "homelands"
The South African Council of Churches is a contact organization for the churches of South Africa and functions as a national committee for the World Council of Churches. The Afrikaans churches have disassociated themselves from the organization as a result of the unambiguous stand it has made against apartheid. Around 80 percent of its members are black, and they now dominate the leading positions.
J.M. Coetzee - The Nobel Prize in Literature 2003
John Maxwell Coetzee was born in 1940 in Cape Town in South Africa. He is of both Afrikaner and English descent. His parents sent him to an English school and he grew up using English as his first language. At the beginning of the 1960's he moved to England where he worked initially as a computer programmer. He then studied literature in the USA and went on to teach literature and English at the State University of New York at Buffalo up until 1983. In 1984 he became Professor of English Literature at the University of Cape Town. In 2002 he moved to Australia, where he is attached to the University of Adelaide. Since 2002 he is also Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago.
Coetzee made his debut as a writer of fiction in 1974. His international breakthrough came in 1980 with the novel Waiting for the Barbarians. He was awarded the Booker Prize in the United Kingdom for Life and Times of Michael K, 1983.
After “updating” Robinson Crusoe in the novel Foe, 1986, Coetzee returned to South Africa with Age of Iron, 1990.
In 1999 Coetzee became the first author to be twice awarded the Booker Prize, now for his novel Disgrace, in which the plot, as in In the Heart of the Country, 1977, mainly takes place on a remote farm in South Africa.
A fundamental theme in Coetzee’s novels involves the values and conduct resulting from South Africa’s apartheid system, which, in his view, could arise anywhere.
Coetzee has also published translations and acted as a literary critic for the New York Review of Books for instance. Coetzee’s literary criticism has been published in essay form in journals such as Comparative Literature, the Journal of Literary Semantics and the Journal of Modern Literature and collections have been issued as White Writing, 1998, Doubling the Point, 1992, Giving Offense : Essays on Censorship, 1996, and Stranger Shores : Essays 1986 –1999, 2001.
Coetzee’s latest work Elizabeth Costello : Eight Lessons, 2003, is a mixture of essay and fiction, and some sections have already been included in other published works such as What is Realism? and The Lives of Animals.