If you are a reader of New Contrast, this won’t be news to you. But others who are interested in the topic of plagiarism – and particularly in how much it seems tolerated, or even endorsed – by South African publishers, should be sure to check out the Sunday Times this week. Well, probably this week, but I can’t guarantee that.

[EDIT]: The full text of Watson’s article can be found here.

Because it seems that Stephen Watson has trained his sights on Antjie Krog for her (I suppose I should say “alleged”, even though the evidence – as presented by Watson – appears pretty clear) alleged borrowing of text from his Return of the Moon (1991) (and other sources) for her recent publication, the stars say ‘tsau’. Given Krog’s prominence and reputation, as well as the moral high-ground she occupies after the publication (and subsequent film) of Country of my Skull (1998), you’d think she’d know better.

South Africa’s pool of writers with any significance is so small that they know each other’s dealings quite intimately, so one would ordinarily think this borrowing a risk not worth taking. But perhaps Krog was encouraged by the recent examples of Darryl Bristow-Bovey and Pamela Jooste, who both recovered well from being accused as plagiarists – in Jooste’s case, no-one really ever seemed to notice.

As a final note on the topic, Ms Krog addressed the University of Cape Town last year, following an invitation by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Njabulo Ndebele. The theme of her presentation? Plagiarism, and how this particular evil could be rooted out of the University.

By Jacques Rousseau

Jacques Rousseau teaches critical thinking and ethics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and is the founder and director of the Free Society Institute, a non-profit organisation promoting secular humanism and scientific reasoning.