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History Festival

The 2nd annual Watercourse History Festival takes place in Plettenberg Bay on Thursday 25th and Friday 26th February, 2021. Developed on the theme “War and Peace”, a fine set of academics, popular historians, as well as experienced peace-workers, share their insights in the field of human conflict in Southern Africa and elsewhere on the African Continent.

Speakers at the History Festival include:

Dr. Ruben Richards

Dr. Ruben Richards will open the History Festival with a talk on early Khoikhoi resistance to colonisation by the Dutch East India Company. 

Dr. Ruben Richards is a multi-skilled Cape Town born South African deeply involved in nation building and reconciliation.  He has served as the Executive Secretary of the Human Rights Violations Committee of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Deputy Director-General of the Directorate of Special Operations (Scorpions) within the National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa.  Ruben has consulted to various African countries on matters relating to transitional justice: he was appointed as an international observer of the first public hearings of the Truth Commission in Tunisia, delivered a keynote address in Rwanda to a gathering of African Truth and Reconciliation Commission Executives, provided the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission of Zimbabwe with technical advisory services and currently advises the Ethiopian Truth Commission.

David Bristow

David Bristow has an Honours degree in journalism, complemented with a Masters in Environmental Sciences.  After studying he spent a year working as a guide and camp manager in the Okavango Delta before dedicating his life to the writing over 20 titles as nature and travel writer, including numerous travel and hiking guides and a 13-year ‘stint’ as Getaway Magazine editor.  David grew up in the veld north of Johannesburg, but currently lives in Cape Town.

David Bristow’s talk will focus on ‘War & Peace: From Free Burghers to Trekboers’.

David Hilton-Barber

David Atherstone Hilton-Barber started off his impressive career as journalist with the Argus Group in what was then known as Rhodesia, currently Zimbabwe.  As Literary- and later Information Officer he was responsible for communicating government policies mainly in rural areas, and became the liaison for local and international media. 

In the 60’s and 70’s he focused on Public Relations, taking up leadership roles in organizations like PRISA and the International Public Relations Association (IPRA).  He is the author and publisher of several historic works.

David Hilton-Barber will talk about the 1820 Settlers and conflict in the Eastern Cape.

Fatima Swartz

Fatima Swartz of the Institute for the Healing of Memories will be hosting a workshop titled “Finding Each Other Again”.

Festival organizer Mike Kantey

The festival’s organizer Mike Kantey is a well-know anti-nuclear activist and Plett resident. It is the 2nd time Mike is organizing the History Festival, with the vision of it becoming an internationally recognized festival and highlight on the Plettenberg Bay events calendar.

Mike will talk about the history of the South African nuclear bomb programme.

The 2nd day of the History Festival will have a strong focus on the war in Angola in the 70′ and 80’s with a varied line-up of speakers:

Kevin Vos

Kevin Vos will speak on the topic “Salute the Eagle: My National Service as a Paratrooper during Operation Savannah in Angola, 1975-76”.

Ian Uys

Ian Stephanus Uys was born in the Eastern Cape, served in the Air Force Gymnasium and graduated B.Com. in Cape Town before moving to the USA and becoming a chartered accountant.  Besides farming, Ian served as a platoon commander during the Border War, for which he received the De Wet Decoration.

Ian wrote more than 30 books, mainly on military history.  He chaired the SA Military History Society and in recent years served as local councillor in Knysna, where he currently lives.  He has served as a Rotarian for the past 45 years.

Knysna military historian and former Councillor Ian Uys will talk about some citations and honours among SADF combatants in Angola.

Dr Anthony Turton

Anthony Turton served in the Chief Directorate Covert Operations (CDCO) of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) during the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale.  He was given the Chief Directorate Award in 1989 in recognition for this operational contribution.  

He later became a founding member of the South African Secret Service (SASS), where he went on to serve as Staff Officer (C11) in the Chief Directorate Covert Collection and Counter Intelligence (C1).

The activities of NIS in general, and the CDCO in particular, remain largely unknown to this day, but had a major role in shaping the transition from a state of war, to the real possibility of a constitutional democracy.

He holds a Doctorate from the University of Pretoria and a Professorship at the Centre for Environmental Management at the University of the Free State.

Dr Anthony Turton

Dr Anthony Turton will speak on the topic Understanding the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in its Strategic Context.

Piers Pigou and Zenzile Khoisan

Former participants in the TRC Piers Pigou and Zenzile Khoisan in dialogue on “False Promises, Wasted Opportunities – Reflections on South Africa’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission (the TRC)”.

Professor Mike de Jongh

Well-known Anthropology Professor and author Mike de Jongh will discuss ”The Human, the Humane, and even the Humorous – Untold stories from the Anglo-Boer War in the Karoo”. Questions deliberated on include what drives humans to war and how we might find each other again in peacetime.

The full Festival Program can be found here (subject to change).


How to partake in the History Festival?

Destination Garden Route offers different packages including accommodation at some of Plettenberg Bay’s exquisite accommodation establishments. Packages include accommodation on a self-catering or Bed & Breakfast basis, as well as full entrance to all sessions of the History Festival.

2-, 3- and 4-night packages are available at the following establishments:

Bayview Hotel ***From R3,445.00 (2 nights)
Fynbos Ridge *****From R4,345.00 (2 nights)
The Junction Boutique Hotel *****From R5,010.00 (2 nights)
Hunters Country House *****From R5,450.00 (2 nights)
The Old Rectory *****From R10,850.00 (2 nights)
The Plettenberg Hotel *****From R14,500.00 (2 nights)

Please note: Rates are based on single occupancy. Please inquire about sharing rates.

Flights, car rental or transfers can be arranged at additional cost.

Keep an eye on Destination Garden Route’s facebook page for updates!