Category Archives: Reporting

Who is Cyril Ramaphosa?

Ahead of the election of a new leader of South Africa’s governing African National Congress in December 2017, the readers of, the website I have helped edit and run since 2006, knew the one contestant in the race, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as the former chair of the African Union Commission.

But they didn’t know the other, Cyril Ramaphosa, nearly as well. Having followed his rise first as a union then a party leader,  I felt the story of a person I had observed as a canny political operator was one worth …
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American Ubuntu: Springsteen, South Africa and 9/11

by John Allen

A reflection on Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s first visit to South Africa

Somehow I managed to miss Bruce Springsteen when others in my generation were listening to him.

I knew who he was, vaguely. But I guess journalism in the wake of first the Soweto uprising, then the states of emergency after the Vaal uprising of 1984, gave us all the excitement we needed. So I wasn’t among the South Africans who poured across the border into Zimbabwe in 1988 to hear him compare “the systematic apartheid …
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Working with a rabble-rouser

Working with a rabble-rouser

From Times Online
October 10, 2007

John Allen spent 13 years following in the wake of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as the author of his biography, he explains what motivated the rabble-rouser and what kept him going through the dark days of apartheid

by Joanna Sugden

He’s been called an “angry, evil and embittered little bishop” by Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe which must be a badge of honour.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who turned 76 on Sunday, can claim so many titles, Nobel Peace Laureate, anti-apartheid activist, chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but in his authorised …
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Comments on Desmond Tutu’s Life and Work

“In my view, Desmond Tutu is the best advert for Christianity that walks on this earth.”
— Bono

“For decades (Tutu) has been a moral titan, a voice of principle, an unrelenting champion of justice, and a dedicated peacemaker…an outspoken voice for freedom and justice in countries across the globe; a staunch defender of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons”
— President Barack Obama

“No matter the topic, Tutu speaks throughout in the voice of the Christian prophet, decrying cruelty and meanness, defending the poor and the powerless, delighting in the beauty of …
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Rabble-Rouser Shortlisted for SA Book Award

“Rabble-Rouser” was one of five South African non-fiction works shortlisted for South Africa’s annual Alan Paton Award for Non-Fiction.

The award, announced on June 16, 2007, was given to Ivan Vladislavic, for his book, “Portrait With Keys.” Bloomberg news reported on the award in a report from Cape Town, Afrikaans Epic, Suburban Memoir Win Africa’s Richest Book Prize .

At the awards ceremony, “Rabble-Rouser” was pronounced “The definitive study of the life of one of South Africa’s great heroes,” and described as “A full, rich account of Tutu’s life.”

The shortlist was announced at a function …
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A New Look at the Life of Desmond Tutu

National Public Radio

December 5, 2006 · Journalist John Allen wrote Rabble-Rouser for Peace, an authorized biography of South African theologian and activist Desmond Tutu. Allen discusses the book with Tony Cox.

Listen to the interview by going to the following page and pressing the “Listen” button:

News and Notes, National Public Radio

Journalist traces life of African leader Tutu
Yousef Abu Gharbieh
Posted: 11/10/06

Few religious leaders have caused as much political change as Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

South African journalist John Allen presented his latest book “Rabble Rouser for Peace: The Authorized Biography of Desmond Tutu” to a packed auditorium of students and faculty at the Divinity School Thursday night.

Allen outlined Tutu’s life story to the audience, from his obscure roots to his position as a religious icon and anti-Apartheid leader in South Africa.

Tutu’s unique oratorical style and talent for mobilizing crowds helped him earn a Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, …
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