A snapshot of the South African Book Fair 2020.

The South African Book Fair 2020 was hosted online from September 11-13, 2020. The fair theme was “Virtually everywhere.”

The South African Book Fair, originally managed by the Publishers’ Association of South Africa, started in 2006 as the Cape Town Book Fair. Since then, it has moved to Johannesburg, the country’s commercial capital, with a new name under the management of the South African Book Development Council.

The 2020 fair was one of the best yet with many of the events pre-recorded to ensure everything went without a hitch. For three days, those who streamed in from all over the world were treated to a series of events catered to different audiences. If you are reading this, many of the events are still available for your viewing pleasure for the next seven days (until September 30) for R50. Click here to know how you can enjoy what was featured.

Here are some of the highlights you can enjoy;

Battle of the Book Clubs

Inception Book Club
Inception Book Club is the LIT-est book club in the land

One of the unique offerings at this year’s fair was the “Battle of the Book Clubs.” Fair organisers called for book clubs in South Africa to enter into a competition to be the lit-est in the land and get a helluva lot of books. Acting as the Quizmaster for the competition was Kenyan-based blogger and podcaster James Murua.

Those who answered the call to enter were Emthonjeni Book Club, Sedibeng Book Club, Fat Cats Book Club, Bafati Bebumbene Book Club, Inception Book Club, Womanist Book Club, Pearl’s Book Club, and Literary Alliance.

After a preliminary round, the semi-finalists were whittled down to Emthonjeni Book Club, Sedibeng Book Club, Inception Book Club, and Literary Alliance. After a Friday evening battle, Inception Book Club, and Literary Alliance made it to the finals on Sunday, September 13. That battle royal was won by the Charlotte represented Inception Book Club making them the LIT-est Book Club in the land.

The Magic Tent

The fair had a children’s programme that offered a range of activities for children and teens. Some of the events at the Magic Tent were “The Fascinating Journey Of Visual Artist with Clyde Beech,” the “Adventure In Storyland” Puppet Show, Storytelling by Marimba, The Mother Of Music, Poetry For Young Adults with Unathi Magubeni and Xolile Mabuza, and the Red Earth Revisited Theatre Show.

There were also a couple of panels like “Creating A Reading Culture From Home” with Elinor Sisulu, Sally Partridge, and Karen Theunissen with moderation by Lorato Trok. Another of the panels was entitled “Fly With Fundza – New Writers Take Off!” where Tamica Mopp & Amanda Ngema spoke about their writing journeys and spreading their wings under the guidance of their mentors, Sifiso Mzobe and Marche Arends. It was hosted by Zilungile Zimela.

There was also the session where “South African Moms And Kids Get Crafty With Paper” with Maryam Bibi, Mira Naidu, Chanene Ablett, Clare Petra Matthes, Funso Fatunla and Sam Choles.

Keorapetse Kgositsile Poetry Café With Hear My Voice

One of the highlights of the fair was a performance-poetry evening dedicated to the legendary Keorapetse Kgositsile on Friday, September 11. Hosted by Mutinta Bbenkele, Bokgang Maragelo, Mongane Wally Serote, Yomi Ṣode, Zizipho Bam, Khadija Tracey Heeger, and Aja Monet gave an unforgettable experience to those who attended.


Fairs and panels go together and this one didn’t disappoint as dozens of thought leaders in various aspects of the writing and publishing chain shared their expertise. On the panels were more than 80 authors, writers and poets from South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe, and Liberia discussing industry related topics like Author Contracts and Copyright and Book Development In Africa. There were other topics that were explored from Black Lives Matter, to Writing for a Pan-African Audience, and loads more. All the panels at the fair are listed below.

  • Writing for a Pan-African Audience: Kinyanjui Kombani, Ruby Yayra Goka, Wale Okediran, and Fred Khumalo moderated by APNET CEO Ernest Oppong
  • The Page Against The Screen – Is There Place For Paper Books And Ebooks?: authors Fred Khumalo (Talk Of The Town) and Gus Silber (The Disruptors), publisher Clare-Rose Julius, president of the South African Booksellers Association, Melvin Kaabwe and Samantha Choles, communication manager for the Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa moderated by Mandy Collins.
  • Unpacking The South African Children’s Book Market: Lorato Trok, Shay Heydenrych, Dusanka Stojakovic, and Olinka Nell moderated by Khumo Tapfumaneyi.
  • Do We Need Our Own University Presses?: Prof Maria Frahm Arp, Prof Crain Soudien, Dr Divine Fuh, and Prof Sarah Mosoetsa moderated by Veronica Klipp.
  • Staying Sane: Lockdown Chronicles: Pumla Gqola, Melusi Tshabalala, and Kelly-Eve Koopman moderated by Melinda Ferguson.
  • Down To Earth: From Garden To Table: Dudu Busani-Dube and Jane Griffiths moderated by Pippa Hudson.
  • Time, Space And The Anthropocene: Fiction And The Fall Of Man: Lauren Beukes, Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu, and Mohale Mashigo moderated by James Murua.
  • Is The Glass Half Empty? How To Create Economic Opportunities In South Africa: Dr Jakkie Cilliers and Tanya Cohen moderated by Thulebtho Zwane.
  • The World Looks Like This From Here: Masculinity, Misogyny And African Psychology: Malose Langa, Kopano Ratele, and Ayanda Borotho moderated by Malebo Sephodi.
  • White Privilege: Melinda Ferguson, Fiona Snyckers, and Dr Sarah Godsell moderated by Prof Christi van der Westhuizen.
  • Exposé! Stories That Gripped The Nation: Rehana Rossouw, Jacob Dlamini, and Qaanitah Hunter moderated by Iman Rappetti.
  • Giving Books A Place Of Pride In Africa; The Role Of Literary Journals On The Continent: Rémy Ngamije, Dr Ainehi Edoro-Glines, Jennifer Malec, and Troy Onyango moderated by James Murua.
  • Law And Justice: Andrew Harding, Judge Dikgang Moseneke, and Adv Tembeka Ngcukaitobi moderated by Prof Tshepo Madlingozi.
  • Feminism: Our Bodies, Our Truths: Mishumo Madima, Terry-Ann Adams, Anelile Dlamini-Gibixego, and Jen Thorpe moderated by Dr Alma-Nalisha Cele.
  • Collecting From Afar: Stories Full Of Home: Sisonke Msimang, Deon Maas, Niq Mhlongo, and Lerato Mogoatlhe moderated by Zukiswa Wanner.
  • Stuff We Wish We Knew Before Getting Married: Faith, Love And Everything In Between: Mo Grootboom, Phindi Grootboom, Phindile Yende moderated by Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl.
  • Husbands, Wives And Lovers: The Empresses Of Erotica Share Their Secrets: Takalani M, Yvonne Maphose, Busi Khumalo, Tiffany Kagure Mugo moderated by Dudu Busani Dube.
  • Kitchen Queen: Nourishment For The Soul, Glow For The Skin: Lucia Mthiyane moderated by Samantha Manclark.
  • Dala what you must: diverse stories from coloured perspectives: Mia Arderne, Bernie Fabing, and Lynthia Julius moderated by Lester Kiewit.
  • Reimagining Our Heroes: An Intergenerational Dialogue: Dr Siphiwo Mahala and Prof Njabulo Ndebele moderated by Jennifer Malec.
  • Perils Of Patriarchy: Whenever, Wherever, Everyday – Confront Not Cower: Cassandra Moodley, Felicia Thobejane, Thuli Nduvane, and Yasaar Moosa moderated by Candice Chirwa.
  • Breaking Through Shame: Overcoming Societal Norms: Jamil F. Khan, Mark Gevisser, and Chiké Frankie Edozien moderated by Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane.
  • Black Lives Matter: Zukiswa Wanner, Sisonke Msiming, and Munnira Katongole moderated by Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane.
  • Hiding In Plain Sight: Exposing The Villains Of Past And Present: Jacob Dlamini, Imtiaz Ahmed Cajee, and Rehana Rossouw moderated by Gaongalelwe Tiro.
  • The Role Of Women In Struggles For Liberation: Shanthini Naidoo, Candice Chirwa, and Prof Christi van der Westhuizen moderated by Karabo Kgoleng.
  • Politics And Home: Taking Ownership Of Our Narratives: Abi Daré, Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ, and Wayétu Moore moderated by Zukiswa Wanner.

Industry Behind The Scenes 

  • Author Contracts and Copyright: Monica Seeber of ANFASA and Louis Gaigher of PASA
  • Book Development In Africa: Elitha van der Sandt, CEO of the South African Book Development Council and Ernesticia Lartey Asuinura, Executive Director of the Ghana Book Development Council moderated by APNET Chairman, Samuel Kolawole.

The Market Place

It was a book fair thus those who buy and sell books need to find a way to get together and do their business. Organisers brought to us a market place for these players to get together they called “The Market Place.” Here you could get the books by all those who were participating at the fair as well as many others.

A reminder that many of the events are still available for your viewing pleasure for the next seven days (until September 30) for R50. Click here to know how you can enjoy what was featured.







One response to “A snapshot of the South African Book Fair 2020.”

  1. […] reading for leisure. Some of its more recognisable activities are the South African Book Fair (check out our snapshot of the 2020 edition here), the National Book Week which typically happens in September, programmes to publish indigenous […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.