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Tuesday, 04 May 2021

Journalism alumnus pens debut book

HACK WITH A GRENADE: In his book, Gasant Abarder draws on his wide-ranging practices as a journalist to tackle such subjects as faith, religion, homelessness, and injustices.  HACK WITH A GRENADE: In his book, Gasant Abarder draws on his wide-ranging practices as a journalist to tackle such subjects as faith, religion, homelessness, and injustices.

Following 21 years of reporting and editing stories for newspapers, journalism alumnus, Gasant Abrader’s debut book tells the stories of South Africans through the eyes of an editor.

Abarder started the book, ‘Hack with a Grenade – An Editor’s Back Stories of SA News’, when he began with a manuscript 10 years ago. Initially, the book was about tabloid journalism. However, after writing a few chapters, his laptop’s hard drive was corrupted. When he recovered the manuscript in 2017, he was motivated to finish the book.

“So the book evolved from being a book about tabloids to a book about South Africans doing extraordinary things but along the lines of injustices, homelessness, faith and religion, unsung sporting heroes. It tells the stories of South Africans through the eyes of newspaper editor and takes you behind the scenes of newsrooms and where hard decisions get made.”

He says the book is interesting to journalists but actually, it’s a book for everybody. “If you want to read about contemporary South Africa, and some of the challenges we face like gentrification, then this is a book that I would urge people to read and buy and support a local author,” he remarks.

The retail price differs but it’s around R250,00.


Abarder is donating 10 copies to the Journalism Department, purchased by a donor who prefers to remain anonymous.

The Acting Director, Institutional Advancement at the University of the Western Cape, studied journalism at the then Peninsula Technikon but he didn't complete a few modules in his final year, “which was really silly and short-sighted”. After spending 21 years in the mainstream media – half of which was as editor of newspapers, he is now employed at UWC.

At Salt River High School, it was his Afrikaans teacher, Riedwaan Toyer who sacrificed his Saturday to take Abarder to workshops hosted by Die Burger. “And my Grade 12 English teacher, Mr Nicholas was the first of all of them to suggest journalism as a career.”

Between 1997 and 1998, Abarder worked as an intern at The Star newspaper in Johannesburg.

“My success there made me arrogant and gave me a sense that I didn't need to graduate,” he recalls. Back in Cape Town in 1998, the young Abarder landed freelance shifts at the Cape Times and got a permanent job at Cape Community Newspapers. So he didn't complete his studies, “which a few years later I regretted”.

However, in 2016, a former colleague, CPUT's media liaison officer, Lauren Kansley, encouraged Abarder to enrol via Recognition of Prior Learning to complete his BTech in Journalism.

 “It was the best decision I made. While I was the old man on campus it opened so many doors for me after I graduated Cum Laude in 2017.”

He believes that his journalism skills which he gained from CPUT will assist him in a corporate environment that requires qualifications.  

“I am indebted to Lauren Kansley for her encouragement and to CPUT for the opportunity. The course was stimulating and ventured into new areas of media like modules on fake news, newsroom leadership and the ethics of journalism. I particularly enjoyed the thesis process, which was a research project.”

Reflecting on his achievements, Abarder says: “You have to set yourselves goals and deadlines. Deadlines are important in the world of journalism and also in life. I set myself a deadline to be an editor of a major newspaper by age 35. It happened when I was just 31 - making me the youngest editor of the Cape Argus. I wrote down these goals too - one of them that I would write a book by the age of 40. I missed that deadline by two years but last December, my debut book, 'Hack with a Grenade - An Editor's Back Stories of SA News', was launched. A little bit of ambition is always important too.” 

Written by Aphiwe Boyce