A new report on the African Flavour Books saga has surfaced. It will be the second time in two years that its founders, Fortiscue and Nokuthula Helepi, are coming under scrutiny for allegedly evading payment of dues to authors, publishers, and employees.
A new piece of information that the recent coverage by South African news broadcaster eNCA adds to what we already know of the issue is that while the Vanderbijlpark store remains open, the Helepis are nowhere to be found.
In this in-depth coverage featured in eNCA’s popular segment, Checkpoint, authors Thando Mgqolozana, Dudu Busani-Dube, and Vangile Gantsho give their own account of the events leading up to the business failing and causing much grief to a literary community that saw it as a game-changer in a white-dominated literary culture. They also share harrowing experiences from working with the founders.
Established in 2013, African Flavour Books invigorated the South African literary scene with its promise to promote and sell books, films, and music by Black South Africans. In a country where a small proportion of businesses are Black-owned, the company’s mission was a symbol of hope for South Africa’s young Black book lovers, writers, and independent publishers.
By 2018, the Helepis developed a reputation for abruptly cancelling events without refund, failing to deliver inventory to literary festivals, and pocketing full profits from sales without paying dues to authors and distributors.
Former employee, Ayanda Lawrence, reveals in the recent Checkpoint segment that the infamous 2018 Braamfontein store closure occurred on payday. Lawrence and three other employees lost their salaries and positions without notice.
Lawrence also revealed that employees of the Braamfontein location were paid below minimum wage. The Checkpoint segment resulted in recent public outcry on Twitter:
— BlackGold (@Qhakaza) July 8, 2020
African Flavour Books still owes thousands of rands dating back to 2016 to several South African authors including Thando Mgqolozana, Dudu Busani-Dube, and Vangile Gantsho. To this day, authors and publishers are unable to reach Fortiscue and Nokuthula Helepi due to disconnected phone lines and bounced e-mails.
I hope people know NOT to buy books from African Flavour Books!
I hope people know they are selling stolen books!
— Sizilebel’uba sizalwa ngobani (@Vangi22) July 7, 2020
the way I had a sold out book launch at African Flavour books in 2018 – sold over 200 copies of my poetry collection and still left copies for them to sell. iphi imali? dololo! Over 100K bafethu!!!
— Xabiso Vili (@Xabiso_Vili) July 7, 2020
@Vangi22 hey sis, omw, saw the expose of africanflavourbooks; was mad from scratch. They still owe me for sold copies of ForTheBrokenOnes
— Lebo Poen (@ellpoen) July 8, 2020
Checkpoint host, Nkepile Mabuse, concluded her segment with a visit to Fortiscue and Nokuthula Helepi’s private residence which appeared to be deserted. eNCA continues to seek answers from the Helepis and African Flavour Books.
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