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MY TIMES (article first published : 2007-12-3)

The sub-title of My Times describes the author as “man of the theatre, lawyer, businessman and former mayor of Cape Town”, a neat encapsulation of his memoirs. I have known him for a very long time --- we were at school together --- so I suppose I am biased in his favour. But, trying to discard any partisanship, I found this 277-page book a highly readable account of events and personalities in the fairly recent history of South Africa in general and Cape Town, in particular.

David Bloomberg had a good start. His father, Abe Bloomberg, was a Member of Parliament for many years and was mayor of Cape Town at the time of the visit of the British royal family in 1947. Abe was a prominent lawyer and a turf club steward for decades. His wife Miriam was a former ballet dancer.

Predictably enough, David Bloomberg entered his father’s law firm and the Cape Town City Council, of which he was a member for twenty years, becoming a mayor conspicuous for his interest in the arts and for his defence of the less privileged members of the Cape community.

He lives in England now. His wife Toby Fine, also a distinguished ballet dancer, has been seriously ill for years and received a successful kidney transplant in England.

David Bloomberg first came into the public eye as a theatre producer. His father had a big house in Constantia, Cape Town, and an outbuilding was converted into a theatre called The Barn. Here David Bloomberg produced, about 45 years ago, a number of significant plays, using top-class South African actors: Johann Nell, Yvonne Bryceland, Percy Sieff, Erica Rogers, Cobus Rossouw, maybe no more than names in theatre history today but people who made a major impact at the time.

Of more general interest is Bloomberg’s legal career. He was the attorney for Demitrio Tsafendas, who fatally stabbed the Prime Minister, Dr H.F. Verwoerd, in Parliament in 1966. His account of the court case that followed makes fascinating reading. Tsafendas was found to be insane and eventually died in prison 33 years later.

Bloomberg himself was involved in a cause celebre connected with Sol Kerzner and the granting of casino rights in the Transkei, the incident in which Kerzner said “give him two big ones”, meaning a payment of two million rand to a Transkei politician, really big money at the time, 1987. David Bloomberg was a go-between and says in his book that he was the innocent victim of the machinations of businessmen and politicians. His explanation is convincing and indeed he was cleared of any complicity at subsequent official inquiries.

Nevertheless it was an unpleasant episode in his personal and professional life and, induced further by his wife’s illness, he left South Africa twenty years ago and has since lived in England, but returns here often and is still a South African citizen and a South African loyalist in sporting and other matters.

Published by Fernwood Press, Simon’s Town, My Life is a well-written and absorbing memoir by a gifted man who has led a varied and unusually interesting life. - Michael Green




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