Don Pinnock

don pinnock
Personal information

Growing up in Queenstown during the apartheid years, Don Pinnock's youth was characterised by an authoritarian father. The small-town and protected area was a racist one, and Pinnock says that as a child he never used to play with Afrikaners, let alone blacks. One day, in his youth, when cycling to school, he watched a policeman shoot and kill a black man. This event caused Pinnock to start asking questions, which, he says, were eventually answered by black people.

Pinnock dislikes organised religion, noting that belief in an afterlife causes people to under value the life that we've got. Instead, he believes that we are a "sentient planet" and are all connected to each other and to animals. Pinnock practices Buddhist meditation.

Despite all of his travelling, which he does often, Pinnock is a family man. He has a wife and daughter who he thanks for putting up with all of his adventures. However, he says that they too have been bitten by the travel bug.

Career information

Don Pinnock started his academic career as an aspiring electronic engineer. After two years of study and an additional course at Johannesburg Tec, Pinnock began his career as an assistant engineer at the SABC. During this time he was in charge of erecting the SABCs overseas aerials and transmitters at Bloemendal. This mundane and lonely work caused Pinnock to rethink his career choice, and he applied for a reporter job within the SABC. Uninterested in gaining new reporters, the SABC allowed him to change positions but he had to accept a large salary cut. He began working on Radio RSA, which lead to Radio Highveld and, briefly, to news editor of Springbok Radio. Unhappy with the SABC, Pinnock moved to become sub-editor of The World in Soweto, where he moved to be near his work. After many run-ins with the police in Soweto, who could only imagine a white person living in a black township was a political troublemaker, Pinnock left for London where he wotked for a trade union paper, The Teacher. Leaving London, he worked on yachts in the Mediterranean and also as a cable-car operator on the Rock of Gibraltar. Returning to South Africa, Pinnock settled in Cape Town and worked on The Argus, whereafter he studied African History at UCT. Afterwards he began lecturing Journalism at Rhodes University, where he finished his PhD in 1992. He joined Getaway magazine in 1996, of which he was appointed editor. He left the magazine in 2010 to form Southern Write with several other specialist journalists and photographers.

Recognitions and awards

Pinnock has written 14 books, including African Journeys; Blue Ice: Travels in Antartica; The Brotherhoods: Street Gangs and State Control in Cape Town; Elsies River; Gangs, Rituals & Rites of Passage; Just Add Dust: Overland from Cape to Cairo; Love Letters to Africa; Natural Selections: The African Wanderings of a Bemused Naturalist; Wild as it gets; Ruth First; South Africa; Telona:Some Reflections on the work of a Private Labour Recruiter; Voices of Liberation Vol. 2: Ruth First and a novel, Rainmaker.

Other professional activities
Pinnock started his professional life by studying to be come an engineer, eventually taking a job working for the SABC, which facillitated his eventual career change by virtue of an internal transfer to the newsroom within the organisation. He spent a brief time working as a radio news editor before becoming involved in print journalism through The World (now The Sowetan). Various jobs in the newspaper industry followed before Pinnock became immersed in academia, studying a degree in African History at the University of Cape Town where he also became involved in student political activism. This continued when he took a job as a lecturer at Rhodes, where one of his students happened to be none other than our very own Rod Amner. Consultancy work with the post-Apartheid government regarding new juvenile justice legislation followed this period (he was one of the principal drafters of the White Paper that became the Child Justice Act), before he began working at Getaway in 1996. He is presently a freelancer with Southern Write.


Primary Sources: Don Pinnock himself, whom group member Mike Hathorn had the pleasure of speaking to, aswell as Getaway Magazine.

Secondary Sources: (Interview)

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