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Archive for the ‘Book Excerpts’ Category

Fiction Friday: read an excerpt from Tsitsi Dangarembga’s This Mournable Body

Anxious about her prospects after leaving a stagnant job, Tambudzai finds herself living in a run-down youth hostel in downtown Harare.

For reasons that include her grim financial prospects and her age, she moves to a widow’s boarding house and eventually finds work as a biology teacher.

But at every turn in her attempt to make a life for herself, she is faced with a fresh humiliation, until the painful contrast between the future she imagined and her daily reality ultimately drives her to a breaking point.

In This Mournable Body, Tsitsi Dangarembga returns to the protagonist of her acclaimed first novel, Nervous Conditions, to examine how the hope and potential of a young girl and a fledgling nation can sour over time and become a bitter and floundering struggle for survival.

As a last resort, Tambudzai takes an ecotourism job that forces her to return to her parents’ impoverished homestead. This homecoming, in Dangarembga’s tense and psychologically charged novel, culminates in an act of betrayal, revealing just how toxic the combination of colonialism and capitalism can be.

About the author

Tsitsi Dangarembga is the author of two previous novels, including Nervous Conditions, winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. She is also a filmmaker, playwright and the director of the Institute of Creative Arts for Progress in Africa Trust. She lives in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Read an extract from Dangarembga’s latest literary tour de force here:

You climb out after Christine when the combi stops at Copacabana. She steers you eastward over a cavernous pavement in silence for the rest couple of hundred metres.

“He became quite rich,” she says in the end, as an afterthought. “It turns out he was good at what they called doing business. That’s what they called it after Independence. You know,” she observes, “it is better to call it April 18. What do we really know about independence? Maybe that it was just for people like my uncle.”

Her voice is sad now, rather than scornful, as she divulges how VaManyanga soon purchased a new dwelling in an area further to the city’s north, from another white person who was also departing to New Zealand, where there was not, nor could ever be – since all the earlier nations had been eradicated – any talk of indigenising anything.

It turns out that, just like you, everyone had applauded VaManyanga’s achievements. No one queried anything. Relatives and colleagues alike praised the way the newly independent businessman had turned his inheritance into hard currency and deposited it safely in a bank on the Isle of Man.

“What did they want? Of course, to borrow my uncle’s money from him,” Christine snorts. You shake your head and suck your teeth, genuinely outraged on behalf of your companion’s uncle.

“He was too shrewd. I admit he was clever,” shrugs your companion. “So hardly anybody got anything. So what did they start saying? That all that money he made could never just come from hard work, but that he had some wicked, blood-drinking goblins. So some of them started trying to find out what muti my uncle was using. Some wanted to neutralise it with stronger medicine, others wanted to use it themselves. More than one mouth said his charms contained pieces of kidnapped children’s bodies.”

As she mentions this, Christine confirms her uncle was the sort of man who might well have gone so far as taking the children’s parts to South Africa for sale or for imbuing with magical properties, or that he could very well have buried the organs in places where he wanted to establish further ZPNB depots.

VaManyanga, though, you find out to your satisfaction, did not let rumours derail his upward mobility.

He soon purchased more properties and moved out of his second home to enjoy a grander lifestyle. Visits to the village where their niece lived became less frequent. Christine tells you she was comfortable with that, as she had ceased to either like or respect her relatives.

Understanding with some impatience that Christine is speaking not only about the Manyangas, but about all people who harbour the same intense cravings for advancement, “This came with the war,” you say. “All of it. Nobody ever did things like that before you people went to Mozambique and went about doing what you know you did.”

“There is nothing any freedom fighter did,” your companion says, “that people didn’t do in the villages. You know they started doing those things themselves very easily. And all of them are carrying on. Me, when the war ended, I swore I would find something to do with my own hands. I pledged I won’t do that kind of thing anymore. No matter what happens.”

With this Christine walks ahead briskly, bringing you soon to the disco, whose vibrations curtail further talking. She talks her way past the outsize bouncers at the club door, who look you over, objecting with pointed questions to two women entering the club unaccompanied.

Down in the basement with the strobe going too fast and the music pumping a hallucinogenic rhythm, your companion surveys the room, weaves through dancers and tables to prop her elbows on the bar.

She gives the solitary man beside her a sidelong glance, demonstrating how to extract all the booze you want from men without having any parts of your body grabbed.

You discover you are good at it. It is marvellous to be good at something. You haven’t been good at much in a long time. Even the things you were good at, your education, your copywriting at the advertising agency – in fact one and the same thing – have in the end conspired against you, handing out a sentence of isolation.

Soon you are too drunk to think of anything but downing more.

While you drain glass after glass of vodka, Christine starts taking liquor with every second or third glass of Mazoe.

You lurch into a woman on your way back from the toilet. The woman has spiky hair. Her skin is white.

“Mind!” she says, setting her drink on a table, wiping dripping fingers on the back of her jeans.

You stare at her, your eyes attempting to focus. When the image is as clear as it is going to get: “Tracey!” you bellow.

“Excuse me?” says the white woman, giving you a tolerant smile.

“I know you,” you tell her. “I used to work for you. And we went to school together. Are you going to pretend?” you crescendo. “You know you know me.”

Even as you speak, you are aware this person is not that particular white woman, the executive from the advertising agency who schemed with her fellow white people to steal the ideas you sweated over and produced for copy.

With this knowledge, the hole in the universe yawns wide in front of you again and the woman who knows better than the one you hear roaring disappears into its depths. Making yourself as large as you can, you scream, “Don’t pretend with me, Tracey!”

“Katrin,” the woman responds, backing away. “Katrin.”

“Both,” you insist. “I mean, you’re my boss. From the advertising.”

The woman takes a deep breath.

“Not me,” she says, exhaling sharply.

“Liar!”


She moves away onto the dance floor, joining a multiracial pocket of people, complexions ranging from ebony to pale marble. You follow her. She ignores you. You hear someone talking loudly, telling you she is not the woman who employed you at the advertising agency. You know this sensible voice is located in your brain. You don’t listen to it.

“You are lying. That’s what you are doing,” you keep shouting. As you shout you lunge. The white woman sees you coming. She dodges round you and you fall into a trio of dancers. Bracing themselves on their platform shoes, tossing their weaves, “Get away,” they shout, shoving you from one to the other.

The men from the door surge onto the dance floor. They clamp the flesh of your upper arm in their fingers, asking which you prefer, calming down and being reasonable or being prohibited. They have, however, reckoned without Christine.

Your companion plants her fists on her hips and informs the bouncers she is an Independence struggle ex-combatant, Moscow trained, and she can see half a dozen others still in fighting form around the bar; nor does it matter if some are not actually Soviet alumni but were trained in China, they are all comrades and fighters.

In spite of Christine’s intervention, the bouncers keep holding on to your arm, saying they are hired to end things; that when out-of-control women start beginning their messes with peaceful dancers, that is what they are ending. So Christine tells them you are under control and heaves you up the stairs and out onto the street.

You refuse to walk. Christine drags you away from the club.

You shout more and more loudly for her to release you. When she doesn’t, you scream that you will be damned if you ever go anywhere with her again. While you fling abuse at her, Christine manoeuvres you to the nearest bus stop.

She props you up on the termite-eaten bench, pushes a dollar note into your jeans pocket and tells you to take the first combi travelling towards Mai Manyanga’s.

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Read an excerpt from David Bristow’s The Game Ranger, the Knife, the Lion and the Sheep: 20 Tales about Curious Characters from Southern Africa

The Game Ranger, the Knife, the Lion and the Sheep offers spellbinding stories of some amazing, little-known characters from South Africa, past and very past.

Let us introduce you to some of the characters you’ll meet inside. Starting with Krotoa, the Khoi maiden who is found working in the Van Riebeeck household as both servant and interpreter.

In time she becomes the concubine of Danish surgeon Pieter Van Meerhoff and later his wife.

Then there is Mevrou Maria Mouton who preferred to socialise with the slaves than her husband on their farm in the Swartland. It was with these slaves that she conspired to murder him.

What became of them is … best those gory details are glossed over for now.

And the giant Trekboer Coenraad de Buys – rebel, renegade, a man with a price on his head who married many women (none of them white) and fathered a small nation.

The explorer Lichtenstein called him a modern-day Hercules.

Then there are the men of learning and insight, such as Raymond Dart and Adrian Boshier, who opened up the world of myth and ancient artefacts so we now better understand the ancients and the world they created for us to inherit.

Or James Kitching who broke open rocks in the Karoo to reveal creatures that inhabited this region long before even Africa was born. And so, without further ado, we give you our selection of stories about remarkable characters from the veld.

These stories will excite, entertain and enthral you! You will finish reading them wishing you had more!

George Mossop – Running the Gauntlet

A life lived to the fullest on the open veld

The Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 is remembered almost entirely for two battles. The most famous one was at Isandhlwana where a Zulu impi inflicted a humiliating blow on a rear detachment of Lord Chelmsford’s grand imperial army. The second was a follow-up engagement later that day and all that night at Rork’s Drift store and field hospital where a rag-tag assortment of reinforcements, storemen, medics and the wounded put up a most heroic defence.

Whether before a battle, or an international rugby game at Ellis Park, the opening lyrics of the Juluka classic “Impi”, cool the blood and raise the hair on one’s arms.

Impi! Wo’ nans impi iyeza.

Obani benanthinta amabubesi?

War! O here comes war.

Who here can touch the lions?

However, the war that followed was no mere two-day event, lasting some six months with many other battles and skirmishes. At least as bloody and humiliating for the British forces as Isandhlwana was the battle of Hlobane Mountain. George Mossop, a sixteen-year-old British subject of South African birth, was among those who fought there. His recounting of the action, as well as the events in his life that led up to it, is one of South Africa’s best least-known sagas.

George Joseph Mossop was born near Durban or what was then Port Natal, in the Colony of Natal in the early 1860s. He spent his youth running barefoot in the veld around Umvoti where he was supposed to be attending the village school.

“Wanderlust was in my blood,” he wrote in his memoirs in 1930, using all the scraps he’d written throughout his extraordinarily adventurous life to bolster his memory. In 1875, at the age of fourteen, he left home and set off for the Transvaal where, he understood, the real wilds of Africa could still be found.

“I became a product of the veld and the wide spaces to which I still cling, for I have never lived in a town or near one.”

In 1937, the year before he died, when he wrote a preface to his notes he admitted he had never been to the cinema or seen a circus, although he had once seen an aeroplane sailing the sky like an eagle, “though no bird ever kicked up such a fiendish row”.

His first year of freedom was spent with a party of Boers shooting game for their skins and to make biltong.

The Eastern Transvaal Highveld, now Mpumalanga, was the last refuge of the huge herds of game that once covered the entire grassland biome in tens and hundreds of thousands. Before the arrival of white hunters the Highveld would have hosted a wildlife spectacle far exceeding the now more famous Serengeti Plains.

The region was also covered in wetlands where waterfowl gathered in vast flocks, and great numbers of other birds nested in the extensive reed beds. However, one by one the reed beds were burned to convert the land for grazing. The birds moved off, never to return, and neither did most of the wetlands.

When his hunting party reached the main body of the game migration near present-day Ermelo, the Boers made camp without any hint of haste – they had done this many times before. The Good Lord would provide. Oxen were unyoked, horses knee-haltered, tents pitched, fires made, then coffee and rusks were handed round. The game was on.

Mossop said of the migration: “The scene which met my eyes the next morning is beyond my power to describe. Game, game everywhere, as far as the eye could see – all on the move, grazing.”

It seemed to the inexperienced lad that the game appeared not to be moving but that the Earth itself was carrying the vast herd of animals along with it. As he watched he realised that within the great herd were smaller groups of specific species: a herd of some five hundred black wildebeest moved towards the wagons, stopped, wheeled as one with their heads facing the shooting camp, then up went their white tails and off they moved. Then another, several thousand strong.

Next came a group of about two hundred quaggas, which were called “the zebra of the bush veld”. Mossop describes them as being taller, of lighter colour and shaggier than their more common brothers. They charged towards the wagons and came to a stop about sixty metres distant, their hooves ploughing into the ground.

Their innate inquisitiveness made them easy to shoot and the writer reckoned this was likely the last of their kind to be seen anywhere.

There were also hundreds of thousands each of blesbok and springbok. Mossop was awed, rendered speechless by the scene, but the Boers calmly went about the business of readying for the slaughter as if it were just another day’s work, stretching riems between the wagons and poles on which hides and meat would be hung.

What must the country have looked like, Mossop pondered, before the shooting had begun decades earlier? Black wildebeest moved past them at a canter, hour after hour, making speech all but impossible.

The men shot and shot and shot until they could shoot no more. At one point he asked the leader of the group, “old man Visagie”, if he did not think it wrong to slaughter all the game to the verge of extinction.

“Can you tell me, Mister Heathen,” came the stern reply, “what good this game is doing, running wild over the veld? You dare to say that the Lord did not know what he was doing when He placed them here. It is a sin to listen to such words. Never use them again in my presence.”

A year later, in 1879, the Zulu War flared up so the sixteen-year-old George rode back to Natal to sign up for duty with the Frontier Light Horse (FLH), a rag-tag group of self-equipped colonials that was modeled on the Boer commando system.

Mossop’s Bushman companion of the previous year, Gerswent, pleaded with him not to leave. The wrinkled old man said the British had no hope of beating the mighty Zulus. He had seen the British, he said, stripping naked early in the morning in winter and washing in a river. They even put their heads under the water!

The young adventurer’s journey to join up with Colonel Wood’s column took him on a tortuous route back across the Highveld and down to the Lowveld.

He got caught in a storm on the Berg escarpment near Utrecht and he and his Basuto pony, Warrior, had to brave a night of wind and driving rain “camping” – hiding behind a rock until dawn came and the storm let up.

“Although my pony was only a few feet from me, I could not see him, so thick was the darkness, but I knew that he was standing there with his tail to the blast.”

Moans and groans seemed to grip the mountainside, rushing sounds becoming ever louder until they seemed to be upon the miserable young man. When a reedbuck appeared out of the squall and let out a shrill whistle, the man crawled up close to his pony for comfort. In his day people did not prepare padkos but took whatever they had to hand. Then it was usually just a strip of biltong. Mossop finished his while sheltering behind that rock in the storm.

On 6 January 1879 he crossed the Ncome River (site of the earlier pivotal battle of Blood River between the Boers and Zulu army in the time of King Dingane) and caught up with the British army just inside Zululand: endless wagons, teams of oxen, whips cracking, drivers yelling, horsemen galloping to and fro, general bedlam.

The procedure for joining went something like this:

Officer to lad:

“That your horse?”

“Yes, sir.”

“That your saddle and bridle?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Can you shoot?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Where did you learn?”

“In the Transvaal, sir, with the Boers, shooting game.”

“How old are you?”

“Seventeen, sir.” (What was one year’s difference?)

“See him equipped, sergeant, and put him in a good tent.”

One seasoned soldier tried with some persistence to warn him to turn around and head back to from wherever he had come. The officer in charge of the Frontier Light Horse was Major Redvers Buller, later the general who led the British army at the beginning of the Anglo-Boer War when it got its imperial nose bloodied by General Louis Botha’s Boers on the Natal Front.

About the author

David Bristow grew up on the Highveld, north of Johannesburg.

Dreams of becoming an architect took a sharp turn on 16 June 1976 when “the other side” of Johannesburg seemed to suddenly go up in smoke. He resigned that day and went to study journalism at Rhodes University.

Just a few years into working as a journalist back in Johannesburg he did another 180 and resigned, this time to research and write his first book, Mountains of Southern Africa. It was an unexpected commercial success. Once again bags were packed, this time to read for a master’s degree in environmental sciences in Cape Town.

Some 20 coffee-table style books later (in between which there was a longish stint as editor of Getaway travel magazine), he decided to do what he really always wanted to: write paperback narratives about southern Africa. His first in the series of Stories from the Veld was Running Wild: The Story of Zulu, an African Stallion. This is the second.

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“These riots, when it came down to it, were all about one thing. Land.” Read an excerpt from Mphuthumi Ntabeni’s debut novel, The Broken River Tent

The Broken River Tent is a novel that marries imagination with history.

It is about the life and times of Maqoma, the Xhosa chief who was at the forefront of fighting British colonialism in the Eastern Cape during the nineteenth century. The story is told through the eyes of a young South African, Phila, who suffers from what he calls triple ‘N’ condition – neurasthenia, narcolepsy and cultural ne plus ultra. T

his makes him feel far removed from events happening around him but gives him access to the analeptic memory of his people. After being under immense mental pressure, he crosses the mental divide between the living and the dead and is visited by Maqoma. They engage in different conversations about cultural history, literature, religion, the past and contemporary South African life.

Read an excerpt:

The Gravediggers

The entrance to the Hangberg Multipurpose Sport Centre was unusually busy for a non-social grant payment day. Media cameras were everywhere. Their little village town had caught the attention of the nation, Phila thought, if not exactly the world.

“Ngawethu!”

The main speaker for the evening had entered the hall. While other speakers assembled on the podium Phila took a seat near the back. Although he regarded himself as part of this community, he felt somewhat out of place, as if he was faking his solidarity to leech onto the people’s pain.

It was soon evident that the community meeting had been hijacked by politicians and Phila had difficulty holding his concentration. A guy from something to do with Social Justice was saying something about the government marginalising and criminalising the poor. “The lies of the city and provincial officials who call us drug lords when we demand our constitutional rights shall be exposed!” he cried, becoming very animated.

He spoke for quite a long time, mixing English in Afrikaans. People clapped violently. Next a Rastafarian took the microphone, first hailing Haile Selassie and Jah and then dissing the “Babylonian governments and their system of oppression. Dem tell us to reconcile, meantime dem serve us snake for fish, and rocks for bread. Mandela se kak!” The crowd went wild. “Ons KhoiKhoi mense! We demand our land back …” There was something impressively radically anarchist about the Rasta.

As the meeting finally looked as if it was drawing to an end, after almost two hours, and the cameramen were packing up their equipment, Phila went outside to get some air and have a cigarette. He found himself reflecting on the reason for this meeting, the events of the past week which had culminated in what the media, with their flair for dramatic nostalgia, had called Black Tuesday. The police had come, around 2am, in what one of the speakers had termed ‘apartheid style’, to evict people who had illegally invaded land on the slopes of Hangberg. Phila wasn’t totally clear about the details but the violence had started when residents resisted the police. On his walk back home earlier, after having fish and chips at Fish-On-The-Rocks as the sun went down, his route took him close to where the events of Black Tuesday had unfolded. The place had looked like an abandoned movie set for the apartheid era. On his way he had stooped to pick up a used teargas canister shell, obviously from a police shotgun, and he’d slipped it into his pocket without thinking.

That speaker was right. The events of the previous week had introduced a reminiscent order of apartheid days in the streets of their village town. Phila himself had been there, doing what he could to help. When a TV newsman at the riot scene had asked him to give his opinion, on camera, he had wanted to sound revolutionary, to send a clear message that the impoverished should not be pushed around and criminalised for being poor. Instead, dogged by his middle-class timidity, he’d come up with a cautious statement about “the irony of the fact that when developers for the rich want to push mountain firebreaks it is done at the stroke of a pen, but now that the poor have run out of living space they are treated like brigands who are illegally occupying land.”

It irritated him that he was always so cautious, reasonable and unspontaneous. His mind was neither quick nor nimble; he lacked the gift of spontaneity, which was why he found it hard to improvise on the spot. At best he had keen powers of observation and some originality when given a moment to apply his mind, but his kind always got swallowed by the revolution.

He thought about how, a decade and a half ago, during the so-called rainbow era of Mandela, the country was full of hope and assertive belief in the renewal of its humanity. Now he saw the return of cynicism, suspicion, despair, and police terror, the suppression of freedom, with all the accompanying horrors. Community meetings with fired-up rhetoric. Loud-hailers on the streets, calling citizens to action – like the one on the red bakkie that had gone past his window and alerted him to this meeting tonight, urging residents to “do a postmodern on the BRUTALITY of the police last Tuesday, when they invaded our community APARTHEID style. Injury one! Injury all! The BOEREBOND is on the rise again!”

Outside he was joined by a podgy fellow who had been at the podium table and whom Phila was sure he’d seen somewhere else. Initially he couldn’t place him but then he realised: he was the security guard at the local supermarket, who usually greeted him when he went there for supplies, who sometimes helped him with the groceries, very politely, to the car. Phila always made sure to tip.

“Nice of you to join us, sir,” the fellow said with his usual politeness. Phila was glad to recognise a face in that sea of strangers. The fellow swapped his cigarette to his left hand before extending his right, and they ended up shaking hands for a little too long and more vigorously than was necessary.

“I never figured you as the revolutionary type,” Phila said, regretting the statement the moment it went out of his mouth. It turned out the fellow was a community leader of some kind. Inside, when people had kept referring to community leaders and shouting socialist slogans, they had been referring to him. An ironic twist surely – socialists guarding the doors of capitalism? Talk about capitalism producing its own gravediggers, thought Phila.

He was still turning fiery phrases over in his mind, of the type he could have used in front of the TV camera when he’d had the chance. The government is wiping our turned-up noses with the sword; our liberators have turned into our oppressors. A luta continua! Deep down he knew there was no way he could have said all of that. Even in his head it all sounded fake. He was no revolutionary; neither did he want to be one. He believed more in the evolution of the mind, the gradual progress etcetera.

The usual crap of weak characters who never want to be involved in the real struggles under the guise of being civilised. The irony was that he spent almost all his life trying to civilise his mind; now he was doing everything possible to escape the fate of Prufrock, the ineffectual, wellbred man during times of rising tensions and turbulences.

Irony struck him again as he said goodnight to the community leader and set off home. These riots, when it came down to it, were all about one thing. Land. The irony, in the twenty-first century, was that the players were still the same as before. You had the KhoiKhoi people on the slopes of Hangberg, and the Xhosas – mostly from the Eastern Cape, where their forefathers had fought the British colonial powers – on the slopes of Karbonkelberg where Imizamo Yethu informal settlement was situated. And then in the affluent valley down below were mostly the white people, progeny of the settlers from the 1800s.

Phila walked home under a maturing sheet of darkness. Moonlight cracked the sky with pale fissures of light.

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Read an excerpt from Tracy Going’s searing memoir, Brutal Legacy

Published in Sunday Times: Insight (26/02/2018)

Brutal LegacyWhen South Africa’s golden girl of broadcasting, Tracy Going’s battered face was splashed across the media back in the late 1990s, the nation was shocked.

South Africans had become accustomed to seeing Going, glamorous and groomed on television or hearing her resonant voice on Radio Metro and Kaya FM. Sensational headlines of a whirlwind love relationship turned horrendously violent threw the “perfect” life of the household star into disarray. What had started off as a fairy-tale romance with a man who appeared to be everything that Going was looking for – charming, handsome and successful – had quickly descended into a violent, abusive relationship.

“As I stood before him all I could see were the lies, the disappearing for days without warning, the screaming, the threats, the terror, the hostage-holding, the keeping me up all night, the dragging me through the house by my hair, the choking, the doors locked around me, the phones disconnected, the isolation, the fear and the uncertainty.”

The rosy love cloud burst just five months after meeting her “Prince Charming” when she staggered into the local police station, bruised and battered. A short relationship became a two-and-a-half-year legal ordeal played out in the public eye. In mesmerising detail, Going takes us through the harrowing court process – a system seeped in injustice – her decline into depression, the immediate collapse of her career due to the highly public nature of her assault and the decades-long journey to undo the psychological damages in the search for safety and the reclaiming of self.

The roots of violence form the backdrop of the book, tracing Going’s childhood on a plot in Brits, laced with the unpredictable violence of an alcoholic father who regularly terrorised the family with his fists of rage.

“I was ashamed of my father, the drunk. If he wasn’t throwing back the liquid in the lounge then he’d be finding comfort and consort in his cans at the golf club. With that came the uncertainty as I lay in my bed and waited for him to return. I would lie there holding my curtain tight in my small hand. I would pull the fabric down, almost straight, forming a strained sliver and I would peer into the blackness, unblinking. It seemed I was always watching and waiting. Sometimes I searched for satellites between the twinkles of light, but mostly the fear in my tummy distracted me.”

Brilliantly penned, this highly skilled debut memoir, is ultimately uplifting in the realisation that healing is a lengthy and often arduous process and that self-forgiveness and acceptance is essential in order to fully embrace life.

Read an edited extract from Chapter One…

“You’re not allowed here,” I warned him.

“I. Don’t. Give. A. F**k.”

Those were his words as he lumbered toward me with that loose, loping gait of a tall man. One who has spent a lifetime trying to shorten his stride so that others can keep abreast. He was not a man who could be quiet. His hands were lashing at the air, his shoulders twisting like shifting puzzle pieces. I was trying to put the pieces together, trying to make them fit, not quite certain how. My hands were still suspended, fixed in mid-flick, adjourned, a deferred gesture indicating that he may not enter, when I pressed the remote and soundlessly closed the garage door.

Perhaps he heard my silence because suddenly he calmed, the tension draining from him as his shoulders dropped. He ran his fingers through his tousled fringe and looked down at me with such tenderness.

“I’m so sorry for what I’ve put you through,” he said, tilting his head. “Is there any chance of us getting back together?”

I was quiet.

“Please give me another chance.”

I said nothing as I absorbed his now familiar words.

“Don’t make me beg … But I’m asking you to give me another chance.” His voice a little harder, more determined. He was looking down at his feet.

I watched him. I wanted to see the truth in his eyes. I wanted to see whether I could believe him, whether I could trust that this time he truly meant what he said. I wanted to see my pain reflected there. But I couldn’t. He was still looking away.

Then suddenly something deep inside me shifted.

I was no longer lost in his dark, brown eyes with their thick, solemn brows. I no longer saw the definition of his chiselled jaw, his high cheekbones or the endearingly flattened tip of his broad nose. As his words melted and morphed, and the last five months moulded as one, his boyish nonchalance, his charm, dissipated.

All I could see were the lies, his disappearing for days without warning, the screaming, the threats, the terror, the hostage-holding, the keeping me up all night, the dragging me through the house by my hair, the choking, the doors locked around me, the phones disconnected, the isolation, the fear and the uncertainty.

I realised that it was never going to change. Never.

As I stood there in my own stillness, I knew that I had been holding onto something that never existed. I finally understood that this could no longer be my journey. I could no longer give credence and value to his distorted perspective.

Was there any chance of us being together? No, there wasn’t. There would never be. Not any more.

It was finally over.

“No, I don’t think so,” I said softly, trying to find my voice. I didn’t want to anger him.

It took a moment for my words to register, then his face contorted in fury and his rage erupted in a deadly torrent of vile.

“You bitch! You f**king c**t,” he screamed. “Give me the f**king air tickets.”

He’d bought two air tickets for me and my son to go away for a few days. It was supposed to be a healing getaway, to win me over after the night he’d driven me straight into my garage wall, shouting, “Tonight you’re going to die!”

It was an admission of guilt, a bartering for forgiveness, but I had preferred to accept it as a selfless and thoughtful expression of love and apology. He had also sent a bouquet of flowers, which had long since lost their allure and been discarded. The tickets were on my bedside table.

“I’ll get them,” I said quickly.

It was a short distance to my bedroom, but I moved slowly. I put one foot before the other and trod deliberately away from him. It was only once I was in my bedroom, out of sight, that I rushed forward and reached for the tickets. As I did so I snatched at the remote panic button alongside. I’d recently installed the alarm system and kept the panic button poised and ready just in case. I grabbed it and pressed down frantically, counting, one … two … three.

Not breathing. Four.

I hoped it was long enough to activate the signal, but not long enough to raise his suspicion.

I tossed the panic button aside and bounded back across the room, to the doorway, making up time before slipping back out into the passage. I was still trying to catch my breath as I glided back towards him, eyes lowered. The tickets were in my left hand, carefully caught between thumb and index finger, and I was holding them up high, presenting them ahead of me like a floating, paper peace offering.

But he was having none of it.

He was in the hallway shuffling from one foot to another, immersed in a private dance of rage, as he fuelled his own fury. Somehow, I met his rhythm, instinctively mirroring him, rocking ever so slightly from one side to the other, trying to make myself part of his harmony, trying to placate him, to send out a silent signal that I was not a threat and that I meant no harm. But it was a hollow synchronicity.

As my three-metre journey came to an end I didn’t need to look at him, to meet his eyes, to know that his huge, rough hands were splaying and fisting, that his jaw was clenched tight, his teeth grinding. But I lifted my head anyhow and as our eyes locked I saw the shine. I saw how his pupils had brightened with the icy glow of anticipation.

“Please don’t,” I said, my words nearly silent.

Please don’t hit me.

But he did.

He slammed his right fist into my eye.

The pain was instant. I screamed. My hands flew to my face and I spread my fingers wide as I tried to mask myself, but it was too late. He hit me again. I stumbled backwards, but quickly scrambled to my feet and fled to the lounge. I was in the corner, the curtain caught around me, when he upturned the coffee table. I was still screaming when he hoisted the TV cabinet off the floor and hurled it across the room. Then he lunged at me, his hand clamped over my mouth to keep me quiet. But I wouldn’t be quiet. He gripped my head and pounded it down into the floor.

He was over me, his face so close to mine that I could feel his spit on my cheek as it sprayed.

“You need your f**king face, don’t you?”

I felt the cold glass. A shard from the shattered coffee table, and he was holding it tight against my cheek.

Oh my God! He wants to cut me. Cut my face.

It took everything I had to twist myself from his grip. And then I ran.

It was my own dance of survival as I dodged him, the broken furniture, and my dog Garp.

I made it past the veranda, back out into the garden, before he caught up and I felt his hands slam down on my back and shoulders. He threw me to the ground and Garp moved in to protect me. I was caught, tied up in a frenzy of my flailing arms, his kicking feet, and a black furry body with a wagging tail. It was impossible to fend off the blows and recoil from wet dog licks at the same time. So I tucked my head in deep, curled up small and hugged myself tight. I left Garp to his nuzzling and him to his heaving, kicking and grunting as I drew my arms in to shield me. Each time I gave in to a strike from his foot I was grateful that he was wearing his brown suede and not his usual heavy, leather boots.

I was still screaming when I heard voices from over the wall.

My neighbours.

“Hey, what’s going on?” Shouting. Muffled voices. “Call the police.”

I heard pounding at my door, outside on the street. “Open up. Open this door!”

Thump. Crack.

I heard the wood splintering and I knew it was over. I was safe.

I stumbled to my feet and collapsed into the arms of my neighbour and his son. I sagged into them as they carefully lifted me and dragged me through the fractured wooden door. I dropped my head and brought my shaking hands up to hide myself from those who had already gathered on the pavement outside. My shouts had drawn passers-by. There were people standing on the other side of the road. The security guards had arrived and they too stood staring.

My neighbour and his son half dragged, half carried me past the gawking crowd, to the safety of their property. When they placed me gently on a chair it was only then that I looked up at them. They looked the same, both earnest and burly, just many years apart.

The kitchen was a cold, stark room, not the warm, cosy hub expected of a family home. It was immediately obvious there was no woman in the house. The linoleum floor was dated. So too were the chairs, with their spindly steel legs and black rubber tips. Remnants of an era long gone. But the kitchen was spotlessly clean, clinical almost, and I was glad. I didn’t want clutter. I wanted space and quiet so that I could try to gather my thoughts.

The son bundled a crumpled, wet dishcloth to my face, and I held it tight to my burning eye. The pain was throbbing through me and the cold cloth pressed against the heat of the swelling brought some relief. He then made sugar water but it sat swirling in the mug. I was unable to hold myself still enough to drink it.

Father and son had raised the alarm when they first heard my screams but the police were yet to arrive. I gave them my sister’s number. I knew my mother and her husband, John, were in Johannesburg for the afternoon and I wanted my sister to contact them so they could be with me.

There was no conversation between us as we sat there, waiting awkwardly. We just stared and waited.

I’d only met my neighbour a week earlier. When I’d knocked on his door, introduced myself and asked him to look out for me, it had been the first time I’d ever seen him. I had shamefully apologised for past disturbances and explained that I had a restraining order in place but that I feared for my safety.

As I sat there trembling, the pain stabbing at my temple, I wondered what would have happened had I not had that prefatory conversation. Would I even be sitting on his chair?

The police finally arrived and we made our way back to my home.

Again I kept myself tucked between my two neighbours. Passers-by still stood waiting and watching over the road and some of my other neighbours had come out too. I saw security patrol vehicles and police vans parked impatiently all along my grass verge.

The armed security guards had somehow prised open what was left of my door and had entered my property. They had also called for backup. Everywhere I turned there seemed to be men in uniform. I heard walkie-talkies and deep, unfamiliar voices.

My home had become a crime scene.

I didn’t want to go inside. I didn’t want to see all the damage. I already knew that the lounge was strewn with shattered glass, smashed picture frames and ornaments, the splintered remains of furniture. I stayed outside. I left it to my neighbour to manage everyone around me and collapsed onto a chair on the veranda.

I needed to sit.

Garp followed me, but this time, as he moved in closer, there was no wagging tail.

We were both still. His head against my knee, my hand limp against his ear.

I leaned forward and held him tight before burying my head in the cold dishcloth, trying to numb the drilling pain and the horror of all that had happened.

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“I was sure nothing could match the satisfaction of watching Madiba walk out of prison” – read an excerpt from Rehana Rossouw’s New Times

 

From the acclaimed and award-winning author of What Will People Say? Rehana Rossouw takes us into a world seemingly filled with promise yet bedevilled by shadows from the past. In this astonishing tour de force Rossouw illuminates the tensions inherent in these new times.

Ali Adams is a political reporter in Parliament. As Nelson Mandela begins his second year as president, she discovers that his party is veering off the path to freedom and drafting a new economic policy that makes no provision for the poor. She follows the scent of corruption wafting into the new democracy’s politics and uncovers a major scandal. She compiles stories that should be heard when the Truth Commission gets underway, reliving the recent brutal past. Her friend Lizo works in the Presidency, controls access to Madiba’s ear. Another friend, Munier, is beating at the gates of Parliament, demanding attention for the plague stalking the land.

Aaliyah Adams lives with her devout Muslim family in Bo-Kaap. Her mother is buried in religion after losing her husband. Her best friend is getting married, piling up the pressure to get settled and pregnant. There is little tolerance for alternative lifestyles in the close-knit community. The Rugby World Cup starts and tourists pour up the slopes above the city, discovering a hidden gem their dollars can afford.

Ali/Aaliya is trapped with her family and friends in a tangle of razor-wire politics and culture, can she break free?

Told with Rehana’s trademark verve and exquisite attention to language you will weep with Aaliya, triumph with Ali, and fall in love with the assemblage that makes up this ravishing new novel.

Rehana Rossouw was born and rooted in Cape Town, but is currently in self-imposed exile in Johannesburg. She has been a journalist for three decades and has also taught journalism and creative writing. She has a Master’s in Creative Writing from Wits University.

Chapter Three

People don’t greet at The New Times, the white people in particular. They drop their heads and stare at the floor like the answer to the meaning of life is carved there when they hear my hello. What’s that about? How do you start a conversation with people who don’t greet? At The Democrat a morning greeting would be followed with a full account of everything that happened since the last sighting. Colleagues told each other what they made for supper, how long they struggled to get their children to bed, what they thought of what they watched on TV, what position had been taken in the marital bed, how many minutes they kept it up, what was discussed afterwards, should the bathroom be tiled this year or can it wait until after the driveway is paved?

The first of my greetings returned come from Luvuyo, Johnson and Thandiswa when I reach my desk at the back of the newsroom. Roger the white intern throws a casual howzit in my direction when he arrives but doesn’t stop to hear how I am. I teach him how to greet – molo for one person, molweni for many. Ask unjani? Wait for an answer. Most of the time the answer is ndiyaphila, everything’s fine. Roger seems interested in learning.

I retreat to the balcony with a cup of coffee, a cigarette and a copy of the morning paper. The smoke soothes my nerves, the predictable political coverage in the paper boosts my confidence and the coffee warms my vocal chords. I head for my desk, flip open my contact book and hit the phone.

I call the national police spokesman; I’ve given up waiting for answers from the Western Cape. Mandla doesn’t sound too surprised that I’m asking about progress on the investigation into the Minister of Welfare’s corruption. He insists that I put my questions in writing and fax them to Pretoria, refuses to commit to when he’ll answer them. I know it’s a waste of time but I phone the Western Cape police spokesman again. Loftus won’t confirm or deny anything. The Welfare Minister’s secretary promises, for the third time, to tell him that I called and ask that he calls back. I phone Coen at the party’s headquarters and shake his cage again but nothing falls out, not a single word I can use.

My next call is to Andile Chiliza at the Air Force. He delivers on the promise he made at the farewell party. ‘Second Lieutenant Khanyiswa Patekile is available for an interview at fourteen hundred hours tomorrow.’ Only six months in the job and the military speak rolls off his tongue like a second language. ‘That’s a confirmation Ali; the story is yours exclusively. Bring a photographer; we want to pose her next to a Mirage fighter jet.’

Johnson introduces me to Bongani Khumalo, the office manager with a wide path parting his tight curls, his bright white shirt wrapped in a bottle-green cardigan with wooden buttons. He says ‘you’re welcome’ every time I thank him for the arrangements he makes to get me a new press card, business cards and transport. I book a pool car for two o’clock for the Steel Workers Union’s press conference and one for tomorrow to get to the Air Force base. ‘You’re welcome,’ Bongani says as I back out of his office with profuse thanks.

I pass Joy’s desk several times on my way to the printer and the fax machine. She’s glued to the phone, her face hidden behind a shield of oily hair. I drop a note on her desk as I leave for the press conference, telling her where I’m going. She doesn’t look up.

There are ten rows of chairs set out in the hall at Community House in Salt River, where the Steel Workers Union has offices. I get through ten pages of Chomsky while I wait for everyone else to show up, swept away by his description of how the US media ‘lost the war’ waged by their government in Vietnam. Lizo’s right, there’s a lot more I need to learn about the power of the media’s punch. I was sure nothing could match the satisfaction of watching Madiba walk out of prison. But journalism practised at a much higher level in America brought an end to a war waged by the mightiest army on earth.

The press conference starts forty minutes late with three reporters in attendance. Five union officials seat themselves at the table facing us, behind them a red banner with the union’s logo and the words ‘ORGANISE OR STARVE’ in bold black letters. It was put up minutes earlier, by two of the men in red union T-shirts at the table. There’s no photographer present to record their effort.

Steel Workers Union secretary John Carelse’s square face is scaffolded by a strong chin. His red T-shirt stretches across his wide chest, he is the perfect poster partner for Rosie the Riveter. Spit bubbles on his lower lip as he spews his rage towards the assembled journalists, slow enough so we can record his every word.

‘The capitalists refuse to pay equal wages to workers, regardless of race or gender, up to this day – a full year after we won our liberation. They made record profits last year when the world flocked to South Africa to do business with it again. We made that possible; our members sacrificed their livelihoods and their lives to destroy apartheid. But now, while our politicians enjoy equality down the road in Parliament, it is nowhere to be seen on the factory floor.’

I look up from my notebook when Carelse stops, gropes for a handkerchief in his jeans pocket and wipes foam off his mouth. I start taking notes again when he launches into his next round of fury but soon stop and raise my head. I’ve heard this several times before; it’s his favourite theme.

‘The huge salary gap between CEOs and workers is the result of capitalist greed. Capitalism claims that apartheid denied blacks a decent education, houses, healthcare, water and electricity. Our analysis reaches a different conclusion; they worked hand in hand with the apartheid regime so they could be provided with a cheap source of labour. Now that we have a democracy, what’s their excuse for blocking equity on the shop floor? The reason is clear my friends, and there is only one: capitalist greed.’

I raise my hand, I need to get a question in before Carelse starts on what always comes next, a short history of the exploitation of workers in South Africa since the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in 1652, followed by a long recitation of their brave struggle. His forceful delivery draws militant roars at mass rallies, but we’re not here to be recruited. All I came to hear is what he is going to do about this mess.

New Times

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“Comrades, I want to address aspects about Jacob Zuma” – an excerpt from Ronnie Kasrils’s A Simple Man

A Simple ManRonnie Kasrils’s insights into Jacob Zuma in A Simple Man, both shocking and revelatory, are vividly illuminated through this story, from their shared history in the underground to Kasrils’s time as minister of intelligence and his views on South Africa now. Our understanding of Zuma the struggle hero, now perceived as having sold his soul to the devil, becomes clearer through this narrative.

This fast-paced, thriller-style memoir outlines the tumultuous years that saw Mbeki’s overthrow and replacement by Zuma, Nkandlagate, the growing militarisation of the police and the Marikana Massacre, the outrageous appointment of flunkies to high office, the ‘state capture’ report and his relationship with the Guptas. We relive the Schabir Shaik corruption trial, Kasrils’s relationship with Fezeka Kuzwayo (Khwezi), Zuma’s rape trial accuser, the email and spy tapes saga, conspiracy and betrayal.

‘Yes, comrade President, I think Russia will stand by Iran,’ I was mouthing, though my thoughts were mesmerised by the swinging pendulum. The fifteen-minute chime. The clock needed oiling. A big gulp of the amber fluid. Aziz was rattling on. Mbeki was thoughtful. The man was oblivious to the passing of time … nine interminable minutes more and his presidency would be over.

‘Uncle Ronnie, Jacob Zuma has raped me,’ was the call I received on my mobile phone. The woman added, ‘This is Fezeka.’ My body geared to the shock as though someone was pointing a gun at me: blood ran cold, neck hairs prickled, throat turned dry, mind strove to focus.

While Kasrils explains the enigmatic contradictions of Jacob Zuma, he also explains that corruption and the abuse of power does not begin with Zuma. His story points to the compromised negotiations of the 1990s, which he refers to as a ‘Faustian Pact’. This is a story told from the inside, and after reading it, you will understand not only the many machinations of power, but also how one man’s struggle for the truth can have such an impact on the political outcomes of the nation.

Ronnie Kasrils is author of the best-selling memoir Armed and Dangerous, which has been translated into German, Russian and Spanish and the Alan Paton Award-winning The Unlikely Secret Agent, which has been translated into French. A commander in Umkhonto weSizwe from its inception in 1961 until 1990, he served in government from 1994 to his resignation as minister for intelligence in 2008. He describes himself as a social activist and lives in Johannesburg.

The following extract was published by The Daily Maverick on nine November:

We had gathered at Party headquarters in downtown Johannesburg for a regular executive committee meeting but since insufficient members had turned up the gathering was postponed. While we chatted over coffee, I suggested that instead of dispersing, we discuss the situation that had arisen over Mbeki’s recent dismissal of Zuma as the country’s deputy president on 14 June 2005.

The disgraced Zuma, who had never disagreed with Mbeki’s policies, raised the spectre of a conspiracy against him hatched by “counter-revolutionaries”, and his supporters seized that idea with alacrity. Those in the SACP and Cosatu opposed Mbeki on ideological grounds, and although some had personal reasons too, I did not lump them into the same group as those I characterise as crony capitalists. The fact that the SACP supported Zuma spoke volumes about the extent to which he had succeeded in exploiting their antagonisms to Mbeki and their belief that he was a suitable man for the left and for the country. The situation was ugly and fraught with unforeseen consequences.

I studied the group of battle-hardened comrades with whom I had worked for several years to change South Africa and the world. Foremost among them were the Party general secretary, the feisty Blade Nzimande; the chairperson, Gwede Mantashe, a weather-beaten former mineworkers’ leader who did not mince his words; and the gently spoken poet and ideologue, Jeremy Cronin, whom I had once trained in London for underground work. As I was not just a comrade, the old “ANC Khumalo” and MK veteran, but an Mbeki appointee and the intelligence minister at that, I could feel sure that despite obvious respect they showed me, there was an element of doubt about my motives.

“Comrades, let’s be perfectly open with one another,” I requested. “I’m going to open my chest, and although this discussion should be confidential, if what I say gets to Zuma, I couldn’t care less.”

I had eyeballed the secretary of the Young Communist League (YCL), Buti Manamela, an up-and-coming youth leader who was pro-Zuma, and wondered just how far he would be swallowed by personal ambition. The Cosatu president, the heavily bearded Willie Madisha, shuffled perceptibly and looked down. I guessed he was unhappy with the growing adulation of Zuma and was in the process of falling out with Blade, who had a tight grip on the party.

“Comrades,” I continued, “I want to address aspects about Jacob Zuma, such as tribalism; the question of morality; the fact that he is no working-class hero; and the issue of conspiracy and security.”

Blade nodded with puckered mouth, beckoning me to proceed. Outside, the city hummed under a bright winter sky. Through our upper-floor windows we had a commanding view of downtown Johannesburg’s skyline: skyscrapers, mining houses and financial centres long past their glory days. The capitalist values that once had their fountainhead in the City of Gold had taken flight to the new capital of Mammon – the gleaming towers of Sandton City on Johannesburg’s northern edge. I wondered whether we communists could adjust to the times.

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“How we emerge from this terrible tragedy will depend on how seriously we take the challenges it has placed before us.” In line with the anniversary of the Marikana massacre, read an extract from Z Pallo Jordan’s Letters to my Comrades

In line with the anniversary of the Marikana massacre, read the following extract from Z Pallo Jordan’s Letters to my Comrades: Interventions & Excursions. Here Jordan wrote about the massacre and his views on the role of the ANC.

The book is scheduled to be in stores next week.
 
 

Remembering Bisho – and Marikana

September 2012

This (untitled) lecture was an address to the Eastern Cape legislature in September 2012, the tenth anniversary of the Bisho shootings, but also just weeks after the Marikana massacre.

The credibility of the ANC is probably the lowest it has been since 1990! The leadership has been stripped of its dignity! The best advice one can offer our movement caught in a hole is: ‘stop digging!’

How we emerge from this terrible tragedy will depend on how seriously we take the challenges it has placed before us.

It demonstrates the determination of the government to get at the truth that the President appointed a Judicial Commission of Inquiry within days of the shootings. Commendable as the appointment of the commission is, its primary concern will be to establish legal matters of fact relating to the specific events of that fateful day, August 16th. We are confident that the Judicial Commission of Inquiry will conduct its investigations with the appropriate rigour and uncover all the relevant facts.

But Marikana is symptomatic of a much deeper malaise. The all too easy recourse to lethal violence on the part of the Police tells its own terrifying tale. Besieged by new forms of violent crime perpetrated by criminals armed with military hardware, the South African Police Service has been exhorted to meet fire with fire by more than one minister and National Police Commissioner. This might have had the unfortunate consequence of encouraging the use of lethal force.

The sources of the tensions that led to bloodshed on August 16th go far deeper than the specific events that unfolded that day. I want to use this platform to call upon the leadership of the Congress of South African Trade Unions to organise a Workers’ Commission of Inquiry into the Marikana tragedy. COSATU should invite the other two union federations to participate in such a Workers’ Commission that should investigate, amongst other things, the return to South Africa’s mining industry of the ‘native labour touts’, who pitted workers against each other for their own profit in yesteryear, in the shape of labour brokers. The ‘outsourcing’ of recruitment was through labour brokers prevalent in Marikana played a notorious role in piling up the dry tinder of conflict. It should also shed light on the manner in which the mining industry is evading its responsibilities to its work force who live in shanty-towns around the mines.

A Workers’ Commission should also be tasked with investigating the shockingly high levels of violence in our society. An aspect of this violence is the alarmingly high incidence of private gun ownership in this country. The close correlation between high levels of gun ownership and gun-related crime is now well established. The best way to curb gun related crimes is to move towards a gun-free society. The police service in a gun-free society will have no need to carry firearms.

Madam Premier,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Comrades and friends,

Does it sit easily with the membership of the ANC? Does it sit easily with the millions of ANC supporters here at home, and in the world at large that during its centennial year, the government, led by the ANC presided over the first post-democracy state massacre?

How do we explain to the shade of Uncle J.B. Marks that today it is bullets fired from the automatic weapons of our democratic police service that are creating widows and orphans in the villages of the eastern Cape, of Lesotho, of the North-West province?

Who will explain to the martyrs of Bisho that the Police service they laid down their lives to create, also fires live ammunition at demonstrators?

The tensions that erupted in the continuing strike that led to the events of August 16th are in many respects the result of the compromises the movement made to attain the beach-head of democracy in 1994. We substituted BEE for wealth redistribution; we persuaded ourselves to be content with less than what we had fought for, because it was much more than what we had had.

In another context I once raised the question: Will our Black captains of industry behave like the Randlords who incited the Anglo-Boer war and the atrocities of the Concentration Camps? Or will they behave like the latter-day White monopolists who mouthed liberal sentiments, voted for the UP while they profited handsomely from collaborating with apartheid? or would pioneer a new path of corporate responsibility by promoting better working conditions and wages for workers?

Regrettably, it would appear the emergent Black capitalist class have bought into and are being incorporated into the culture of White capital. It might be unpleasant, but the current ANC leadership and the government it leads must accept that it has probably presided over the years of the ANC’s most profound crisis. Which poses the matter of the quality of the movement’s leadership at this moment.

Every movement for political transformation has arrived at this moment of truth sooner or later. During the French Revolution it came on the 18th Brumaire; during the Russian Revolution it was Kronstadt.

Has that moment also arrived for South Africa in the shape of Marikana?

Let Marikana be the moment when to once again take hold of the movement of our people and steer it again towards the sound and sober strategies of the past.

The elective conference that the ANC holds at the end of this year must rise to the challenge of producing a leadership corps that has the will, the moral courage and moral standing to take on task of cleaning the Augean stables of corruption!

The elective conference of the ANC must rise to the challenge of producing a leadership corps that will restore the credibility of the movement amongst its friends and opponents.

The elective conference of the ANC must rise to the challenge of producing a leadership corps that will restore the movement’s reputation and record of compassion.

Only by correcting itself in that manner will the ANC regain the confidence of the democratic forces of this country and take us all on a higher trajectory to a better life for all our people!

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“Power is the thing that caused my face to swell. The thing that showed me love in its rawest form.” Read an excerpt from If I Stay Right Here

If I Stay Right HereWhat is Sex? Sex is a humid climate. What is Desire? Desire is snow. What is Loneliness? Loneliness is a badger trying to figure out why it looks different to an otter. What is Obsession?Obsession is trying to fix a broken chair without realising that the chair is just bent at the knees and that’s how it was born. What is a Dyke? A dyke is an intricate, indecipherable encryption.

Chwayita Ngamlana, in her electric debut book, explores the above questions through her characters as they struggle through the volatility of love, the danger of not knowing themselves and
discovering their voice in the world.

The story follows the characters, Shay and Sip, who are very different in class, style, character and education. Shay is a journalism student working part time as an intern on a site that has no clear sense of direction. Sip is an unemployed varsity drop out and ex-gang member.

Their vastly different lives make it challenging for them to be the kind of couple they so desperately want to be. Unable to get themselves untangled from the web they’ve created, Shay and Sip use money, other people and sex to fix things, but is this enough?

Ngamlama has created a world that is somewhere between the present day and a sub-world of delusion. The reader will want to watch both story and characters unravel. This book will touch anyone who has lost themselves or their loved ones to unhealthy, destructive relationships.

Chwayita Ngamlana was born and raised in Grahamstown. She is an only child who found comfort and companionship in reading and writing from the age of 10. She has a degree in music and has her master’s in Creative Writing. This is her debut novel – and it won’t be the last.

The Worst Power

In this place a fist represents strength, freedom and empowerment.

They told us that in those institutions for fragile minds. With only a few years on Earth, we listened attentively to experienced superhumans who dedicated their lives to showing us how to live.

We concluded that they must have dropped down on our planet to tell us what they see from above. We didn’t know much back then.

Small eyes looking up from wooden desks, scared that these superhumans would ask us questions or say the words “spot test” or check our homework to see if we regurgitated correctly.

They had a leader and the leader was their hero.

She was our hero too.

She was like the queen of the bee hive. Whenever people were sent to her office she banged her fist on the table. I had only heard about this fist, but eventually I too found myself seated across it. It was more terrifying than the fist the superhumans banged on their desks whenever we got a little too loud and excited.

Her fist put a lump in my throat and seemed to shake the ground beneath me. I didn’t have to go to her lair all that much, thankfully. I wasn’t as interesting as the bullies, thieves and back chatters. She saw them the most. I remember how she squeezed that bony fist until her knuckles whitened, her bones protruding through the skin, stretching it thin. She pounded it on her desk and used it to punctuate her words, to fuel them so they arrive quicker.

It was then that I learned how loud a fist against wood can be.

Then they taught us about a superhero who was bigger than she was. A man who had come out of a 27-year-long struggle. He told the nation that in each single fist are a thousand reasons to keep living, to persevere and to form a unity. That was the latest meaning of a fist and it stuck. Every knuckle, a symbol of the country’s colours and willingness to stand for something. We accepted the strength of the fist because we were told these things, we saw it in action and we read about it.

Years later I’m clenching my hand hard to see what a proper fist is supposed to look like. I want to feel its power.

I’m realising that a closed fist is not easy to make. Wikipedia told me to curl my fingers into my palm and then lock them in with my thumb. This is also supposed to help me with my anxiety and help me recall information. I’m pretty sure I’m not doing it right.

Nothing about it makes me want to stand tall, be proud and raise it to the sky.

All that’s happening is the escape of my blood and the surfacing of yellow fat.

It says that if I’m able to form a fist then I’ll qualify for a fist bump – “a display of acknowledgement and friendship, sometimes celebration or greeting” – and the list goes on. Whatever I can’t say through my mouth will be tucked away in between my fingers and then passed on through a collision with another fist.

So why five knuckles? Better to put a stamp with, my dear.

Knuckle no. 1 – to imprint a lasting, prominent dark mark.
Knuckle no. 2 – to add a shade of green to the mark.
Knuckle no. 3 – to release passion.
Knuckle no. 4 – to get you to hear me.
Knuckle no. 5 – to show the world what is mine.

Without these it would be impossible to show you how I love.

I imagined her telling me this when I came to on the ground. The car I had left idling, slowly dimming its lights now, trying desperately to hide me so that I may disappear into the night and pretend I was never there.

The car has a lazy eye.

The street lights worked against me. They didn’t know me enough to protect me or show mercy. The stones pricked my back, gave me tough love, pushing me to get up.

Still I lay there like an injured stray dog.

The breeze brushed over the dry streams on my cheeks and gently carried the news to whomever it may concern. I saw it struggle to carry this heavy mess and drop it where it found it. It decided to wait until I got finished off so it could take my spirit instead. Spirits are far easier to carry.

I didn’t know that even stars can form a fist – a replica for the five-knuckled bony fist that collided with my face earlier and left its residue on my heart. The sky became a mirror, the stars now forming hearts around the fist, mocking me.

This is how we take care of each other now. Raising fists in the air is no longer the ultimate gesture of power. Power is the thing that caused my face to swell. The thing that showed me love in its rawest form.

I lay there and closed my eyes, drifting deep into blackness and back again. This is the part in the movie where the girl clutches her T-shirt, rolls over to her side and gets into a foetal position while crying hysterically. She turns to her side so that the tears don’t get into her ears. There were no tears, though.

I was on my back, stones still pricking me, unable to move. The loud sound of a fist still ringing deep in my ears. I didn’t remember a fist against wood being that loud.

I turned my head to the side, took gravel into my left hand, formed a fist and watched the soil seep through.

Fists are so valuable they could be sold. The superhumans must have forgotten to tell us that.

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Read an excerpt from Tammy Baikie’s Dinaane Debut Fiction Award-winning novel, Selling LipService

Selling LipService, Tammy Baikie’s remarkable debut novel, was the winner of the Dinaane Debut Fiction Award in 2016.

Formerly known as the European Union Literary Award, the Dinaane Debut Fiction Award was established in 2004 with the intention of sustaining locally written fiction. The award is open to unpublished English-language fiction manuscripts by debut writers

Daring in scope and exhibiting exhilarating virtuosity, Selling LipService takes South African fiction into a space last seen with Lauren Beukes’s Zoo City.

Dr Pamela Nichols, a lecturer at the Wits writing centre, commented on behalf of the judging panel: ‘This is firstly technically very clever in its articulation and development of languages, which are already familiar and nearly formed in our daily lives.

The invention and play with ways of talking and thinking reminded me of Clockwork Orange. Secondly, it makes a convincing argument for the need to reassert the literary and the always partially unknown human, before we are swallowed up by ad men.

It presents a Huxley-like future conveyed with a Burgess-like linguistic skill: brilliant, and guaranteed to appeal to anyone who loves reading.’

Read an excerpt from Chapter One here:

I have been repackaged. My cellophane surface is so slick that not even the rain clings to it. But the package contents lie. This is not what I am. The gaudy veneer of bright words that declaim and cajole are not mine – they are yours. I am the perishable rawness beneath.

You materialised with my first LipService patch. Clammy gel sucked at the skin of my upper arm, and I had to swallow hard against the rancid oil in my throat. The neurologist overseeing the hospital ward of eighteen-year-olds newly come of haemorrhage was watching me with the squinting intensity of an eye to a keyhole. He had personally applied the transdermal patch to my upper arm, while nurses went around to the other patients. Had my revulsion betrayed me? Tinnitus echoed like a siren through the empty halls of my mind. Did he know?

I remembered him as being among the group of doctors that a week or two earlier had huddled around the glow of the light boxes near the door. As they pointed and gesticulated at the brain scans, a grotesque shadow pantomime unfolded on the adjoining wall. I lay with my eyes half-closed, blinkering my mind to all but the progress of an ant across my arm and the parallel passage of bergamot that it induced across my palate. But my skin was crawling with more than six tarsal claws. I opened my eyes to see the medicine men staring at me. They had been looking into my head and seen something. Something that merited monitoring.

Now, the doctor revealed nothing. He asked how I felt, and for the first time since waking in the hospital weeks earlier, a fully formed utterance tumbled out of my throat: ‘Bathed in Pristine radiance.’ It was my voice but I had to turn over the strange auditory artefacts in my mind several times before admitting that they really came from me. They were not the words I had strained to reach on the high shelves of my cranium. Someone had rushed in while I groped, filled my basket with items and pushed me through the linguistic turnstile. I was left staring bewildered at the shiny word packages. That person was You.

That very first LipService patch was programmed for the Pristine bodywash brand. My response to the doctor’s question was copywritten to reference the tagline: ‘Remain bathed in radiance, long after you leave the tub.’ Of course, I knew that greetings serve to identify a brand to interlocutors and provide a context for a speaker’s LipService drift. I knew that, just as girls’ bodies bleed on reaching maturity, the brain must also bleed to come of age and that after my haemorrhage I would need to consume LipService to produce language – written and spoken – like all adults. But I never really accepted that another would speak for me. Or that your tackiness would adhere to me, too.

In the months before the bloodbath in my brain, I was sure I could regain language after coming of haemorrh-age and refuse LipService as long as I retained my particular deviancy – the ability to draw up flavours through my skin. My first conscious thought on waking in a hospital bed was raw with fear that I had been flayed, in one stroke, of language and of my taste-budding skin. I roiled in the sheets, desperately trying to stir up the sediment of their aroma. At first there was nothing; my skin felt thick with tongue fur. But eventually I chilled out to the ricotta sluggishness of the bed linen. I still held the savour of myself behind pursed lips.

Was that what the doctor had been looking for, too? But instead of the perversity his eye had watered for, he had gazed on the banality of another newly bled. He had almost turned away from me when he remembered himself and said, ‘Congratulations on completing neural pruning. Welcome to LipService,’ patting me distractedly on the shoulder before moving off to check on the other patients.

When the doctor and nurses had gone, some of the girls in the beds on the opposite side of the room from me started chatting. The newly styled LipServants emerged from aphasia like women from Selling LipService beneath large bonnet hairdryers, cooing and clucking at each other in delight. Fragments of a variety of LipService brand languages floated across to me.

… wake up to the kiss of Prince coffee …
… cool mint …
… can’t wait to give her the antibacterial treatment …
… so swept up in aroma’nce …
… a string of pearly whites is the best accessory…

The shy plump one on my right looked hopefully at me and was even drawing in breath to speak, but I turned on my side with my back to her. I didn’t feel up to giddily pretending that You and I are the same. I wouldn’t just click with You like plug and socket.

I liked them less knowing I was one of them – just as strokestricken, equally lost for words. We were as kinbled as our brain MRIs suggested, pinned up on the wall of the ward. Each one with an almost identical inkblot lesion – a black mark against our names and the naming of all things. I was supposed to feel bound by blood to those who shared my coming of haemorrh-age day and ward. But they were all waterslide happy to be carried along on your slippery sales pitches. And I couldn’t be. Besides, with the variety of LipService patches tag-lining our tongues, we were differentiated into products: the Prince coffee girl, the Soundbites toothpaste girl, the HailChef home appliances girl … And crossing the aisle in our supermarket world is an act of treachery.

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In light of the death of Karabo Mokoena, read an excerpt from It’s Me, Marah in which Marah Louw writes about a similar experience

With the recent incident of Karabo Mokoena being killed and burnt by her boyfriend, Blackbird Books wanted to share the following excerpt from Marah Louw’s autobiography It’s Me, Marah, describing a similar incident of this horrific tragedy. Rest in peace, Karabo.

The beginning of May 1972 was the end of my family as we knew it. One morning around six, as I was getting ready to go to the technical college, there was a knock on the door. My father had already left for work but my mother was home. When we answered, David Mofokeng, my sister Mabasotho’s boyfriend staggered in. Both his arms were bandaged and he looked depressed and anxious. We had barely got over our shock when David started weeping and talking at the same time.

‘Dumelang mama.’

He continued to speak through his sobs, making it difficult for us to hear, let alone understand what he was saying. My mom pleaded with him to speak slowly and eventually, even though it was still hard to hear him, he said, ‘Re hlahetswe ke kotsi kwana ntlung Senaoane. Ho bile lekotsi ya setofo sa paraffin, Mabasotho o lemetse, le nna ke tjhele matsohong ke leka ho tima mollo.’

I looked him straight in the eye and asked him to repeat himself. My heart was beating fast and hard and I wanted to make sure that I had heard him right.

David and Mabasotho lived in an ordinary four-room house in Mapetla, a section of Soweto. Images of their house started flooding my head; I could not remember seeing a paraffin stove. They had electricity – all the houses in the township did – so where the hell did a paraffin stove come from? I had been to their house just two days earlier and remembered my sister cooking on the electric stove. Their house had two bedrooms, a dining room and a kitchen. The toilet was outside and there was no bathroom, just like the other houses in that township, and it was simply furnished.

I started shouting at David, demanding that he tell me where the paraffin stove came from. ‘Se tswa kae setofo sa paraffin maan?’

My rage would not let me wait for him to finish the story. I was already dressed for college, so I grabbed my bag and shot out of the door. All I could think of was that I had to get to Baragwanath Hospital.

Not much was happening in the streets besides a few people rushing to work. It was early in the morning and a bit misty; winter was coming. Instead of taking the train I was meant to catch to town, I sought a taxi that would get me to the hospital. Luckily, it was not a long wait. There are always taxis and buses passing below Mzimhlophe railway station, that part of Mzimhlophe called Ezi’Ndlovini. I flagged down one of the popular Chrysler Valiant taxis (the ordinary sedans). There was room for one more passenger. It was a bit squashed but I didn’t care; I needed to get to the hospital.

Baragwanath Hospital is the largest in the country. I arrived around 7am and since visitors are not normally allowed in at that time of day, I pretended to be a patient and security let me through.

I walked through the corridors, not sure where to go. At reception at the admissions ward, I spoke to one of the nurses, my heart racing. I told her my sister had been admitted that morning with burn wounds. I gave her my sister’s full name and surname. She told me to return during visiting hours but I insisted on seeing her. The nurse checked the registration book, found her name and directed me to the burns ward. It was a long walk, through other wards, and the smell was unpleasant. I didn’t really mind the smell though, because I needed to see my sister as soon as possible.

When I finally arrived at the burns ward a nurse pointed me to where my sister was, but I could not find her and started to panic, walking up and down, tears running down my face, talking to myself. I didn’t know what I was saying and struggled to even look at the many burn victims lying helpless on the beds. I returned to the nurse’s station, frustrated to the point of anger, and confronted one of them: ‘Nurse please ke kopa o mpontse hore Ausi wa ka o kae.’

She seemed a bit agitated with me and almost dismissive. I was tempted to shout at the nurses for traumatising me by watching me wander around the ward. Finally a nurse asked me to follow her. As we walked down the ward I started feeling weak at the knees, my feet tired, my shoes pinching my feet. I wanted to sit down and rest my legs but there was nowhere to sit.

I had little time to think about my sore feet, however, because she suddenly stopped and pointed at a person covered with bandages and lying elevated on the bed. My heart nearly stopped; I had walked past this person earlier.

I slowly approached this body of bandages, got as close to the ear as I could and whispered, ‘E be kewena Mabasotho Louw?’

With great difficulty, she managed to say yes. Her whole body, including her face, was covered with bandages. Only her mouth was exposed. Her lips were swollen. I wept as I spoke my name.

‘Ke nna Teboho.’

A nurse came up to me, pleading with me not to cry but to try to speak to my sister; she might respond to my questions.

I tearfully asked Trueblue, ‘Ho etsahetseng?’

She had difficulty breathing but murmured, ‘David.’

‘Abuti David? O entseng?’

It was a little while before she spoke again and said ‘Petrol.’

I was leaning so close to her that my face was almost touching her bandages. Her speech and breathing were laboured and I wanted to hear and understand her properly. Tears streaming down my face, I asked her once more, and then she says,‘O ntshisitseka Petrol,’ she said.

I felt numb as if my heart were about to stop beating. I was shaking, angry and in despair because I wanted to hug my sister but I was scared I might hurt her. I felt completely helpless. The nurse was still standing beside me and I asked her, ‘O lemetse hakakang?’

‘O na le,’ she said. ‘Third-degree burns.’

The emotions inside me intensified. My mind raced back to the time when my Trueblue was married to David Kunene and the physical abuse she endured. I was filled with anger and bitterness towards the men in her life, cursing everyone named David. I asked myself how I could have seen so much pain at a young age. I thought of my mother’s pain when, in a rage, Ntate had scarred her face with a broken mirror. It was too much to bear; I let out a loud cry, calling the nurses and asking them to call the police so they could take my sister’s statement. I begged God to spare her for me, weeping uncontrollably until the police arrived. I asked her to tell them what she had just told me.

A policeman asked Trueblue the same questions I had. She repeated her answers about David and the petrol. The policeman asked me if I knew the home address and I accompanied them in their van to the house.

Trueblue’s house was in Mapetla, Soweto. I didn’t have the keys, so we went around to the back of the house to try the back door. It was only partially closed. When I walked in I was hit by fumes and a strange smell I didn’t recognise.

‘Ke monkgo wa eng ona?’ I asked the police. They told me that ke monkgo wa ho tjha ha motho.

The curtains in the kitchen were burnt. There were pieces of what looked like flesh on the walls, even in the dining room. I told the police what David had told us – that a primus stove had burst and caused the fire. We could not find a primus stove. One of the policemen called us outside. He’d found a tin that smelt of petrol behind the outside toilet. I did not wait to see the rest; I told the police that David was at my home in Mzimhlophe, and we rushed there in the police van.

David was shocked to see the police. I wanted to hurt him so badly I ran out to the back of the house to fetch an axe. The police restrained me. A neighbour was already at the house and I told everyone what my sister had revealed at the hospital, and what we discovered at her house. David clearly hadn’t expected me to find my sister alive or in a condition to speak. The police arrested him immediately. There was so much sadness in the house.

I used a neighbour’s telephone to call my father at work. He came home and, together with my uncle the Reverend Mlibazisi Nkolongwane, they went to the hospital to visit my sister and see for themselves the condition she was in. They returned that afternoon with the news that she had died.

It was clear to me that God had kept her alive until someone in the family could hear the truth of what happened. I’m glad I got to the hospital in time to see and speak to her before she passed on, and for the police to hear the story for themselves so they could accompany me to the scene of the tragedy to gather evidence. We learnt the full truth of what happened that fateful night, however.

It was our family’s most traumatic week. Relatives arrived from Herschel and other parts of South Africa for the burial. Mabasotho Trueblue Louw’s funeral was something I will never forget. David came, escorted by the police. My family freaked out when they saw him and chased him away. We never attended the court case; my father refused, saying he couldn’t see the point because his daughter was gone. David was sentenced and spent a few years in jail. Many years later, I heard that he died there. Nobody from his family ever came to our house to pay their respects or show any sympathy.

Trueblue’s death left me with many unanswered questions.

It's Me, Marah

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