Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

The 2012 M-Net Literary Awards Winners

Nhlanhla Maake, Finuala Dowling, Koo Govender, Takalani Mbedzi, Herbert Lentsoane and Sonja Loots

Alert! The 2012 M-Net Literary Awards have been announced at a ceremony at the Hyatt Regency in Johannesburg. Book doyenne Jenny Crwys-Williams acted as host and opened the lunch event by wishing the authors wealth and prosperity, “although you might have to write S&M to get that!” Cryws-Williams said that “excellence” was a word too commonplace to describe the authors present and that “writers and artists are the conscience of a nation”.

She stressed the importance of the M-Net Literary Awards in providing writers with the publicity they need. “We need to get one or two more than 1500 people in a population of 50 million to go out and buy a novel and to get transported into something wonderful,” Crwys-Williams said.

Homemaking for the Down-at-Heart Sirkusboere7 DaeManong a lapileMurunzi wa vhutshilo

M-Net CEO Patricia van Rooyen welcomed the guests, saying, “at M-Net we tell stories and therefore we want to nurture and inculcate a culture of reading and writing, whether it is a 300 page novel, a screenplay, or a script for a series. It continues to build on that which is innate to all of us and comes from time immemorial – the passing on of our stories, the telling of our histories and the making of who we are.”

Then the winners of R50 000 each in five language categories – English, Afrikaans Sesotho, Sepedi and Tshivenda – and a “film” category, for a novel showing the greatest promise for translation into a visual medium, were announced. The announcements were interspersed by a three course meal and performances by drummer Lebogang Mokhela and poets Mak Manaka and Natalia Molebatsi.

And the awards go to…

  • Afrikaans category: Sirkusboere by Sonja Loots (Tafelberg)
  • African Languages category (Sesotho): Manong a lapile by N Maake (Ekaam Publishers)
  • African Languages category (Sepedi): Tšhweu ya ditsebe by Herbert Lentsoane
  • Film categoy: 7 Dae by Deon Meyer (Human & Rousseau)

Congratulations to all the winners and especially to Books LIVE member Finuala Dowling!

Press release

The winners of the prestigious M-Net Literary Awards were announced at a glorious event at the Hyatt Hotel in Johannesburg yesterday. The M-Net Literary Awards are the only fiction awards that honour novels in all eleven South African official languages.

Five authors received the accolade for best novel written in their mother tongue, while the sixth award was given to the novel that shows the most promise to be adapted into a blockbuster film. Each winner received R50 000 in prize money.

The Award for Best Novel in English was nabbed by Finuala Dowling for Homemaking for the Down-at-heart, an “everyday” story of love, parenting, ageing, housekeeping and the surprising complexities of life, as experienced by a housewife with a midnight radio show and her motley crew of friends and family.

The judges applauded Dowling for her graceful writing and the way she gave a slice-of-life novel a special flavour, achieved by an alchemy of wit, irony, acuity and desperation. “It’s a story of surprising complexity, with brilliant and excruciating scenes that makes a subtle statement about our state of mind in this time of history,” they remarked during the commendation.

Among the indigenous languages, novels in Afrikaans, SeSotho, Sepedi and TshiVenda all received awards.

This was the first time in many years that a prize was awarded to a TshiVenda author. Takalani Mbedzi scooped the prize for his first novel Murunzi wa Vhutshilo (The Shadow of Life), which reflects on contemporary challenges facing young South Africans struggling to succeed.

The award for the Best Novel in Sepedi language novels went to Tshweu ya ditsebe (A Gentleman with White Ears) by Herbert Lentsoane. The judges praised the author for his artistic exploration of human nature: “The book exposes the effects of modernity against traditional ways of life and also explores topics of human rights and how the right to dignity continues to exist only in theory in some communities.”

The winner in the SeSotho language entries is a detective novel that takes a fresh look at the malice that shadows South African society in general and the black townships in particular. Manong a lapile (The Vultures are Hungry) by Nhlanhla Maake contains high levels of intrigue and provides acute insight into township life.

The high standard of the 2012 Afrikaans entries impressed the judges immensely. “There is clealy a need in the Afrikaans literary community to narrate their history,” said Hettie Scholtz, convenor of the M-Net Literary Awards. The judges’ final decision fell on Sirkusboere by Sonja Loots, a novel that poignantly captures elements of the Anglo Boer War. The story unfolds in a circus arena in St. Louis, where night after night the battle in the Anglo Boer War is restaged by the same Boer soldiers of the actual battle and Loots boldy addresses issues of degradation, guilt, atonement, downfall and revival.

The film prize awarded to a novel entry that can be portrayed vividly on the big screen, was duly awarded to renowned author Deon Meyer for his acclaimed novel 7 Dae. “His outstanding novel was a clear winner, as its story and vivid backdrop provide wonderful imagery that can effortlessly be turned into a top notch South African film,” explained Scholtz.

Novels published between 1 January 2011 and 31 December 2011 qualified for the awards.

During the awards, M-Net Cares’ Naledi Children’s Literacy Project was also honoured for the incredible work that it is conducting in spreading the gift of reading. To date, over 1500 children have benefited from the Naledi programme, which includes the 12 week reading programme in various primary schools across the country, reading corners and a book collection drive.

The full list of winners are:


Homemaking for the Down-at-heart by Finuala Dowling (Kwela Books)


Winner for SeSotho: Manong a lapile by Nhlanhla Maake (Ekaam Publishers)

Winner for Sepedi: Tšhweu ya ditsebe by Herbert Lentsoane (Maskew Miller Longman)


Murunzi wa Vhutshilo by Takalani Mbedzi (Hibbard Publishers)


Sirkusboere by Sonja Loots (Tafelberg)


7 Dae by Deon Meyer (NB Publishers)


Book details


Recent comments:

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    October 19th, 2012 @15:32 #

    Fantastic! Congrats, all :)

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Sally</a>
    October 19th, 2012 @15:37 #

    Huge congrats to all!

  • Kristel
    October 19th, 2012 @16:05 #


  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Carolyn</a>
    October 19th, 2012 @16:23 #

    So sê ek ook mos, Kristel!

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    October 19th, 2012 @21:15 #

    Hurray, hurray, congrats to all, am especially thrilled for Nuala. I believe her superb Homemaking has been neglected in terms of awards, so I am delighted to see this well-deserved acknowledgement.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">CapeTown</a>
    November 30th, 2012 @14:35 #

    Congratulations all! It's so exciting to see such diverse, quality work being rewarded and it's humbling to read some of the stories behind the books. We'd love to interview some of the writers on our Cape Town blog ( if the authors are interested.


Please register or log in to comment

» View comments as a forum thread and add tags in BOOK Chat