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Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

Amabookabooka releases unaired episode to coincide with 109th anniversary of the birth of Bram Fischer

Amabookabooka, the quirky podcast devoted to interviewing local authors about their work, recently released a special edition episode.

This episode is from a previous podcast series produced by the Amabookabooka-duo, Jonathan Ancer and Dan Dewes, called Extraordinary Lives and has been released to coincide with the 109th anniversary of the birth of Bram Fischer – described by Ancer and Dewes as the South African prime minister we should have had.

Lord Joel Joffe, a human rights lawyer, who was on the legal team that defended the Rivonia Trialists in 1964 talks about Bram, whom he describes as his hero.

Fischer’s daughter, Ilse Wilson, also joins in the conversation revealing a different side to the Scarlet Pimpernel – that of Bram the father.

Listen to the podcast here.

Bram Fischer

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The Bram Fischer Waltz


Fischer's Choice

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The Magwood on Books podcast with John Boyne

John Boyne’s new novel The Heart’s Invisible Furies chronicles the life of a gay man in Dublin. Here he talks about the hypocrisy of the Catholic church, his determination to write strong female characters and how his deadpan humour serves the story.

Listen to the podcast here:

The Heart's Invisible Furies

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Past imperfect: Michele Magwood talks to Marianne Thamm about her ‘memoir of sorts’, Hitler, Verwoerd, Mandela And Me

Marianne Thamm struggled to come to terms with her father’s Nazi history, writes Michele Magwood for the Sunday Times

Marianne ThammHitler, Verwoerd, Mandela And MeHitler, Verwoerd, Mandela and Me
Marianne Thamm (Tafelberg)

Marianne Thamm subtitles this book “A memoir of sorts” but it is less a memoir than an exorcism of some vexing ghosts. “I see it as a ritual slaughtering of a beast to my ancestors,” she laughs. “All of us require at some stage to go back and excavate a bit – to try and see who we are with the politics, the religion, the culture and everything else sloughed off, to try and find an essential self.”

Thamm is a towering figure on the intellectual landscape of the country, a ranging, incisive commentator with a quick wit and a gutsy mien. As the ghostwriter of such books as the bestselling I Have Life: Alison’s Journey she’s proved to be a fluent and sympathetic voice for harrowing stories. As a hard news reporter on the Cape Times in the ’80s she calmly covered appalling violence. She’s a one-woman fight club swinging at the bullies, the brainless, the venal.

It’s fascinating, then, to learn what forged this mettle. Thamm was born in the UK to parents who found refuge there after World War II. Her mother, Barbara, was a near-illiterate Portuguese woman who had fled the septic regime of the dictator Salazar to work “in service” in England. Her father, Georg, was a full-blown Nazi, first a member of the Hitler Youth, then a pilot in the Luftwaffe, who had been captured and interned in a POW camp in England. When the war ended he chose to stay in England, and met the gorgeous Barbara at a social club for immigrants and refugees. He proposed to her using a Portuguese-German dictionary. Like many who had walked out of the ruins of the war, they were eager to start a family, to live a “normal” life.

Her father’s past dogged Thamm from an early age, especially after watching The World At War series on TV. They argued about it constantly. She would ask him what his response had been to Kristallnacht. “I vas just a boy on a bicycle,” he replied. “I was very hard on him,” she says, “because for me he embodied Nazism. I was horrified that he was of me and I was of him.” But, she adds, “I see in retrospect that by casting him as the negative, the dark side, I could exonerate myself from exploring my own dark side, as a white South African.”

She could never understand why they chose to move to South Africa, and ultimately learned to her horror that he had been recruited by the Department of Defence in Pretoria to work on a “classified” project. Georg, a toolmaker, made the trigger for the first R1 rifle. Worse, he handed the first one to Verwoerd himself on the factory floor.

Thamm rages at this karma. “Not only six degrees of separation between me and Adolf Hitler. Now Hendrik Verwoerd had entered the orbit.”

Growing up in the depressing suburbs north of Pretoria, Thamm was wild, feral, running with a pack of children from the rough neighbourhood. “I became a tomboy because of the freedom boys had,” she says. “To move through the world without being harassed I figured I had to pass as a boy.” Not that it stopped the casual predation of adult men: when a neighbour felt her up her father refused to believe her. When a cafe owner did the same, she told her mother who accosted him furiously. Thamm would threaten men with a smashed bottle if they tried anything. “I abhor violence but you need to stand up for yourself at times.”

Barbara was an enigma to her daughter. She lived for Marianne and her brother Albert and was protective of them, but Thamm knew very little about her upbringing in Portugal. She had a stroke when Thamm was 21 and lived, speechless, for the next 14 years. “I lost all source of benevolent love and light. It’s interesting in terms of metaphor that when she could speak she was silent, and then she became silent.”

It was only when Thamm became a parent herself that she came to truly appreciate her mother. As a gay woman, she had never considered motherhood. “I didn’t long for it. It was something that I never thought I would be.” Settled in a long-term relationship, though, she and her partner adopted two black daughters. “It has profoundly shifted me. They’ve made me real, like the Velveteen Rabbit.” Like her mother, she protects them fiercely, especially against the racism and sexism that “comes at them” constantly.

She’s preoccupied with the question, “How do we learn to become decent, fair and just?”

We are shaped, she says, by historical forces, the personal is the political. Hence the title of the book. “Leaders bring out the best and the worst in us. Hitler and Verwoerd brought out the absolute worst in the people they led. But Mandela – while there’s much to fault about his first government – made people feel better about themselves at a very crucial time. He had moral authority.”

She’s come to terms with her father’s life and legacy. “We’d spoken through everything by the time he died. It was a blessed position to be in, to make peace with a parent. And I resolved that I was just going to try and be happy.”

•Listen to Marianne Thamm’s interview on the Magwood on Books Podcast:


Follow Michele Magwood on Twitter @michelemagwood

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From Brooklyn to Chicago – News from Masande Ntshanga’s US book tour

The ReactiveThe ReactiveAward-winning novelist Masande Ntshanga is currently in the United States for the launch of the North American-edition of his explosive debut novel, The Reactive.

The tour, organised by Ntshanga’s US-publisher Columbus independent press Two Dollar Radio, started on Saturday, 17 September, in Brooklyn, New York, and ends in San Francisco on Wednesday, 12 October.

On Thursday, 29 September, the author will be in conversation with Toni Nealie, author of The Miles Between Me, at Curbside Books & Records in Chicago.

Last night, Ntshanga gave a reading from his book at the Village Theatre in Davenport and shared a few pictures of the event on Twitter:

Ntshanga has been a busy man. Earlier this week, he could be seen signing books at The Pygmalion Festival in Illinois and earlier this month he was spotted at the 2016 Brooklyn Book Festival where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Okey Ndibe and other prominent authors from all over the world. At the festival, he participated in a panel discussion entitled “Body Language – Heart, Eyes, Blood” with French writer Maylis de Kerangal and Chilean Lina Meruane.



Between all the book launches, signings and readings, Ntshanga has also been an excellent interviewee.

On Friday, 23 September, he was a guest on WOSU Radio in Columbus, Ohio, where he discussed The Reactive with host Christopher Purdy, WOSU book critic Kassie Rose and author Lina Maria Ferreira Castenga-Valdenas.

Ntshanga speaks about the title of the book and the special relationship between the characters. Rose says she was “greatly taken in by the voice” in The Reactive. “That voice took me through all of the book.”

Listen to the podcast:

During his visit to Columbus, the author was a visiting scholar at the Columbus College of Art & Design and he also chatted to Justin McIntosh for Columbus Alive.

Read the interview:

Violence buzzes in the background, though it’s mostly unnoticed by the characters, in the same way that, over time, you can learn to ignore the train that passes behind your house. Seen from above, Ntshanga notes, South African fields look like honeycombs because they’re dotted with so many empty graves. Cecilia, for one, isn’t disturbed by the gunshots so much as the lack of sirens that follow. Nathi tries to justify the brutality around him.

“This isn’t so much killing as it is cleaning up a mess,” he says. “These kids, all of them, they’re already dead.”

Today, Ntshanga will attend the Mission Creek Festival in Iowa City and tomorrow he’ll visit the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s creative writing students.

Next week, the author will do a reading at an event hosted by the University of Georgia Creative Writing Program and the Avid Poetry Series. He will also visit the Emory College Department of Arts and Sciences.

We have our Google alerts set and our ears on the ground, so watch this space for more exciting news on Ntshanga’s US book tour. You can also follow him on Twitter @mntshanga or see the complete tour schedule on Two Dollar Radio’s website.
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Long Story Short’s first African language podcast – Presley Chweneyagae reads Sabata-Mpho Mokae’s Ga Ke Modisa

Ga Ke ModisaThe Story of Sol T. Plaatje

The Long Story Short initiative, launched by arts and culture entrepreneur Kgauhelo Dube, has reached yet another literary milestone – their first podcast in an African language!

In this podcast, well-known actor Presley Chweneyagae of Tsotsi fame reads an extract from Sabata-Mpho Mokae’s Setswana novel Ga Ke Modisa. In 2013, Mokae’s novel won an M-Net Literary Award in the African languages and film categories.

Listen to the reading, which was recorded earlier this year at the inaugural Rutanang Book Fair in Tlokwe, North West Province. At the time, Dube exclaimed: “We are also very excited as the talented performer Presley Chweneyagae will be reading the first Setswana story in the Long Story Short series!”

Watch the video:

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Listen to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reading her short story ‘Olikoye’

AmericanahHalf of a Yellow Sun Purple Hibiscus


For this week’s Fiction Friday, treat your ears to the enchanting voice of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reading her short story “Olikoye”.

The story was written as part of The Art of Saving a Life Project, which aims to increase awareness around the value of vaccines for children.

More than 30 artists took part in the project, which was commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, resulting is a collection of stories about how vaccines can change the course of history.

“I hope the story humanises the importance of healthcare, in addition to paying tribute to a great Nigerian,” Adichie says. “I was happy to be involved because I admire the work being done, and because I believe that access to basic healthcare is a human right.”

“Olikoye” tells the story of Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, a former paediatrician, activist, and Nigerian health minister who passed away in 2003. Ransome-Kuti’s brother was the famous musician Fela Kuti.

Adichie read the story for the BBC:

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Image courtesy of Kisua

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Sunday Read: Read and Listen to Excerpts from Stephen King’s New Short Story Collection The Bazaar of Bad Dreams

The Bazaar of Bad DreamsStephen King’s latest book, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, has just been released.

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is a collection of short stories, some brand new and some previously published in magazines and all with an introduction by King explaining when, why and how he crafted each story. It offers a fascinating insight into the mind of a master storyteller.

Watch the book trailer:

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The unabridged audiobook edition of the The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is read by Stephen King himself, as well as a talented collection of voice artists.

King has shared audio excerpts from his book on his website. Listen to King reading his introduction to “Premium Harmony”, followed by a reading of the story by Will Patton:

Scribner Magazine has shared the text version of King’s introduction to the story:

My mother had a saying for every occasion. (“And Steve remembers them all,” I can hear my wife, Tabitha, say, with an accompanying roll of her eyes.)

One of her favorites was “Milk always takes the flavor of what it sits next to in the icebox.” I don’t know if that’s true about milk, but it’s certainly true when it comes to the stylistic development of young writers. When I was a young man, I wrote like H. P. Lovecraft when I was reading Lovecraft, and like Ross Macdonald when I was reading the adventures of PI Lew Archer.

Stylistic copying eventually wanes. Little by little, writers develop their own styles, each as unique as a €ngerprint. Traces of the writers one reads in one’s formative years remain, but the rhythm of each writer’s thoughts—an expression of his or her very brainwaves, I think—eventually becomes dominant.

The New Yorker featured “Premium Harmony” in 2011. Read the story:

“And pull in at the Quik-Pik,” she says. “I want to get a kickball for Tallie’s birthday.” Tallie is her brother’s little girl. Ray supposes that makes her his niece, although he’s not sure that’s right, since all the blood is on Mary’s side.

“They have balls at Wal-Mart,” Ray says. “And everything’s cheaper at Wally World.”

“The ones at Quik-Pik are purple. Purple is her favorite color. I can’t be sure there’ll be purple at Wal-Mart.”

“If there aren’t, we’ll stop at the Quik-Pik on the way back.” He feels a great weight pressing down on his head. She’ll get her way. She always does on things like this. He sometimes thinks marriage is like a football game and he’s quarterbacking the underdog team. He has to pick his spots. Make short passes.


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Sunday Read: Meet the Real Lady in the Van and Listen to an Excerpt from Maggie Smith: A Biography

Maggie SmithThe Lady in the Van: The Complete EditionIn 1974 an elderly and eccentric Miss Mary Shepherd parked her van in writer Alan Bennett’s driveway in Camden Town, where she remained until her death 15 years later.

Bennett and Miss Shepherd had a peculiar bond. In his diary in the London Review of Books, Bennett writes of their first encounter when she coaxed him into pushing her van to Albany Street. The experience left him with the unsettling feeling that “one seldom was able to do her a good turn without some thoughts of strangulation”.

Yet Bennett invited Miss Shepherd to stay, another “good turn” she would not admit to being grateful for. “To have allowed herself to feel in the least bit grateful would have been a chink in her necessary armour, braced as she always was against the world,” Bennett writes in his definitive work on Miss Shepherd, The Lady in the Van: The Complete Edition.

During their 15 years together the writer observed Miss Shepherd, and in 1999 Dame Maggie Smith portrayed her in the hit West End play, The Lady in the Van. The film by the same name, and with Smith in the lead once again, was released in the United Kingdom on 13 November, and will come to South Africa in December this year.

Read an excerpt from Bennett’s diary, in which he remembers their first encounters:

She must have prevailed on me to push the van as far as Albany Street, though I recall nothing of the exchange. What I do remember as I trundled the van across Gloucester Bridge was being overtaken by two policemen in a panda car and thinking that, as the van was certainly holding up the traffic, they might have leant a hand. They were wiser than I knew. The other feature of this first run-in with Miss Shepherd was her driving technique. Scarcely had I put my shoulder to the back of the van, an old Bedford, than a long arm was stretched elegantly out of the driver’s window to indicate in textbook fashion that she (or rather I) was moving off. A few yards further on, as we were about to turn into Albany Street, the arm emerged again, twirling elaborately in the air to indicate that we were branching left, the movement done with such boneless grace that this section of the Highway Code might have been choreographed by Petipa with Ulanova at the wheel. Her ‘I am coming to a halt’ was less poised as she had plainly not expected me to give up pushing and shouted angrily back that it was the other end of Albany Street she wanted, a mile further on. But I had had enough by this time and left her there with no thanks for my trouble. Far from it. She even climbed out of the van and came running after me, shouting that I had no business abandoning her, so that passers-by looked at me as if I had done some injury to this pathetic scarecrow. ‘Some people!’ I suppose I thought, feeling foolish that I’d been taken for a ride (or taken her for one) and cross that I’d fared worse than if I’d never lifted a finger, these mixed feelings to be the invariable aftermath of any transaction involving Miss Shepherd. One seldom was able to do her a good turn without some thoughts of strangulation.

The Guardian has selected extracts from Bennett’s The Lady in the Van: The Complete Edition, with touching illustrations by David Gentleman.

In the article, Bennett reflects on why he invited Miss Shepherd to park her van in his driveway that day, the making of the film and the fine line between the two Alan Bennetts as both observing writer and participating character.

Read the extract:

It’s now over a quarter of a century since Miss Shepherd died, but hearing a van door slide shut will still take me back to the time when she was in the garden. For Marcel, the narrator in Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, the sound that took him back was that of the gate of his aunt’s idyllic garden; with me it’s the door of a broken down Commer van. The discrepancy is depressing, but then most writers discover quite early on that they’re not going to be Proust. Besides, I couldn’t have heard my own garden gate because in order to deaden the (to her) irritating noise, Miss Shepherd had insisted on me putting a piece of chewing gum on the latch.

Watch the trailer for The Lady in the Van:

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Smith is captivating in her poignant portrayal of a vagrant woman who’s touched the life and imagination of a brilliant but self-deprecating writer.

Bennett and Smith were both born in 1934 and have walked a long road together on stage and off, as readers will note in Michael Coveney’s Maggie Smith: A Biography.

In an interview with The Telegraph for his 80th birthday, Bennett recalls attending another 80th back in 1997 with Smith:

In a diary entry for February 1997, published in his memoir collection Untold Stories, Alan Bennett describes an 80th birthday party for the stage designer Jocelyn Herbert at the Royal College of Art. The place is packed.
“I sit on a sofa with Alan Bates and Maggie Smith,” he writes, “thinking that no one would ever arrange such a do for me or get so many people to come. I turn to Maggie and she says: ‘Don’t say it. I know. I don’t think I could even fill the kitchen.’”

Bennett sets the scene, Smith steals it.

Listen to an audio extract from Maggie Smith: A Biography, read by Welsh actress Siân Thomas (Amelia Bones in Harry Potter:


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Image courtesy of The Telegraph

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The Next Big Thing: Under the Udala Trees, the Debut Novel from Nigerian Author Chinelo Okparanta

Happiness, Like WaterUnder the Udala TreesUnder the Udala Trees

Under the Udala Trees, the debut novel by award-winning Nigerian author Chinelo Okparanta, is making waves internationally, and comes recommended by Zakes Mda.

The novel will be available locally from Jonathan Ball Publishers in March 2016. Scroll to the end for an excerpt.

Okparanta’s short story “America” was shortlisted for the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing, and her first book, the collection short stories Happiness, Like Water, was shortlisted for the the 2014 Etisalat Prize for Literature and won the 2014 Lambda Literary Award. She was one of Granta’s New Voices for 2012, and was featured on the Guardian’s list of the best African fiction of 2013.

Zakes Mda says: “A searing, yet delicately nuanced, story of an age of innocence first shattered by the vulgarity of war and its aftermath, and then by forbidden desire and religious intolerance.

Under the Udala Trees is narrated in lyrical and lucid prose, in a wise and compassionate voice. It bowled me over.”

Okparanta was born and raised in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and lives in New York. She received her BS from Pennsylvania State University, her MA from Rutgers University, and her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

In a recent interview with The Rumpus, Okparanta spoke about the status of LGTBQ rights in Nigeria, emphasising that while the United States has legalised gay marriage, the situation is very different in her home country. She also stresses that persecution of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is by no means a thing of the past in the US either: “If we say to ourselves that there is no more homophobia in the United States, that the LGBTQ community no longer faces discrimination here, we are simply deceiving ourselves.”

Rumpus: In the novel’s epilogue you mention a “new generation of Nigerians with a stronger bent towards love than fear.” But, also in the epilogue, you document a brutal beating of a lesbian couple and in your author’s note you write about the 2014 laws criminalizing same-sex relationships with punishments ranging from fourteen years in prison in some parts of the county to death by stoning in others. How do you see LGTBQ rights gaining traction in Nigeria? What is the role of story and narrative in that?

Okparanta: The situation in Nigeria is not all that different from many places around the world. After the publication of this book, I’ve been shocked by a handful of people here in the United States who have come up to me and said things along the lines of, “Well, we’ve moved on from that. Same-sex marriage is now legal in the United States, so what’s the point writing that book?” I look at the people making the statement and I can just smell the privilege wafting out of them like perfume. And, I think to myself: this is the problem with privilege. When we live in our own privileged little bubble, it is convenient to pretend that all is well with the world, that everyone enjoys the same privileges that we do.

We conveniently forget that there are others, sometimes our very own next-door neighbors, who suffer in ways that we do not. I think the novel is a testament to this: a reminder that just because we perceive ourselves free does not mean that everyone is indeed free. [...]

Molly Rose Quinn, writing for Lithub, says Under the Udala Trees is “clearly in the tradition of Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Edwidge Danticat, and others whom Okparanta calls in her acknowledgements ‘my predecessors, my guiding lights’,” but adds that Okparanta does something further: “Here we have a narrative of war, of LGBTQ Nigerians, and of Nigerians of faith.”

In a conversation with NPR, Okparanta speculates on what the reception of the novel will be in Nigeria: “Maybe they think, ‘What is this this girl doing, writing these homosexual things?’ But maybe with time they will acknowledge to themselves that I am just doing something that is humanistic.”

Listen to the podcast:

About the book

One day in 1968, at the height of the Biafran civil war, Ijeoma’s father is killed and her world is transformed forever. Separated from her grief-stricken mother, she meets another young lost girl, Amina, and the two become inseparable. Theirs is a relationship that will shake the foundations of Ijeoma’s faith, test her resolve and flood her heart.

In this masterful novel of faith, love and redemption, Okparanta takes us from Ijeoma’s childhood in war-torn Biafra, through the perils and pleasures of her blossoming sexuality, her wrong turns, and into the everyday sorrows and joys of marriage and motherhood. As we journey with Ijeoma we are drawn to the question: what is the value of love and what is the cost?

A triumphant love story written with beauty and delicacy, Under the Udala Trees is a hymn to those who’ve lost and a prayer for a more compassionate world. It is a work of extraordinary beauty that will enrich your heart.

About the author

Chinelo Okparanta was born in Port-Harcourt, Nigeria. She was one of Granta’s New Voices for 2012 and her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. Her story “America” was shortlisted for the Caine Prize in African Writing. She is a finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award for her debut short story collection, Happiness, Like Water.

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Read an excerpt from Under the Udala Trees:


Midway between Old Oba-Nnewi Road and New Oba-Nnewi Road, in that general area bound by the village church and the primary school, and where Mmiri John Road drops off only to begin again, stood our house in Ojoto. It was a yellow-painted two-story cement construction built along the dusty brown trails just south of River John, where Papa’s mother almost drowned when she was a girl, back when people still washed their clothes on the rocky edges of the river.

Ours was a gated compound, guarded at the front by a thicket of rose and hibiscus bushes. Leading up to the bushes, a pair of parallel green hedges grew, dotted heavily in pink by tiny, star-like ixora flowers. Vendors lined the road adjacent to the hedges, as did trees thick with fruit: orange, guava, cashew, and mango trees. In the recesses of the roadsides, where the bushes rose high like a forest, even more trees stood: tall irokos, whistling pines, and a scattering of oil and coconut palms. We had to turn our eyes up toward the sky to see the tops of these trees. So high were the bushes and so tall were the trees.

In the harmattan, the Sahara winds arrived and stirred up the dust, and clouded the air, and rendered the trees and bushes wobbly like a mirage, and made the sun a blurry ball in the sky.

In the rainy season, the rains wheedled the wildness out of the dust, and everything took back its clarity and its shape.

This was the normal cycle of things: the rainy season followed by the dry season, and the harmattan folding itself within the dry. All the while, goats bleated. Dogs barked. Hens and roosters scuttled up and down the roads, staying close to the compounds to which they belonged. Striped swordtails and monarchs, grass yellows and redtops — all the butterflies — flitted leisurely from one flower to the next.

As for us, we moved about in that unhurried way of the butterflies, as if the breeze was sweet, as if the sun on our skin was a caress. As if slow paces allowed for the savoring of both. This was the way things were before the war: our lives, tamely moving forward.

But in 1967, the war barged in and installed itself all over the place. By 1968, the whole of Ojoto had begun pulsing with the ruckus of armored cars and shelling machines, bomber planes and their loud engines sending shock waves through our ears.

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Author image courtesy of Ayiba magazine

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Julius Malema: For the First Time, Parliament is Seeing the Real Opposition

Still an Inconvenient YouthThe Coming RevolutionThe World According to Julius Malema

Julius Malema, subject of Still an Inconvenient Youth: Julius Malema Carries On by Fiona Forde, The Coming Revolution: Julius Malema and the Fight for Economic Freedom edited by Floyd Shivambu and Janet Smith, and The World According to Julius Malema by Max du Preez and Mandy Rossouw, was recently interviewed by Tshidi Madia for Power FM.

In the interview, Madia asked Malema to reflect on the impact that the Economic Freedom Fighters, which he leads, has made in the two years since it was founded.

Malema says that he is glad his party has made other parties nervous in parliament. He says, “It is for the first time they see the real opposition”. Furthermore, he says, “I will never comply with any law that is unconstitutional”.

Listen to the podcast:


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