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

Archive for the ‘Setswana’ Category

28 Days of Language Activism 2018: Launch of Foundation Phase CAPS Linked Bilingual Dictionaries

The South African language National Lexicography Units, National Language Boards, Provincial Language Committees and their mother body the Pan South African Language Board, take great pleasure in inviting you to two launches of ten new indigenous language – English Foundation Phase CAPS linked bilingual illustrated Dictionaries at:

Foyer of the Department of Basic Education off – Sol Plaatjie House, 222 Struben Street, Pretoria on the 27th February from 10h30 to 14h00 – the penultimate event in PanSALB’s 28 Days of Language Activism Campaign in 2018. Please RSVP to:

Take this opportunity to meet with the Editors in Chief to find out about their work in supporting our indigenous languages by developing material that will improve literacy in them and English.

Exclusive Books Brooklyn Mall, Pretoria on the 27th February at 17h30 for 18h00 – the penultimate event in PanSALB’s 28 Days of Language Activism Campaign in 2018.
Please RSVP to:

The National Lexicography Units are Government structures Constitutionally and Legislatively mandated to develop dictionaries and other material which will “elevate the status and advance the use of our indigenous languages”. We are further obligated to ensure that “no language is disadvantaged over any other”.

The publication of these dictionaries converts the first part of Government’s obligations into practical action which supports the Department of Basic Education, schools, teachers and parents, to improve the quality of literacy teaching and learning among both Home Language and First Additional language learners at Grades R to 3. Dictionary use, rather than their development, will help Government Departments to achieve their Constitutional obligation to our languages. We must all now act to ensure that these dictionaries are made available to schools.

Regular dictionary use by young learners will improve their vocabulary and spelling while developing basic reference skills which will aid indigenous language mother tongue speakers to improve their English in preparation for the transfer to English as Language of Learning and Teaching at Grade 4. Speakers of other languages will also benefit by having the support of these dictionaries in learning indigenous languages ultimately creating a more multilingual society.

These are the first dictionaries developed for the Foundation Phase by agencies of Government for Government and are an important addition to our current range of higher level monolingual and bilingual dictionaries in all indigenous languages.

If you would like to know more about our range official dictionaries e-mail

» read article

A new year, a new pile of books to read…

Published in the Sunday Times

A new year, a new pile of books to read. Here are some highlights to look forward to in 2018, as compiled by Michele Magwood.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (Headline)

Four siblings are told the exact date of their death by a psychic. The novel traces their lives over four decades in a story described as “a moving meditation on fate, faith, and the family ties that alternately hurt and heal”.

Under Glass by Claire Robertson (Umuzi)

The much-anticipated third novel from the award-winning author, set on a sugar estate in 19th-century Natal and chronicling the lives of the Chetwyn family. A deeply researched historical novel and an intriguing mystery, it is described as “a high-stakes narrative of deception and disguise”.

What Are We Doing Here? by Marilynne Robinson (Little Brown)

A new essay collection from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist that examines the political climate and the mysteries of faith. She offers hope and a call to action.

Michael K by Nthikeng Mohlele (Picador Africa)

A brilliant take on JM Coetzee’s classic that explores the weight of history and of conscience, by one of South Africa’s most compelling young authors.

Knucklebone by NR Brodie (Pan Macmillan)

Nechama Brodie is a welcome new voice on the krimi scene. This is a disturbing story set in Johannesburg that wrangles sangomas, disillusioned cops and animal poaching.

Macbeth by Jo Nesbo (Hogarth Shakespeare)

Setting aside his popular detective Harry Hole, Nesbo takes on Shakespeare’s immortal story. “It’s a thriller about the struggle for power, set both in a gloomy, stormy crime noir-like setting and in a dark, paranoid human mind,” he says.

Heads of the Colored People: Stories by Nafissa Thompson-Spires (Simon & Schuster)

Timely and darkly funny stories examining black identity in a supposedly post-racial era.

A Spy in Time by Imraan Coovadia (Umuzi)

A new novel from the award-winning Coovadia always creates a buzz. Here he imagines a futuristic South Africa, where Johannesburg has survived the end of the world because of the mining tunnels that run beneath it.

The Winds of Winter by George R.R. Martin (HarperCollins)

Has a book ever been as eagerly awaited as this? The sixth novel in the fantasy series on which the TV show Game of Thrones is based is due for release this year. But then, it was due last year too.

Tsk-Tsk: The story of a child at large by Suzan Hackney (Jonathan Ball Publishers)

In a style reminiscent of Alexandra Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Hackney writes of a childhood on the run, fighting to survive in a world of abandoned and abused children.

The Boy Who Could Keep a Swan in His Head by John Hunt (Umuzi)

Surely one of the best titles of the year, it’s the story of a boy growing up in Hillbrow in the ’60s and his friendship with an eccentric homeless person.

The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton (Pan Macmillan)

The acclaimed Australian author leaves his familiar coastland settings and heads for the interior to the saltland next to the desert. A young runaway is on a desperate quest to find the only person who understands him. Described as “a rifle-shot of a novel – crisp, fast, shocking – an urgent masterpiece”.

Transcription by Kate Atkinson (Transworld)

The popular author’s new novel is based on the life of a female former Secret Service worker. Sure to be another runaway bestseller.

A Short History of Mozambique by Malyn Newitt (Jonathan Ball Publishers)

A comprehensive overview of 500 years of turbulent history, from its modern origins in the Indian Ocean trading system to the 15-year civil war that followed independence and its lingering after-effects.

Toy Boy by Leon van Nierop (Penguin)

Billed as an erotic coming-of-age tale and based on the life of a real person, this is the story of Tristan, a mysterious Johannesburg gigolo.

Homeland by Karin Brynard (Penguin)

The much-awaited English translation of Karin Brynard’s bestseller Tuisland. Captain Albertus Beeslaar is about to hand in his resignation when he is sent on one final assignment to Witdraai.

Brutal Legacy by Tracy Going (MF Books Joburg)

The shocking story of TV star Tracy Going’s abusive relationship that emerged when her battered face was splashed across the media in the late ’90s. She writes of her decline into depression and the healing she has finally found.

The Broken River Tent by Mphuthumi Ntabeni (Blackbird)

An entrancing novel that marries imagination with history, set in the time of Maqoma, the Xhosa chief at the forefront of fighting British colonialism in the Eastern Cape in the 19th century.

The Fatuous State Of Severity by Phumlani Pikoli (Pan Macmillan)

A fresh collection of short stories and illustrations that explore the experiences of a generation of young, urban South Africans coping with the tensions of social media, language and relationships of various kinds.

Born in Chains: the diary of an angry ‘born-free’ by Clinton Chauke (Jonathan Ball Publishers)

Debut author Chauke shows how his generation is still affected by apartheid policies but writes with wit and a unique sense of humour about his life. It’s a story of hope and perseverance, and of succeeding against all the odds.

The Golddiggers: A Novel by Sue Nyathi (Pan Macmillan)

The Zimbabwean author recounts the experiences of her fellow compatriots trying to make a life in Jozi. The stories of these desperate immigrants is both heart-breaking and heartwarming.

Cringeworthy by Melissa Dahl (Penguin UK)

Subtitled “How to Make the Most of Uncomfortable Situations” New York Magazine’s Dahl offers a thoughtful, original take on what it really means to feel awkward, relating all sorts of mortifying moments and how to turn them to your advantage.

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (Grove Press)

One of the most talked-about books coming in 2018. Described as unsettling and powerful, it is an extraordinary debut novel about a young Nigerian woman, Ada, who develops separate selves within her as a result of being born “with one foot on the other side.”

The Madiba Appreciation Club: A Chef’s Story by Brett Ladds (Jonathan Ball Publishers)

A delightful memoir by Mandela’s former chef, spilling stories about meeting kings and queens, presidents, rock stars and even the Pope, as well as sharing Mandela’s favourite foods. – Michele Magwood, @michelemagwood

The Immortalists

Book details


Under Glass


What Are We Doing Here?



Heads of the Colored People

The Winds of Winter

The Shepherd's Hut



A Short History of Mozambique

The Broken River Tent



» read article

Black to the future: Authors announced for the Abantu Book Festival

Authors announced for the Abantu Book Festival

Alert! The Abantu Book Festival has revealed a sneak peek of writers and performing artists who will be leading the inaugural event.

The Abantu Book Festival will be happening in Soweto, 6-10 December 2016.

The impressive lineup includes Angela Makholwa, Bheki Peterson, Bongani Madondo, Bontle Senne, Chika Unigwe, Dikeledi Deekay Sibanda, Duduzile Zamantungwa Mabaso, Don Mattera, Elinor Sisulu, Eusebius McKaiser, Florence Masebe, Fred Khumalo, Gcina Mhlope, HJ Golakai, James Murua, Khadija Patel, Khaya Dlanga, Khosi Xaba, Koleka Putuma, Lebo Mashile, Lesego Rampolokeng, Lidudumalingani Mqombothi, Malaika wa Azania, Mongane Wally Serote, Natalia Molebatsi, Ndumiso Ngcobo, Niq Mhlongo, NoViolet Bulawayo, Nozizwe Jele, Percy Mabandu, Phillippa Yaa De Villiers, Pumla Dineo Gqola, Redi Tlhabi, Rehana Rossouw, Sabata-mpho Mokae, Sihle Khumalo, Siphiwe Mpye, Siphiwo Mahala, Thabiso Mahlape, Thandiswa Mazwai, Thato Magano, Unathi Kondile, Unathi Magubeni, Vangi Gantsho, Xolisa Guzula, Yewande Omotoso, Zukiswa Wanner, and others still to be confirmed.

Panashe Chigumadzi, author of Sweet Medicine and the festival’s curator, says:

In this lineup we find depth and variety. Some of our authors have been telling stories for as long as others have been alive, while others have just begun but are bringing incredible innovations to the art. Together with our storytellers, we’ll be looking black to the future.

Black Widow SocietySigh The Beloved CountryPowers of the KnifeNight DancerThe Short Story is Dead, Long Live the Short Story!Memory is the WeaponWalter and Albertina Sisulu
Run Racist Run#ZuptasMustFall and Other RantsHave You Seen Zandile?The ScoreTo Quote MyselfThese handsIn a Ribbon of RhythmA Half Century Thing

“Abantu” is the Nguni word for “people”, and the festival’s mission is to be “the literature event that provides black writers and readers the platform and visibility they deserve”.

The first annual Abantu Book Festival will be a five-day experience of readings, discussions, music and other forms of storytelling, as well as workshops and film screenings.

Organised under the theme – Our Stories – the festival celebrates African stories through written and spoken word, visual arts, music and film. It will explore the ways in which our stories are told, and how these inform, or are informed by, our ways of being.

The Soweto Theatre (Jabulani) and Eyethu Lifestyle Centre (Mofolo) are the main venues, and African Flavour Books will be on site to make sure your favourite African and diasporan titles are on sale.

The programme will be published in November 2016.

Full author profiles are available at the Abantu Book Festival website!

The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other StoriesMemoirs of a Born FreeRumoursEat, Drink and Blame the AncestorsAffluenzaWe Need New NamesHappiness is a Four-Letter Word
The Everyday WifeRapeEndings and BeginningsWhat Will People SayGa ke ModisaAlmost Sleeping My Way to TimbuktuWhen a Man Cries
Ukuba MtshaThe Woman Next DoorLondon – Cape Town – JoburgSweet MedicineNwelezelanga

Related news:

Book details

» read article

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:

YouTube Preview Image

Related stories:


Book details

» read article

‘Decolonising the literary landscape’ continues at the first annual Rutanang Book Fair in Tlokwe

‘Decolonising the literary landscape’ continues at the first annual Rutanang Book Fair in Tlokwe

Alert! The inaugural Rutanang Book Fair is happening in Tlokwe, North West Province from the 25 to 27 April this year, featuring an exciting bookish line-up of guests and events.

The theme for the Rutanang Book Fair is “Decolonising Literature”, and it coincides with the 100-year anniversary of Sol Plaatje’s revolutionary Native Life in South Africa. Author and Sol Plaatje scholar Sabata-Mpho Mokae will deliver a keynote address in celebration of Plaatje.

NwelezelangaGa ke ModisaTo The Black Women We All KnewNative Life in South AfricaHomegrown

The programme, compiled by Red Dune Projects, features writing masterclasses, motivational talks at schools, poetry recitals and discussions.

Unathi Magubeni, an Eastern Cape-based writer, sangoma and trainee herbalist who left the corporate world in 2009, will be launching his debut novel, Nwelezelanga: The Star Child, on 26 April at Phina’s B&B in Ikageng township.

Long Story Short will be present at the festival, with a special reading by award-winning theatre and film actor Presley Chweneyagae of Sabata-Mpho Mokae’s Setswana novel Ga Ke Modisa, which won an M-Net Literary Awards in 2013.

“We are thrilled to be part of the inaugural Rutanang Book Fair – what Red Dune Projects is doing speaks to the very core of what we do, making our stories accessible to our communities,” Long Story Short producer Kgauhelo Dube says.

“We are also very excited as the talented performer Presley Chweneyagae will be reading the first Setswana story in the Long Story Short series!”

Confirmed participants include:

  • The Tlokwe Heritage Foundation (The History of Tlokwe)
    Award-winning actor Presley Chweneyagae
    Writer Willy Maphosa
    Author Unathi Magubeni
    Poet Kgafela oa Magogodi
    Author Sabata-Mpho Mokae
    Writer Mpho Matsitle (Book launch: Celibacy and Other Cute Little Things)
    Writer and newspaper columnist Pinky Khoabane
    Writer and political commentator Andile Mngxitama
    Tlokwe-based novelist Kholofelo Maenetsha
    Literacy campaigner and Long Story Short producer Kgauhelo Dube
    Creative writer Mbe Mbhele (Book launch: Crazy Father and Other Stories)
    Author Christine Coates

Related stories:

Read more from the Rutanang Book Fair:

Tlokwe leans in on the “decolonising literature” debate at its inaugural Rutanang Book Fair

The South African literature landscape is undergoing an exciting renaissance. There have been spirited debates around “decolonising the literary landscape”, which saw prominent authors and literacy activists such as Zakes Mda, Thando Mgqolozana, Karabo Kgoleng and Eusebius McKaiser leaning in. The general consensus has been that it’s not that black South Africans don’t read – it’s that the publishing value chain has not invested in understanding the reading behaviours of South Africa’s majority.

There’s been a growth in innovative, people-centric reading programmes targeting different age groups, but most of these activities happen primarily in the major cities. Tlokwe-based media and events company Red Dune Projects will introduce Tlokwe’s first book fair called Rutanang Book Fair. Rutanang Book Fair will run from the 25th to the 27th April and will feature an exciting mix of events in different venues throughout Tlokwe – there will be something for everyone! Red Dune Projects has curated a comprehensive programme featuring writing masterclasses, motivational talks in schools, poetry recitals and different discussions featuring some of today’s literary thought-leaders.

“Tlokwe is an academic town. It’s home to the North West University’s main campus and boasts an assortment of other prestigious learning institutions. We are a reading community – the issue is access to bookstores, the social culture of sharing books and interaction with publishers and writers,” explains project coordinator Tseko Nkhane.

The theme for the inaugural Rutanang Book Fair is “Decolonising Literature” and will coincide with the 100 year anniversary of Sol T Plaatje’s revolutionary book, Native Life in South Africa. Author and Sol Plaatje scholar Sabata-Mpho Mokae will deliver a keynote address in celebration of Sol T Plaatje – the politician, the linguist and the writer.

“Our experience of book fairs and festivals has pushed us to think outside the box when we were conceptualising Rutanang Book Fair. This is an event for the people – we engaged with learners, teachers, parents, the hip hop/poetry community, cultural workers, academics and even church leaders to make sure that we reach every sub-culture within Tlokwe,” Tseko emphasises.

Some of the events will take place in places such as taverns, churches and B&Bs in the township. Writer Vuyo Seripe will be reading her latest short story and engaging the audience in a discussion about South African literary landscape in the black community. The organisers are very passionate about growing the love of books within Tlokwe – they believe that in the future, attending a book reading will be as hip as attending a music concert.

The organisers received an overwhelmingly positive response from writers who were interested in launching their books as part of the programme. BlackBird Books’s newest talent Unathi Magubeni will be launching his debut novel Nwelezelanga: The Star Child on 26 April at Phina’s B&B in Ikageng township.

The children’s programme will feature different activities in local schools, libraries and a daily storytelling session hosted by the Potchefstroom Library at the main venue, Madiba Banquet Hall. Jozi-based children’s writer Buhle Ngaba will also hold fun and interactive storytelling workshops based on her experiences leading up to her realisation of her extraordinary non-fairytale children’s book, The Girl Without a Sound.

The Girl Without a Sound was born out of defiance and as a response to the fairytales we were told as little girls. Stories about white princesses with blue eyes, flowing locks of hair and an overwhelming awareness of their beauty. More than that, I want it to be a healing balm for all who read it,” Buhle explains.

The digital storytelling project #longstorySHORT has joined forces with the team and will feature award-winning theatre and film actor Presley Chweneyagae reading from Sabata-Mpho Mokae’s Setswana novel Ga Ke Modisa.

“We are thrilled to be part of the inaugural Rutanang Book Fair – what Red Dune Projects is doing speaks to the very core of what we do – making our stories accessible to our communities. We are very excited, as the a talented performer as Presley Chweneyagae will be reading the first Setswana story in the series!” says producer of #longstorySHORT, Kgauhelo Dube.

Rutanang Book Fair will run from 25 to 27 April, 2016 in various venues around Tlokwe. The main venue for the event is the Madiba Banquet Hall with fringe activities happening at schools, churches, taverns and B&Bs in Ikageng.

The Promosa and Sarafina Libraries will be used for panel discussions and workshops.

The Rutanang Book Fair is funded by the National Department of Arts in partnership with:

  • Sports Arts and Culture for the Tlokwe Municipality

    Culture Arts and Traditional Affairs for the Doctor Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality

    Education and Sports Development for The North West Province

    The Church Sector

Twitter handle: @RutanangTlokwe
Facebook: RutanangBookFair

For event information please contact
Tseko Nkhane
Red Dune Projects

For press interviews please contact
Kgauhelo Dube
Kajeno Media: 0715621858/

Book details

» read article

Download a free children’s story – available in 11 official languages – and pass on the power of stories this World Read Aloud Day

National reading-for-enjoyment campaign Nal’ibali has teamed up with Yvonne Chaka Chaka for World Read Aloud Day on 24 February, 2016.

Last year, with the support of hundreds of South Africans, Nal’ibali read aloud to over 166 000 children and it hopes to double or even triple that number this year.

Yvonne Chaka Chaka will be giving her own special reading of Neo and the Big Wide World in isiZulu to children at Orlando Stadium in Soweto.

In addition, Orlando Pirates Football Club will launch its Reading Stars Programme.

Scroll down to find out more and download the book.


“If we want our children to grow up as strong and powerful readers, we must demonstrate reading for them,” Nal’ibali managing director Jade Jacobsohn says. “When you read aloud to a child, you show them what reading looks like and how to make sense of text. Exposing them to new words and expressions used in stories helps to develop their vocabularies and provides a rich pool of language for children to draw from when they want to read and write on their own.”

Carole Bloch, executive director of PRAESA (the Project for the Study of Alternative Education), a co-founder of Nal’ibali, adds: “The power of reading aloud to children is incredible. Not only is it richly rewarding and enjoyable for any age, it is also the way we establish the foundational, knowledge and motivation young children need as they are learning to read – and indeed for all learning.


“There are over 17 000 000 children in South Africa with only around 5 percent being read to by their caregivers. World Read Aloud Day celebrates the joy of sharing a good story and we hope that even more adults in South Africa will join us this year. Then let’s grow that 5 percent to 50 percent by continuing to explore books and stories throughout the year.”

How to get involved

This year’s special story, Neo and the Big Wide World, by Vianne Venter and illustrated by Rico of Madam and Eve Fame, is freely available for download from Nal’ibali’s web and mobisites.

Members of the public can also sign up on these sites to share how many children they will be reading to, and stand the chance to win one of four Bargain Books hampers worth R1 000 each!


Neo and the Big Wide World is available in all 11 official languages, and a further two: it will be available in Braille in the February edition of Blind SA’s youth magazine, while Sign Language Education and Development (SLED) has collaborated with Story Bosso runners up Kerrin Kokot and Jayne Batzofin to produce a signed video of the story which can be viewed on the Nal’ibali website.

The story will also appear in a commemorative edition of the Nal’ibali’s supplement produced in partnership with PRAESA and media partner Times Media.


You can access the World Read Aloud Day story online here:

And for a burst of storytelling inspiration, listen to Yvonne Chaka Chaka reading the story in English and isiZulu!

» read article

Winners of the 2015 Maskew Miller Longman Literature Awards

Conny Masocha Lubisi

Alert! The winners of the 2015 Maskew Miller Longman Literature Awards (MMLLA) were announced at the Pearson head offices in Cape Town last night.

The MMLLA was launched in 2006 by Maskew Miller Longman as their commitment to develop quality literature in all official languages for young readers and to encourage a love of reading in learners’ mother tongue.

The competition acts as a platform to encourage and provide support for aspiring writers who wish to produce literary work in the language of their choice. It remains the only literature competition that gives equal weighting to all 11 official South African languages, reflecting the commitment to developing quality literature in all official languages for young readers.

The competition explores a different genre each year. In 2015 a call was made for Children’s Fiction and a total of 122 entries were received, with 50 percent being written in African languages.

Finalists include a teacher with a passion for theatre, freelance translator, freelance journalists and writers, a church leader with a focus on the youth, and a community project member who helps children discover nature through art. Among the 8 finalists there are debut as well as multi-award-winning writers.

Dianne Case


Before the prizegiving, celebrated children’s and young adult author Diane Case delivered the keynote address. She was the English winner in the MML Literature Awards 2007.

Katy of Sky RoadAlbatross Winter92 Queens RoadLove, David

Spending time with children, which is something she does often as a very active grandmother and involved community member, and her own childhood memories inform Case’s emphatic stories. She shared many touching anecdotes to give examples and stressed throughout her address that “children are not stupid”.

Through witnessing kids’ reactions to not only her stories but other South African narratives too, Case has found enough evidence to say with authority that localised stories – especially those told in a child’s mother tongue – make children feel relevant and help them to articulate their South African world.

Her books tend to create empathy in readers and offer a glimpse of what life was, and in some respects still is, for many people in South Africa. Her first novel, Albatross Winter, was published by Maskew Miller Longman in 1983.

After Case’s spirited address, Brian Wafawarowa, Pearson SA Executive Director for Learning Resources took the stage to announce the winners and present them with their books, hot off the press.

Without further ado, here are the winners of the 2015 Maskew Miller Longman Literature Awards (in alphabetical order):


  • Jelleke Wierenga for Mensekind teen die monstervlieg (Afrikaans)
  • Bridget Pitt for The Night of the Go-away Birds (English)
  • Sipho Richard Kekezwa for Icebo Likamalusi (isiXhosa)
  • Emmanuel Nkosinathi Nazo for Imbewu Yomuthi Obabayo (isiZulu)
  • Mabonchi Goodwill Motimele for La Fata Gal Le Boe Fela (Sepedi)
  • Thatayaone Raymond Dire for Ngwana Sejo o a Tlhakanelwa (Setswana)
  • Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho for Mveledzo na Zwighevhenga (Tshivenda)
  • Conny Masocha Lubisi for Xixima (Xitsonga)

Read about each of these authors and their books:

2015 Maskew Miller Longman Literature Awards


2015 Maskew Miller Longman Literature Awards – Biographies of Winners


* * * * * * * *

Helené Prinsloo (@helenayp) tweeted live from the launch using the hashtag #livebooks:


Press Release

Aspiring writers give South African children the gift of reading in their mother tongue

Pearson South Africa will host the Maskew Miller Longman (MML) Literature Awards on Wednesday, 25 November 2015, 17:00-21:00 at its Auto Atlantic Office in Cape Town to announce the winners of this national literature competition. Annually, Pearson invites experienced, new and aspiring writers to submit their original, unpublished stories in their mother tongue to develop quality literature in all of the official South African languages.

The competition judges had the difficult decision of selecting only 8 finalists, from hundreds of submissions received for children’s stories aged 9 to 12. Many of whom work in other industries unrelated to writing and awarded them the opportunity to follow their passion and see their dreams realised.

Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho, a freelance journalist and one of the (Tshivenda) finalists said: “I have found the MML Awards to be a strong foundation and basement for writers (like me) who still see writing in indigenous languages as a cause worth establishing and celebrating.”

In support of the writers, Pearson hosted a free writer’s workshop in February 2015. The workshop was hosted by Niki Daly, renowned author and illustrator who is respected in the industry for his contribution to children’s fiction and art. The 2014 MML Awards Tshivenda winner, Khalirendwe Nekhavhambe attended and workshop and remarked that it had provided her with invaluable knowledge and skills that left her feeling empowered, motivated and confident as a writer.

Brian Wafawarowa, Pearson SA Executive Director for Learning Resources says: “We are proud to be a part of this annual celebration of ethnic language literature in South Africa’s official languages. Literature is an important element in improving literacy in our country, we encourage people to read and enjoy literature in their mother tongue. We support all initiatives that will help to improve education in some way.”

Award-winning South African author, Dianne Case will be the guest speaker at this year’s Awards ceremony. She has written several successful children’s books.

A prize of R7 500 will be awarded to each winner and will be considered for publication by Pearson. A prize of R3500 will be awarded to each finalist.

Next year the Maskew Miller Longman Literature Awards will celebrate literature for teenagers. YA authors of all South African languages, start writing! Keep an eye on Books LIVE for information on how you can enter.

Congratulations to the 2015 winners!

Book details

» read article

Fiction Friday: “Blood of Mine” by Wame Molefhe – Now an Opera to be Performed this Month in Cape Town

Go Tell the SunA short story by Wame Molefhe has been made into an opera, and will be performed later in November at the Artscape Theatre in Cape Town.

The story, “Blood of Mine”, comes from Molefhe’s short story collection Go Tell the Sun, published by Modjaji Books in 2011.

“Blood of Mine” will be performed from 21 to 28 November, alongside three other new homegrown operas, in Four: 30 – Operas made in South Africa, a Cape Town Opera production in collaboration with the UCT Opera School and the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund.

The music for “Blood of Mine” is by Sibusiso Njeza, the libretto by Janice Honeyman. Marcus Desando will direct.

Read Rustum Kozain’s summation of the collection, from Modjaji Books:

Wame Molefhe’s stories have a gentle, unassuming yet intimate and captivating feel to them. Set in Botswana, the stories trace the lives of characters whose paths cross and re-cross each others’, some times in and through love, at other times through tragedy. And through them the author brings to bear a woman’s perspective on the societal mores in which sexual abuse, homophobia and AIDS, among others, flourish and spread. The social content and views are never proclaimed as a loud agenda; instead, it forms a ‘natural’ backdrop to the lives of the characters, something that may raise a wry comment or thought in one character, while eliciting a mere shrug from another. Molefhe’s voice is, to some extent, a world-weary voice, weary of all she has seen of society’s failures, but never without the gentleness often absent and much needed in broken societies, and never without the hope and redemption that can be found in love and the imagination.

Book your tickets, and then read the story:

* * * * *

Blood of Mine

No, Sethunya thought, this is not how her life was meant to be.

She was educated, with multiple degrees. She gave up a blossoming career to be a home-maker. But in the society in which she lived, in which a woman’s worth was
measured in terms of her marital status and the number of children she bore, Sethunya’s score was middling to low. Granted, she married young, for love, but she struggled to conceive. In the end she had only one child, where four would have been more respectable.

She was married only one year when her in-laws began to remark, when she was in hearing range, about the foolhardiness of Ntsimane, her husband. Served
him right, they said, marrying a woman and paying bogadi without guarantee that she was fertile.

The snide remarks bounced off Ntsimane’s huge frame. He was a towering figure of a man, with a baritone voice to match. When he spoke, it was as though he had a microphone in his throat. He liked to boast that he was as strong and virile as the Brahman bulls he bred. No one ever thought to question that Ntsimane was fertile; he himself least of all.

One day, during the early days of her marriage, Sethunya heard her mother-in-law’s footsteps approaching. She wondered whether or not to hide, but it was too late.

“Mma Ntsimane, Dumela! How lovely to see you!” But Sethunya’s heart sank as she opened the door to her mother-in-law.

“I was in the dress shop down the road, I thought I should come and see how you are looking after my son.” She raised an eyebrow and inspected her daughter-in-law
from head to toe, her gaze lingering at Sethunya’s midriff.

“Tea, mme?”

“Tanki, ngwetsi yame.”

Mma Ntsimane shouldered the younger woman out of the way and strode into the kitchen, swinging her child bearing belly and heavy breasts triumphantly before Sethunya.

Sethunya’s face flushed hot, and tears stung her eyes as she filled the kettle.

Her mother-in-law’s words speared her heart, spoken as they were in her shrill voice.

Sethunya thought of her own mother, who always said a good woman was virtuous, kept her own counsel and, by so doing, kept her name out of peoples’ mouths.

Sethunya had been raised in prayer and she trusted in the Good Lord. Every morning when she rose, she thanked God for giving her a fine husband, for the bread on their table and for her good health. She asked Him to help her grow to love her nagging mother-in-law but, most of all, she asked Him to bless her with a child. And
she knew He would answer her prayers, of that she was sure.

But as the months went by and she still did not fall pregnant, desperation sometimes grabbed hold of her and wrested her faith away. She felt incomplete without a child. And lonely.

Ntsimane, however, was engrossed in a never-ending quest to find the perfect bull to mate with his cows and swell his herds. Sometimes when Sethunya felt the time was right, when she knew that all she needed was his seed, he would not be there and so another month would go by. And then another, until the months became years.

As the years dragged by, Sethunya struggled to keep her mind occupied, but sometimes she just got tired and her resolve to be positive waned.

She tried white medicine. She sat patiently in the stark, sterile waiting rooms of different gynaecologists and obstetricians, sandwiched by women in various stages of pregnancy. Hers was the only plank-flat abdomen. She knew the regimen. Fill the clear plastic bottle with urine. Check blood pressure, weight, temperature. Wait. Strip. Don’t tense when the ice-cold metal instrument is pushed deep inside and probing fingers searched to find the reason for her barrenness.

“There is nothing wrong with you,” they all said. The last one said: “You are strong as a horse. Just keep trying – and enjoy it.”

She thought she must have imagined the wink-wink that accompanied the last rejoinder. She reported back to Ntsimane and suggested that maybe, maybe he should be tested. A sperm count, something, just to make sure.

“No,” he barked.

Perhaps his mother and aunts were right, he thought. He should have married a simple woman, one who knew how to make babies.

Sethunya tried traditional medicine too, though she told no one. She sat on the ground on the skin of a goat which still had the shape of the animal from which it came. The traditional healer scattered the bones from his pouch in the sand and declared that he saw a son in her future. He brewed a bitter tasting concoction from leaves he ground together and instructed her to inhale the vapour as she sipped the hot liquid. Within three months she would be pregnant. For this prognosis, she paid a goat. She returned to the loneliness of her home in the belief that it would happen – soon.

During these times she had plenty of time to fret, alone at home, with nothing to keep her busy save her thoughts. She shunned the company of the young women in her neighbourhood who seemed to taunt her with their protruding stomachs. When Ntsimane came home, she sensed impatience in him. She spoke to God less often and sometimes just sat idle. An idle mind was fertile ground for the Devil.

One Saturday, when she was alone in the house, Ntsimane having left soundlessly that morning, there was a knock on the door.

“Tsena, come in.”

It was Botshelo. She remembered then her husband saying that Botshelo would come and collect some of the sour milk Ntsimane had brought for him from the cattle post. She was happy for the company and they conversed over a cup of bush tea. They spoke about the drought, the potholes, elections. When they finished, he followed her out into the little house that served as both kitchen and storeroom. As she opened the door, she felt his warm breath on her neck.

And then he took her in his arms and held her close. She shook her head but he held her tighter. When he kissed her, Sethunya felt a stirring in her soul. When he
cupped her breast with one hand and foraged inside her skirt with the other, she made as though to say “no”, but her body seemed to belong to someone else. She closed her eyes and imagined it was Ntsimane. She felt her heart beating wildly, in time with Botshelo’s. When it was over, he held her close.

“I love you Sethunya,” he breathed. And those words made it all right.

“You must go.” She handed him the enamel bucket with the sour milk and he left.

That evening, when she heard the roar of the diesel engine as Ntsimane returned, she went straight to him and opened her arms to him. She could smell the faint smell of cow-dung on his khaki overalls and his leather hat. So she peeled them off as she led him into the bedroom.

She opened her arms and legs to him and they made love with an intensity that surprised her. And when it ended, she was sure Ntsimane had flushed all traces of Botshelo from her.

Two months later, after a bowl of bogobe, she felt her insides churning. She figured it was the sour porridge which lately had seemed to emit an overpowering, rancid smell that clogged her nose. But she thought nothing of it. In fact, it was only when her mother-in-law, whose cloying perfume seemed stronger than usual, commented on the size of her breasts that Sethunya suspected she might be pregnant.

The home pregnancy test confirmed her suspicions. After six long years, Sethunya was pregnant. Her mother said it was a miracle.

“Ntsimane, we are going to have a baby. I’m pregnant.”

“Are you sure, Sethunya?”

“I’m sure. The doctor confirmed it this morning.”

That night, husband and wife slept with legs entwined like the branches of the vine that crept up their bedroom wall. But Sethunya slept fitfully. Dreams of Ntsimane and Botshelo made her sit bolt upright in the middle of the night. She disentangled her legs from Ntsimane’s, afraid that he might hear her heart beating as though it would burst through her ribs.

She was grateful she was pregnant. “I’m pregnant” saved her having to explain the niggling feeling that would not let go of her. Sethunya devoured all the baby books in the library, stocked her house with Living and Loving, Baby and You, and all other how-to-be-a-wonderful-mother magazines.

The excitement that filled the house was infectious. Ntsimane came home more often now, and stayed longer. When she felt the baby’s first kicks at four months, he was there. He shared her excitement when she felt a hard mass pressing against her side. Was it his head, or elbow, a knee, they wondered together. She attributed the niggling feeling to the pregnancy. She told herself it was heartburn. The feeling would disappear when the baby was born. When the first pains of labour came, Ntsimane was there to drive her to the hospital.

It was a natural delivery, no complications. “A beautiful baby boy,” the midwife pronounced as she placed the baby in his mother’s arms.

At once, the pains of labour were erased by the wave of love she felt as she held her son in her arms and he started to suck on her breast. She looked into his eyes
and in that moment she knew that he was her child. But just as soon as the nurse took him away, so the niggling resumed in the pit of her stomach. She scoured the baby’s face for signs of Ntsimane, but there were none. And so she fashioned them herself and her uneasiness was stilled. When Ntsimane walked into the labour room, she was ready.

“He has your nose,” she declared with finality and held the baby out for Ntsimane to hold.

“He does?”

“He does. And those are your ears.”

They named their son Thapelo, which meant “prayer”. He had his father’s nose and maybe his ears too. Even if the father didn’t see it, she did.

As was customary, the proud parents inherited the name of their first-born child. They became known as Mma Thapelo and Rra Thapelo, Mother and Father of Thapelo.

Tradition also dictated that baby and mother stayed indoors for 3 months. So, just as soon as she was discharged from the hospital, she was whisked away to the familiarity of the home in which she was raised. Sequestered in her parents’ home, she was granted a temporary reprieve. Only close relatives were allowed to view the child. After three months, there would be a big celebration as the baby was officially introduced to the rest of the world. Then there would be no more hiding from prying eyes.

“Who does he look like?” the relatives asked over and over again. “Does he look like his father?”

Sethunya bristled every time she heard that question. Who he looked like was inconsequential. She had a son, finally. She and Ntsimane had a son. That was all that

On the morning of the celebration, Sethunya woke up with a resounding headache. The feeling of unease seemed to grow heavier throughout the day, until it felt as though it were lodged permanently in the pit of her stomach. It got so heavy sometimes that even her mother’s tried and tested remedy of Milk of Magnesia failed to dispel it. But somehow she made it through the day. By the time everyone had left and she was on her way to her home with Ntsimane, she felt normal again.

But the relief was fleeting. The next day it was back.

So she strapped Thapelo on her back and swept her yard. When the feeling failed to yield, she took down the curtains, room by room, and washed them. By the time she had dried, pressed and re-hung them, the feeling had disappeared.

When Thapelo started to walk, the fear in her was reawakened. Her own legs were straight as the wooden pestles she used to pound the millet grains into powder for bogobe. Rra Thapelo’s feet faced outwards when he walked. But Thapelo was bow-legged. As she watched him cling onto whatever he could and draw his little body upright, she wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. The feeling rose inside her and voices screamed in her head and she shook her head clear of the images that played in her head. Machinations of a guilty mind.

Sethunya was never ever really free of worry. She thanked the Lord for her son and prayed especially loudly when she got to the part about being forgiven her trespasses. She needn’t have worried so. Thapelo’s legs straightened out. Everyone said he was going to be tall, taller maybe than his father. Rra Thapelo was glad about that. Any son of his had to be tall and strong, like him.

One evening, earlier than usual, when Thapelo had taken his first steps, Sethunya heard the roar of Rra Thapelo’s van as he careened into the yard. He had said that he was going to arrive home early so he could play with Thapelo before he fell asleep. But he was too late. Thapelo was already asleep, with his tiny mouth slightly open and his left leg curled under his body. Rra Thapelo stood quietly, unmoving, watching his son sleep. Something inside him made him want to straighten Thapelo’s little legs and turn him on his back so that he slept like him. But he didn’t touch him. Instead, he pulled the little stool out from under the study table he had bought when Thapelo was born and perched on top of it as he continued to examine his son.

There had been talk. There was always talk when a child did not look like his father. Whispers, like the sound of the dry grass brushed by a cool summer breeze. It irked him sometimes that Thapelo did not look more like him. And when he sat around the fire with other men in the village and one of them glibly said “Ngwana o itsiwe sereto ke mmaagwe*,” he felt a lump rise in his throat but which he flushed down with a few swigs of beer. Sometimes he needed more than a few to drown out the doubts that gnawed at him. But by the time he had had enough, his confidence was restored. He was a strong African man from whose loins sprung strong African sons, just like his bulls.

He picked his son up and lay down on the bed with him. He put Thapelo on top of his chest and he could feel his warm baby breath on his skin. It tickled a little. Thapelo smelt like baby lotion. He loved that smell.

Ntsimane had big plans for his boy. He was going to provide for his son and his son’s mother like a real man was supposed to. Thapelo would be a policeman or a soldier. Or a football star. He could just see him, 2010, a striker on the Botswana national team.

Mma Thapelo lay on her side of the bed, unmoving, pretending to be asleep but watching Rra Thapelo. Thapelo stirred and changed positions. He was fast asleep, on his knees, with his bum in the air. Rra Thapelo smiled. He remembered the first time he had seen him sleeping like that. He had been so worried. But Mma Thapelo had calmed him down.

“He is comfortable. All babies sleep like that,” she had reassured him.

It was strange how Mma Thapelo had become an expert on all matters of childrearing. When he commented about his son’s legs, his wife was always quick to tell him how their son’s legs were like his own, or like her brother’s brother’s, or uncle’s sister’s brother’s. It made him wonder sometimes. Some people said the baby looked exactly like him. He didn’t really see the resemblance, but whenever someone said so, he acknowledged the likeness.

“Yes, this is my boy,” he would say and he would pull his stomach in just a little and push his chest out, just a little.

He remembered the day he had brought mother and child home from the hospital. The day before they were discharged, he had gone to the mall and spent the whole afternoon looking for a carrycot. He finally found the perfect one just before the shops closed. The friendly lady at the shop had helped him choose it.

“It’s for my son,” he had told her, “my first born.”

And now Thapelo, his son, was nineteen. He had grown tall and strong and was doing well at University. Ntsimane’s only complaint was that he did not come home as much
as he would have liked. His son didn’t spend enough time at the cattle post.

But Thapelo was on his way for such a rare visit. He had phoned earlier the previous afternoon to say that he would be coming home the next day.

Mma Thapelo could hardly sleep. She was like a child on the eve of its birthday, anxious for the sun to rise. Over the years it had become easier to believe that Rra Thapelo was Thapelo’s father. But there it was, that worry whose origins she did not understand.

She busied herself with getting the house ready and a meal cooked for when Thapelo arrived. She was sweeping the yard, deep in thought, when the phone rang. She raced
into the house. It was probably Thapelo calling to ask if she needed anything from the shops.


“Dumela mma. Is that the mother of Thapelo Malatsi?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Mma, I am calling from Princess Marina Hospital. Your son was involved in a car accident early this morning along the Gaborone-Francistown road. He hit a cow. You need to come to the hospital at once. You and his father.”

Mma Thapelo put down the phone. Her hands were shaking. She needed to get hold of Rra Thapelo. But there was no telephone at the cattle post and he could be anywhere. He had left early in the morning with the herd boy to go and find a missing cow. She had to go to the hospital.

She was just getting into the taxi when Rra Thapelo arrived. He had aged visibly since that morning.

“Mma Thapelo, we found the cow. It is the one that Thapelo hit.”

Mma Thapelo did not know what to say. She wanted to scream and shout at him. She wanted to tell him how much she hated those cows of his, how she had hated them all her life, but instead she just cried. They drove in silence to the hospital.

The doctor looked across at them with sad, sorry eyes.

“We need to give your son more blood, but he has a rare blood type. We will need to test your blood and Rra Thapelo’s. You are probably the most likely donors.”

Mma Thapelo was grateful she was sitting down. Blood tests? She prayed that her blood would match Thapelo’s. But behind her eyes a drummer began his drumbeat. He
started slowly at first, and then faster and louder until she felt as though her head would explode.

Mma Thapelo looked at the doctor. The words tumbled out his mouth too fast for her to understand what he was saying. Fear filled her bladder. She stood up to go to
the toilet. When she got back, Rra Thapelo was already folding down the sleeve of his shirt. Mma Thapelo felt like she was careening down the side of a hill, without

“You next, Mma Thapelo. Don’t worry. It’s just a little prick.”

Mma Thapelo hardly heard as she stretched her arm out. She looked the other way when the needle pricked her arm.

“We have not found a match. In fact, the preliminary results indicate that Thapelo cannot be your son.”

Thapelo cannot be your son. Thapelo cannot be your son. The words rang over and over in her head. She tried to search out Rra Thapelo’s eyes but he seemed to be looking at a spot above the picture in the doctor’s office. He had not said a word since they entered the doctor’s rooms.

“I am sorry,” the voice continued. “We did everything we could to save him. We lost him this morning.”

Botshelo was dead. And now her son, her only son, was dead too. His parents killed him. His father’s beast and his mother. When he needed his mother to give her
blood to keep him alive, she could not, neither could his father.

The silence that descended upon their household strangled all the voices that used to sing in her head. At her son’s funeral, Mma Thapelo had wanted to cry, but she
had no tears. They flowed into a reservoir which she had built over the years, into which she had bottled her fears. They buried their son together. Rra Thapelo stood next to her with his head bowed. Since the day the doctor had said the blood tests showed that Thapelo could not be his son, Rra Thapelo had aged. It was as though the weight that Mma Thapelo had carried all these years had shifted to his shoulders and was weighing him down. His son was dead, but he had never had a son. Would never have a son.

No, this was not how things were meant to be.

* The child’s totem is best known by its mother

Book details

» read article

In Celebration of International Dictionary Day: 13 New and Revised Indigenous Language Dictionaries to be Published

International Dictionary Day is celebrated annually on 16 October, which is tomorrow.

This day was established in tribute to the famous American dictionary writer, Noah Webster, who was born on 16 October 1758. He is heralded as the father of the modern dictionary.

The South African National Lexicography Units, one for every official South African language, will be celebrating this important day – and the importance of dictionaries in general – by starting the release of no fewer than 13 new or revised editions of indigenous language monolingual, and indigenous language bilingual dictionaries. By the end of November all 13 new dictionaries will have been published.

The Lexicography Units were established by the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) in 2001 to focus on lexicography and terminology development in South Africa, their task being to compile monolingual explanatory dictionaries and other products to help with language development. Each unit is managed by a board of directors and registered as a Section 21 (not-for-profit) company, which allows the unit autonomy to raise funds to carry on its work.

For more information on the new dictionaries, read the press release below:

* * * * * *



The eleven South African National Lexicography Units (one per official language) are the structures of state Constitutionally and Legislatively mandated, in the case of our indigenous languages, to produce dictionaries and other material that will “elevate their status and advance their use”.

While the Units are national entities they are based in the province or provincial district in which their language predominates, but the result of their work benefits all speakers and learners of the language no matter where they reside.
They are located as follows:

Xitsonga – Limpopo
Tshivenda – Limpopo
Sesotho sa Leboa – Limpopo
Siswati – Mpumalanga
isiNdebele – Gauteng / Mpumalanga
isiZulu – Kwa Zulu Natal
isiXhosa and English – Eastern Cape
Sesotho – Free State
Setswana – North West
Afrikaans – Western Cape

The nine indigenous language Units have recently formed an overarching structure – The South African National Lexicography Units – in order to:

Launch and maintain an awareness creation programme to inform the public and all government departments and agencies, including schools and tertiary education institutions, of the Units, their work, achievements and our new publication development plans.
Persuade the above agencies to implement and use our dictionaries, and to involve them – - in particular Government’s other indigenous language support and development structures, tertiary institutions, National and Provincial Departments of Education – in revisions of existing dictionaries and the identification of new projects which will elevate the status and increase the use of our languages.
Remind Government agencies of their Constitutional obligation to our indigenous languages and persuade the private sector to play an active role in this regard.
Co-ordination of the Units book development activities ensuring that no indigenous language, on the basis of having fewer speakers, is disadvantaged over any other language.

Our national awareness campaign was launched about five weeks ago and saw the attached poster, together with a covering letter, being distributed to all Honourable Members of Parliament, the NCOP and as of today six of our nine provincial Legislatures. The response has been most encouraging and we hope for a similar response from both government and the private sector.

International Dictionary Day

We are pleased to announce that between International Dictionary Day – 16th October 2015 – and the end of November 2015 no fewer than thirteen new or revised editions of indigenous language monolingual, and indigenous language bilingual dictionaries will be published. A further two dictionaries will be available early in 2016. It is the largest publishing event of its kind ever undertaken in our indigenous languages.

These are:

isiZulu English Bilingual Dictionary
isiNdebele Afrikaans English Trilingual Dictionary
isiNdebele Monolingual Dictionary
Tshivenda English Bilingual Dictionary
Tshivenda Monolingual Dictionary
Sesotho sa Leboa Monolingual Dictionary
Sesotho sa Leboa English Bilingual Dictionary
Setswana Monolingual Dictionary
Setswana English Bilingual Dictionary
Setswana Maths and Science English – Setswana Dictionary for Grades 4 to 9
Sesotho English Bilingual Dictionary
Xitsonga English Bilingual Dictionary
Xitsonga Monolingual Dictionaries

Due Early 2016

Siswati Monolingual Dictionary
Siswati English Bilingual Dictionary

These will add to the published dictionaries listed below:
isiXhosa Three Volume isiXhosa – Afrikaans – English Dictionary
isiXhosa One Volume Monolingual Dictionary
isiXhosa Maths and Science isiXhosa – English Dictionary for Grades 4 to 9
isiZulu Monolingual Dictionary R 275.00


» read article

An Inappropriate Text for an Appropriate Evening – Read Antjie Krog’s Keynote Address from the 2015 Sunday Times Literary Awards

Antjie Krog

Poet, author and activist Antjie Krog delivered the keynote address at the 2015 Sunday Times Literary Awards on Saturday. She made a call for white South Africans to perform an act of radical outreach, similar to that of Nelson Mandela 20 years ago when he donned Francois Pienaar’s jersey at the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

Krog made various statements which drew spirited reactions from the crowd – some not as positive as others (scroll to the end to see the reaction on Twitter).

Read her speech in full, and see the images Krog used to illustrate her point:

* * * * * * * *

Inappropriate Text for an Appropriate Evening

Allow me tonight to open with an incident from Country of my Skull.

During a public meeting with the then Minister of Finance he was asked whether there was a post-Truth and Reconciliation plan to get from whites what was needed to repair the past. He answered: even if we take everything whites have, it will never make up for what they did. What we need, to address inequality is a 6% growth rate.

This was of course the truth. Nothing could ever repair the damage of three centuries. But in another way it was also a mark of a general unwillingness by all of us to do some complex thinking.

With the wisdom of hindsight one wishes there had been a Rhodes Must Fall group to ignite a proper conversation on the consequences of not changing our world. What was it that black people desired after apartheid? What were the outlines of their dreams? Also, what was the biggest challenge: establishing racial equality and then attending poverty? Or a drive to reduce poverty through various mechanisms of which a crucial one was race.

It would have been important for whites then to have heard the conditions under which they were to be accommodated or rejected: we don’t want whites here; or: we want whites, but only poor ones – or only rich ones; or: we want whites willingly to take responsibility for everything that fails; or: for three centuries the country has invested its best and most powerful resources in you, so for three generations you will use your accumulated skills, knowledge and resources to eradicate for ever the Verwoerd education system, or mend the distorted transport system, or build an appropriate health system; or perhaps even: every white should report to a township school and assist with rendering services from cleaning toilets and safeguarding buildings and people, to teaching and marking as and when necessary.

However problematic or unpractical these suggestions might sound, they would have focused all of our minds on what kind of society we wanted to live in. And what we were willing to pay for it.

I mean, whatever was negotiated and understood, misunderstood or taken for granted – was there anybody in South Africa who thought that the country materially had to stay as it was with all the resources remaining in specific areas and classes? Remember Yeats:

Hurrah for revolution and more cannon-shot.
A beggar upon horseback lashes a beggar on foot.
Hurrah for revolution and cannon come again:
The beggars have changed places, but the lash goes on.

How many Afrikaners assumed that they could raise their children and grandchildren in a ghetto of ethnic privilege and language, avoiding everything that had to do with the continent they so blithely named themselves after? Did whites really think that setting matters right stopped at charity, NGOs, philanthropy, paying domestic workers more than a living wage and allowing a black middle class to grow?

At this post-Marikana stage it is perhaps time to speak frankly – to engage in brutal public conversations. It is especially time for anger. I respect anger. Anger is often where important change begins. Not the anger of destruction, but the anger which brings clarity of direction and resolute lucidity. When someone in anger says: “We must kill the whites … ” it is important to hear real responses: and then what? Or: how? OR more importantly: on what principle? This is not to play around irresponsibly with fears, rage and desires, but to bring into the open what is being murmured under angry breaths, what festers in horrific killings, emotional repression and violent neglect of human dignity. It is time to discuss and argue these things. How do we get to radical change? How will the means influence the outcome? If there are race-killings, expropriations, squattings as a consequence of unrelieved poverty and dashed expectations of change – what will happen? And who will care enough to start dealing with the root causes and wounds?

Recently a comprehensive research project was done on racism on campuses. An interesting element was that apparently all the students, irrespective of colour, expressed a desire to move: ‘beyond race’. Yet, the moment they themselves begin to talk about their circumstances and dreams, they fell back into old apartheid categories. Thus one of the conclusions is that we are not enabling students to move beyond the racial lexicon of apartheid. The irony, as Neville Alexander noted: is that those born free from racial classification are now forced by government practice to classify themselves when filling in forms as white, coloured, black or Indian.

In the absence of a plan to get what is needed from whites and the absence of new content to the pronoun ‘us’, a question: what would most South Africans older than thirty two, respond, when asked to name a visual image which brought home like a thunderbolt the profound moment of radical change?


Mandela in a Springbok jersey / Mandela taking the national salute:

Mandela Wearing a Springbok Jersey



Mandela with Mbeki and de Klerk:

Reconciliation in Action

But as they ask in IQ tests: what should the next frame look like?

Who Will Fill the Empty Frame?

In the first two images, outreach is from the black side.

Personally I want an image showing whites in an equally radical act of outreach. After the TRC there was intense hope for a White Prince of Reconciliation: a powerful not-guilty white man to say: on behalf of all whites, I am sorry, we want to build with you a new society of sharing, tell us what to do. That never happened. The Home For All campaign, eliciting tons of scorn and ridicule, barely raised eight hundred signatures, so after twenty years the third frame is still empty.

And yet, many whites are doing things. Enormous things. Small things. Wonderful things. (So do black people, but the frame needs the input from whites!) Many people, old and young, are being assisted by whites, many lives are being saved, talents nurtured and sponsored, and every person assisted is a person assisted, whatever the motives or the affluence from which it originated. So why don’t whites have an image to put in here? Is it just bad PR or is it that charity and aid often immobilise efforts of radical change while simultaneously allowing government to blissfully ignore the poor.

But whites working shoulder to shoulder with blacks, as equals, as partners, as fellow citizens, could present an image of a sweeping paradigm shift able radically to change the South African landscape for the good. But what should blacks and whites be doing to psychologically complete the visual frame series inspirationally? Let’s have phone-ins with plans and a referendum choosing among them.

Because what was promised in 1994, didn’t happen. A systemic fault line prevented the momentous emblematic political transformation from being complemented by an equally momentous emblematic socioeconomic transformation. Was everybody so caught up in placating the interests of capital that we assumed that it was enough that affirmative action was meant for those already employed and BEE for those mixing with the elite? How on earth could we think this was ethically correct? Or that it will hold?

In one’s frustration one is pushed to imagine whether the empty frame calls for a two year Radical Reconstruction Period in which all energy, all resources and every South African is used in order to achieve massive structural change. The image that comes to mind is of a particular kind of scrambled egg, one made after the yolk and white has been fried hard. Everything is put on hold, salary increases, price increases, even the constitution is used to take us towards systemic changes, until the collective spatula has cut the whole lot to pieces for a proper, fairer mix.

Will that do the job? First a step back. Ten years ago I felt that all land should be nationalised. Then one could say: the land truly belongs to all the South African people, all of us; those on farms merely have leasehold. But with the current set of leaders it seems problematic to execute any plan demanding of clear ethical thinking, selfless motivation and moral example.

Every week there are problematic responses to headline issues. One remarkable example is the open letter of President Zuma to Mozambican writer Mia Couto saying that the government is driving a campaign to tell South Africans not to kill other Africans as they assisted the ANC in their struggle against apartheid. Does the President notice that he implies that those who did NOT actively support the ANC in exile – the Somalians, the Moroccans, the PAC-supporting Zimbabweans – are fair game?

Listening to ANC politicians and spokespersons is often like entering an ethical desert where all life is centred on riches that will dawn like a lottery win on individuals doing the protect Zuma-tapdance. The poor suddenly have to become entrepreneurs. The rhetoric of freedom and justice has evaporated into increasingly shabby talk about a developmental state, while the examples of leaders suggest freedom from apartheid means freedom to shop and especially freedom not to be accountable.

When last did we hear anybody talk about a just society, a better life for everybody, suggesting that enough was a feast? In strikes and wage bargaining one seldom hears the words: justice, fairness, empathy. And why would we – being bombarded by the vulgar excesses of celebrity life and vainglorious luxury on television, billboards and magazines only acknowledging the right to consume?

To return to the Rhodes Must Fall group: it has surely done well to create awareness of the need to face issues; of the kind of activism that understands the importance of thinking as a form of collective activity. But precisely for that reason, and because collectivity can humanise a space, it is important to press for clarity of thought to educate us all. Are they teaching us that to reject Rhodes solely on grounds of his racism is implicitly to endorse the inequality, exploitation and state violence of the present?

Fanon warned decades ago how quickly liberation can degenerate when it lacks humanist content. Movements without it, fall into undemocratic and brutal ways especially when a ruling party, masked by the mixed rhetoric of Africanism, Ubuntu and possessive individualism, begins to focus only on sectional and ethnic interests. He suggested that in order not to create new hierarchies, we should establish ‘relations of comradeship, of solidarity, of love, relations which prefigure the sort of society we struggle for.’

But let us return to the seemingly impossible image of the hard fried egg that needs to be scrambled.

How to Scramble a Fried Egg?

The essence of colonialism is space – the expropriation and personal consuming of space. The colonial and apartheid worlds were worlds divided and dividing. Therefore decolonisation must mean the making whole, the recreation, reappropriation and reconfiguration of space. It means more than simply eradicating the lines of force that keep zones apart; it requires fundamental social and economic change.

For example: during this suggested two year Radical Reconstruction Period all suburbs and farms are given two years of free range to scramble themselves. Every house in the suburbs should be confronted by the fact of shackness, every park filled with squatters, every street with vendors. Every home and land owner, every suburb, every farm free to negotiate a living space with whomever moves in.

Liberation remains incomplete when the colonial or apartheid city is not reorganised, but simply taken over. A ban should be put on changing the name of any town/street/space before that community has fundamentally, practically and collectively prioritised the poor. Those who finish their studies, and those who have retired, should work for a year in the town or city of their birth to remove backlogs and shortages in courts, hospitals, schools, administrative offices, infrastructure support, corruption investigations, child care etc. For no salary. The town will provide food and a place to sleep.

We are facing a disaster in the absence of a crucial social unifying vision of a humane society. The times are pitiless. No vision is coming to save us. Let us dirty our hands with the tactics of the kind of communality needed to create openings into which new rhythms, new language and new modes of being human can be poured.

"Us" - An illustration of South Africans


We did it once. We surprised ourselves in doing what was not thought possible (a political transformation despite our historical and current political context). The times are demanding from us to do so again: bringing about the impossible: an economic transformation despite a neoliberal context and rotten leadership. And in order to pull it off, we need to have all the conversations, deferred from 1994, with as much courageous imagination, new vocabulary and wild dreams as possible.

and so this us comes
heartstained and upwards
the us comes
with cataclysmic breath
in the mouthclose sound of birds
with care we break the frames

and our bodies
begin to
read: those with less power

our tongues begin to feel: the destitute

our neck hairs rise:
when on flattened cartons a fallen man turns over

our ribs
slip: at the maiming of a trampled body’s light

this us are the beggars
this us are the poor
this us live intact and with honour

unwon we must become
with wrists that bravely pile up stars

* * * * * * * *

Related stories:

Read some tweets sent out during Krog’s speech:.


* * * * * * * *


Country of My SkullA Change of TongueAntjie Krog and the Post-Apartheid Public SphereMede-weteSynapseAntjie Krog
Skinned\'n Ander tongvalDie sterre sê tsauMet Woorde Soos Met KerseBody BereftVerweerskrifFynbos Fairies


View some photos from the event:


Book details

  • Die sterre sê tsau: /Xam-gedigte van Diä!kwain, Kweiten-ta-//ken, /A!kúnta, /Han#kass’o en //Kabbo edited by Antjie Krog
    EAN: 9780795701740
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

» read article