Book Reviews

Published 10 years ago


by Mongane Wally Serote

This is the second novel by poet and former political activist, Mongane Wally Serote. The first, Revelations, was published two years ago.

This book is definitely not Serote’s best work but it may appeal to supporters of the ANC, the movement in the book.


Rumours describes the hangover after the apartheid regime. We learn how living in exile affected the lives of comrades and their families.

Keke, the protagonist, is a Umkhonto we Sizwe veteran and failed CEO of a cellphone company. He also struggles with issues at home.

Keke abandons his family and job and ends up a homeless alcoholic. This thrusts him into a spiritual journey, where he attempts to reconnect with his family and find a purpose for his life in post-apartheid South Africa.

The author’s obsession with so-called media rumors is resonant of the ANC’s disapproval of the press exposing corruption and bad governance. The controversial arms procurement by the South African government is justified as preparedness for the defense of the ‘African Renaissance’. The overall message is that the west is to blame for Africa’s failures.



Armed and Dangerous

by Ronnie Kasrils


I approve of books like this, even the second time around. This is an updated version of the 1993 edition. Anyone who has enjoyed the sweet taste of a free South Africa should know of the grim and grimy struggle that helped create it. In this, former government minister, Ronnie Kasrils does it justice. Kasrils is a principled humanist with a conscience that was the father of his role as an operative in Umkhonto we Sizwe—the armed wing of the African National Congress.  As a young man, he abhorred the casual violence and hatred directed against black people; this is what drove him into exile everywhere from London to Luanda.

There are a few surprises in the book, including the snippet that Kasrils had a relationship with the late singer Miriam Makeba, who used to slip into his flat posing as a domestic worker.


The sting is in the tail. Kasrils, ever the party man, uses the last few paragraphs to register his dismay with the government he helped put in power. A very unexpected and thought provoking end to a weighty tome. Sounds like the prelude to another book, Ronnie.

Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the war against Apartheid

by Alan Wieder

Alan Wieder’s Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the War Against Apartheid offers a refreshing read for any enthusiast of South African history.

Focusing on one of the most prominent couples in the anti-apartheid resistance, Wieder’s novel retells their story through the oral narratives of those around them. The author reveals a complex marriage between the two people who changed the world of politics.


A journalist and communist party member, First turned resistance fighter after being exiled from South Africa for her outspoken views against the regime. Her influence around the globe was silenced by the apartheid government after she opened a booby-trapped envelope-bomb in Maputo, Mozambique.

Slovo led a life as dangerous as First’s. The student activist, lawyer and co-mastermind of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the African National Congress’ militant arm, Slovo lived to see South Africa become a democracy in 1994.

A reader looking to get an insight into the behind-the-scenes activities of a revolution will not want to skip this book. It goes beyond a boring history lesson, bringing to life never-before-seen personalities and struggles.



Springboks, Troepies and Cadres: Stories of the South African Army (1912-2012)

by David Williams

Springboks, Troepies and Cadres takes the reader on a journey through 100 years of the South African Army and the three major wars in which it fought: both World Wars and the Border War.

It all started with a command from Britain in 1914 to seize control of German South West Africa so Germany could not gain access to its colony’s shores—a campaign successfully carried out by the newly-created Union Defence Force, which spawned the creation of the South African Air Force. The move set the scene for South Africa’s political landscape, sparking an uprising by the Boers who had been part of the war against the British Empire years earlier. It ultimately led to the establishment of the “purified” National Party in 1948.

South Africa’s strong sense of citizenship between conscripts and volunteers created a diverse culture that allowed for the implementation of a unique blend of military tactics. This was a major factor in the South African Army being touted as one of the world’s greatest in the 1980s.


The book is laden with facts but keeps the reader engaged, even those with only a vague interest in the military.


by James Siddall

Dystopia is an autobiographical book about South African journalist, James Siddall, and his journey through alcohol and benzodiazepines addiction as well as his descent from a glittering media career to becoming the scourge of pubs and shebeens of the Kwa-Zulu Natal province. Siddall was an award-winning journalist, who became deputy editor of Playboy magazine at just 26, and lived a life filled with fast cars and beauty queens. But along the way Siddall’s drinking got out of control. His life had transformed into one that involved excessive drinking, drugs and even prostitution.

The memoir, cleverly written, follows the black hole of substance abuse, tracking Siddall’s life as he becomes homeless and loses his job. The book is often repetitive as it tells the story of an addict who continues to relapse. Eventually he is faced with a court order sentencing him to a two–year stint at a rehabilitation center, where he struggles with sobriety and the fight to become a functioning human being and a working journalist.

An easy read, raw, brutally honest and for many reading it, it may hit home. It delves into myths and misconceptions surrounding addiction. But one may struggle to find anything different about this book.

Related Topics: #Author, #Ficton, #Novel, #October 2013, #Stories.