Read of the Week

These are the things that sit with us

Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Friederike Bubenzer and Marietjie Oelsofsen


Review: Phiri Cawe

Phillip Voegt grew up with anger, bitterness and hatred. Maria Julius’s father was condemned to life as a drunkard, while Thabo Sekoepere lost his sight through apartheid’s brutality and Ismail Hendricks’ mother found him in the mortuary.

Another sad story is of migrant workers being humiliated as they were dipped like animals when they got to Langa as it was believed they might be bringing with them diseases. These are just some of the harsh realities that many people endured during the apartheid era. Hilton van Wyk asks, how do I get rid of this pain?

Upon seeing the title of the book, I remembered a quote by Jean Paul Sartre, the French philosopher and political activist, when he said:“Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.”

But surely that cannot be easy for many people given the life they endured under difficult circumstances.

While readers might agree to disagree on the impact of apartheid and its brutality against people of colour, lessons were taught in it. The question is, has reconciliation succeeded in the country? The answer lives with each and everyone of us.

This well-packaged book, written in three languages, takes one back to the apartheid years. The 60 stories from different locations in the Cape metro are sad but at the same time inspiring, that people could still continue their lives and reconcile with the past.

Each story of torture is personal but it disrupts other people’s lives too. The storytellers’ lives were filled with the normalised anxieties of being black. Those illegal acts of torture during apartheid caused pain and suffering.

It took me a day or two to go through all the stories. It is not an easy book to consume but worth the read, especially for young people.

The suffering took place in different forms: people were deprived of education and physically and psychologically abused.

The book shows how the apartheid laws ruined people’s lives and ripped families apart. The policies affected all aspects of life in black communities.

The people featured in the book have painful stories to tell. There is agony, anguish, suffering and anger as the apartheid police brutality also caused the death of loved ones.

This book can help the youth understand what life was like during apartheid.

Some of the youth might have questions and doubts about that time as they now have rights and people have somehow reconciled and get along with each other.

Young people need to know how much torture took place in this country.

It is through a book like this one that we will be well informed of our past.