Browse our selection of Heritage Month must-reads!
From classics like Jock of the Bushveld by Percy Fitzpatrick, to staple reads by local authors like Shana Fife, and Bonang Mohale - add these local must-haves to your TBR list.
Johannesburg, Easter weekend, 1993.
Nelson Mandela has been free for three years and is in power sharing talks with President FW de Klerk when a white supremacist shoots the Black leader’s popular young heir apparent, Chris Hani, in hopes of igniting an all-out war. Will he succeed in plunging South Africa into chaos, safeguarding apartheid for perhaps years to come?
In The Plot to Save South Africa, acclaimed South African journalist Justice Malala recounts the gripping story of the next nine days, as the government and Mandela’s ANC seek desperately to restore the peace and root out just how far up into the country’s leadership the far-right plot goes.
Told from the points of view of over a dozen characters on all sides of the conflict, Malala offers an illuminating look at successful leadership in action and a terrifying reminder of just how close a country we think of today as a model for racial reconciliation came to civil war.
Is a zebra black with white stripes, or white with black stripes? And why do flamingos stand on one leg and bats hang upside down? Did you know that a chameleon’s tongue can accelerate at five times the speed of a fighter jet?
In The Buck That Buries Its Poo (a habit of the ibex, by the way), naturalist and bushcraft expert Quinton Coetzee answers these and many other intriguing wildlife questions. He also dispels many myths and elucidates some of the legends around creatures we thought we knew in the South African bush.
For example, bats do not get tangled in people’s hair (because they are far too adept at flight) and elephants are not afraid of mice (but they do fear bees!). Talking about elephants, did you know the African elephant and rock hyraxes (dassies) are related?
This handy guide is based on Coetzee’s own research and that of others, and his experience gleaned over decades living close to nature and wildlife. It seeks unravel the mysteries of nature in Africa – from mammals and birds to arthropods and plants – with fascinating information and fun trivia. A book that will enlighten and entertain.
PS Zebra are black with white stripes and every zebra has a unique pattern of white and black stripes, much like fingerprints.
The riveting memoirs of the outstanding moral and political leader of our time, Long Walk to Freedom brilliantly re-creates the drama of the experiences that helped shape Nelson Mandela's destiny.
Emotive, compelling and uplifting, Long Walk to Freedom is the exhilarating story of an epic life; a story of hardship, resilience and ultimate triumph told with the clarity and eloquence of a born leader.
‘. . . it is nine months this evening since I last saw the light in my own house, when I had to tear myself away from all that is dear to me. And today is also my little son’s birthday. Oh, how I long for home.’
So wrote Michael Muller in 1901 as he gazed at the lights of Cape Town from a ship bound for Bermuda, after months of internment in a British POW camp in Simon’s Town.
The camps were full, so Boer prisoners were being sent to other parts of the empire. Michael’s brothers, Chris and Pieter, were exiled to Ceylon, while Lool was held in the Green Point camp in Cape Town.
Remarkably, three of the brothers kept diaries – the only known instance of this happening in the Boer War. They recorded their intimate thoughts and turbulent emotions, and the diaries gave them agency. The scrawled notes of Chris on the evening after the legendary Magersfontein battle, the rain-dashed pages written by Lool in Colesberg, and the angry words penned by Michael about his treatment at Surrender Hill, have the urgency of men determined to go on record.
When Beverley Roos-Muller first began to explore writing about the Boer experience of the war, she read the tiny war diary of Michael, grandfather of her husband, Ampie Muller. It led her to the discovery of the other diaries and many more documents. She also records the brothers’ difficult return home and examines the consequences for South Africa of the bitterness this strife invoked.
A dozen years in the making, The Inheritors weaves together the stories of three ordinary South Africans over five tumultuous decades in a sweeping and exquisite look at what really happens when a country resolves to end white supremacy.
All three, and many others, had to remake their own lives while facing huge questions: What do we owe to history? And what will people who care about being good do when the meaning of right action changes nearly overnight?
Observing subtle truths about race and power that extend well beyond national borders, Fairbanks explores questions that preoccupy so many of us today: How can we let go of our pasts, as individuals and as countries? How should historical debts be paid? And how can a person live an honorable life in a society that – for better or worse – they no longer recognise?
20 Battles: Searching for a South African Way of War 1913 - 2013 by Evert Kleynhans & David Brock Katz - R320
Over the past century, South Africa’s military has established itself in several defining battles and operations. Preferring manoeuvre over attrition, and often punching above their weight, they have become known for their tenacity, dash, and ability to defy the odds. Their unique command style also sets them apart from other armies and has helped them excel in challenging circumstances.
In 20 Battles, military historians Evert Kleynhans and David Brock Katz investigate how South Africa’s way of war evolved over a 100-year period. They track the evolution of the doctrine and structure of the South African defence forces, rediscovering historical continuity, if any, and the lessons learned in past battles and operations such as Otavifontein, Delville Wood, Southern Ethiopia, Tobruk, Chiusi, Savannah, Cassinga, Cuito Cuanavale and Boleas.
The book also identifies a number of firsts for the defence force, such as the first ever deployment during the 1914 Industrial Strike; the varied deployments across different theatres during both world wars; the first large scale crossborder deployments during the Border War; the first deployment of the new South African National Defence Force after 1994; and, culminating with the recent, and now infamous, Battle of Bangui.
I was three months shy of my 21st birthday, and I had committed the one unforgivable act for a coloured girl from the Cape Flats. I sat on the toilet, staring at the pregnancy test, mostly confused by how I had fallen so far down the social ladder so quickly.
The sex I had been having wasn’t even worth the trouble I was in. But the two lines that were almost glowing in one of the darkest moments of my life were there, and they weren’t fading.
By the time Shana Fife is 25 she has two kids from different fathers. To the coloured people she grew up around, she is a jintoe, a jezebel, jas, a woman with mileage on the pussy. She is alone, she has no job and, as she is constantly reminded by her family, she is pretty much worthless and unloveable. How did she become this woman, the epitome of everything she was conditioned to strive not to be?
Unsettlingly honest and brutally blunt, Ougat is Shana Fife’s story of survival: of surviving the social conditioning of her Cape Flats community, of surviving sexual violence and depression, and of ultimately escaping a cycle of abuse.
Exploring themes of sexuality, marriage and motherhood, rape, drugs and depression and cultural identity, Shana describes – with the self-deprecating humour her followers love so much – what it means to be a coloured woman, who gives coloured womanhood meaning and, ultimately, how surviving life as a coloured woman means being OK with giving a giant ‘fuck you’ to the norm.
Bonang Mohale is a highly respected South African businessman, who is known as much for his patriotism and his active role in seeking to advance his country’s interests as for the leading role he has played in companies like Otis Elevators, Shell South Africa and South African Airways, among others.
Developed over 30 years of business experience, his insights have motivated change in organisations and individuals alike.
As CEO of Business Leadership South Africa, he frequently shares his insights through speeches and articles on the role of business in South Africa and the core tenets of leadership. Lift As You Rise is a compilation of some of his spoken and written words in which Mohale reveals the issues he is passionate about – among them transformation, people development, constructive collaboration and integrity – and how they came to define his career and his life. He looks into the ideas behind his words and offers fresh thoughts on the subjects they cover.
This well-balanced compilation is enhanced by contributions from others he has mentored or met on his journey which underscore who Mohale the man is – a fearless and energetic leader whose compassion, humanity and eternal optimism promote hope and encourage action.
There is value in this book for leaders in all walks of life, but it is Mohale’s hope that young people specifically, those rising through the ranks, will find his insights and experience inspiring – for they are the country’s future leaders.
One of the most celebrated political leaders of our time, Nelson Mandela has been written about by many biographers and historians. But in one crucial area, his life remains largely untold: his marriage to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
During his years in prison, Nelson grew ever more in love with an idealised version of his wife, courting her in his letters as if they were young lovers frozen in time. But Winnie, every bit his political equal, found herself increasingly estranged from her jailed husband’s politics.
Behind his back, she was trying to orchestrate an armed seizure of power, a path he feared would lead to an endless war. Jonny Steinberg tells the tale of this unique marriage – its longings, its obsessions, its deceits – making South African history a page-turning political biography.
Winnie and Nelson is a modern epic in which trauma doesn’t affect just the couple at its centre, but an entire nation. It is also a Shakespearean drama in which bonds of love and commitment mingle with timeless questions of revolution, such as whether to seek retribution or a negotiated peace. Steinberg reveals, with power and tender emotional insight, how far these forever-entwined leaders would go for each other and where they drew the line. For in the end, both knew theirs was not simply a marriage, but a struggle to define anti-apartheid policy itself.
Chris Hani’s assassination in 1993 gave rise to one of South Africa’s greatest political questions: if he had survived, what impact would he have had on the ANC government?
On the 30th anniversary of his murder by right-wing fanatics, this updated version of the best-selling Hani: A Life Too Short re-evaluates his legacy and traces his life from his childhood in rural Transkei to the crisis in the ANC camps in Angola in the 1980s and the heady dawn of South Africa’s freedom.
Drawing on interviews and the recollections of those who knew him, this vividly written book provides a detailed account of the life of a hero of South Africa’s liberation, a communist party leader and Umkhonto we Sizwe chief of staff who was both an intellectual and a fighter.
Jock of the Bushveld is the classic and much-loved story based on the true experiences of Sir Percy Fitzpatrick and his Staffordshire bull terrier, Jock. The story begins in the 1880s, at the time of the South African gold rush, when a young Fitzpatrick worked as an ox-wagon transport rider in the old Transvaal.
There he came across a man who was in the process of drowning a puppy, the runt of the litter. He saved the dog and the story of his ever-faithful and loving companion was born.
First published in 1907, Jock of the Bushveld has been reprinted many times since. Now, with a fresh and engaging cover, and in a new handy B-format, this timeless South African classic retains the charm of the original story along with the original illustrations by Edmund Caldwell.
It will no doubt continue to be enjoyed by children and adults alike.
Vividly set against the backdrop of 19th century India and the British-owned sugarcane plantations of Natal, written with great tenderness and lyricism, Children of Sugarcane paints an intimate and wrenching picture of indenture told from a woman’s perspective.
Shanti, a bright teenager stifled by life in rural India and facing an arranged marriage, dreams that South Africa is an opportunity to start afresh. The Colony of Natal is where Shanti believes she can escape the poverty, caste, and troubling fate of young girls in her village. Months later, after a harrowing sea voyage, she arrives in Natal only to discover the profound hardship and slave labour that await her.
Spanning four decades and two continents, Children of Sugarcane demonstrates the lifegiving power of love, heartache, and the indestructible bonds between family and friends. These bonds prompt heroism and sacrifice, the final act of which leads to Shanti's redemption.
Which are some of your South African favourites? Mention them in the comments below!