Dancing the death drill BOOK REVIEW

My most recent read is by Fred Khumalo, you’ll notice I am being intentional in my selection of authors, this book was an interesting read. The author is Fred Khumalo.

Fred Khumalo was born on 4 August 1966 in Chesterville, Durban KwaZulu-Natal, having grown up in the township he was exposed to a lot of crime from a young age, which urged him to focus on his education as a way to escape the violence and poverty that enclosed him. It was also during this time, as a young man, he remained focused on his studies throughout his childhood and decided to become a writer while still in high school.

Khumalo later graduated from DUT (Durban University of Technology) after studying journalism and completed his MA in creative writing at the University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, Gauteng) with distinction.

He is an accomplished author of both fiction and non-fiction books, as well as an award-winning journalist and columnist. He has also published several short stories in commercial magazines and literary journals like Drum, Tribute, Pace, and Staffrider. His journalistic work has been published in South Africa, Canada, and the United Kingdom (UK). He has achieved high acclamation and respect for his work.

The book if fictional and is inspired by the events of the SS Mendi.

The SS Mendi is a boat that sunk on the 21 February 1917, more than 600 men of the South African Native Labour Corps (SANLC) lost their lives in the sinking of the SS Mendi– the largest single loss of life for the non-combatants in the SANLC during the First World War.

The Mendi was carrying the SANLC to France, where they were to serve as essential support to the ongoing fighting, where the men would provide assistance with physical labor, when the SS Darro, a mail ship three times it’s size, struck the troopship, in thick fog 19km south of St Catherine’s Point on the Isle of Wight. The Darro survived the collision but the Mendi sank quickly, leaving 607 men dead.

Some were killed on the point of impact, many others drowned. The extent of the loss of life in the Mendi disaster established its status as a national tragedy in South Africa, which briefly overwhelmed racial divisions. The entire South African House of Assembly rose in silence on 9 March 1917 as a mark of respect.

The story which I won’t overly indulge you on, in hopes you’ll purchase the book yourself is excellent penmanship from Khumalo, which centers around the life of Pitso Motaung, a young man who had to find his identity in a world that was tremendously difficult to navigate. The book is an ode to all those who passed, the 607 men, that I would like to call heroes, who were brave and had been driven to fight in a war that was neither for their country and did not in any way contribute to their well- being.

Having lost their lives on this journey, so little was done to commemorate these men and the unlikely friendships that were struck, across all cultural divides and racial barriers, it is only much later that they were truly honored, I love this book as it is a tangible form of celebration and all the stories they carried. A timely contribution. GET YOURSELF A COPY FRIEND!

In Fred Khumalo’s words…

To the unsung heroes and heroines throughout history, in all wars known to man. But more specifically to those gallant souls who were aboard the ss Mendi when she went down.

The issue of land and other ponderings

It could be that issues on land, colonization and past injustices are not always discussed in a proper manner, we have in an attempt to “move on” or rather I should say… I, in an attempt to move on have not made time to do thorough research on such matters, trusting my high school history education to be enough, but is it?

I have had an interest in various issues these days and the issue on land is one of them. This book, Land Matters: South Africa’s failed land reforms and the road ahead, was written by Tembeka Nicholas Ngcukaitobi, who is a lawyer, public speaker, author and political activist. He is also a member of the South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC). It holds some uncomfortable truths, that we can no longer turn away from. This book is a painful eye opener and is really thought provoking. I won’t give you all the good parts, in hopes you’ll get it and read it yourself, but I will indulge you on what was most interesting for me to read.

1. Colonization and dispossession

The history of colonial land dispossession began in 1652 at the Cape with the expansion of the Dutch colonial settlement established by Jan van Riebeeck on behalf of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). Initially, he was authorised to set up a refreshment station for the company’s ships, but with the need for a more sustainable source of meat and vegetable supply more land was required.

Land was then seized from the Khoi Khoi and the San to accommodate the growing number of settlers. When the mineral revolution exploded with the discovery of diamonds and gold it gave the colonial government more pressure to consolidate and entrench its rule. The British and Afrikaner landowners and industrialists set in motion a process that would consolidate their wealth, while excluding people of color through legislative means.

2. Why is this still a problem 20 year after democracy?

Colonization dates back to the 1600s, our country was only set free from colonial reign about 20 years ago, so let’s do the math here quickly, there has been oppression and struggle for hundreds of years and liberation only after two decades. It is no wonder we are still having these conversations. I often hear people say “we should let go of the past” but is it that simple? When the horrors of the past are still prevalent, rearing their ugly head often, reminding us that much has to be done and it begins by acknowledging that just “forgetting about it” is not enough. It is actually a dangerous trail of thought dismissing the feelings of a group of people who never had a choice in what happened to them and are desperately grappling with the effects of the past.

3. Why Land?

Natural land is important to South Africa’s significant ecotourism sector. Land is the crux of identity. It provides a sense of belonging, an attachment to a place that’s “home” and associated with their culture. It is also a means of generating wealth, a means of sustenance. If well managed this could be a solution to various lingering problems in our country, such as poverty, housing and unemployment.

4. Has land reform failed?

Yes, it has failed dismally, corruption has seeped in and has robbed what was meant to be a highly liberating moment. At this my heart breaks most.

5. The most interesting takeaways from the book

– The ownership of land is still telling of racial bias

The ANC’s struggle and challenges with running a country after so many years of political tension is an issue we do not discuss enough, I sympathize with the leaders of the struggle, we always pick holes at what they stand for now, but could it be that when you are on “survival mode” for so long you don’t have the luxury of sharpening other aspects of leadership. I know they’ve had time to advance on this

– Banks that are internationally owned still hold so much power in land ownership, so much in fact, that the country is still largely owned by international countries

– Women’s rights as it pertains to owning land

– The land of the Zulu kingdom

– The URGENT need for solutions


When I travel it always baffles me to see how much land some own and how much others struggle to acquire land for themselves. A large portion of our population is so wealthy, but little is done to bring wealth or help to those who are in dire poverty, and NO I don’t mean just money, but rather skill, a passing down of knowledge, it could be my wishful thinking but it would make a world of a difference if people could make a shift from a selfish thinking that says “you’re on your own and I’m going to continue busking in this generational wealth” to rather thinking, “how can I help you generate wealth for your family? And alleviate poverty” Most own various hectares of land but only allocate a small portion to their workers, the very people who are vital to sustain that wealth, we are a society that thrives in manufacturing lack. THIS IS A HORRIBLE MINDSET! The government in as much as it is a vital tool, is not going to help us, not at the pace it is going now anyway, which is disheartening to say the least. In my opinion, land expropriation without compensation is not the answer, as a country we are still largely dependent on farmers for food security, it also would be a dangerous path, seeing as though we have no working structures in place to move forward.

I still have a glimmer of hope that some resolve will be found.

If the majority of this country believes in God we must remember he is just.

God is just. It is part of His character, this means He is always just. He cannot be unjust, and He defines and sets the standard for justice.

“We hear that God is love and God is holy more often than we hear that God is just. And we may readily agree that God sets the standard for love and holiness, but do we understand that He also sets the standard for justice? Pursuing biblical justice means we follow God’s way to make right that which is wrong, and we look to Scripture to define what is “right”

~Shared Hope

“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”

Isaiah 1:17

All this to say this is an EXCEPTIONAL BOOK! BUY it, read it and pass it on start this conversation with solutions in mind, pray for SOLUTIONS!

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Life is Art