South Africa is a multicultural country with a complicated history of tribalism, colonialism, apartheid, and eventual democracy. Through the centuries, the country underwent many political changes, and along with those changes, came new challenges.
The country currently finds itself in crisis, as decades of corruption, crime, and neglect have created an economic meltdown. To understand the sociopolitical issues at play behind the economic turmoil, I’d like to recommend three books which provide brief insight into South Africa’s past.
‘Shades’ by Marguerite Poland
This novel starkly juxtaposes the cultural and spiritual differences between indigenous Africans and invading British colonists. The story unfolds through tragedy – the death of a young South African boy. As the narrative progresses, light is shed on the factors which led up to Sonwabu’s untimely and unnatural death. Each character’s personal involvement (directly or indirectly) reveals the collective responsibility for the welfare of a community.
‘Long Walk to Freedom’ by Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela’s account of the liberation struggle testifies to the inhumanity and indignity of apartheid in South Africa. As one of the leaders of the ANC, Mandela’s autobiography provides firsthand insight into the politics of the country, and the ramifications it had on his personal life. In this book, Mandela’s vision, beliefs, and values are explained, as well as South Africa’s history with racism.
‘Born a Crime’ by Trevor Noah
Using wit and humour, in true Trevor Noah style, this autobiography provides an entertaining yet also educational story about South Africa’s past crimes related to racial segregation. Additionally, Noah touches on other important issues facing South Africans by including his mother’s experience with domestic violence into his story. In this book, the reader is acquainted with Noah’s serious side, as he details the prejudices faced by mixed race and black children in apartheid South Africa.