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South Africa

South Africa Book List

Cover of 'The Idea of the ANC'

The Idea of the ANC
By Anthony Butler

The African National Congress (ANC) is Africa’s most famous liberation movement. It has recently celebrated its centenary, a milestone that has prompted partisans to detail a century of unparalleled achievement in the struggle against colonialism and racial discrimination. Critics paint a less flattering portrait of the historical ANC as a communist puppet, a moribund dinosaur, or an elitist political parasite.

Winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize
Cover of 'Thirteen Cents'

Thirteen Cents
A Novel
By K. Sello Duiker
· Introduction by Shaun Viljoen

Every city has an unspoken side. Cape Town, between the picture postcard mountain and sea, has its own shadow: a place of dislocation and uncertainty, dependence and desperation, destruction and survival, gangsters, pimps, pedophiles, hunger, hope, and moments of happiness.

Cover of 'The ANC Youth League'

The ANC Youth League
By Clive Glaser

This brilliant little book tells the story of the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League from its origins in the 1940s to the present and the controversies over Julius Malema and his influence in contemporary youth politics. Glaser analyzes the ideology and tactics of its founders, some of whom (notably Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo) later became iconic figures in South African history as well as inspirational figures such as A. P. Mda (father of author Zakes Mda) and Anton Lembede.

Cover of 'Govan Mbeki'

Govan Mbeki
By Colin Bundy

Govan Mbeki (1910–2001) was a core leader of the African National Congress, the Communist Party, and the armed wing of the ANC during the struggle against apartheid. Known as a hard-liner, Mbeki was a prolific writer and combined in a rare way the attributes of intellectual and activist, political theorist and practitioner.

Cover of 'Ingrid Jonker'

Ingrid Jonker
Poet under Apartheid
By Louise Viljoen

Nelson Mandela brought the poetry of Ingrid Jonker to the attention of South Africa and the wider world when he read her poem “Die kind” (The Child) at the opening of South Africa’s first democratic parliament on May 24, 1994. Though Jonker was already a significant figure in South African literary circles, Mandela’s reference contributed to a revival of interest in Jonker and her work that continues to this day.

Cover of 'San Rock Art'

San Rock Art
By J.D. Lewis-Williams

San rock paintings, scattered over the range of southern Africa, are considered by many to be the very earliest examples of representational art. There are as many as 15,000 known rock art sites, created over the course of thousands of years up until the nineteenth century. There are possibly just as many still awaiting discovery.

Cover of 'Epidemics'

Epidemics
The Story of South Africa’s Five Most Lethal Human Diseases
By Howard Phillips

This is the first history of epidemics in South Africa, lethal episodes that shaped this society over three centuries. Focusing on five devastating diseases between 1713 and today—smallpox, bubonic plague, “Spanish influenza,” polio, and HIV/AIDS—the book probes their origins, their catastrophic courses, and their consequences.

Cover of 'South Africa’s Struggle for Human Rights'

South Africa’s Struggle for Human Rights
By Saul Dubow

The human rights movement in South Africa’s transition to a postapartheid democracy has been widely celebrated as a triumph for global human rights. It was a key aspect of the political transition, often referred to as a miracle, which brought majority rule and democracy to South Africa. The country’s new constitution, its Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the moral authority of Nelson Mandela stand as exemplary proof of this achievement.

Cover of 'Spear of the Nation: Umkhonto weSizwe'

Spear of the Nation: Umkhonto weSizwe
South Africa’s Liberation Army, 1960s–1990s
By Janet Cherry

Umkhonto weSizwe, Spear of the Nation, was arguably the last of the great liberation armies of the twentieth century—but it never got to “march triumphant into Pretoria.” MK—as it was known—was the armed wing of the African National Congress, South Africa’s liberation movement, that challenged the South African apartheid government.

Cover of 'Steve Biko'

Steve Biko
By Lindy Wilson

Steve Biko inspired a generation of black South Africans to claim their true identity and refuse to be a part of their own oppression. Through his example, he demonstrated fearlessness and self-esteem, and he led a black student movement countrywide that challenged and thwarted the culture of fear perpetuated by the apartheid regime. He paid the highest price with his life. The brutal circumstances of his death shocked the world and helped isolate his oppressors.

Cover of 'Paper Sons and Daughters'

Paper Sons and Daughters
Growing up Chinese in South Africa
By Ufrieda Ho

Ufrieda Ho’s compelling memoir describes with intimate detail what it was like to come of age in the marginalized Chinese community of Johannesburg during the apartheid era of the 1970s and 1980s. The Chinese were mostly ignored, as Ho describes it, relegated to certain neighborhoods and certain jobs, living in a kind of gray zone between the blacks and the whites. As long as they adhered to these rules, they were left alone.

An allAfrica.com 2011 New & Notable Book
Cover of 'The Anatomy of a South African Genocide'

The Anatomy of a South African Genocide
The Extermination of the Cape San Peoples
By Mohamed Adhikari

In 1998 David Kruiper, the leader of the ‡Khomani San who today live in the Kalahari Desert in South Africa, lamented, “We have been made into nothing.” His comment applies equally to the fate of all the hunter-gatherer societies of the Cape Colony who were destroyed by the impact of European colonialism. Until relatively recently, the extermination of the Cape San peoples has been treated as little more than a footnote to South African narratives of colonial conquest.

A Choice “Outstanding Academic Title”
Cover of 'The Law and the Prophets'

The Law and the Prophets
Black Consciousness in South Africa, 1968–1977
By Daniel Magaziner

“No nation can win a battle without faith,” Steve Biko wrote, and as Daniel R. Magaziner demonstrates in The Law and the Prophets, the combination of ideological and theological exploration proved a potent force. The 1970s are a decade virtually lost to South African historiography. This span of years bridged the banning and exile of the country’s best-known antiapartheid leaders in the early 1960s and the furious protests that erupted after the Soweto uprisings of June 16, 1976.

Cover of 'The Uncoiling Python'

The Uncoiling Python
South African Storytellers and Resistance
By Harold Scheub

There are many collections of African oral traditions, but few as carefully organized as The Uncoiling Python. Harold Scheub, one of the world’s leading scholars of African oral traditions and folklore, explores the ways in which oral traditions have served to combat and subvert colonial domination in South Africa.

Cover of 'Land, Memory, Reconstruction, and Justice'

Land, Memory, Reconstruction, and Justice
Perspectives on Land Claims in South Africa
By Cherryl Walker, Anna Bohlin, Ruth Hall, and Thembela Kepe

Land is a significant and controversial topic in South Africa. Addressing the land claims of those dispossessed in the past has proved to be a demanding, multidimensional process. In many respects the land restitution program that was launched as part of the county’s transition to democracy in 1994 has failed to meet expectations, with ordinary citizens, policymakers, and analysts questioning not only its progress but also its outcomes and parameters.