This read was a journey for me. It wasn’t a book I would normally read and it certainly showed in the time it took me to get through it. I think my sister and I first mentioned receiving these books about 4 months ago – they came at a time our excitement for new reads was high but time for the reads was a challenge because of the increasing load at work. So, this book has been my longest read but also my most challenging because it was one of those eye-opener books.
I’m one of those people who sort of hear what is going on and happening politically but I wouldn’t consider myself a political-brain / guru. I watch the news, hear what’s happening, keep in the loop on social media happenings, etc. Dikgang Moseneke, for me, is not a name I heard regularly in the news nor one I paid attention to. I’ve learnt much from this read – there are many who have played a role leading to ending apartheid, post 1994 and what SA is now. Dikgang gives us a story of perseverance in trying times, integrity, love for humanity and his journey to freedom.
“As we disembarked, a prison warder shouted, ‘Welcome to New Lock!’ in a distinctly unfriendly and sarcastic voice. We had stayed in prison during the course of the trial, but this was different. Now we were entering the ultra-maximum-security section, the same place where judicial executions took place. My heart raced, although unduly. None of us had been committed to death.”
I remember my teenage years (though now they seem a distant memory) and my biggest concern was what I’d wear on civvies or if my holidays would be as eventful as my friends’ holidays.
Dikgang on the other hand, has just entered his teens – has seen and felt racial discrimination on him and on his fellow brothers & sisters – and has been incarcerated. A whole ten years on Robben island. Most would feel sorry for themselves, give up the fight and get through the ten years uneventfully. Scrawny and just surviving on the poor diet, Dikgang leans on his fellow comrades for support and is focused on getting a proper education.
Dikgang mentions many comrades who fought for freedom, some were exiled but continued the struggle, shaping the mindsets of many. Some of those mentioned became Ministers, some went up the ranks in various fields and are thought leaders in their respective areas.
Among the facets of Dikgang shown by him in his book is that of a family man. He had a loving relationship with his parents, grandparents (both maternal & paternal) and his siblings – whom he grew closer to once he was released from prison.
Even after his release, many restrictions are placed on Dikgang – being under house arrest on weekends, after 6pm daily and not meeting with more than one person at any given time – even with family. It was at this time that he met his life partner – Kabonina (whom he lovingly called Kabo). Dating with all the freedom in the world is hard enough, how much more when you, as the lady being courted, have to visit the boy’s home to pursue your love interest.
Dikgang’s integrity and early involvement in the struggle made his law career an obvious choice. His dedication, experience of unfairness (making it easy for him to act fairly), love for people and his empathy gave him the drive and patience to want more – aiding him to grow in the ranks of the judiciary.
In the beginning, I mentioned the journey this book took me on. I have watched movies & documentaries on the apartheid era but the way that Dikgang talks of the experiences felt like a conversation between him and the reader. The emotions the book took me on – anger (a lot of it), empathy, joy (when he overcame and succeeded).
Nelson Mandela, affectionately known as Tata – a worldwide icon of freedom and fairness, was fond of Dikgang and had much faith in him and his abilities. Besides Mandela, Dikgang crossed paths with many in the struggle – as comrades, friends, clients in the court room and some just providing legal advice. Throughout the read, the constant was love for his family, passion for his profession and respect for those who fought alongside him in the struggle.
It is often said that ignorance is bliss, but is it? I don’t know much about the happenings of the apartheid times and I guess a part of me didn’t give it much thought because my now is free. Going back in time is never all good or all bad but through this read I have gained some understanding of who has played a part in making SA a freer place.
This is definitely a bucket list kind of read. It’s well written and is filled with such emotion and life lessons. It’s in my top 5 reads so far!