Lukhona Mnguni, Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh and Patrick Bond

The Time of the Writer 2018 went on at various venues in the seaside town of Durban, South Africa on Thursday March 15, 2018. Featuring at the literary festival this day were Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, Themba Qwabe, Patrick Bond, and Kirsten Miller.

What was one of the most fulfilling things was the festival focus on the younger members of the human race and the many opportunities for the guest writers to interact with them. This blogger would tag along with Lindiwe Mabuza to a school called Morningside Primary School to meet its writers club.

Lindiwe Mabuza is most famous to the South African population as the lady who represented them as an academic and diplomat in many different stations across the globe. What is less known about her is the work she did supporting the arts in all the stations and other positions that she represented her country. She was at this school to read from her children’s book Mbindi and Gogo.

Morningside Primary School is a private school that has been around for a long time having already clocked its centenary. The school even had a bunker built to hide when under attack during battles in the mid part of the 20th century. The students that we were encountering were the ones that had an interest with this whole writing thing and were probably between 6-11 years.

The morning started with a question and answer session and they came fast and furious like the movie. MaLindiwe had to answer questions about how she started writing, what inspired her to write, genres, and the like. Watching those private school kids and remembering that other kids in other less affluent areas we had encountered could barely speak in public startled me. I realised that these kids at Morningside were being properly trained to maintain the White Monopoly Capital status quo. The parents of the other kids need to increase the resources to the less affluent schools or these Morningside kids will be in charge very soon. And they won’t be playing games with the hand they had been given.

Lindiwe Mabuza reads to the children at the Morningside Primary School at Time of the Writer 2018
Lindiwe Mabuza reads to the children at the Morningside Primary School at Time of the Writer 2018

After the Q&A, MaLindiwe read her book about Mbindi and her grandma and how all manner of magical things happen in their home one day. That book was really gangster as it even featured weed which is not something you would really expect from a book for younger readers. Interestingly, these kids knew what weed was; in my day all I knew about was the days of the week Heman would hold aloft his magical sword.

The evening panels were at the Elizabeth Sneddon theatre as usual and the first of the panels was Themba Qwabe and Kirsten Miller with moderator James Murua. Qwabe is the writer of many forms of writing spanning fiction, poetry, folklore and more recently children’s fiction. Apart from the high-volume of work that he has produced, the only unique thing is that he has written all of it in the isiZulu language. At this festival his book of focus was Ukwemula Kukadadewethu which explains the rites of passage for a girl to a woman.

Kirsten Miller is less prolific partly because of a schedule running a school for children with autism but has still been able to produce All Is Fish, Sister Moon, and nonfiction book Children on the Bridge. She was at this festival to talk about her new book Hum of the Sun which first made the Wilbur Smith Adventure Award 2016 shortlist and then went on to win it.

The two bantered with their moderator about their opinions on the topic of “Culture Vs Modernity” before giving way to the next panel.

The second panel was probably the most anticipated if the South Africans we know are any indication as it focused on “Politics, Democracy and Activism.” On the panel would be Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh and Patrick Bond moderated by Lukhona Mnguni.

Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh is a musician and activist who was here on the strength of his nonfiction book Democracy & Delusion: 10 Myths in South African Politics. That book which has ten essays dealing with South African politics won the City Press Tafelberg Nonfiction Award. It is a bit special as it has an accompanying album of ten tracks dealing with the same issues in the book.

Patrick Bond born in Belfast, Northern Ireland is an academic and activist who has written nonfiction titles like BRICS An Anti-Capitalistic Critique, Durban’s Climate Gamble, Elite Transition, Politics of Climate Justice, and South Africa The Present as History.

The two activists were moderated by the excellent Lukhona Mnguni and they took us through the paces as we navigated the challenges of activism and democracy starting with President Nelson Mandela to the current hero President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The two unpeeled the superficial way some of us look at this Southern African country famous as the “rainbow nation” and I have to say it was depressing. The BRICS for instance had been touted as a game changer for the country but it was something more sinister as jobs had been lost locally. The moves by the administration were even bad for the environment now and for the future. Even health conscious Cyril Ramaphosa and his walking on beach promenades wasn’t a solution to the problems of that country and the larger continent. It was sobering.

Hey, at least Sizwe rapped.