Thursday, May 17, 2018

Brutal Legacy

In some ways, my innocence was shattered when I saw Tracy Going’s battered face splashed across the newspapers in the late 90s. I was in primary school at the time, and Tracy was a familiar face. I had watched her programmes and was fond of her bubbly, yet credible personality.

Having grown up in a household where domestic violence was not a reality, it was the first time that I was made aware that it actually happened and that the victims could be people I know. I remember finding it unbelievable that a successful, famous woman on TV could be assaulted, let alone by her partner.

That moment has stayed with me for years, and I have often wondered what happened to her after she retired from her media career. This book answers all those questions as it delves into that dark time and the years that followed. Tracy writes about her attempt to seek justice and put her life back together.

She delves into her childhood, where she first experienced abuse and explains how, and despite vowing that she would never be a victim of abuse, she found herself on the receiving end of kicks and punches as an adult.

This important book comes at a time when most of us are doing some introspection about gender-based violence and patriarchy. Like Redi Tlhabi’s Khwezi, this book is critical of the justice system in South Africa and shows how our courtrooms often become a place to belittle and humiliate female victims, even when the evidence against perpetrators of violence is abundant.

This book is beautifully written. Tracy is as eloquent on paper as she is on television and radio. It is incredibly thought-provoking and one of my favourite books of the year. I do hope she will write another.

Brutal Legacy by Tracy Going (MF Books Joburg, 2018)

Monday, May 14, 2018

Yes, Really!

I ended up reading Kate Turkington’s new book ‘Yes, Really! – A Life’ by accident. It was on a table, I picked it up, and before I knew it, I was 100 pages in.

I have always been aware of Kate Turkington, the legendary radio personality and keen traveller, but I didn’t know much about her very interesting life. From the get-go, I was struck by the way she embraces adventure and her innate fearlessness. It is admirable.

It’s an unusual memoir. The book is quite fragmented and reads like an afternoon tea conversation with Kate, as she follows the various tangents her memory sends her on.  The stories are woven together with the type of wit that only an octogenarian can muster. She pieces together bits of her childhood, her travels and her romances and, I must warn you, very few details are spared.

I got to the end of the book, which has an unexpected twist, and found myself wishing that she had split it into two books – one about her life, family and relationships, and another about her adventurous travels. 

If you absolutely adore Kate or enjoy a good adventure, you’ll probably derive some pleasure from this book.

Yes, Really! – A Life by Kate Turkington (Tafelberg Publishers, 2018)

Friday, October 13, 2017


When I first caught word that radio broadcaster and journalist Redi Tlhabi was working on a book about Khwezi, I genuinely asked, "Who?" 'Khwezi' was the pseudonym given to Fezekile Kuzwayo - the woman who was brave enough to press rape charges against the then former Deputy President Jacob Zuma. It is hard to believe that it has been 11 years since the conclusion of that trial.

The fact that I, like many people around the world, had forgotten about Khwezi was one of Tlhabi's key motivations to write the book. Though many of us believed her, she was vilified by the majority of the country and forced into exile as Zuma was acquitted, paving the way for him to become the president of the country. Unfortunately, Fezekile never lived to see her name reclaimed. She died around this time last year as Tlhabi was working on this book.

The book is more than a recap of the rape trial. And though she introduces us to Fezekile and contextualises her life, it isn't a biography, though Tlhabi does her best to give us a well-rounded view of who Fezekile was - flaws and all. If anything, Tlhabi uses the book to put us on trial as a society, exploring a baffling culture that not only creates and maintains a status quo where abuse and violence against women can flourish but also rewards it by effectively co-signing a two-term presidency. She looks at the historical and contemporary factors that created a situation where we could be okay with a man forcing himself on his close friend's daughter.

Though Zuma was the defendant, Tlhabi highlights that it was, in fact, Fezekile who was on trial as details of her sexual history were used to portray her as a 'loose woman' in a situation where she wouldn't have had any political or cultural power.

Her analytical narrative is chilling. At times it reads like a blockbuster thriller, as Tlhabi sheds lights on the sinister forces that were at play throughout the trial. I made the mistake of reading it while I was in bed with flu and had to put it down at times because it made me feel physically worse. If you have no idea what people mean when they talk about toxic patriarchy, then you need to read this book.

Tlhabi's account of the trial and its aftermath is long-form narrative journalism at its best. I didn't think she could top her award-winning debut Endings & Beginnings - but she has. The book has been an instant bestseller, garnering an unprecedented amount of well-deserved acclaim and interest, and is one of my most important reads of the year.

Khwezi by Redi Tlhabi (Jonathan Ball, 2017)