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Kgebetli Moele

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Our Way Back Home

Way Back Home

Writing about the things that affect us directly like crime and state corruption – in a country as beautiful as ours, a nation as diverse as ours, as wealthy as ours and still as poor as ours – it is a thin line where the boundaries blurs. Because if one were to ask the question: what is really the meaning of corruption in this beautiful-diverse-wealthy-poor nation; is it the four hundred or so years old foreign pilfering of this beautiful country’s resources or is it the Arms Deal? Your answer will define on which side of the DSA (Democratic South Africa) you are sitting and what colour you are.

Somebody asked a question; how does one rebuild a nation that is a modern-day, twenty-first century designer mansion with a heated pool, a landscape garden, a bar, a twenty-seat cinema and a driveway, at the back is connected to an RDP house with a stolen double door ice dispenser fridge and a flatscreen TV and a shack with no running water, toilet and electricity? The simple cash answer he got was, ‘lose the RDP and the Shack.’

That was a simple way of looking at it, but the question was metaphorical and not about the designer mansion with RDP and a shack but about a nation like ours; colonialism, apartheid and democracy. How do you rebuild such a nation as ours?

In Way Back Home, Niq Mhlongo testifies that fact that we are still a long, long way from home, navigating our way in the pitch dark sea with and without any navigation tools, our vessel: a twenty-years-old, three quarters fifteenth-century vessel and one quarter twenty-first-century vessel, the DSA. And depending on which side of this vessel you are sitting, corruption has a different meaning altogether.

Kimati bears on him the future of this beautiful nation of ours, the hopes and the dreams of the poor masses, those that have accepted to be described in ‘political terms’ as the poorest of the poor. They will go wild at any political gathering. The poorest of the poor who will die for the ruling party, needlessly.

Mhlongo presents us another life of the former guerrilla solders that somehow found themselves serving for the salvation of these ‘poorest of the poor’ masses and there we see that somehow it was never about freeing the ‘poorest of the poor’ masses but it was about the personal need to survive against all odds.

The failure of the corruption to flourish in this book was a misrepresentation on part of Mhlongo. Why didn’t Mandulo Construction win the multibillion tender because Corruption as a human being is more calculating, manipulative and defensive than, say, Love as a human being which is more emotional and fragile, and almost defenseless.

These pasts and the present come into play – to correct our future? – ultimately what the individual’s reasons for being in a struggle for freedom are always superseded by the will to live and this was the reason why Lady Comrade Mkabayi died because Comrade Pilate forgot the common goals of the movement.

This is not as much a story of corruption because the corruption that is here is not the multimillion-rand corruption that we all know so well because in this life Kimithi and his company loses the multimillion-rand tender that he had celebrated before winning.

“all we ask of you is to bring your very sharp knife, not a sickle. The fat cow has finally fallen and we don’t want you to complain later when you only see its horns and skin. We are the ones who know the secret jungle where this fat cow is but we require your expertise in skinning beasts. That’s all”.

This is far away from our lived daily reality and truth because from whichever side of this DSA, corruption will remain corruption.

The real story here is the story of a soul – a soul that is lost and needs rest – and Black DSA passengers – disenfranchised people seeking to be people. The former is lorded over by Comrade Pilate and the latter by Kimithi; a position that he uses not for the purposes of the common goals of the ‘poorest of the poor’ but for personal fulfilment. Then, and now Kimithi is lording over this nation and not for the visions and dreams of the nation but for his personal gain. This is where Justice comes in and this Justice is not Justice Mogoeng and unlike him who has vested personal interest; this Justice is supernatural engrossed in Justice for Justice’s sake.

This is how Mhlongo answers and suggest that our way back home has to be navigated by the supernatural; and looking at our current state of being, one can’t help but pray for the supernatural. As Africans, we have all sung that song for decades:

         If you believe and I believe

         and we together pray

         the Holy Spirit must come down

         and Africa will be saved

Our hope in the supernatural, it has always been our last hope and we know it all too well: The ANC will rule until Jesus comes back. And He has indeed come back.

Laced in between our way back home is the greatness, the strangeness and the contradiction of modern day life, the extreme luxury against the extreme poverty, the false in search of the truth.

“Niq Mhlongo comes of age.” Yes I do agree, Way Back Home is in class above After Tears.

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