The link below is to a book review of ‘All the Wild Hungers – A Season of Cooking and Cancer,’ by Karen Babine.
The argument has dragged on long enough about who should take the credit for bringing South Africa’s apartheid regime to an end. Of course, some will immediately respond by saying that apartheid has not yet been defeated – it still lives on in innumerable ways. But at least the regime that promulgated the legislation and promoted the ideology has been defeated, whatever remnants remain.
So who, in fact, brought that regime to its knees? There is probably no single, or simple, answer. But one of the groups that certainly played a role was the faith community. Christian leaders like Beyers Naudé, Desmond Tutu and Allan Boesak, played a very significant role in fighting apartheid.
The flip side, though, is that some churches actively supported apartheid. Others, meanwhile, remained silent when they should have spoken out.
Still, the struggle of some churches – leaders and congregants – against apartheid was both profoundly non-racial and ecumenical. While black voices were predominant, white voices of protest and resistance could also be heard and observed. And while a large number were Methodists, as was Nelson Mandela himself, nobody involved in the church struggle was bothered about denominational affiliation or loyalty.
This, I suggest, is the framework within which to read Peter Storey’s very readable, absorbing, and at times, as the title suggests, provocative book, I Beg to Differ: Ministry Amidst Teargas. Storey, who eventually became the Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church as well as president of the South African Council of Churches, was one of the white church leaders who played a very important role in the church struggle against apartheid.
Who was Storey, what shaped his convictions, and what role did he play, are naturally questions we might ask. And we should ask them, not only out of interest, but in order to understand better how Christian moral and political convictions are nurtured. How did a young white South African brought up under apartheid, educated in a segregated school (all were), and an officer in the South African navy, become a leading opponent of the system?
Also, how did he maintain his faith and hope through many a crisis and challenge, often caught between different factions, and sometimes sidelined. How did he learn to say:
I beg to differ!
An autobiography often resembles an iceberg. We are introduced to what is on the surface, but we don’t always get to see what is beneath. Storey’s narrative certainly presents a public face: the face of a leader, a man of Christian conviction, compassion and commitment. He also takes his reader below that persona to his early upbringing as a son of the manse (his father was also a minister), and later as the devoted husband of Elizabeth – a remarkable person in her own right, and to whom his book is dedicated – and the father of four sons, some of whom followed him into the ministry.
Storey also writes about his personal struggles which are inevitably part of the life of a leader committed to truth. We also discover his interest in making furniture and his interest in sailing. I can speak about this from personal experience. Under his captaincy and along with Elizabeth, my wife and I successfully sailed off the Cape Town coast on a stormy afternoon in what seemed to us a rather small craft for such an occasion. But that is a parable of Storey’s leadership, steering a sometimes threatened ark through choppy seas, and doing so with a firm hand on the rudder.
Back to his public face, which perhaps first came to prominence when he became a student leader at Rhodes University, gaining a little notoriety in the process. Then as minister of the Methodist church in Cape Town’s District Six, where he was in the forefront of opposition to the shameful forced removals by the apartheid regime that reduced a vibrant community to a vacant, ghostly plot of land.
Next as a minister in Johannesburg, first in Braamfontein and then at the Central Methodist Mission in the heart of the city. Storey left a large imprint in all these places and contexts.
He spent some of his retirement years as a professor in the US teaching many an aspiring minister. On his return to South Africa he played a leading role in establishing the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary in Pietermaritzburg.
There is so much more that could be said about Storey’s life and witness, from his brave participation in many a protest march, to his courageous standing up for the truth during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process.
Not all will necessarily agree with him on all he said. I had a few quibbles here and there, but Storey always allowed others to differ just as he begged to do so himself. That is, after all, at the heart if democracy. So anyone interested in the role of the church not just in the struggle against apartheid, but also in the struggle to build a transformed democratic society, should take up this book and read. You won’t be disappointed.
I Beg to Differ: Ministry Amidst Teargas ,Cape Town: Tafelberg._
Penguin Books has released two books by Zimbabwean journalists in time to celebrate the first anniversary of the coup that finally put Robert Mugabe’s ruinous reign to an end. These are Ray Ndlovu’s In the Jaws of the Crocodile: Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Rise to Power in Zimbabwe and The Graceless Fall of Robert Mugabe: The End of a Dictator’s Reign by Geoffrey Nyarota.
The books, about the end of Mugabe’s nearly four decades of ruling Zimbabwe, arrive at a time when journalists have to constantly rush to beat tweets and Facebook posts. This haste can work against their claim to be offering something closer to truth’s complexities than can be rendered in 280 characters.
At the time of the coup the international community, the long-suffering urban unemployed and rural peasants, and the business players itching to embrace the graces of a régime “open for business”, hoped that a long-delayed nirvana was just over the horizon.
That vista remains distant: if there was a rainbow – President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised Zimbabwean whites their place back in Zanu-PF’s good books – the pot of gold keeps receding. The long lines of fuel-starved vehicles indicated more about the first birthday of Zimbabwe’s “Second Republic” than Zanu-PF’s comparatively muted celebrations.
‘Queuing after the coup’ seemed an alliteration appropriate to this review of the two books, neither of which does justice to the enormity both of events in Zimbabwe as well as the sheer scale of what’s required to rebuild the country.
‘Romancing the coup’ could also characterise such tales. Ndlovu’s chronicle of Mnangagwa’s adventures bears the hallmarks of a roller-coaster thriller. In the Jaws excurses excitedly through “The Crocodile’s” firing from the vice-presidency, forced exile and escape, his Pretoria-based saviour, corrupt police (contrasted with brave soldier-saints), and his triumphant return to the treasures surely to follow his presidential inauguration.
Nyarota’s more sober historical take characterises former First Lady Grace Mugabe as someone whose treasure map bore little relation to the route she and her fellow plotters in “Generation-40” – the faction conniving to rid their party and country of “Lacoste” (a play on Mnangagwa’s nickname) group – took when they persuaded then President Mugabe to fire his longtime lackey.
Could military commander Constantino Chiwenga save the day and grab the treasure? Now a Vice-President, many credit Chiwenga with organising the “militarily assisted transition” allowing Mnangagwa to cross the river. In The Jaws celebrates the bromance between Chiwenga and Mnangagwa. But circumspection regarding such claims is cautioned.
The real gold lies under Zimbabwe’s putrid piles of economic ruin. Thus hopes are pinned on Mthuli Ncube, Zimbabwe’s new finance minister. These hopes are tied tightly to Zanu-PF’s factional fights for pieces of a Zimbabwean pie as ethereal as the electronic “money” used in the absence of real currency.
Ncube’s fantastical neo-liberal solutions are eerily reminiscent of the economic structural adjustment policies that during the 1990s’ precipitated Zimbabwe’s nosedive. Even the International Monetary Fund had to restrain Ncube’s exuberant “Austerity for Prosperity” plans. Matched with the ruling party’s scrambles and the poor’s impatience, roiling ensues.
Keynesians and neo-liberals alike have little to which they can look forward, although the Confederation of Zimbabwean Industry proclaims that industrial capacity rose by 5% in early 2018. Yet just after mid-year, the little electoral legitimacy on which the global citadels of finance and investment banked slid away. The military killed at least six demonstrators while, as many say, its intelligence corps took over counting the election’s votes.
Neither of the two books portend much of the coup’s consequences. They improve on an unhappy catalogue of books on Zimbabwean politics. But the bar is low. The best that can be said of them is that they are good in parts.
Map still missing
Nyarota’s enthusiasm for the new régime is muted, but he’s very happy to see the back of Mugabe and his unruly wife.
Graceless is more about their drawn-out fall than the coup per se. The elder Nyarota’s world-weary schadenfreude contrasts vividly with Ndlovu’s youthful exuberance. Nyarota’s historical depth, if meandering, gives necessary context to last year’s events. His insight into the near-coups in the 1970s that Ndlovu misses completely – when not misconstruing history – are valuable indeed.
Graceless has no interviews: Mugabe’s minders refused Nyarota’s requests. Yet Ndlovu’s one-on-ones are mostly with the victors.
Of course, purported “Generation-40” leader and former cabinet minister Jonathan Moyo’s unstoppable stream of tweets and interviews from wherever resides his physical self, features prominently. But since they are accessible to anyone with internet they need deconstruction, not replication.
One would expect journalists to criticise Moyo’s nefarious role in his information portfolio (and many others). The elder and the younger don’t disappoint. Unsurprisingly, when the born-again constitutionalist Moyo was interviewed recently he judged Ndlovu’s work as a hagiography for Mnangagwa. Unfortunately, Nyarota’s unpacking of Moyo’s past looks too much like Wikipedia to satisfy.
Moyo’s criticism of In the Jaws goes too far. But both books suggest more questions than answers. Even given publishers’ and the media rushes to keep up with insubstantial and fake news circulating via billions of clicks, this is not enough. Zimbabwe’s treasures haven’t been dug up yet, and these journalists-cum-authors haven’t drawn the map.