Good Morning Mr Mandela, by Zelda la Grange, is a memoir by Nelson Mandela’s long serving and loyal assistant.  Zelda takes you on her journey with Nelson Mandela, starting when she was in her early twenties, as a typist in the Presidential office, from first meeting  President Mandela, until she became a trusted assistant.  She tells how she came from a typical conservative Afrikaaner, if not racist background, where her parents and people like her parents considered the likes of Mandela communists and terrorists, people to be afraid of. She takes you on their travels around the world and shares her insights about a great man.  It is a uniquely South African story – where in the world, except South Africa, would a man imprisoned for nearly thirty years, upon his release and becoming President, employ “the enemy” (figuratively speaking).   Nelson Mandela wanted a non racial South Africa and he set the example, which this books shows. Not that race relations are perfect in South Africa, but things would have been so much worse if it hand’t been for Nelson Mandela.

After I’d finished Zelda’s book, I went straight onto another South African book, but wow, what a crazy and thrilling story it was.  3rd world child   Some years ago I read a book called My Traitors Heart by Rian Malan, an intriguing book about an Afrikaans journalist trying to come tor grips with his heritage and the role his ancestors played in apartheid. Towards the end of the book, he writes a bout a man called Neil Alcock, a man who ended up in one of the most desolate, barren and violent places in South Africa, if not Africa.  A white English speaking South African who spoke fluent Zulu and who brought up his two sons in Msinga in Kwa – Zulu Natal.  Neil Alcock and his wife Creina fought for the rights of the locals, people who had no voice and often suffered from the brutalities of the white farmers and the police. They lived like the Zulus, among the Zulus, and as such that is how their boys grew up.  Not only did the Zulus in the area suffer because of apartheid, but Msinga was arid and almost barren, and they fought among themselves, with tribal violence often flaring up, because certain groups often had scores and vendettas to settle.  After all the Zulus are a warrior like nation, and the honorable way to settle arguments was (is) in battle.  Neil Alcock ultimately paid the price with his life, he was trying to make peace, but he made enemies for that, as often happens with such men, sadly.  GG, Neil Alcock’s oldest son takes you on a thrilling ride of his life, from his boyhood growing up in the Msinga bush in the 1980’s, from boarding school and dealing with racist classmates, then the army and onto his young adult years and making his mark in the world.  It might sound crazy, but if you live in South Africa, you’ll know that just this sort of story is more than possible.  Who needs fiction, when you’ve got a true story like this?!  I have camped near Msinga, at a farm called Darkest Africa, and it is indeed a captivating part of the country. During the times I camped there, I knew nothing of the turbulent past of the area, after all, I guess I come from a more safe and cocooned life, almost tame in some ways, and have not experienced violence on the level GG Alcock has. A few years later, I read of Darkest Africa in My Traitors Heart, and all I could think of is, my word, I am a naive little cookie when it comes to the ways of the world.  What occurred to me while I was reading Third World Child, and I grew up in a sheltered “white” life – similar to that of Zelda la Grage, is that you have the Alcocks – a white family, who in the early eighties, move to a predominantly Zulu area and are for the most part accepted by the Zulus as their own – but yet it would have been nigh impossible for a Zulu family to move into a white neighborhood during that time, and be accepted as part of the neighborhood family.  What more can I say?  It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

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