Letter from Hobeni, 26th November 2014


Mandela's cell, Robben Island

David Kenvyn in the library

I have been able to do some catching up with my reading recently.   There are two new books by old friends that I have no hesitation in recommending to anyone who is interested in South Africa, and especially in the period leading up to the release of Nelson Mandela.

The first is a novel by Mandla Langa called “The Texture of Shadows”.   It is the story of how a unit of the People’s Army infiltrates South Africa, is betrayed and of the disasters that follow.   The story is told as a report to the President by Chaplain Nerissa Rodriques, an intelligence officer of that army.  The second book, called “Insurgent Diplomat” is the story of the negotiations as seen through the eyes of one of the participants, Aziz Pahad, who was a key player in the events at that time.   For anyone who wishes to have an understanding of the demise of apartheid, these books are essential reading.

There are other books that I still have to read.   “External Mission” by Stephen Ellis is about the ANC in exile.   As someone who worked as a volunteer in the ANC Offices in London, I want to read this book.   Ruth Carneson, who was one of the ANC exiles in the UK and whose family were at the heart of the struggle, has just brought out her autobiography “Girl on the Edge”.   Stephanie Kemp, another of the exiles, is also about to publish her autobiography, and Denis Goldberg, who was tried alongside Mandela, is bringing his book “The Mission” up to date.

There is clearly going to be a lot to read and a lot to learn over the next few months, and I am looking forward to enjoying this challenge.

But that would not be possible if my parents and teachers had not made sure that I could read.   For that, children need to have access to books.   The Donald Woods Foundation (www.donaldwoodsfoundation.org), in Hobeni, has just put out an appeal for books.   I hope that people in South Africa will be incredibly generous, and that includes publishers and bookshops.   In the UK, Community HEART (www.community-heart.org.uk), set up by Denis Goldberg, has been running a book appeal for nearly 20 years, and circa 3,000,000 books have been sent to schools and libraries in South Africa.   More books are needed to help meet the demand so that children can learn to read.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation (www.nelsonmandela.org) is setting up pop-up libraries (think, mobile library) across the whole of South Africa.   But to do this they need books.   So send books via Community HEART or send money to buy books to any of the above.

Remember how we used to send Nelson Mandela Christmas cards when he was on Robben Island.   Send the children of South Africa a Christmas present, and help to teach them how to read


One thought on “Letter from Hobeni, 26th November 2014”

  1. David, I’m in Germany, and somehow all the symbols here speak to a time when we made things happen. Thank you so much for the positive comment on my book. Hope we’ll be able to induce you to emigrate to South Africa for more work on the reconstruction of our country. Salut. Mandla


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