Lwandhle Wilson Magadhla was a security and intelligence professional with a checkered history of service spanning more than 50 years. It is a history that straddles the eras of apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa with interesting twists.
In that lengthy service, Magadhla served in various roles in the African National Congress (ANC) and South African Police. Serving as head of special investigations for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was perhaps the apex of his career. In the process of all this, he won many recognitions and commendations, establishing himself as a professional par excellence.
Magadhla served in the apartheid police force yet never lost sight of the fact that the regime was illegitimate and oppressive. As a policeman and intelligence officer, he marvels at how he managed to survive in the turbulent years of the struggle for change in South Africa, even as he encountered cases of the Africans’ struggle against the racist regime.
In his long sojourn, Magadhla has worked with and alongside prominent South African personalities, including former President Nelson Mandela, Jacob Zuma, Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Bishop Desmon Tutu, among many others. His in-depth understanding of apartheid-era conflict established him as an authority on “black-on-black violence” that came in handy in the lead-up to the 1994 elections in that country.
This rich background, story-telling and writing abilities make his works interesting. Magadhla is a poet, storyteller and philosopher in his own right, attributes that find expression in upcoming works, including Philosophical Escapades, Dogs on Duty and other Stories and The Colour of the Skunk.
In Philosophical Escapades, we find such wisecracks as, “The cat’s eyes that lead your way along the highways at night will only reflect if your car lights are on.”
And perhaps informed by the experience of those that would protest black policemen serving in the apartheid police force, he remarks that “Some of the rocks and stones hurled at you by your critics and your foes may under a minute of scrutiny and to your surprise and delight, turn out to be gold nuggets.”
Never a person that feared tough situations, he writes on the subject of courage saying, “Cowards never see the splendour of the battlefield, nor do they ever feel the thrill of towering over a fallen foe, for they die fighting shadows in their minds.”
The triumph of freedom and the end of apartheid offered a chance for the writer to move into a formerly “whites-only” neighbourhood. Here he would jog in the mornings, a routine that appeared to ignore the chorus of barking dogs along his jogging route, an experience he writes about in Dogs on Duty, a story in the short stories collection. Other stories in the collection offer similar experiential tales with deep observations and scrupulous documenting.
The Colour of the Skunkis Magadhla’s landmark memoir and a chronicle of his experiences working for the government in apartheid South Africa. He takes the reader through specific experiences in serving the South African police in the dark days of apartheid. He offers a meticulous chronicle of many encounters while working in a force that was dominantly white. Considering that the force was intended to oppress people of his race, the tale offers very interesting twists.
In apartheid South Africa, everyone felt and experienced the effects of the illegitimate regime. It was an amorphous system driven by racial superiority, subjugation and submission. Yet if one asked another to put a finger on what apartheid was exactly, one would be left for words. In other words, like the smell of the skunk, one felt, lived and experienced the effects of the oppressive regime but could not easily put a clear finger on it.
Magadhla’s works will be available from Nsemia Inc. Publishers in December 2011.
September 30th, 2011 Update: It is with sadness that we announce the passing of one of our esteemed authors. Lwandle Magadhla passed away on September 2011. Our sincere condolences to his wife, children and entire family, including the people of South Africa. Regrettably, Mzee Magadhla passed away before we could release any of his works. Every effort is being made to release two of his works: The Colour of the Skunk and Philosophical Escapades. May he rest in eternal peace.