Biography clings too much to privacy

2012-02-04 12:03

He is well known for having served the longest time as president of the now troubled National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry(Nafcoc), which was successful under his tenure.

He comes from a family that was able to own land during a time when this was unheard of for black families in South Africa. He is passionate about agriculture and the essential role that land plays in economic development.

He was instrumental in the formation and success of the Citrus Project of the Winterveld United Farmers’ Association, which harvests close to 10 tons of oranges a year, providing incredible opportunities for the local population.

He also served as the first ambassador of South Africa to the Gulf States during Nelson Mandela’s presidency.

However, Dr Sam Motsuenyane’s biography doesn’t read like a simple business rags-to-riches tale. He is clearly reluctant to mention his wealth and hardly refers to it in this book.

He begins by introducing himself by way of his ancestors and reveals the difficulties that his early years entailed – his interrupted schooling due to the nomadic nature of his father’s work. Mostuenyane’s father had a strong work ethic, deeply religious beliefs and a prayerful, teetotal lifestyle.

These traits were passed on to him. He struggled to complete high school due to financial constraints, and had to work and
study part time.

Biographies are popular because people like to know the real story behind the lives of those they admire. Autobiographies can be frustrating to read if one gets a sense that the subject is not revealing everything to the reader.

One would suppose that it is up to the author to tell his life story the way in which he sees fit. We don’t get a lot of insight into Motsuenyane’s family life, a point that perhaps speaks to a desire to keep a level of privacy that we no longer really respect.

A Testament of Hope is peppered with anecdotes that are concluded with “the moral of the story”.

One such anecdote tells the story of a young girl who is asleep at her Transkei home. A calf starts to lick her legs and instead of shooing it away, she cries into her blanket, weeping that the calf is eating her. Motsuenyane muses that one doesn’t deal with a problem by ignoring it or crying over it; one needs to face the problem head-on.

A Testament of Hope has its share of inspiration and Motsuenyane is most certainly the kind of leader on who more young people should model themselves: humble, upright, hard-working and not at all boastful about his achievements.

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