History in your pocket

2015-02-08 15:00

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

In an age of freely available information online, there’s something reassuring about these beautiful 160-page Jacana pocket books. They tell complete stories and provide insight and interpretation that’s worth paying for.

One simply engages more completely with the information when it’s in print like this.

The latest of these books offer brief looks at some of the most influential African leaders of the 20th century, perhaps the most poignant being Chris Hani. Much like two other titles in the recent releases – about Patrice Lumumba and Thomas Sankara – Hani’s life and work were cut short by those who despised socialism and the idea of Africans taking charge of their own destinies for the greater good.

Reading about Sankara and Lumumba, speculation can only increase: what would the continent have looked like had leaders such as these been allowed to introduce, develop and sustain the social and political changes they dreamt of? They believed in an Africa that could be self-sustaining, prosperous and egalitarian – in short, an Africa that would threaten postcolonial elite and foreign interests.

Sankara turned down foreign aid, planned to plant millions of trees to fight desertification, wanted to double Burkina Faso’s food output and had ambitious nationalisation plans. He was also far ahead of most of the world’s rulers (never mind Africa’s) when it came to the rights of women. Both he and Lumumba’s grand African visions were murderously cut short by foreign and elite interests who chose the prospect of self-centred dictators willing to maintain the status quo and the subjugation of the masses over anything that might see poor Africans “getting ahead of their station”.

The fourth book, about Emperor Haile Selassie, is about the extreme reverse: here was a man who had all the time in the world to try out any number of social plans and ideas – Selassie ruled Ethiopia in some form or the other from 1916 to 1974.

But for all his brilliance and the intermittent good he achieved, he became an object lesson in what inevitably seems to happen when any ruler stays in power too long – runaway corruption in his government eventually led to a military coup.

Fortunately, none of these books offers one-dimensional hagiographies of their subjects and their authors are carefully chosen. The writers know that these were good men who had their flaws.

In some ways they have become myths, idolised by other Africans who dream of what might have been. As a result, the lives and ideas of these revolutionaries are today more relevant than ever.

If you want to be part of the growing discourse here in South Africa on revolution – what it really is, and what it might still come to mean – then this series of books would not be a bad starting point.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


WATCH: Man films himself going down water slide upside down as things go very wrong…

What is at first an exciting tummy-turning adventure stunt, quickly turns into a scarily bad idea caught on camera. Take a look:


You won't want to miss...

WATCH: Conor McGregor: Notorious the trailer
Best date night restaurants in South Africa
WATCH: Ryan Reynolds offers fans a free tattoo in new Deadpool 2 teaser
Should you date your co-worker?
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.