Siphiwo Mahala uncovers the real Can Themba, the teacher and poet who’d later join Drum, in new book

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Award-winning author and playwright Dr Siphiwo Mahala talks to Drum about his decades-old fascination with Can Themba.
Award-winning author and playwright Dr Siphiwo Mahala talks to Drum about his decades-old fascination with Can Themba.
Veli Nhlapo/Gallo Images

A wife finds an earring in her bedroom. It does not belong to her so she confronts her husband about it. 

Instead of owning up to his indiscretion of having invited a lover into their home, he decides to fib and tells his wife the earring is his. The lie becomes more elaborate over time as the husband, a school principal, is compelled to wear the earring in public in an absurd attempt to sustain the falsehood.

This is a scene from a story, Mpumi’s Assignment, that Dr Siphiwo Mahala published in 2001. A year later, while a creative writing student at Wits, it would lead him to re-visit a story he’d read a decade ago, Can Themba’s classic, The Suit, to which his classmates kept comparing Mpumi’s Assignment.

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