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Thula Simpson on SA history: 'What are the key moments that made us?'

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Thula Simpson (Photo by Mariki Uitenweerde)
Thula Simpson (Photo by Mariki Uitenweerde)

It's a pleasure to interview Thula Simpson – he speaks in paragraphs. He's also attentive to detail. Just as he notes in his book, History of South Africa: From 1902 to the Present (Penguin) that the ANC's "Polokwane" conference actually took place in Mankweng, 30km away, when he tells me he was born in Swaziland, he notes that it is now called Eswatini.

History of South Africa covers the period from the end of the Boer War, when what is now South Africa was unified under British rule, right up to the Covid-19 pandemic that hit South Africa in 2020 and the "July days" of looting and alleged insurrection in mid-2021. As he writes in his preface, "South Africa was born in war, its growth has been marked by major crises and profound ruptures, and it once again stands on a precipice".

The roots of his History, however, lie in Simpson's previous work, the monumental study of the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (2016). 

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