“Language is a way of seeing, a way of knowing. It is a way of interpreting life and the world,” said the award-winning author Sabata Mpho Mokae at the launch of his Tswana book Moletlo wa Manong.
It took place at the Sol Plaatje University (SPU) on 12 September.
Moletlo wa Manong, which means feast of the vultures, is a sequel to Mokae’s award-winning novel Ga ke Modisa.
The story is set in a newsroom in Kimberley where the protagonist, journalist Otsile Mothibi, is investigating corruption in the post-apartheid administration.
Top politicians are taking bribes for tenders, and he is looking to expose them.
In the course of the investigation, one of his colleagues sells him out to the same politicians he is investigating.
The book launch gave readers the opportunity to dissect the contents of the book, with Mokae leading them through his train of thought when he wrote the book.
This discussion sparked other conversations about African literature, the “exploitation” of Kimberley diamonds and the state in which the city is described in the book.
Mokae teaches creative writing at the SPU.
In 2013, his debut Tswana novel, Ga ke Modisa, won the MNet literary award for best novel in Tswana, and also received the film award.
It was subsequently prescribed as required study material at some South African universities. It has now been translated into English in Boston, Massachusetts, by Dr Lesego Malepe.
Mokae also won the South African literary award in 2011 and the Lesedi la Afrika award in 2017.
At the launch of Mokae’s new book, Prof. Yunus Ballim, vice-chancellor and principal of the SPU, said the event should be marked as another milestone.
“This is the first time we are launching a book – which is unapologetic about its keenness to express itself in an African language – on our campus. We make no apology that there is no parallel English version next to it. It is a beginning of saying we think that wWhat we have to say, and the way in which we have to say it, is worthy of being heard. That, for me, is what Mokae’s book represents.”
Ballim further added that he looks forward to attending more of these events not only in setswana, and that the university is deliberating the possibility of developing Nama as a language.
“It would be wonderful to have modern short stories in Nama, and I really want you to keep your eyes on this initiative.
“I certainly hope the trajectory will grow significantly and that, long after our names have been forgotten, somebody will say that it was a good idea.”
The story is set in a newsroom in the city of Kimberley.
The protagonist, legendary journalist Otsile Mothibi, is investigating corruption in the post-apartheid administration. Top politicians are taking bribes for a lucrative vehicle rental tender and he is going to expose them. In the course of the investigation, one of his colleagues sells him out to the same politicians he is investigating. The story gets messy when politicians offer his unemployed but educated wife a position in a government department on condition that he drops the investigation. Otsile refuses to drop the investigation, which causes unhappiness in his household and puts his life and that of his wife in danger. His main source, an ambitious politician who is eyeing a leadership position, dies mysteriously after a meeting with him.
Lives are threatened, phones are bugged, fear and mistrust enter the newsroom.
Otsile likens the corrupt politicians to vultures who are making a feast of the country and his duty is to end the feast.