A Burning Hunger: One Family's Struggle against Apartheid

Article excerpt

A Burning Hunger: One Family's Struggle Against Apartheid. By Lynda Schuster. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2006. London: Jonathan Cape, 2004. Pp. xii, 451; 16 illustrations, 2 maps. $49.95 cloth, $19.95 paper.

A Burning Hunger traces the fortunes of the family of Joseph and Nomkhitha Mashinini who lived in Soweto, the large African township west of Johannesburg, South Africa. Lynda Schuster follows five of the Mashinini sons, Tsietsi, Mpho, Rocks, Dee, and Tshepiso, who after the township erupted in protest in June 1976, became involved to varying degrees in the struggle to overthrow the apartheid state.

The story of the second-born son, Tsietsi is the "Greek tragedy" (p. 127) that dominates the narrative. Intellectually talented, charismatic, and a skilled speaker, he was one of the organizers of the June 16, 1976 demonstrations protesting the introduction of Afrikaans as a language of instruction in the under-funded and under-staffed schools that evolved after the implementation of the 1953 Bantu Education Act. Though Tsietsi and his fellow students advocated non-violence, police fired into the crowds of schoolchildren. In the aftermath, Tsietsi and two friends fled first to Botswana and then to London. Tsietsi was an ardent advocate of Steve Biko's Black Consciousness (BC) ideology and a virulent critic of the African National Congress (ANC), whose multiracial approach he considered an insult to oppressed blacks. Tsietsi's public rants on international television and his growing megalomania eventually alienated him from his colleagues, who excluded him from membership in the South African Youth Revolutionary Council founded in 1979 by BC exiles in Lusaka, Zambia (p. 219). He died in relative obscurity in Nigeria, a victim of mental illness and alcoholism. His brothers Dee and Rocks escorted his body home to Soweto· in August 1990, six months after the ANC's Nelson Mandela-who in 1994 became the first president of a democratic South Africa-was released after twenty-seven years' imprisonment for treason against the apartheid state.

Dee had fled first to Swaziland, where he took refuge in a safe house run by the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), which had broken with the ANC in 1959. By 1976, both the ANC and the PAC had been banned by the apartheid state and operated underground. Dee preferred the openness of the ANC approach, which sought international allies, especially in Europe, and moved to an ANC camp in Swaziland. …