South Africa, Life, etc

AmaBookaBooka: Ex-MK commander swaps gun for pen (and golf clubs)

By AmaBookaBooka 4 May 2017

Today’s AmaBookaBooka guest is Stanley Manong, who has written If We Must Die, recounting his years as a soldier in uMkhonto we Sizwe. Stanley left South Africa in 1976 to join the ANC, and was deployed in the frontline states. He rose up the MK’s ranks, becoming its chief of operations in Botswana in the mid-1980s. By JONATHAN ANCER for AMABOOKABOOKA.

If We Must Die has been described as the most important first-hand account of the painful struggles for liberation and for democracy, accountability and human rights in MK in Angola, and also as one of the finest insights of life in the ANC’s army in the crucial years following the June 16 Soweto Uprising.

Manong’s MK name was “Mbangazwe Nkululeko”, which means Politics and Freedom, and was given to him by President Jacob Zuma. Manong spoke on a panel at last year’s Franschhoek Literary Festival with Anemari Jansen, author of Eugene De Kock: Assassin for the State. In If We Must Die, Manong writes about De Kock and how his unit intercepted some of Manong’s operations. In what turned out to be one of the most talked about discussions at the festival, De Kock – a.k.a. Prime Evil – was in the audience.

In the podcast, recorded soon after the book was launched at Johannesburg’s Liliesleaf Museum in April 2015, Manong reads an extract from his memoir, which documents the first known shootout between an MK unit and the South African Police, and talks about his motivation for writing If We Must Die – and shares how his erstwhile comrades have reacted to it.

After exile, Manong returned to South Africa as a civil engineer and formed his own company, Manong and Associates, swapping his guns for golf clubs. He plays golf with other business leaders, people who up until his book was published had no idea he was a former MK commander.

The well researched book, which has made an important contribution to South Africa’s historical record, is a tribute to the people who fought for liberation. Reflecting on life in post-apartheid South Africa, Manong says, “We could have done better.”

AmaBookaBooka then subjected Manong to our world-famous Sound Effects Rorschach Test with one sound reminding him of his snoring comrades in the ANC camps, but – loyal to the bitter end – he refuses to name and shame the snorers.

Also in this episode, Bongi Bangeni reads Ingrid van den Berg’s story which she submitted for the All About Writing monthly short story challenge. The challenge was: “Write a scene of no more than 250 words in which two people meet for the first time in Venice. Within your scene, we may be given just the smallest, subtlest intimation that, in the future, this meeting may lead to love… or to murder.”

As usual, our resident book rock star Mervyn Sloman shares literary insights and reveals what’s happening at the Book Lounge next week. DM

Amabookabooka is a novel podcast about books and the people who write them. It is produced by Jonathan Ancer and Dan Dewes for the Daily Maverick and in partnership with the Book Lounge. You can subscribe to amaBookaBooka on iTunes.

Photo: Stanley Manong, author of If We Must Die.


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