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“We Went Through Difficulties”: Mosibudi Mangena Launches Triumphs and Heartaches at The Book Lounge

Mosibudi Mangena

There were many guests at The Book Lounge recently for the powerful and touching launch of Triumphs and Heartaches: A Courageous Journey by South African Patriots by Mosibudi Mangena.

Mervyn Sloman, owner of The Book Lounge, described the book as “incredibly important and particularly prescient, with regard to what is happening in the country currently”. He highlighted the breadth of Mangena’s experience in exile and his involvement in the discussions and debates that had been part of the Black Consciousness movement, the developments in the armed struggle and the enormously difficult decisions that were made in the transition to democracy. “Some of the legacies of compromise that were made during that time are what we are still dealing with today,” Sloman said.

Mosibudi Mangena and Ernest MessinaTriumphs and HeartachesMangena was joined in conversation by Ernest Messina, a local businessman and educationist. Messina noted the presence of Christine Qunta and other authors in the audience. He commented on the significant act of writing the story of a life that has been lived, in particular a life that has had the contour of Mangena’s.

Mangena is the honorary President of the Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO) and served as the Minister of Science and Technology under President Thabo Mbeki. He said writing the book had given him an opportunity to pay tribute to the many remarkable comrades and colleagues he had encountered along the way. “We went through difficulties and times of celebration, like the hosting of the FIFA World Cup. We felt pride at the way the event was hosted, yet at the same time issues of poverty and crime continue to expand. The education system and the criminal justice system are not working properly,” he said.

He hopes the book will spark a debate about how South Africa can get out of the depressing situation it currently faces. “We must not lose sight of the achievements that have made us great in the past. We were able to overcome our difficulties and come to a better place. That can be done again,” he said. “Are we going to march on the spot for centuries?” he asked. “We have been through slavery, colonisation, oppression. These things made us what we are. They also tell us where we should not go.”

Messina said it was significant that the final chapter is titled “The Door of No Return”, and comes out of Mangena’s visit to Gorée Island and the museum and memorial to the Atlantic slave trade. Another powerful chapter was the one in which the author visits the Antarctic, where he reflects on how small and fragile humanity is and how easily and quickly one can be snuffed out.

“Nature is powerful. Humans are nothing. It’s you and your God there. To experience human solidarity there, as people depend entirely on each other for their survival. I saw something similar to that solidarity on Robben Island, how people look after each other, but by comparison, that was nothing,” he said. “Solidarity is not only among our own South African scientists and support staff, but among the Germans, Norwegians and internationally. Nationality disappears. You are all human beings just looking after each other under those circumstances.”

Mangena singled out Kobus Meiring, who was present in the audience, as the scientific innovator who had led the development of the Joule, the South African electric car. He rued the day that the decision was taken to cease production on this, speaking in the strongest terms about this mistaken route the country’s leadership had taken.

Mangena engaged in a lively discussion with the audience. They queued afterwards for their books to be signed, sharing memories of times both distant and recent with the greatly admired man.

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Liesl Jobson (@LieslJobson) tweeted from the launch using #livebooks:


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Posted by Pan Macmillan South Africa on Wednesday, 22 April 2015


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