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Is It Coz I'm Black?

April 28, 2011 | Comments: 0 | Views: 143

'Is It Coz I'm Black' is an opaque title for a collection of satirical essays about the new South Africa. It provides a fresh look at the fledgling democracy that is South Africa. The author uses a streetwise and politically incorrect language to tackle head-on the complex issues that afflict the republic and the individuals who make its malaise possible. In a nutshell, it's about the idiosyncrasies of a nation trying hard to survive the predicament of its own rebirth and the teething problems of growing up in a brave new world.

The book examines in a sarcastic, if not satirical, manner the experiences of everyday life in the post-apartheid South Africa. Author, Ndumiso Ngcobo uses both real and imagined anecdotes from his own life and the people he interacts with to cajole the nation to laugh at itself. In his writing Ngcobo draws inspiration from face-to-face encounters with strangers, social networking sites, and of course - his beer guzzling fan club. These special friends are called The Men of Thirst (aka the MOT). He pays tribute to the MOT brothers by calling them, 'vicious and uncouth people' as well as other unprintable things.

Ngcobo's writing is enhanced by wide ranging memories from his childhood. He uses his memory as a weapon to position himself as part of the group he intends to poke fun at. He insists that his satire is not intended to insult any person or group. He also deploys, to good effect, his incisive intellect and the analytical skills gleaned from his training as a medical scientist. The book dissects South Africa's personal-security paranoia, crazy coloured cousins, angry white men, condom-forsaking black men, terrible drivers, and indeed politicians of all hues. Equally, it tackles topical issues such as the xenophobic attacks on foreign African nationals and the intricacy of religion.

The most hilarious piece is Ngcobo's take on democracy and South African politicians. Entitled, 'Honk If You Feel Your Taxes aren't Working for You' this chapter is truly speaking - talking 'truth to power'. Ngcobo prefers a minimalist form of democracy -meaning voters choose a few wise men and women to govern. He pours scorn on the one-man-one-vote system claiming it results in the least capable among us leading. Opposition parties aren't spared either - he suggests they are blot on the system. He makes a list of all the things he is prepared to pay additional taxes for, if only to liven up the dull political environment. This includes putting politicians on high chairs with hot air detectors so that when hot air is detected the chair will break and the politician fall. Another idea on the list calls for people to pelt politicians, on their way to the opening of parliament, with rotten eggs - all in the name of Public Entertainment Tax. He finally goes for the jugular classifying politicians (using their real names) in terms of their worth or lack thereof.

Ngcobo is a new voice on the South African literacy scene, a welcome one at that. Hopefully, this book will contribute to the healing process of a nation that only 17 years ago ceased its policy of racial segregation. South Africa's lofty goal of reconciliation does require a healthy dose of side-splitting humour.

Bhekisisa Mncube is a qualified journalist and member of the Book Review Panel at the New Agenda academic journal in South Africa. Mncube is a former senior reporter (politics) at the Witness newspaper. He is also a columnist (Witness/Echo), his column 'On the High Road' appears on Thursdays

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