Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane

Kaffir Boy – the Darkest Chapter in the History of South Africa

Daria Silter

Daria Silter

Daria Silter is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief at Global Storybook.
You can read more about Daria here.
Daria Silter
  • Book: “Kaffir Boy – The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa”
  • Author: Mark Mathabane
  • Publisher: Free Press, New York, 1986

When I first arrived to South Africa, I must confess that I did not know much about its history and the issues surrounding its present state.  Of course, I have heard about Nelson Mandela and his great accomplishments, but… only on a somewhat superficial level that could not in any way prepare me for what I was about to face.

On my first day in Johannesburg I went on a half-day tour of the city, that also included a quick stop at Soweto, one of the largest and most famous South African townships.  This is the place where the great Mr. Mandela had a home.  This is also the place where the black South Africans were segregated and forced to live without any rights of their own.  Wait, I have to repeat that one more time to let it sink in – yes, they had absolutely NO rights at all.  They did not even have a right to live in that township.  Where could they live then?  Read this book to find out.

But before you even open it, I have to warn you – this book was not written for the faintest of hearts.  This great book was written by a real man who was born in one of Johannesburg’s largest townships (or a better name would be “segregated slums”), lived through the darkest chapter of the South African history, experienced hell first hand, and even after one too many life battles have left him severely bruised and bitter, found his inner strength and came out as a… total champion.  A campion?  Yes, a real black tennis champion in the predominantly white and affluent, sports.

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This book was not meant to create a wall between the new generation of black and white South Africans.  The author’s intention is to first of all take you to that time when the life of a black South African was worth less than a free box of matches, and to show you what it was really like to have lived there and experienced the severe injustice first hand.

Read it – it will not only be an eye-opening source of truth and reality, it will also provide you with a number of significant life lessons that you will not be too quick to forget.  And especially if you are planning a visit to South Africa, this book will leave you with a deeper sense of understanding and insights into this beautiful and very complex country.

“My stomach churned.  I finally mustered enough courage to call one of the six stewardesses, all white, who had said to me with a smile when I entered the plane: “Welcome abroad, sir.  We hope you have a pleasant flight.”

“Excuse me, miss,” I said, embarrassed.  “I would like to use the bathroom.”

“There’s one in the back of the plane, sir,” she said.

I turned my head and saw two of them, opposite each other.  I was about to get up when I saw two white women, one coming out of each.  I quickly slumped back into the seat.  The stewardess was gone.  She came back minutes later. 

“Excuse me, miss,” I said.  “Are those two the only toilets on the plane?”

“Yes.”

“The only ones?” I said incredulously.

“Yes. Are they occupied?” she asked innocently. 

“I don’t know,” I said.  

She went back to the rear, looked at the doors of the two toilets and came back.

“They’re vacant, sir,” she said. […]

I reached the toilets and glanced at the doors.  Each read: Unoccupied.  Which one should I go into?  I remembered the incident years ago when Granny was bedeviled by two identical telephone booths.  I settled for the one on my left.”

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