Mandla Langa belongs to the avant garde

It was through a casual chat with an acquaintance, who I bumped into at one of my favourite hangouts that I have been introduced to Mandla Langa’s bitingly satirical narrative.

This came about as I boasted to the brother of having been indulging in great literature in the form of Ngugi wa Thiogo’s Wizard of the Crow – when he suddenly cut in and informs me that right in here in our backyard, a certain Mandla Langa’s “magnum opus” to borrow Tiisetso Makube’s word, has just hit the bookstore’s shelf.

As a budding literary historian, I wasted no time and immediately made my way to that particular retail shop and grabbed a copy.

Obsessed with power.

Going through the book set in the Island of Bangula, a country whose ruling class is so obsessed with power, self-glorification and hell-bent on wealth accumulation that it saw the majority of its populace sliding into abject poverty, untold levels of unemployment and the ravages of HIV/Aids.

He presents the reader with a picture of the ruling elite who are former freedom fighters and now the middle class in the social strata of Bangula, who now enjoy the fat of the land at the expense of the suffering majority of the population, whom they were mandated to serve.

Their designer outfits, the cars they drive, their houses as well as their lavish lifestyle scream of all the trappings of the modern lavish living standard.

It leaves one compelled to focus on South Africa’s post 1994 socio, political economic and cultural landscape and get a sense that the material source of his fictional narrative is drawn from right in here in our very own backyard.

Satirical narrative.

I became more curious to dig into the depths of the book to find out how Langa managed to execute the satirical narrative without attracting the wrath of the authorities.

Throughout the history of the genre, satire has seen its practitioners thrown into prison, disappearing without trance, murdered and abducted.

“Was it an act of bravery on the part of Langa to attach his own name rather than opt for a pseudo-one to this literary piece of work?” I asked myself. Perhaps this shows a level of political maturity on the South African political hierarchy.

This level of innovation had me craving to incorporate a similar invention into my investigative articles, for Langa’s book offered an answer to a question which had been nagging me since the spate of violent service delivery protests.

The question was: how do we hold public representative we helped put in power accountable, or how do we fight corruption and abuse of authority by comrades from our respective organisation or rather the ANC-led alliance, without being seen morphing into a state of anti this and anti that.

Throughout the book, Langa presents ordinary Bangulians (South Africans) with a mirror to reflect on their society, provokes and stirs them into action to rid themselves of abuse, human frailties and denial of the existence of HIV/Aids which the author refers as the “blood plague”.

Wayward behaviour.

By magnifying the ruling elite’s wayward behaviour, their conduct frowned upon this book seeks to persuade them to reconsider and change their ways.

Perhaps they might see how ridiculous their behaviour is and try to correct the tendency themselves.

As the spotlight is shining on them and their colours no longer offer a refugee for them, since they will be lost forever.


Numsa News No 3, October 2010