ON A LATE Spring eventide a few hours after long-time Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe finally tendered in his resignation as head of state, the Hyde Park Corner branch of Exclusive Books bookstore was once again in the news related around a book launch.
In recent memory, the bookstore had rode roughshod at futile attempts to mire the book launches of ex-Talk Radio 702’s Redi Tlhabi and journalistic sleuth, Jacques Pauw through less than forthcoming reasons.
On Tuesday night, a water cut brought to bear by a burst pipe didn’t prevent the human traffic which descended onto the venue for the launch of The Citizen newspaper’s senior political reporter, Eric Naki’s authorised biography of UDM’s leader General Bantu Holomisa, titled: Bantu Holomisa – The Game Changer.
No amount of reason could prevent the likes of Inkosi Phatekile Holomisa, Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana, glam queen Uyanda Mbuli, talkshow hostess Anele Mdoda, former City Press chief photographer Mike Mzileni, fashion designer Sonwabile Ndamase, the General’s son, Mandlenkosi and daughter, Anele and a curious crowd who voted with their plastic and paper money in purchasing copies of the paper-pack just hot off publishing house, Pan Macmillan’s press – from showing up!
Even the absence of ex-Finance Minister, Trevor Manuel and commentator Moeletsi Mbeki, whose names were clearly marked on some front-row seats next to an elevated platform where erstwhile Business Day former editor, Songezo Zibi moderated over a fireside chat with the author and his decorated subject – went unnoticeable.
Exclusive Books CEO Benjamin Trisk, who at the opening of proceedings noted that the gathered audience represented the Rainbow Nation in its composition, ensured that attendees didn’t go thirsty as the life-giving liquid had a presence of relief variously in bottled and ice cubes filled jars form.
Of a stylish occasion – the water alongside generous helpings of the three pillars of cuisine, artisanal breads, cheese and red and white wines, competing at an appealingly laid out table heaving with spirits such as whisky, gin and cognac – as well as appetising spreads and fresh fruit!
The autobiography looks at Bantu Holomisa and his journey into politics.
As a son of a Chief nothing less was expected of him than to go to school and get a university education. However he thought taking a gap year and starting a job in the post office would be great experience and make some money before going to university.
The book takes us through some life defining moments which lead to him joining the Defense Force, climbing up the ranks to being a respected Commander of the TDF.
As head of the Transkei Defence Force, Holomisa led successive coups against the homeland regime and then became the head of its military government.
He once declared his intention of holding a referendum on the re-incorporation of the Transkei into South Africa – an act which brought him immense popularity and resulted in him being regarded as a liberation hero for many South Africans.
Infact, when the unbanned ANC held its first election for its national executive in 1994, Holomisa garnered the most votes and in the process, beat long-time veterans and party stalwarts.
Mention is also made of the close relationship he developed with Nelson Mandela, to the extent that he even served in Madiba’s cabinet as deputy minister of environmental affairs and tourism.
The relationship with both Mandela and the ANC broke down after Holomisa testified before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, that Stella Sigcau and her cabinet colleagues had accepted bribes from casino king Sol Kerzner.
Alongside that we learn about the man who is generous and is known for helping his family, finding the love of his life and the family politics of being born to a royal family.
Holomisa was a man who led with integrity and that is what carries him to being the Transkei leader.
He has always had his own ways and not particularly leaning towards a political party or politics and that is what also leads to him being expelled from the ANC.
His expulsion stemmed from him wanting to always speak the truth and not letting others influence him otherwise. Due to numerous structures wanting him to still speak on their behalf, he went on to form the United Democratic Movement (UDM) together with CODESA negotiator, Roelf Meyer, which successfully got elected into parliament a mere three years after his expulsion.
Naki in the preface made mention of how, with corruption intensifying under Jacob Zuma, Holomisa will always be proud of the historic victory secured by the UDM [which this September just celebrated its 20th anniversary] and other parties when the Constitutional Court ruled that a secret ballot could be held for the motion of no confidence in the president.
Readers wouldn’t help but note evidence of contrast playing out on the local political landscape – in the form of an image depicting the two adversaries captured horsing around during a break at the celebration of the Successful Black Business Persons, in Sandton.
Further contrast manifests in the outtake of a newspaper portraying the Major-General holding hands with fellow opposition leaders on a march to the Union Buildings pending the groundswell around the #ZumaMustFall campaign.
The imagery accompanying the biography’s text is testament of a destiny man who has walked with the high and mighty – not only locally, but internationally too!
There are depictions with UN and AU SGs; leisure moments such as a camel ride at the pyramids in Egypt and kitted in playing gear ahead of a parliamentary rugby squad tour match against British parliamentarians in London.
Written in collaboration with Holomisa, described as a figure who continues to be a thorn on the ANC’s side as an opposition in parliament – the biography is a first foray into the book world by Naki, the son of a domestic worker mother, and a journalist with 30 years of experience in both broadcast and print media.
It is a spell-binding account of a man of many pursuits which also include a keen golfing side, as well as, as can be attested by television producers who always seem to instruct cameramen to pan their cameras to spot the Major-General alongside bosom buddy Kaizer Motaung – watching a Kaizer Chiefs match from the suite area of FNB Stadium!
Son, Mandlenkosi, is quoted as offering that, “Bantu Holomisa has become a moral bastion for politics in South Africa and is someone who has raised and looked after many children – not just [me] and my sisters.
He focuses his energy on the people of South Africa and will continue to do so until his last breath. I hope this book will give readers insight into the life of one of this country’s greatest sons.”