This is a book of desire denied, of what the pain of that impotence drives people to do, and how it makes them unwilling contortionists and even co-conspirators in their oppression. From ‘The Transformation of Harry’: “And there we all were; in an uncertain country, ourselves uncertain. A land with a sly heart; and ourselves ready to be deceived.” For if colonialism was any one thing it was denial: denial of land, denial of African culture, denial of any form of psychic nourishment—including hope—denial of black existence itself. And neocolonialism is the denial that any of that is still happening. First published in 1978, The House of Hunger speaks, or rather shouts, forward from its own time to 2017. Perhaps the most painful parts of the book to read are those that show how little has changed in thirty-nine years. For if colonialism was any one thing it was denial: denial of land, denial of African culture, denial of any form of psychic nourishment—including hope—denial of black existence itself. And neocolonialism is the denial that any of that is still happening.
Xolela Mangcu has written a scathing column in today’s Business Day asking: how did a once proud freedom movement become a party of death? Who, Mangcu wants to know, are those “dark forces” or the “third force” or the “anti-revolutionaries” that will have to be killed. Then he continues:
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Let us then move on to consider the method of death. Will Vavi, Malema and their gang of warriors shoot the enemies in the head even as they plead for their lives? Or will they dismember them in full view of the world to teach others a lesson? Will they set them ablaze in the manner of Ernesto Nhamuave?
And will they laugh around the burning bodies while singing revolutionary songs? Or will they simply do what many leaders did during the 1980s, which was simply to issue orders to the foot soldiers. In those days the leaders could still go around sipping champagne at society gatherings, knowing full well that the killing machines were in full swing in the townships.
Like Liberia’s Charles Taylor, the leaders can now still go about their business knowing full well of the death and destruction. Occasionally the cellphone will ring and they will politely ask to be excused from the dinner table so they can get progress reports from the killing fields.