Anyone (and I believe there are one or two who read my rubbish!) may have noticed that I rarely comment on politics or religion or similar controversial topics in my blogs and posts. But for once I thought I would make an exception here as the early chapters of the first Amie covered my take on the way I saw Africa.


I have had some amazing reviews, including the following:

This world we live in is an often ugly and dangerous place. And those of us privileged to live in a first world country too easily forget that. The story then has redeeming qualities beyond being just a great read; it’s the kind of book you read and then go out and change the world. It’s why people become activists, coming up against this kind of pain and suffering, and this kind of injustice when they find it in the world. Sadly, nightly news numbs us by comparison at a time in history when we all need to be fighting for something and for someone. For this reason, this is the kind of book they need to teach in high school, college, and hand out at community centers.
In any less capable hands, I’m fairly convinced I would have put this book down. It’s dangerous writing, and that’s why few authors attempt it. If your subject matter terrifies people, you still have to hold on to them, make sure they resist the urge to put the book down. The author deserves five stars, thus, not just for writing a memorable tale, but for picking a story to write that few people can write, fewer can read, but that we’d all like to say we did.

And many people (though not all) acknowledged that having lived in Africa for over thirty years, I had a fair idea of how things tick on the Dark Continent – from the point of a white resident.

In the early nineties I was commissioned by The Sowetan editor Aggrey Klaaste who introduced the concept of “nation building” which was basically a self-help initiative to persuade Africans away from ‘the give me’ attitude to the ‘do things for themselves’ point of view. He was an amazing man and impressed me by his views and insight.

One of my main reasons for writing Amie was to share my beliefs that it is not the colour of a person’s skin that characterizes their behaviour but the mindset, culture, aspirations, expectations, lifestyle and beliefs that define them. I added more information in the Truth, Lies and Propaganda series.

I repeated this on The Authors Show interview. But it is only fair to include the view from another perspective and it’s certainly food for thought.

The article below was written from a black point of view. It was published in the English language newspaper The Sowetan and written by Prince Mashele, a South African national who holds a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Rhodes University, South Africa. Before becoming Executive Director of CPR, he was Head of Crime, Justice and Politics Programme at the Institute for Security Studies. He also worked as a speechwriter in The Presidency, and in the research unit of the Institute for Democracy in South Africa. Prince spends time analysing a range of areas on contemporary African politics and is a prolific writer on a multiplicity of issues.

Prince Mashele

By Prince Mashele | May 09, 2016  SOWETAN

In the midst of the political confusion that has gripped our country many people are wondering if we have come to the end of South Africa.

The answer is simple: the thing called an “end” does not exist, not in relation to a country. SA will be there long after Jacob Zuma is gone.

What Zuma has done is to make us come to the realisation that ours is just another African country, not some exceptional country on the southern tip of the African continent.

During the presidency of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, some among us used to believe that the black people of SA are better than those of other African countries.

We must all thank Zuma for revealing our true African character; that the idea of rule of law is not part of who we are, and that constitutionalism is a concept far ahead of us as a people.

How else are we to explain the thousands of people who flock to stadiums to clap hands for a president who has violated their country’s constitution? Such people have no idea of constitutionalism.

Now that we have reclaimed our place as another African country, we must reflect on and come to terms with our real character, and imagine what our future portends.

In a typical African country, ordinary people don’t expect much of politicians, because people get tired of repeated empty promises.

In a typical African country, people have no illusions about the unity of morality and governance. People know that those who have power have it for themselves and their friends and families.

The idea that the state is an instrument for people’s development is a Western concept, and has been copied by pockets of Asian countries.

Africans and their leaders don’t like to copy from the West. They are happy to remain African, and do things “the African way”.

The African way is rule by kings, chiefs and indunas in a setting of unwritten rules. Is there anyone who has seen a book of African customary laws?

The idea that a commoner can raise questions about public money spent on the residence of a king is not African. The ANC MPs who have been defending Zuma are true Africans.

Asking a ruler to be accountable is a foreign – Western – idea. In a situation where there is conflict between a ruler and laws, Africans simply change the laws to protect the ruler. This is why no single white person has called for King Dalindyebo to be released from jail.

The problem with clever blacks is that they think they live in Europe, where ideas of democracy have been refined over centuries.

What we need to do is to come back to reality, and accept that ours is a typical African country. Such a return to reality will give us a fairly good idea of what SA’s future might look like.

This country will not look like Denmark. It might look like Nigeria, where anti-corruption crusaders are an oddity.

Being an African country, ours will not look like Germany. SA might look like Kenya, where tribalism drives politics.

People must not entertain the illusion that a day is coming when SA will look like the US. Our future is more on the side of Zimbabwe, where one ruler is more powerful than the rest of the population. Even if Julius Malema were to become president, it would still be the same.

African leaders don’t like the idea of an educated populace, for clever people are difficult to govern. Mandela and Mbeki were themselves corrupted by Western education. (Admission: this columnist is also corrupted by such education.)

Zuma remains African. His mentality is in line with Boko Haram. He is suspicious of educated people; what he calls “clever blacks”. Remember that Boko Haram means “Against Western Education”.
The people who think we have come to the end of SA don’t realise that we have actually come to the beginning of a real African country, away from the Western illusions of exceptionalism. Those who are unsettled by this true African character need help. The best we can do for them is to ask them to look north of the Limpopo River, to learn more about governance in Africa.

What makes most people restless about the future of SA is that they have Western models in mind, forgetting that ours is an Africa country.

The idea that a president can resign simply because a court of law has delivered an adverse judgment is Western. Only the Prime Minister of Iceland does that; African rulers will never do that.

Analysed carefully, the notion of SA coming to an “end” is an expression of a Western value system – of accountability, political morality, reason, and so on. All these are lofty ideas of Socrates, Kant, Hegel, and so on. They are not African.

All of us must thank Jacob Zuma for introducing us to the real African Republic of South Africa, not some outpost of European values.


As Diana tells Amie “Democracy is not the African way, one man, one vote, once.” I think Prince Mashele would agree.

Lastly thank you to all those who voted for Amie 2 in the ReadFree’ly competinion, she came in at #17 and  got a lovely new sticker 🙂

All the books can be found here




16 thoughts on “OFF TOPIC FOR ME

  1. Hi Lucinda, That’s a great article about Africa and very pertinent to some of the studies I’m doing about Ethics at the moment… Ethics and the Declaration of Human Rights with a focus on the difference of human rights in the western world and Africa. Really interesting, Thanks honey. Gabi

    Gabi Plumm and Peter Marsh Documentaries and corporate films

    +61 (0) 404025139

    From: lucinda E Clarke Reply-To: lucinda E Clarke Date: Monday, 11 July 2016 7:00 pm To: Gabi Plumm Subject: [New post] OFF TOPIC FOR ME Lucinda E Clarke posted: “Anyone (and I believe there are one or two who read my rubbish!) may have noticed that I rarely comment on politics or religion or similar controversial topics in my blogs and posts. But for once I thought I would make an exception here as the early chapt”


    • It would be good to hear that you get both sides of the story in your lectures. While we are pushing against ISIS or ISIL or Boko Haram and so on for trying to foist their way of life on us, why do we feel we should ‘civilize’ other nations to conduct their affairs that same way we do?


  2. At last! After all the claptrap I have read about African politics, poured out in an endlessly critical stream by western educated writers, here is some of the real truth about Africa.
    Anyone who really knows Africa understands that s a continent Africa will never be like the West, and its ways will always confound western thinking. What the West sees as corruption, Africa sees as normal process. Democracy is an old intellectual idea from ancient Greece, not a practical reality in the modern world. W just e delude ourselves in western society if we think our system of government is in any way democratic. It isn’t. Just as in Africa, it’s all about power and self interest. The occasional altruistic individual who really believes in the benefit to the masses- like Jeremy Corbyn – is destined to live a life of frustration ending in ignominy, while those who can wield power rise and fall and the masses just bumble along as best the can under the prevailing circumstances.
    Prince puts it very bluntly, but you too Lucinda, have pointed out these things in your books and the excellent reviews you’ve been getting are well earned.


    • I agree 100% with everything you say Ian. I get so cross when people return from the 3 day fact finding tour where they are shown only what the leaders want them to see. It’s rude in African culture to disagree and it’s perfectly acceptable to lie – all part of culture understood and approved. They will tell you what they think you want to hear and it’s taken as gospel. How long will it take for one culture to understand the difference in ethics, morals and so on in another culture and not judge by their own and stop trying to impose their own beliefs outside their own borders?


      • White western cultures will never understand Africans. This is primarily because of overwhelming western arrogance and their assertion that they always know best. This makes then so busy telling others how to do things that they can’t see what is already functioning well and suited to the people they are trying to indoctrinate. It has ever been thus, right from then the first white man set foot on African soil way back in the 1570s. Westerners are blind to self -evident truths and so never appreciate how other cultures work.
        I know which I prefer.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Powerful commentary from both yourself and Prince, Lucinda. Just the fact that he can say what he says, that you can write what you’ve written, are proof the germ-seeds of democracy, old as they are, are an evolutionary concept still evolving – in the West as much as in Africa. Thank you!


    • There are a lot of rumblings though Felipe that they will crack down on the press in South Africa any time now. And the press is quite firmly muzzled in most African countries already. One of the main points I was trying to make is that there are different rules for different societies and maybe the rules they have now are right for them now and always will be. Are we wrong to even suggest a democratic system for a patriarchal society? Maybe the evolution will come but take many. many decades to change mindsets.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Here in the US it’s what corporations decide we’ll hear 🙂 And their ties to other lg corps is no secret. Bernie Sanders consistently had 20k rallies with no broadcast mention, only knew via comments tucked away 🙂

        I still feel it’s an evolutionary thing vs belonging to one culture.

        But the path and expressions differ place to place. For now.

        There was a time there was no South Africa, or US or UK. Just small splinters of humanity vowing never to join with those folks across the river, over the hill, or talking funny.

        But I’m a reluctant optimist. Kinda like an agnostic with faith, lol 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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