I think the honest thing to do is to start with a confession that before I read this book I had no idea who Mapetla Mohapi was.
And this is as a result of our history being filled with gaps, inaccuracies, bianess and having been reserved and recorded for certain few at the expense of many.
Zikhona Valela should be congratulated for this great work of attempting to correct our history by telling the story of one of our unsung liberation heroes in Mapetla Mohapi.
In Now You Know How Mapetla Died, Zikhona honours the life and struggles of one of the most under-celebrated liberation hero, Mapetla Mohapi. Through interviews with the family, comrades, and activists who worked and knew the man, the author undo the erasure on the man and also poke holes on his death at an early age in the hands of the apartheid police.
Inside the pages of this book is deep sadness, inhumanness, brutality of the worst kind that Mapetla and his family went through at the hands of apartheid police. However, the pain continues even in the democratic dispensation as the family still painfully seek the answers for their unanswered questions over Mapetla’s death.
What Zikhona does in this book is not to only to celebrate the legacy of this Black Consciousness Movement giant, but also shows the failures of the democratic government to provide justice to him and many others such as Bantu Biko, Matthew Goniwe, Fort Calata, Sparrow Mkhonto, Sicelo Mhlauli, whose deaths still remains in question and unaccounted for.
This book comes at a time where the failures of the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) of achieving what it was supposed to achieve are once again dominating the public discourse.
Perusing through the pages of this book, as a reader, I could not but admit that the TRC failed the likes of Mapetla and their families in providing them with the truth that they desperately need to be able to reconcile with his death.
Now You Know How Mapetla Died, which is a chilling title, because it is a confession of a crime, is not a book to really open old wounds, but one that seeks to find answers for an unaccounted crime.
The book is well-researched and Zikhona opens the possibility for people like me to also write stories of other forgotten heroes such as Winnie Kgware, Thenjiwe Mtintso and Thandi Modise’s of this world to undo the erasure about the role played by Black women in the fight against apartheid.