Cruelty of apartheid within SA borders spilt over into exile

Book: Lady Africa in America

Book: Lady Africa in America

Author: Cosbie Mbele

Publisher: Vivlia Education

Reviewer: Anelisa Ngcakani

After the wedding vows, the kiss and the celebration, the elders gathered the day after to impart wisdom to the new couple.

When it was my uncle's turn he said: "You are both fortunate to marry in the presence and blessings of your entire family. I had a lonely marriage in England, with only your aunt's parents and a handful of friends present - thanks to apartheid."

Tears hindered him from continuing and a sombre mood overcame everyone. Loneliness became part of their lives and relatives missed out on the births of my uncle's five children. The threat of a jail sentence hung over his head so he could not even attend his own parents' funerals. His fierce involvement in the international campaign against apartheid was the great price my uncle paid.

Cosbie Mbele's new book Lady Africa in America reminded me of my uncle's life. But hers was slightly different because she went into voluntary exile.

Leaving her country was painful she says in Lady African in America. Mbele left to further her studies.

She left in 1981 because her own country could not match what the US had to offer. Under apartheid she was sidelined because of her race.

Mbele, who was affectionately called Lady Africa, by her students as a result of her vehement promotion of African culture in the US, is an international singer, songwriter, author, and educationalist.

As a child Mbele was malnourished because of her greedy aunt Sbongile. She spent the money Mbele's mother sent for the child on her own children.

But her other painful life experiences and her father's Christian faith, which she once didn't understand, but later embraced, produced a strong and stubborn character in her.

She excelled in school in the 1960s and 1970s when the apartheid education department rigged results in black high schools, and when white lecturers who displayed their racism openl taught at black tertiary institutions. Her character earned her respect from her American students.

It's certainly not an award-winning non-fiction book, but it comes across as a sincere account of Mbele's experiences of a cruel and unfair apartheid South Africa in which she excelled.

She also speaks of finding love and acceptance in a foreign country and her hopes for the democratic South Africa.