Engaging history of people and events

Book: On the Bridge of Goodbye

Book: On the Bridge of Goodbye

Author: David Robbins

Publisher: Jonathan Ball Publishers

Reviewer: Zenoyise Madikwa

On The Bridge Of Goodbye is a chronicle of the trauma of the indigenous people of southern Africa whose lives were ravaged by war that was not theirs throughout the last third of the 20th century.

For many neither re-unification nor closure had been achievable since the sudden Portuguese evacuation of Africa in the mid-1970s.

The book is an account of the popular San soldiers who fought first for the Portuguese in Angola and then for the South Africans from bases in northern Namibia. It tells of human loss, endurance and betrayal by the colonisers who left them with nothing except self-hatred and emptiness.

They were used, their culture and values were taken away from them by the system that promised a better deal.

When the former apartheid government withdrew and freed Namibia, many of these soldiers came to South Africa where, after 13 years under canvas for most of them, they were displaced by being moved into small houses on the outskirts of Kimberley.

David Robbins explores the process of acculturation and examines the peoples in swift transition.

Robbins travelled with a small group of these discarded San soldiers on a journey into their respective pasts to tell their stories. The 229-page book is engaging and touching. It also narrates an eye-opening history of southern Africa's inhabitants and the backgrounds of the !Xum and Khwe tribes. It is politically educational and unbiased.

Robbins has spent the past 20 years writing about southern Africa in his travel-genre style. He recently completed his trilogy of South African travel books that began with the award-winning The 29th Parallel and ended with After the Dance (Jonathan Ball, 2004). Robbins was born in the Eastern Cape. He now lives in Johannesburg and has travelled widely in Africa. On The Bridge Of Goodbye is his sixth non-fiction major work on southern African themes.