The Africa blogging project is down to the southern tip of the continent and Lesotho, a country with about two million people and the second-highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world. The country is surrounded by South Africa, which is how Zakes Mda ended up there – his father was the founder and president of the African National Congress Youth League and was exiled from South Africa for his political activities.
Sometimes There Is a Void: Memoirs of an Outsider is Mda’s story of his life. Some of this book is about life in exile, and it is heavily informed by the politics of the anti-apartheid movement, with all its complications.
On another level, though, Mda’s story is of the new kid in town when his family arrived in Lesotho, trying to separate his identity from his high-profile but absentee father and generally trying to make his way in the world. He was a troublemaker, but he also knew how to write. He was thrilled to discover that magazines would publish poems and essays from readers, and so he launched his career as a schoolboy,
Mda eventually became a renowned playwright, author, and academic. I really liked this book when it talked about his life as a writer and his life moving in interesting circles (socially, politically, culturally) in three countries, as he is now based primarily at Ohio University. What I didn’t like was his complicated personal life and badmouthing of his ex-wife. Dude, I know you have problems and all, but tell them to your therapist. It took the story to a petty level.
Life in Lesotho is tied to life in South Africa because the country is totally surrounded by South Africa. Most people in Lesotho are members of the Sotho people, which also make up a large percentage of the people in South Africa. The nation’s economy is heavily dependent on the economy in South Africa as there is much trade in goods and migration of people between the two countries. Its main industries are textile manufacturing and agriculture, although there is some growing diamond mining activity.
From an investor standpoint, Lesotho needs South Africa to be successful. As South Africa’s economy improves, so will Lesotho’s.
From a reader’s perspective, skip the last chapter. Next up: Swaziland.