Can you introduce yourself?

I am Abdul Mogale, a founder member and President of the National Writers Association of South Africa (NWASA), first; and former Chief Whip of Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality as well as its former Member of the Mayoral Committee for Economic Development.

My contribution to the people of South Africa dates back to my political activism in the struggle for a free and democratic South Africa, which began with my involvement in student and youth politics, through to the Civic Movement, involvement in the underground work of the ANC and its military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe.

In the late 1980s I became involved in the cultural movement, became a member of the Congress of South African Writers (COSAW) and became its Deputy President before it folded.

Through COSAW and the broader cultural movement we used culture as a weapon of struggle against apartheid and to usher in a democratic dispensation.

I have established a social responsibility vehicle, Rural Libraries and Children Write Foundation, which is still in its formative stage and it is aimed at building libraries in rural villages and supporting writing by children who are fifteen years or younger.

One of the highlights of this cultural struggle is the recognition of eleven official languages in post-apartheid South Africa, from the earlier recognition of only two – English and Afrikaans.

What’s your nationality?

I am a South African from Baloledu Clan. My grandfather is of the Modjadji Royal House, and my grandmother is a daughter of Kgoši (King) Mothapo.

My language is Khelobedu, which is collectively recognised as Northern Sotho in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. There’s a parliamentary process to recognise it as a stand alone official language. This process involves sign language too, so soon South Africa will be having thirteen official languages.

What was growing up like?

Growing up in apartheid South Africa where Africans were denigrated, our cultures viewed as worthless and devilish was a nightmare.

Case in point, is that Queen Modjadji of Balobedu people is the Rain Queen. Because of this spiritual gift, which white people could not understand she was seen as a devil, as such Modjadji area was renamed in Afrikaans, Duiwelskloof, loosely translated, Devil’s Mountain, due to its location being in mountainous area and them believing we practised voodoo.

We grew up being called derogatory names like kaffir, forced to carry dompas (stupid pass book designed for Blacks), given inferior education, stayed in segregated areas like African Townships which were often a result of forced removals from mixed communities.

Despite these harsh realities, our people developed vibrant communities.

Can you compare South Africa before independence and now?


We live in a free and democratic South Africa since 1994. Apartheid laws have been repealed, eleven official languages are recognised even though most African languages are clustered, there is a common school education curriculum, people are free to live where they want subject to affordability, our cultural diversity is Constitutionally recognised, and many more.

However, there is still a long way in building a nation and I will tabulate just a few:

  • Although African languages are Constitutionally recognised practically there is still a huge challenge. Official Government records are in English, even in the most of a rural Municipality where a dominant language is for example, Sepedi or iSixhosa, and most people have low literacy levels to understand English. This makes it difficult for people to fully or meaningfully be able to engage in the affairs of their Local Government, as such our languages are not receiving the necessary attention for development, young people find it meaningless to study and converse in their own mother tongue. There’s been a lot of Court Cases on the recognition and use of African languages, especially in institutions of higher learning.
  • A sizable population of African Middle Class have moved to previously white areas, but the same is not the case of white people. Actually, most white people see Africans as dangerous, finding it easier to even say they can’t go to townships because they are dangerous.
  • Government has not invested with the necessary effort to building high standard social amenities in African communities. Example of this is that there is no Theatre in any township except, and maybe, if you want to regard Soweto Theatre as such of a high standard.
  • Large bookshops don’t keep material written in African languages, and will not willingly do that unless there is some legislation compelling them.

So yes, there is a comparison drawing from good and bad developmental trajectory.

How do you feel about the Russian invasion of Ukraine?

The situation in Ukraine is of great concern to humanity, lots of lives were lost, people continue to die, the country is decimated, and the global economy is in turmoil, yet even the United Nations is unable or unwilling to deal decisively with the situation. My thoughts are with the families that lost their loved ones, their livelihood and their self worth. I wish to send my condolences to both the people of Russia and Ukraine.

But this situation is a clear demonstration that “The Post Cold war” is just a fuss. The imperialist world took advantage of the post 1989 events in the East for asserting their Agenda globally. This period has seen many invasions, what many people describe as wars, there’ve been many regime changes in “unwilling, non-cooperative, and ‘undemocratic’ countries.”

So, this situation should not be seen in isolation to the unipolar global environment with the hegemony of eurocentrism.

We’ve been hearing talks of South Africans being xenophobic, can you comment on this?

This is a serious situation and very much concerning but not unique to South Africa.

Many countries, including western countries and the United States of America are grappling with this issue. Brexit and the Trump era have exacerbated the situation.

Most affected by these unfortunate events is Africa. But the situation should not be isolated to capitalist expansion, western hunger for Africa’s resources, and the corruption of African rulers by western interests.

The bottom line is that when people are faced with poverty and lack of real economic opportunities they engage in unfortunate actions. Many African migrants not heading to western countries find home in South Africa.

Unfortunately, some migrants engage in unwanted economic activities triggering impulsive actions, creating an environment classified as xenophobic.

We need real efforts to build a world characterised by human values and tolerance.

Most importantly, continental integration through such instruments as the AfCFTA are designed to deal with these challenges of migration we are facing.

What is it like being president of the writers’ association?

This is a rare opportunity and a daunting task, especially in such a fluid environment.

Writers world is facing real challenges inclusive of intolerance of views, use of and access to technology, and lack of funding for writers, except for certain views or to some extend, for research in institutions of higher learning some of which are guilty of pursuing certain narratives.

What differences have there been in South African writings during apartheid and post–apartheid?

Many books were banned during apartheid, writers were arrested, given banning orders, forced into exile or killed for literature which was seen as anti-establishment.

This too is not unique to South Africa. Writers such as Ngungi wa Thiongo, Salman Rashdi, and many more found themselves faced with similar fades.

Democratic South Africa provides an environment of free speech and the right to write what I like, which Steve Biko and many more were denied.

The challenge is that many writers are sitting with manuscripts which can’t be published because publishers don’t like them, consider them commercially viable or due to lack of funding.

The effect is that there’s a lot of self published authors, some of which not worthy of the paper written on. However, the stories are worth writing, just need a bit of coaching and editing

Where is writing in South Africa veering towards now?

Writing across the world is facing a challenging situation, many writers are unable to make a living out of their craft, leaving little room for real research, as such many abandon the craft.

Over the past few years, writing in South Africa has seen a serious literature and poetic decline. A lot of tabloits have been written about corruption, personal scandals, gossips, religion, and some sort of motivational writing.

There is a need for real intervention globally, to put writing back to real literature, and I don’t mean academic.

To be president of a writers’ organization, you must also be a writer. How many books have you written?

I have been writing since the 1980s but I have only one poetry collection published: Warriors, Kings and Queens of Africa Vol. 1, with three completed manuscripts ready for publishing, subject to funding. Everything is ready: including editing, forwards; just layout and design and printing are outstanding.

Why did you choose to be a writer?

I wouldn’t say that I chose to write, I come from a rich African background of poetry and storytelling, and I lived in the trying times of apartheid, where literature played a critical role in conscientising the people to rise against oppression thus, I developed a life long relationship with writing.

Tell us about your happiest day, so far.

There are many unhappier moments in my life and difficult to choose the happiest.

The release of Nelson Mandela, unbanning of the ANC and the arrival of Oliver Tambo back to South Africa are among such moments, for the path for building a non-racial society dawned on us in our life time.

What about your most embarrassing moment?

I believe that if anyone is to tell of an embarrassing moment it means they have not been really embarrassed by the moment.

Please allow me to conclude by paying tribute to the late Don Mattera.

(For Bra Don Mattera)
this land
was blessed
don with greatness
flying high
stars dancing
at dawn
before sun rise
now we sit here
by the banks
of mattera river
where waters
flow with serenity
counting our blessings
we who lives knows
that we are blessed
for we were invited
to call at the grave
when freedom finally
walks the land
now we shall sing grace
by the grave
where spirits dance
to angels.

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