Thursday, 13 November 2008

Michael Dingake

Michael Dingake in 1965 was given a fifteen year sentence on the island for inciting people to leave South Africa to undergo military training and for recruiting people to the ANC.

Michael Dingake’s autobiography My Fight Against Apartheid. Born in neighbouring Botswana, Dingake initially comes to South Africa as a student who later, because of financial constraints, works in Johannesburg in order to save money for tertiary education. Since the concept of ‘foreign native’ does not apply to him. - in apartheid South Africa, non-South African black people were ‘foreign natives’ but were as equally discriminated against as ‘local natives’. Thus Dingake feels the same daily humiliation as Africans in South Africa.

This is an angry text, for Dingake describes, in minute detail, just how invidious passes are to black dignity and self -esteem:
The pass laws are a humiliation to African dignity, a scourge to their
economic opportunities, and a shameless badge of slavery. Passes -
permits, reference books, identity documents, passports, whatever the
official form of the moment - are a nightmare to Africans in South Africa.
Nightly, they dream of raids on their homes for passes, queueing up at
the pass office for passes.

Such statutory identities are also the cause of tremendous harm to the communities. For example, should one’s pass not be in order, one cannot get employment, or even venture out of the township in which one is living. Thus, out of desperation, individuals begin to socially cannibalise those closest to them by becoming criminals and robbing other community members of their pay (46). Through a combination of anger, frustration and ‘sober consideration’, Dingake joins the African National Congress (ANC) and assumes another facet of his identity by becoming a member of the National Secretariat. He does not contemplate going back to Botswana to save himself when the Emergency of 1962 takes its toll: ‘Running home to Bechuanaland was easier said than done for me. For 16 years I had worked and lived in Johannesburg and many of my friends did not even know my Bechuanaland connections.’ (78). When he does go to Botswana, it is to evade detection by the security police. Unfortunately, during an attempt to visit the ANC in exile in Tanzania, he is kidnapped by the then Rhodesian security police and handed over to their South African counterparts at the Beit Bridge border post. Thus begins a period of fifteen years with hard labour on Robben Island. The rest of the text describes the daily grind of life on the island. Paradoxically, only here does Dingake, under difficult conditions, achieve his ambition for higher education - he leaves the island in 1981
with three degrees.

He chose:
Hamlet page 1034

Act 1, scene 3 Lines 56-81:
Polonius: ‘The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are stay’d for. There-my blessing with thee!
And these few precepts in they memory
Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportion’d thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy should with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledg’d courage.
Of entrance to a quarrel; but, being in
Bear’t that th’ opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as they purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man;
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous choice in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all-to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any many.
Farewell; my blessing season this in thee!’

1 comment:

Jonathan said...


This is all ASTOUNDING! I apologize for not reading/writing sooner, but it's been busy here in the states. Spent most every day up until last week working in Indiana to get a certain man elected President, to pretty good result, I might add.

But no matter, what you're doing is incredible, keep up the good work, I'll be reading every day now for certain. Be well and good luck!
Jon Heuring