We Can: Black Politics in Cradock, South Africa, 1948-1985

Rhodes>Cory Library>Latest News

Michael Tetelman's We Can: Black Politics in Cradock, South Africa, 1948-1985 shows our protest history in all its naked horrors, enduring contradictions, and occassional genign nuances. Michael Tetelman crafts a complex tapestry wherein both rulers and activists struggle for power and justice in a complex society. In this process we see fear stalking government policy-makers and a combination of boldness and uncertainty exhibited by anti-segregation and anti-apartheid formations up to 1960. After a period of repression, the struggle transitioned to a bolder, even violent, approach that led to the rendezvous of negotiations as of the late 1980s. The author demonstrates the generational tensions that dogged activists in the liveration struggle from the 1930s through the 1980s; how sport, church, education and beer hall recreation were used for different political outcomes. He shows how youth incrementally pushed the struggle to higher levels of intensity. There is a moment, about 1983-84, in We Can, when charismatic Cradock teacher-activist Matthew Goniwe managed to get African clergy, youth, and elite to transcend their differences. But a complex youth-based grassroots movement, in various communities guises, as well as a militarized response from the apartheid state, set the agenda for a new South Africa by this time. Tetelman's book adds significant value to South Africa's protest literature. It enhances our understanding of the complexity of struggle at local level, and it fleshes out our national narrative.