Throwback 5: My first Book Review

Title: A Testament of Hope: The Autobiography of Dr. Sam Motsuenyane

Author: Dr. Sam Motsuenyane

Publisher: KMM Review Publishing Company

Genre: Autobiography, Non-Fiction

I must confess that when I offered to review this book, I had no idea who Dr Motsuenyane was. When I showed my mother the book, she said: “Oh, the NAFCOC man.” I didn’t want to ask what NAFCOC was. I am pretty much clueless when it comes to Commerce and acronyms. So I turned to Google. After browsing a few websites, I could not, for the life of me, understand how and why I had never heard of this man before.

I was not sure about what to expect from this book as it is an autobiography. I generally prefer fiction. The title did not tell me much either. I found it somewhat misleading. Although there is a message of hope contained in his story, the book pays more testimony to perseverance rather than hope. This is not your typical rags to riches story. Like all black families during Apartheid, Motsuenyane’s family was not rich. However land and farming played an important part in their livelihood. Agriculture remains his passion to this day. In 2002, he formed the Winterveld United Farmers Association and from this association created the Winterveld Citrus Project, which farms just over 55 000 citrus trees and supplies oranges to other citrus companies and Pick ‘n Pay stores. Motsuenyane emphasizes the importance of land and suggests that Agriculture serve as the basis for South Africa’s overall economic development.

The book is written in a business-like style. It almost feels like reading a business report without all the big words. This is understandable as he is after all a businessman. “The book is intended for the black business community as well as the youth – especially black youths. I wrote it to try and recapture the spirit of the pioneers, to convey how we struggled to establish organisations in very difficult times. Better times have now come, but more should be done,” Motsuenyane says about the book. Indeed, he captures the spirit of the pioneers and the struggles involved in trying to build a black business industry in South Africa. Nevertheless, I did struggle a bit with this writing style. Not because it was difficult, but because it felt almost monotone. I expected more creativity, more metaphors and more visual descriptions.

What is most interesting is the role that black business played in helping to end Apartheid and negotiating for the release of Nelson Mandela.  Much focus has been placed only on the pressure put on the Apartheid government by the ANC. So it is refreshing to read about other sectors having an influence on ending Apartheid. Motsuenyane was also Mandela’s economic advisor and helped rebuild South Africa’s economic industry after Apartheid.  Another interesting aspect of the book is the land issue. Motsuenyane hails from a farming background and believes that a return to Agriculture, especially by black people, will result in self-reliance and self-sustenance. In a nutshell, we need to be entrepreneurs and create our own opportunities instead of waiting for the government to provide for us.

Overall, Dr Sam Motsuenyane has done a lot for South African black business. He is perhaps best known as one of the founding members of the National African Chamber of Commerce (NAFCOC) as well as of the African Bank. He has laid a solid foundation for business, which must be further developed by our young business people of today. This book is about the life of one of the most influential men in South African business history. If you admire Patrice Motsepe and Richard Maponya, then you should definitely admire this man. This book adds another important dimension to our South African history and because of that, you should get yourself a copy.

 

Bio: Unathi Nopece has just completed her BA (Hons) at NMMU. She is currently unemployed and looking to work in Cape Town. When she is not job-hunting, she drinks copious amounts of coffee and talks incessantly to herself. This is her first official book review.

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