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Mega Artists Magazine Book Review: Tšhutšhumakgala


Tšhutšhumakgala: is a Sepedi biography penned by Moses Seletisha (29), about the life and political times of Tlokwe ‘Harlem’ Maserumule. Who is labelled a former Umkhonto we Sizwe combatant.  Tlokwe spent almost a quarter of his life in Robben Island. He worked in the kitchen section during his jail days in Robben Island, that is where he earned himself the name ‘Mr Soup’ after Mandela, Elias Motsoaledi, Goven Mbeki and other inmates confessed and insisted that he be given that name. It was for the simple reason that the kind of soup he used to cook had to befriend their taste buds. The very same soup he mastered was not only used for consumption but also to ease communication of inmates. One inmate would simply submerge a little note wrapped into same soup and let Tlokwe dish it to a fellow comrade.

Maserumule remains the first black prisoner to have allowed marrying a woman in Pollsmoor prison during his jail days. The wedding was championed by Judy Moon whom by then was a wife to former human Settlement minister Tokyo Sexwale — both groom and bride were granted only 10 seconds for their honeymoon! Upon his release in 1990 he was deployed as a member of parliament under safety and security portfolio (perhaps hoping to drink from his military cup).

We also learn that Tlokwe is a man with power as he is from a royal family; he is a son to KgošiShikwaneMaserumule-Matlala, Ga-Matlala. That is to say he could have been oblivious of the conditions and refrained from participating in the post-struggle but he persisted and unconditionally joined the movement to serve as a terrorist not some royal prince if not principal. The book was edited by MateteMotsoaledi, foreword LetlapaMphahlele of Pac and afterword Limpopo Premier Stanley Mathabatha.

Take note:

Tšhutšhumakgala is a second published Sepedi biography in South Africa, after EM Ramaila with Tšabophelobja Abram Serote.

Mega Artists Magazine Book Review: Tšhutšhumakgala

Born Moses ShimoSeletishain 1986, during when South Africa was still trapped inthe apartheidregime, Moses grew up like any other African childin the dusty python-like streets of MooiHoek at Ga-Matlala ‘a Rakgwadiin in Limpopo.” I am a poet, playwright, author and translator. My area of interest is African languages and its social context and Sepedi is my major.” Moses is a UNISA undergraduate BA Environmental Management but he is today labelled author of the autobiography Tšhutšhumakgala: TšabophelobjaFransTlokweMaserumule.

Why a biography?

“Some still think I am too young to be writing a biography as biographies were meant to be written by professors, journalists and maybe some middle-aged man with extensive of academic experience. “Why not a novel, short story or perhaps poetry book as a start?” My peers ask. I strongly believe that biographies are for whoever sees/finds a need to acknowledge a particular subject. A number of South African stories are mostly written in English or either Afrikaans. My point is not to criticise the abilities of having to encapsulate more in those two common languages. I was inspired by EM Ramaila who wrote TšabophelobjaMoruti Abram Serote, the first to write and publish a bio in Sepedi (now Sesotho sa Leboa). That automatically positions Tšhutšhumakgala on second place.”

Requirements to write a biography.

“Time and space are a pre-requisite. Not to forget honesty, proper research and some few coins for travelling and for other necessary logistics. In my case, I was fortunate because the subject is still alive to be challenged on other events. But the mistake that you could commit as a writer; is to only dwell on the one on one interviews.I suggest that you try to extend an ear and find more information from other sources to substantiate. Because the person you are writing about might feel a need to play some hero/heroines part within the book. Which is the exact opposite of what the writer might want to achieve in his/her writing.”

What other genres do you write about?

Non-fiction, Politics and challenges in rural areas.

How would you describe your style of writing? 

OK Matsepe, David Maahlamela,VonaniBilaandMateteMotsoaledi kind of writing (only if you dare read) if not then I suggest a homework.

How many books have you written so far?

Tšhutšhumakgala is my first, although it feels like the fifth.

As a writer what challenges do you come across or what is challenging about writing biography?

It is with extreme challenge to barely pick up a subject on a person who you are not even sure whether you will be able to narrate his/her story correctly. Remember an icon is known all over, you are always vulnerable and stand a chance to be criticised and corrected. There is so much to do with embarrassments or either a handshake as a bonus.

What has been the highlight of your writing career?

Having to perform and work with the likes of David Maahlamela, MphoRamaano, David Ramakgwakgwa, OupaMongwe, Moses KhaizenMtileni, PhillippaYaaDe Villiers, MmatshiloMotsei, LefifiTladi, SizaNkosi, Antonio Lyons, Dr Raphael d’Abdon, MateteMotsoaledi, GoodenoughMashego, Tshifhiwa GivenMukwevho, VonaniBila and just to name a few.

There is an on-going discussion about lack of interesting in reading. What’s you take about this?

I don’t think it is specifically all about lack of interest in book reading. Books are expensive and less accessible. Our precious local government structures must account to supporting local content. Try to shelve as many books as possible for the convenience of local readers. If I personally can’t afford to buy a book then I am less likely to be informed on the successes of literature. Otherwise we will live to see a growing number of readers buying more airtime, cigarette and alcohol than books, because they seem to be found in every corner and space within the country. How many bookshops do you know from your hood?

Also majority of writers are discouraged by the fact that there’s not much money in writing particularly in SA as compared to other countries. What’s your view on this? Are we going to see a decline in writers in SA?

Unfortunately, that is the truth. I know of great writers who wish to write but fail as a result of Human Resource Management, radiography, public admin and so forth. I know of a genius writer who left writing for mining. People no longer buy books, they prefer anything digital (tell me about it). Mainstream Publishing houses are closed down as a result of profit that seems to be none. Fortunate enough we have independent publishers like Theinksword, Timbila Poetry Project, Geko Publishing and Tenworkers Media who are not afraid to publish new writers. Yet on the other hand bookstores like African Flavour Books, Xarra Books and etc. who are doing their utmost to see that local books/authors remain supported. So, if we don’t work together we will never get close to improving our readerships.

Politely, I am appealing to those responsible departments that seem to be degenerating to disregard its promises if not commitments.It isthe state of literature in SA at stake, but I am convinced that writers continue to write, and always will even when it rain and hail in bullets.

What do you aim to achieve with your writing? 

To achieve a reading nation and also to have my work prescribed for school syllabi.

What are some of the books that you have read and who is your favourite writer and author who inspired(s) you?


TšaBorala, Bantu Letters, The Story of Sol T. Plaatje, When the Moon Goes to Rest, In the Name of Amandla, Lehuto La Pelo, Down Second Avenue, KgorongyaMošate, Taste of My Vomit, Lenong la Gauta, Handsome Jita, MegokgoyaBjoko, Mokone ‘a Mabula, TšaKaMafuri, Moswarataukamariri, Long Walk to Freedom and TšaBophelobjaMorutiAbrahmSerote.


OK Matsepe does it more for me; I still worship him even in his absence.


Five years from now what can we expect from you? What’s in store for your followers and lovers of you work?


Many books including: short stories, poetry, drama and novels.


What other projects are you involved in?


Currently preparing a documentary that will allow us to narrate the life of Tlokwe Maserumule. Organised and produced by fellow actor Aubrey Mmakola who now plays detective Ramashala in SkeemSaam. And also working on a Sepedi translation of Nothing But the Truth by legendary/ Dr john Kani (with permission granted of course).



Words of encouragement and favourite inspiration and motivational quotes.


“Re llela go phela, re llišwake go phela; re llela go phalababangwe, re llišwake go phalwakebabangwe; re llelatšwelopele, re llišwaketšwelopele…” — OK Matsepe


How can people get contact with you and your book?


On facebook: Moses Seletisha

email publisher: theInkSword@gmail.com or 27796930053 for orders.