This book is all about the Transkei. It tells us what it is like to be a woman all alone at home. It tells us about what it is like to be a migrant worker from the Transkei. And it tells us a little bit about the history of South Africa and the Transkei.
The book starts with the story of a woman. A woman is waiting for money from her husband. She has gone to the post office everyday for four days running. Without the money, she can’t live. The woman lives with her husband’s family. But she is lonely. She sleeps in a house alone, with her new baby that her husband has not even seen. People in her village are worried. People are getting sick. They think it is from the water. The week before the woman helped her neighbour take her old mother to hospital. But the old woman died on the bus before they got there. Now the woman is waiting for her husband,to chase her loneliness away, and to plough their field – otherwise she must pay.Then she gets a message, her husband is coming home for Christmas. Her life lights up with happiness.
The man’s story starts when he comes home. He feels very funny to be home. But soon it feels like home is the right place to be. And it is wonderful to be with his wife and his new baby. He tells people stories about his life on the mines. He tells them how hard he works, how deep he goes under the ground. He tells them about all the funny things he has seen in town. He feels like a man. He ploughs their field. When he is finished, he helps other people with their work in the fields. At Christmas time everyone has a big feast. The man is happy and he is sad. Now it is time to get another contract and go back to the mines.
He goes to the recruitment office with his brother. His brother has not had a contract for a long time. He is worried. But the man feels happy. His boss promised him work. When they get to the office, he is told there is no work for him. He cannot believe it. He goes the next week, and the next week. And like his brother, he cannot get a contract, but the family needs the money. The man realises that independence in the Transkei means nothing. There is no independence when men need work on the mines. The man says that people do not need independence. People need the right to work for their families.
The history in the book is quite difficult. It starts with the story of the chiefs. Long ago the chiefs needed the people and the people needed the chiefs.
Then it tells how people burnt their crops and killed their cattle. A prophet said the whites would be driven into the sea if people did this. But the whites stayed and the Xhosas starved – or worked for the white farmers.
When gold was discovered, the gold bosses wanted lots of people to work on the mines. People had to pay taxes – and to pay taxes, they had to work to earn money. Men also had to carry passes. People fought against all these things that made their lives hard. The ANC started. The women marched against their passes. The Mpondos came together to fight for more land. And the students fought for a better education. The government tried different ways to stop the fighting. They put people in jail, they banned people. Then they tried something new.
The government said people can have rights – in the homelands. And so they gave the Transkei “independence”. South Africa got rid of lots of problems, and the people in the Transkei lost the right to work in South Africa.
“The Parrots Egg- is an interesting book – but the English is quite difficult. If you want to buy “The Parrot’s Egg” you can buy it from:
Ravan Press P.O.Box 31134 Braamfontein 2017
“The Parrots Egg” costs R12,50 in the shops. But if you write and say you are a Learn and Teach reader, you can pay R8,68. This is with tax and postage.