Letlapa Mphahlele, an Anti-Apartheid Liberation Army Commander in the APLA, is that rarest of creatures: a military man with a sensitive, seeking soul. In Child of this Soil, he tells his story, giving us an insider's view of the armed struggle. After a childhood marked by a questing, rebellious nature, the young Letlapa flees South Africa. His exile will not end for many years, as he embarks on the turbulent, nomadic life of a guerrilla: swept from one end of Africa to the other, migrating from refugee camp to prison cell to High Command. Enduring rigorous training, political infighting, and the loneliness of a life led underground, he develops into a mature political thinker and effective commander. In a unique combination of blow-by-blow action and thoughtful commentary, Letlapa Mphahlele is a philosopher and a poet. He does not shy away from tough moral issues, nor does he shirk responsibility for decisions. His story is a lively read, packed with anecdotes about leaders, politicians, cadres and other vivid characters - brightened by Mphahlele's delightful self-deprecating humour.
Mike Nicol writes: "The writer has written a memoir that does all the right things: vibrant autobiography drives a narrative that plays out against the political history of the last few decades. He begins with his childhood, his teenage swing to Christianity and rejection of ancestor worship, then his growing political awareness until he leaves the country to, eventually, join the PAC in Botswana. From there he undertakes military training in Guinea and Tanzania before returning to Botswana and Zimbabwe to run some of the cadres infiltrating South Africa. The concluding chapters describe his underground activities in South Africa and Lesotho, and his disenchantment with the new political order. What distinguishes this book is the writer's wry, often ironic, sense of humour, his straight-talking contrariness, his poetic use of language which gives the narrative a dramatic energy and supplies some memorable images, let alone his sheer enthusiasm for living and ability to fight back against some dark experiences. The reader is charmed by him and his humanity." A well-written and captivating account of a fugitive life, this is the author's first Ennglish language book.
He was born in his mother's village of Rosenkrantz in the northern Transvaal on December 8, 1960, and now lives in Johannesburg.