Mindful of our history

Sonwabile Mancotywa is one of the bright lights of the post-democratic dispensation. Appointed MEC for arts and culture in the Eastern Cape when he was just 29, he originally qualified as an advocate after studying at the former University of the Transkei. Mancotywa now heads the National Heritage Council, a statutory body that recently hosted a conference on the liberation archive in East London.

The convention brought a clutch of scholars to South Africa from Southern Africa, the Russian Federation and the United States.

In his career Mancotywa has also been involved in the National Liberation Route project, an initiative meant to identify sites of significance and keep them alive in the national memory.

For a man raised in Mthatha, the opening last week of the multi-million rand Steve Biko Centre in Ginsberg, near King Williamstown, must have been particularly ­heart-warming.

What are you reading?
Books by various authors and scholars such as [Senegalese anthropologist] Cheikh Anta Diop, [Kenyan author] Ngugi Wa Thiongo and [Nigerian author] Ben Okri.

Where do you like hanging out?
I prefer staying home and watching music DVDs to big parties with lots of people. I find pleasure in informal discussions in a relaxed atmosphere, conversing about political issues in South Africa and the world. I also like spending time with my family.

What music are you playing in your car?
I find that African music, in general, and South African, in particular, has soul. I listen to music by Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Salif Keita, Zahara, Simphiwe Dana, Ntando, Ringo and others.

When you want to escape Jo’burg, which city or town do you like to visit?
Cape Town and my hometown, Mthatha.

Which part of Johannesburg do you like?
The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, Orlando West’s Vilakazi Street restaurants and Sandton, of course.

What is your favourite food?
I am health-conscious. I enjoy green salad with avocado and chicken strips. Of course, I sometimes uncompromisingly go for traditional cuisine — mogudu (tripe) and ­dumplings.

What is the last film that blew you away?
I am not a cinema person; I like watching documentaries featuring historical events and icons of the liberation struggle, something that enhances my understanding of humanity and the world.

Wine or beer or whisky?
I enjoy my whisky — refined single malt.

Cheese or chocolate?
Cheese. Mozzarella to indulge.

Do you watch TV and what is your favourite show?
Yes, I watch news on eNews Channel Africa and a few SABC shows such as Roots, Zone 14, Soul City and Yizo Yizo. The latter is sometimes unpleasant to watch, but it is a reflection of South African township life.

Football, cricket or rugby?
Football. I am an Orlando Pirates fan. Up the Bucs.

Percy Zvomuya
Percy Zvomuya is a writer and critic who has written for numerous publications, including Chimurenga, the Mail & Guardian, Moto in Zimbabwe, the Sunday Times and the London Review of Books blog. He is a co-founder of Johannesburg-based writing collective The Con and, in 2014, was one of the judges for the Caine Prize for African Writing.

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